While feature-rich, versatile CRM software sounds great, CRM implementation is a tough process that most businesses don’t get right the first time—if they get it right at all.
Get it wrong and you have a recipe for headaches plus chaotic processes that aren’t any better than what you had before. But working through it and getting it done well can help you attract more leads, close more deals, and make more money along the way. This guide shows you how to master CRM implementation so can join the ranks of the latter.
Why CRM Implementation Is So Important
As your company grows, so does the number of customers and clients you have to manage.
There (almost) always comes a point when keeping track of all of your customer interactions becomes impossible without CRM software and the know-how to use it.
While emails, sticky notes, and spreadsheets work when your business is small, those tools won’t cut it at scale. Instead, you need all of your customer info in a centralized place that’s accessible for everyone.
When everything’s centralized, you can see where you’re at with every customer at a glance, follow up with those who need it, and monitor movement throughout the sales funnel. That’s the difference between having a CRM and a strategy to go with it vs. going in blind and hoping for the best.
Casio UK had a custom CRM in place already, but its staff couldn’t get a clear view of their customer information because it was difficult to use. And their old software wasn’t practical for a small marketing team. Since switching to Hubspot and nailing its implementation, they’ve never looked back.
Having a robust strategy can help a company scale a business for the future, learn about its customers, and improve customer retention. Not to mention faster and more precise communication, better data privacy protection, and enhanced insights so they can take meaningful action.
It’s not a question of if you need a CRM plan—it’s how to create and implement one.
Quick Tips to Improve CRM Implementation Today
While implementing a new CRM system takes time, there are some easy wins you can accomplish in the next 24 hours that’ll help push you towards a successful long-term implementation.
Define Your Goals
Setting goals and understanding them is the most important part of CRM implementation. But it’s also one of the most overlooked steps. By taking the time to define clear goals and understand what you need your CRM system to do, you can identify everything that needs to happen to get you there.
It may help to ask the following questions and make sure you know how to answer them:
- What are the most significant problems with your current process?
- What problems do we want to solve with our CRM system?
- What features will help us solve those problems?
- When do you hope to fully implement your new system?
When answering those questions, keep in mind that there are three main types of CRM software:
An operational CRM system focuses on streamlining and automating the lead-capturing process. It would be suitable—although not exclusively—for small businesses that prefer automation and those that use a linear sales process.
An analytical CRM is all about the data, as you might assume from the name. So, here we’re talking about customer data and the deep market insights you can gain from understanding them. For example, your sales team might use customer preferences to improve relationships and close more deals with existing customers. You wouldn’t have that data without an analytical CRM.
The last type is the collaborative CRM. This is CRM software that looks at all of the interactions a business has with its customers. The primary aim is to share information between departments to bolster the entire customer experience from start to finish (regardless of who they’re talking to within your company). This would be suitable for businesses with many different departments and those happy to share the data around in a considerable manner.
Most CRM solutions include features that span all three. But most lean heavily in one direction or another. Understanding your biggest pain points and goals will help you decide which one is best for you.
Takeaways: Define your goals and the features you need to achieve them.
Get the Details Sorted Now, Not Later
Implementing CRM software isn’t something a business can achieve overnight. It takes planning and a lot of effort before you start to see the results of your new software. But that doesn’t mean you should only focus on your overarching goals and ignore the small things you can start doing now to prepare for the transition.
Existing databases and lists will have to be moved. Your team will need to be trained. And you’ll need to solidify the infrastructure you need behind the scenes.
Moving databases and lists isn’t always as straightforward as it sounds—what file formats does the new software accept? Are there rules, guidelines, and stipulations you need to follow? Do you need to reorganize your lists before you can import them?
Who’s going to check to make sure the migration went as planned? How are you going to train your team to use the new software?
While these tasks seem like small details you can put off until later, it’s important to consider the timeline of all the remaining steps you’ll need to take to transition to your new software.
Failing to do so can set you back weeks or even months as things bottleneck and pile up.
It doesn’t hurt to talk with a CRM specialist if you’re unsure of how to do this—or anything else for that matter. Knowing the details earlier on will ensure a smoother transition in the future, saving both time and money.
It can be prudent to book some exclusive sessions with your team’s key members during quieter periods, too.
Letting these key members know well in advance allows them to get familiar with the idea—plus you can ask them to do some research and come back to you with their thoughts and feedback as to what each team needs from a CRM. When the big day comes to share your plans, you won’t be the only one advocating for a new CRM system.
Successful CRM implementation is a series of steps that roll out gradually. The more planning that goes into this, the better—and smoother—the process.
Takeaways: Think about CRM data migration, understand all the steps you need to accomplish, talk to CRM specialists about anything you’re unsure of, and schedule sessions with key members of your team in advance.
Share Your Plans
Every company needs to conduct some internal marketing with its teams to find out what employees think, engage with them, and show them how a CRM can enhance their working lives and the business’s health.
Countless sales teams complain that CRM software adds little to no value in their everyday work—so make the value crystal clear. As we mentioned before, it will be easier to do this if key members of your team know your plans in advance and highlight the value to others.
Be sure to share your enthusiasm with the project and make it a team affair from the outset—later on, celebrate the launch, too.
