- CRMs are Databases
- Free Notion Template
- 1. Prep
- 2. Agenda
- 3. Call Notes
- 4. Summary & Action Items
- 5. Follow-Up
- Product Requests
- Performance Dashboard
- How Notion Could Improve
- Data Import & Export
- Sales-Specific Integrations
- Closing Thoughts
If you’re an organization with a small sales team, chances are you’ve considered Salesforce, HubSpot, Zoho CRM, or a handful of other tools for tracking prospects from outreach to implementation. While a CRM can be an incredibly valuable tool for keeping your team on track, in my experience, CRMs can be difficult to set up, difficult to keep updated due to complicated user interfaces, and expensive.
Enter Notion*, a flexible collaboration tool that can become your business’ CRM, unified note-taking tool, knowledge base, and more. The creators of Notion built it as a platform that enables anyone to build their own custom applications with ease. The beauty of Notion is you can customize it to the unique needs of your business without hiring expensive development teams or consultants to change things for you.
The Notion team also recently released Notion AI, a generative AI tool integrated into the app that can summarize, generate, and rewrite content, similar to ChatGPT. While the company has stated that this is just the beginning of AI integration into the app, people are already using it to streamline workflows and get work done faster.
While Notion can seem a bit open-ended, today I want to show you how to leverage Notion as your CRM and finally keep your business contacts, accounts, opportunities, and meeting notes on track. On top of that, I’ve leveraged Notion AI blocks to help in call preparation, summarization, and follow-up, allowing your team to focus more on selling and less on data entry.
CRMs are Databases
Most applications—whether on the web, your computer, or your mobile device—consist of two main components: a database and a user interface. Compared to other applications, for CRMs, the user interface on top of the underlying database is minimal.
Think of a database as a spreadsheet. When you update a contact’s phone number, you are editing the database: the row corresponding to the contact and the column corresponding to phone number.
When you buy a CRM, you are essentially buying a database with the appropriate row and column formats for sales use. The thing is, a CRM is very focused on moving prospects forward in a sales process, but it tends not to be so good at keeping other information organized, whether within your team or between teams. For example, most companies I have observed do not use their CRM to capture meeting notes.
Database-forward apps like Notion and Airtable have dramatically lowered the barrier of entry for building your own app. Using the template I provide in this post, you can create your own Notion CRM and customize freely, including integrating powerful note-taking right into the workflow.
Free Notion Template
In the next few sections, I’ll cover how to use the six related databases that make up the SaaS CRM, as well as the performance dashboard page.
In Notion’s version of databases, each database is a collection of pages of a similar type. A full database in Notion is similar to a table in a traditional database. For example, Accounts are recorded in one database, while Meetings are recorded in a separate database. Notion databases can be linked using relations.
In the template, you’ll see the databases linked at the top:
In sales, an account refers to a company or organization that a salesperson is targeting. Use the Accounts database to record all existing accounts and prospects in the pipeline.
Click the blue New button at the top right to add a new account.
You can open one of the example accounts by hovering over the name and clicking Open:
Fill out the record fields with relevant information of the company, such as the website, company size, lead source, and a brief description. If you want to store additional fields about the company, click Add a property.
Contacts are individuals at each account that are involved in the sales cycle. You can fill out crucial information about each contact, such as their contact details and whether they are a champion, coach, detractor, or neutral in the evaluation.
I recommend associating each contact with an account. Simply click the “Empty” text next to the relation for Accounts, and find the appropriate account:
In sales, an opportunity is a potential sale. Opportunities are often tracked in a CRM to help sales teams manage their pipeline and track progress towards closing deals.
The Opportunities database has several views, accessed by clicking the tabs atop the records:
Within each record, fill out the type of opportunity (Net New, Upsell, or Renewal) and the account owners as they become known. Fill out a target close date and brief context for the opportunity. Update the stage as the opportunity progresses toward a deal.
Only record the close date once the opportunity has closed (won or lost). The renewal date will calculate automatically as one year after the close date.
The Meetings database is the place to plan, take notes on, and summarize every meeting. The templates within the Meetings database highlight the new Notion AI features.
