You know what they say about the best-laid plans. You build the perfect sales process, form-fitted to how your customers buy. You crisply define consistent lead and opportunity stages. Reports and dashboards are ready to go.

All this is great, and works well, when the data input on a daily basis from the field is consistent and correct. Unfortunately, this is where the best-laid plans often break down.

You can blame your sales reps. But there are also several ways to improve the overall process to drive significantly higher CRM usage and compliance among your sales staff.

Here are six best practices I’ve seen work most consistently.

1. Make it easier
The last thing your reps want to do after a sales call is fiddle with a bunch of administrative steps keeping them from the next sales call. And too often, steps required (and the tools given to complete them) are optimized for management and not for the reps who need to use them every day.

It’s in your best interest to make those data capture tools not only easier and faster to use, but also ensure they’re capturing exactly the right information needed to determine which deals are most qualified and need the most attention moving forward. Several service providers, including FactorLab, are enabling sales organizations with exactly that.

2. Show the ROI on time & commission impact
Most sales reps see little correlation between what they’re asked to add into CRM, and how they make money. The more management asks from their CRM input, the more likely reps are to see it as management-driven, vs. something that will help them identify, qualify and more efficiently drive more prospects to close.

If they’re right (and oftentimes they are), you need to adjust what you’re capturing and what you’re requiring from the field. But if they’re wrong, the onus is on you to prove it. Demonstrate a clear, measurable line between time spend consistently updating CRM, and their ability to close more business and make more money. In the middle of a busy day, it can feel less than optimal to stop and update the CRM system. But if you can put that activity in contact and demonstrate those few minutes will either save them significant time later, or more directly help them make money right now, you’ll start to drive more of the behavior you both want.

3. Ask reps to capture less information
If the data can be captured somewhere else, at least as accurately if not more accurately, stop requiring the reps to spend their time doing it. Their time is best spent selling, and it’s easy to justify the expense of licensing tools and databases that can append a core set of input up front. This includes services like InsideView and RainKing for prospect attributes, CronSights for time-tracking and more.

4. Ask reps to capture the right information (buying signals)
Does the data you’re asking reps to document have any direct correlation with who is really going to buy? Are you primarily capturing details of the last sales call, or measures of actual buyer behavior, signals and interest levels? The “default” fields for leads & opportunities in your CRM system may not be helping both you (as a manager) as well as your reps adequately separate the suspects from the near-term prospects.

Think carefully about buying signals. For your market, your customer, your sale, what are the direct-from-prospect signals that most consistently translate to deal acceleration and closed business? Some careful surveying of your top reps I bet would reveal these answers quite clearly, and could directly change what your’e requiring reps to capture in the field (and in far less time).

5. Invest in strong sales operations
For world-class sales organizations, sales operations is not an administrative role. It is highly strategic, and often the lynchpin for driving enhanced sales productivity, performance and results. Invest in world-class, experienced sales operations leaders who focus on making your sales process as well as the reps themselves more successful and efficient. Empower them with tools, resources and flexibility to creatively identify, test and implement new solutions in the field, in your CRM and throughout your sales & marketing process.

Effective sales operations can make good reps great, and be the difference between missing your number, hitting your number, and killing it.

6. Improve your pipeline review meetings
How much time do your reps spend preparing for the regular pipeline “grilling” they face with you and other sales managers? How often do these pipeline review meetings drag on, repeating information that’s already captured in the CRM system or detailing prospect conversations that have little to no bearing on ready-to-buy opportunities?

Focus on making your pipeline review meetings more effective and efficient. Here are several best practices for directly doing so.