It’s important to let employees know how processes will be affected by implementing CRM software, the future strategy, and the results all of you need to achieve together.
Fostering a sense of cooperation does wonders and can make everything go more smoothly. As the successful implementation of CRM software hinges on a team working together to use it, this must be the outlook from the start, instead of an insular approach suddenly dropped on an unaware team.
Imagine the difference between a group effort from the start versus a surprised—even irritated—team forced to adapt on the fly to a new system without forewarning. It’s not good for them, and that means it’s not good for you. Everyone loses.
The more successful route here is clear.
Takeaways: Be open from the start about a CRM strategy, educate the team as you go, and keep them as involved as possible.
Long-Term Strategies for CRM Implementation
We’ve spoken about what you can start to do right away for healthy CRM implementation, but let’s fast-forward a bit. What about the long-term strategies to maintain success for years to come?
Well, we think the following are the most important.
Define a Data Management Process
By now, you have your CRM software up and running. It’s been a few months, but you’ve already noticed a problem with the data management input process. Data isn’t being captured properly.
The reason is the business hasn’t defined a data management process. While this can take some time to get right, it’s advisable to lay out some clearly defined user workflows and data management processes and then refine them over time.
For example, some companies need all required fields to be filled in before a new record is created. If the sales team doesn’t record all the data, the customer isn’t checked off until sufficient information is available.
Imagine that a new customer is added to a database, but you don’t have enough data to take meaningful actions to engage them.
Now multiply this, and you have a large number of leads without critical data to work with and convert them. It slows everything down, and ultimately, it’s a waste of time that could be used elsewhere.
A marketing campaign needs as much to work with as possible, so refining this process over time is the best course of action.
For instance, a company might decide later that more data is required—if so, the processes and workflows will need to be updated to reflect that, and the sales team will need to be fully aware of the changes.
The Harvard Business Review found that 57% of employees think their leadership does a poor job of providing clear directions for data management tasks. Something to keep in mind.
Takeaways: Define data management processes and user workflows and always make these clear—ensure everyone on the team is aware. Refine and improve them over time.
Keep the Training Going
Training up staff isn’t a sprint to the finish. Quite the opposite, there needs to be continual CRM training that encourages practice and repetition.
For example, some businesses host monthly training sessions, which staff is encouraged to attend. These training sessions are a great place to ask questions and share problems. It’s here where you can prevent issues later on.
Another element of this training can be to create a library of educational resources and documentation that address common problems or answer frequently asked questions.
Tools such as Whatfix empower employees to make the best use of software.
Whatfix does this by creating unique content for users that provides personalized help, in-app training, and allows companies to see which flows are the most used so they can adapt as they go.
In addition to this, Whatfix provides interactive walkthroughs, software migration, and zero code integration.
Seventy percent of businesses trust that providing digital guidance and self-help within a CRM via a digital adoption platform—like Whatfix—will increase usage and adoption rates.
If extra software like Whatfix isn’t available, some companies set up physical pop-up support desks where face-to-face training can happen.
It’s really about making sure staff feel engaged enough to learn the ins and outs of a CRM platform and that the training doesn’t stop after a month or two. This is one of those long-term CRM strategies that will more than pay for itself later.
Takeaways: Never stop training staff, host monthly training sessions, create a library of educational resources, or use digital adoption platforms to bolster learning.
Use CRM Analytics To Make Decisions
Most CRM software has built-in analytics that allows users to observe data and store important client information.
You can take things to the next level with the use of predictive analytics.
Predictive analytics allows companies to make smart and informed decisions that are backed up by data.
Earning customer loyalty and trust isn’t an overnight pursuit—it takes focus and deep understanding. If you don’t know what your customers are looking for and how you can solve their problems, you won’t meet their needs.
It’s another area that’s often forgotten about, but the data stored in a CRM platform can be a veritable goldmine of information.
For example, it may at first appear to be rather useless data, just contact information and customer interactions, but it’s how you use this data that can define an entire business in the long run.
Most CRM analytics usually show a clear customer journey, from the moment they learned of your business to when they became keen supporters of it. There are multiple decisions and conversion points to analyze here, including satisfaction rates that indicate where things may have gone wrong in that journey.
Segmentation is another useful by-product of CRM analytics. This is where customers are divided into different groups to help better understand their motivations.
Learning about these different groups and their traits from the analytics in CRM software can define customer roles. A business can do this by looking at things like support requests and purchase histories.
There isn’t a limit to how deep you can dive into the data here, but the more you learn it, the better and smarter decisions you can make. Neglecting data is common, but it certainly isn’t sensible for long-term success.
Takeaways: Use CRM analytics to learn about your customers and their journeys and realize the power of segmentation. Most of all, don’t believe the data is useless—a productive mindset is vital here.
Getting your CRM implementation strategy right isn’t like waving a magic wand. It takes hard work and a focused mindset.
Businesses that understand and utilize the power of CRM software, coupled with a compelling strategy, are the ones that stay ahead of the game.
Getting your strategy right takes a balance of short-term considerations and awareness of long-term factors.
Rome wasn’t built in day—be patient but stay determined so that your thorough planning pays dividends in the years ahead.