The Beginner’s Guide to CRM Implementation

Implementing a CRM (customer relationship management) system has become an absolute must for every company in the modern business world. But this process definitely comes with its fair share of challenges.

It’s human nature for people to resist change. Once you add new technology into the mix, those hesitations can amplify.

Recent studies suggest that up to 70% of CRM projects fail.

To avoid failure and ensure a smooth launch of your CRM, it all starts with the right implementation strategy. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about CRM implementation.

What is CRM Implementation?

CRM implementation is the process of deploying new CRM software and a customer relationship management strategy for a business.

The combination of technology and strategy is used to track communications and manage relationships with both existing and prospective customers. CRM implementation is utilized by small businesses, global enterprises, ecommerce shops, and B2B organizations across every industry.

By leveraging CRM properly, businesses can acquire more leads, increase sales, and improve customer satisfaction.

3 Tools to Improve CRM Implementation

The success of your CRM implementation is largely tied to the software you’re using. These are a few of my favorite tools for you to consider:

1 — HubSpot


HubSpot is another industry leader in the CRM world. This provider has solutions for sales teams, marketers, customer support reps, and more. That’s why over 100,000 businesses trust the software across the globe.

In terms of CRM implementation, the HubSpot Academy will be an excellent resource for your team. This online training platform can teach everyone how to use the software and get credentials in the form of a certification—all for free. HubSpot integrates with 650+ third-party tools, making it easy to migrate customer data and extend the functionality of your CRM.

2 — Zoho CRM

Like the rest of Zoho’s SaaS suite, Zoho CRM is robust and feature-rich. That’s why 150,000+ companies across 180 different countries rely on this software to manage customer relationships. It’s easy to use and helps teams collaborate while improving the customer experience.

Zoho CRM is packed with benefits like artificial intelligence for sales, workflow automations, real-time reporting, and more. It integrates with other business software like Trello, Slack, PayPal, Zoom, Mailchimp, and other tools that you’re using. Sign up today to try Zoho CRM for free with a 15-day trial.

3 — Salesforce

Salesforce is a global leader in the CRM software industry. It’s designed to unify the customer experience across all departments, including sales, support, marketing, commerce, and IT. Regardless of your industry or the need you’re trying to address, Salesforce has a solution for everyone.

One of my favorite parts of Salesforce is its ability to analyze data and generate reports. This makes it easier for staff and management alike to measure the success of their efforts. Salesforce also has an exceptional resource for online training and CRM certifications, which can really help the implementation process go smoothly.

The Basics of CRM Implementation

CRM implementation can be complicated. But if you understand the core components explained below, the process will be much easier for you and your team.

CRM Software

As previously mentioned, a successful implementation all starts with the right software. That’s why it’s so important for you to do the research and find the solution that fits your organization’s needs.

In addition to the tools listed above, check out our guide on the best CRM software.

This resource contains in-depth reviews on the top CRM solutions on the market. With hundreds of CRM tools out there, our consolidated list makes the research process much more manageable, regardless of your experience level.

In addition to the specific use cases and recommendations, the guide also explains how to pick the best CRM software for your unique situation based on factors like team size, software capabilities, and more.

Some organizations have the luxury of hiring a CRM manager. If you fall into this category, it’s typically the CRM manager’s job to select the software. We’ll discuss the role of a CRM manager in greater detail later on.

CRM Strategy

Every successful CRM implementation needs to start with a clearly defined CRM strategy. You can’t just blindly choose a software, close your eyes, and hope for the best.

CRM strategies must outline the goals you’re aiming to reach with your CRM. The strategy should also contain which departments in the business you’re trying to support, such as sales, marketing, and customer service.

Many organizations choose to implement CRM software for sales. In this case, goals might be related to getting more qualified leads, streamlining the sales funnel, and ultimately increasing revenue.

Once those sales KPIs have been achieved and are maintained, you may decide to extend your CRM’s functionality to customer support or marketing.

Some of you may opt to implement an all-in-one solution for every department associated with customer relationship management—that’s fine, too. But all of this must be clearly defined in your CRM strategy. With no clear plan, the implementation will have lots of issues.

Risk Assessment

You need to identify potential risks with your CRM implementation so you can get ahead of potential problems. It’s impossible to predict every obstacle or pain point but try your best.

One of the biggest challenges with CRM implementation is preparing the end-users—your employees. The software is virtually ineffective without people using it properly.

This can be particularly difficult if you have a team that’s been set in its ways for many years.

Make sure your team understands that the software will ultimately help them do their jobs better, which could lead to higher commissions for sales reps. Motivating your team, keeping them in the loop, and providing incentives could help mitigate this risk.

Allow your staff to be heard. Some of them might have helpful experience using CRM software in the past. While they might not be the final decision-makers, let them know that their opinions are valued.

