Small business owners want to have things simplified. For them software is no different. Instead of setting up ERP and CRM application separately and have them integrated, they end up having a single system for the entire life-cycle of a customer. Typically it is easier to customize and set up things within the CRM application instead of tweaking the ERP.


In this article we will explore how a well set-up CRM system can manage your invoice cycle. Although, invoicing is the most important process in companies, after all this is where the money comes in from, most companies focus first when they set up their CRM on ensuring that the process from lead to opportunity is set up. It makes sense too, because in order to bill someone you need to first win the opportunity and a smooth process from lead to opportunity helps you in this.


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But in order to get the most out of your CRM system you need to look beyond the initial process and find ways to increase business value. One way to do this is to manage your order to invoice cycle in the CRM. Managing the cycle will free up resources and decrease the possibility for mistakes because this formerly manual process becomes automated. But before we move ahead and automate all the things, let’s look at the steps we need to take to manage the invoice cycle in our CRM system.


1. Keep your opportunities up to date


An updated opportunity pipeline is key to managing your invoice cycle through your CRM. It is crucial for Sales reps to move the opportunities through the pipeline because the billing cycle can be initiated by moving an opportunity to a closed won stage. In other words, you need to let your CRM know that the customer is ready for billing.


2. Map your billing process

Every time we want to automate a manual process it’s best to actual map out the process to ensure that all different aspects will be taken into account when setting up the automated workflow. Sit down with your team and draw in the relevant stakeholders and map out what happens from when an opportunity is won, or a product is sold. Try to be as specific as possible – this is a rare case where more is actually more.


3. Get your products up to date

After you mapped your process you need to review your products. In order to set up the automation processes you need to ensure that the product catalogue in the CRM is up-to date and supports your needs. This is important because the automated process will draw on whichever product is added to the opportunity and bill based on this. Now, if the product has the wrong pricing the automated process won’t know this. This is why you need to ensure the products are updated. In practice this means that the Sales Rep adds products to an opportunity and when the opportunity is moved to won the automation will be triggered.

4. Set up workflows

After you mapped out your billing process you can proceed to translate the process into workflows. Based on the flowchart of your process you maybe need to add fields to your opportunity. For example, how often is the billing going to occur, is it annual, quarterly or monthly? You need this information to trigger the workflow at the right time.

5. Check out potential add-ons to create bills

Depending on what CRM you use, you either have features or apps that you can add to your environment to create bills on the go. Your customers need a bill and usually this bill is still generated manually but since you are already automating the process why not find a way to improve the way you are billing your customers.


In summary, setting up an automated billing cycle in your CRM allows you to streamline a process that potentially costs you a lot of resources but in order to do this you need to take the time and ensure that you really map the manual process first. This is actually true for any automation: make sure to understand the manual process first. Moreover, it’s important that your products are up to date so when the automated workflows you set up a firing there won’t be any mistakes. And lastly, it’s always a good idea to check out what different options you have to further streamline the billing.

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