Next to the blue New button, click the down arrow to choose the most appropriate template for the meeting:
Before filling out the rest of the meeting notes, I recommend linking an Account, an Opportunity, and anyone you expect to be on the call:
The sections within each template vary slightly, but generally, you will find the following:
- Action Items
- Call Notes
These should not be followed in order. Here is the recommended flow of action:
Use this section to prepare the questions and goals for the call. Notion AI can give you ideas. Simply edit the prompt in the custom AI block (if needed) and click Generate:
Then edit the generated suggestions as needed.
Once you have an idea of the topics to discuss, create an agenda for the meeting. You may choose to have Notion AI generate the agenda for you:
3. Call Notes
When you are on the call, use this section to take freeform notes about the discussion. Because Notion is collaborative, multiple salespeople can use the same meeting notes page to take notes simultaneously.
Some templates have additional freeform sections to help ensure you capture relevant information. For example, the AE Qualification template has freeform sections for business challenges, goals, use cases, decision-making and key stakeholders, and timeline.
4. Summary & Action Items
Once the call is over, ask Notion AI to generate a summary and action items by clicking the Generate buttons:
Finally, automatically generate a follow-up email. Feel free to edit the prompt to reflect your own goals for the email:
After the meeting, copy the action items into the Tasks database, which can serve as a todo list for the entire team.
Instead of entering the task directly into the tasks database, it may be more effective to open the opportunity in the Opportunities database and enter the task via a relation. This will ensure the task is automatically associated with the opportunity. Simply click on Add Tasks and start typing:
Within each task, you can assign an owner and due date. You can also update the status as the tasks progresses.
The beauty of Notion is that every database record is also a note page. The task requestor and owner can take notes, chat, and collaborate directly on the task:
Often during technical sales calls, features will be requested that are not currently in the product. The best products are built by companies that have tightly-knit product and go-to-market teams.
One of the best tools for delivering feedback to the product team is through product requests (sometimes referred to as product gaps or product feedback). Different companies have different expectations for good product feedback, but in general, they include context for the feature request, how painful the need is, and any workarounds that may be possible.
The Product Requests database allows you to create product requests, and it allows for the product team to assign an owner and provide updates:
This database has sub-items enabled because multiple opportunities may have a similar product request that should be grouped:
The performance dashboard is not a database, but rather a page with filtered database views that summarize key performance metrics:
- List of overdue opportunities, grouped by AE
- List of open opportunities, grouped by AE
- Upcoming renewals (accounts that will renew in the next 3 months)
- Number of product requests by creator
If other KPIs are tracked by the sales team, additional filtered database views can be created.
How Notion Could Improve
The following are areas Notion could improve to serve CRM customers more effectively.
Notion may not be as powerful as dedicated CRMs for reporting. The company recently announced workspace and page analytics, but the analytics features do not integrate with databases yet. With that said, you can write formulas or do basic calculations (e.g. Count, Average, Min) on each column of a filtered database.
Data Import & Export
CRMs are notoriously difficult to port data between. Notion provides import options from popular tools, but you won’t find CRMs on the list. However, you could choose to export a CSV from your existing CRM, then upload it to Notion.
While Notion supports exports and integrates with plenty of other tools, the unique nature of its organization means that directly moving out of Notion into another CRM is going to take some work.
However, with more enterprise-ready features being shipped all the time, your team should be able to scale with Notion and possibly never have to switch to a more specialized tool.
An entire ecosystem of third-party apps has developed around Salesforce, such as tools to generate compensation plans and convert inbound leads to calls. Going with another CRM means your organization may not be able to work with these tools, and you may need to seek out other options.
With that said, if you focus on core CRM functionality, using Notion as a CRM can dramatically lower the TCO while achieving 80-90% of the functionality and improved team collaboration.
In this article, I demonstrated how to use Notion* as an AI-powered CRM for small sales teams. It takes just six related databases to track your entire pipeline and related activities. Notion AI enhances meeting notes with prep, summarization, and drafting follow-up emails.
Because Notion is so flexible, it can enable true collaboration across the organization. Using it as a CRM is just one example of its power—you can also use it to replace or augment tools like JIRA and Confluence.
Finally, the Notion team puts out new features at a lightning pace. I suspect some of the gaps I mentioned above will not exist for too much longer.
Go ahead and copy the template, and don’t be afraid to customize it to your own business needs.