In addition to your employees, you also need to communicate the CRM implementation plan with all stakeholders.

Budget and Timeline

Unlike some business software, CRM implementation doesn’t typically happen overnight. Yes, you might be able to sign up for a tool and officially deploy it in minutes, but that doesn’t mean the software can be put to work immediately.

Determine how long it will take to actually use your CRM software effectively. Depending on the software you’re getting, there could be customized plugins or modules that need to be set up.

The timeline should include how long it takes to import your customer data, train your staff, and ultimately start using the software for real campaigns.

Small businesses just looking to improve email communication with customers won’t have the same challenges as an enterprise with 2,000 sales reps and an additional 1,200 customer service agents. So the timelines in these scenarios will be very different.

CRM software is typically billed on a per-user basis. So this is something that should be taken into consideration when you’re preparing your budget.

User Training

For things to go smoothly with the CRM implementation process, your staff needs to be proficient with the software you’re deploying. Some tools are easier to use than others.

While some CRM software has a steep learning curve, most modern systems are user-friendly and don’t require any technical background to get started.

Take advantage of all training materials and tutorials offered by the software provider. Some plans even come with dedicated training sessions, although this is usually for enterprise-grade packages.

If the provider offers training as a paid add-on, definitely take advantage of it. This will drastically reduce the time it takes to get your team comfortable with the software.

Customer support is a key component to look for when you’re evaluating different CRM tools. If your staff runs into a problem or has a question that can’t be quickly resolved with a self-help resource like a knowledge base article, they should be able to contact a support agent for help.

Remember, CRM software is ultimately used to improve the customer experience. That can’t happen if your staff is struggling with the software. Don’t look beyond the importance of effective user training.

Data Migration

If you’re starting from scratch, there’s not much that your CRM solution can do for you. Unless you’re a brand new startup, your company probably has customer data somewhere.

You need to upload this information to your CRM system, and there are a few different ways to do so.

First and foremost, the data needs to be clean and organized. It can be tough to manipulate the data after it gets added to the CRM. So changing a column title on your spreadsheet or similar step could save lots of headaches and manual work down the road.

It’s also worth noting that most CRM systems will integrate with other third-party business tools.

Maybe you have customer data on your ecommerce platform, POS system, or accounting software. By integrating these solutions together, the data migration process won’t require as much work on your end. Then future all changes to these third-party tools will automatically be transferred to your CRM.

CRM Manager

As previously mentioned, a CRM manager can drastically improve the CRM implementation process. That’s because this person will essentially be responsible for the entire rollout.

CRM managers will choose the right software, map a CRM strategy, and ensure that the staff is adequately trained to use it.

With that said, not every company has the luxury of onboarding a dedicated CRM manager. If you’re a smaller business without the means to do so, you might have to shoulder some of this load on your own.

Alternatively, you can assign one or two “power users” as opposed to dedicated CRM managers. These roles could be assigned to your top-performing team members in each department using the software.

While a power user might not have the ability or experience to manage the CRM strategy, they could obtain some CRM certifications and go through training to learn the ins and outs of the tool you’ll be using. Then they can assist other team members and help flatten the overall learning curve.

3 Tricks For CRM Implementation

These quick tips and hacks will make your life much easier as you go through the CRM implementation process. By taking a moment to do these simple steps, you’ll reap the benefits of your CRM strategy much faster.

Trick 1: Tidy Up Customer Data Before Migrations

We talked about the importance of importing existing customer data with your CRM. But that won’t be effective if the data is old, inaccurate, or outdated.

Take some time to go through a “spring cleaning” of your data.

Sending emails to leads that no longer work at specific companies will ultimately mess up your metrics and won’t improve your process. Your overall list of customer data might shrink slightly during the clean-up, but the quality of that information will be much better.

Trick 2: Communicate Your Intentions ASAP

As a business owner, executive, or upper-level manager, it’s always tough to find a balance between maintaining your role and keeping your staff in the loop.

In certain scenarios, it’s better to keep your cards held tightly without showing your hand until necessary. But CRM implementation is not one of those times.

As discussed previously, employees who are hesitant to change will be one of the hardest factors to overcome during the entire process. But getting them to buy in early will make your life much easier.

Don’t wait until you’ve selected software and you’re ready to deploy. Tell everyone your intentions now. This will give your staff more time to prepare, and the unhappy employees will calm down by the time things go into full effect.

Trick 3: Take it Slow

It can be tempting to launch with a bang. You want to use CRM for sales, marketing, support, and immediately integrate the software with ten different sources for customer data.

While this sounds good in theory, the practical application of that scenario has too much room for problems—especially if you’re a beginner.

Start with one or two aspects of CRM and scale from there. It’s much more impactful to have a department of ten people proficient with the tool compared to 50 users who are struggling to adapt.

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