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CRM implementation: The only guide you’ll ever need

by Steli Efti, CEO

Last updated September 10, 2021


Your CRM is the hub of activity, the place where information about prospects and customers is gathered and stored, the main tool for your sales team.

If it’s not helping your team accomplish their goals, close more deals, and develop stronger customer relationships, it’s time to make a change.

But CRM implementation is a big move. How do you know your team will like the new CRM? How can you choose a CRM that fits your business and your sales process? How can you overcome challenges and get your team up and running on a new CRM?

Don’t sweat it: we’re about to take you through the whole process for CRM implementation, from deciding on a new CRM to getting your data migrated, to proving the success of your choice.

Wondering what to expect in this guide? Here’s the full breakdown:

1     9 CRM implementation steps to choose and validate a new CRM

How do you know you’re choosing the right CRM? What questions should you ask (and answer) before you start going down this road? This chapter will discuss the specific steps involved in choosing and validating a new CRM, plus a CRM implementation questionnaire that will help you determine your team’s key needs in a new system.

2     The only CRM implementation plan you’ll ever need

A well-developed CRM implementation plan starts with data clean-up and only ends when your team is fully onboarded and excited about using the new system in their daily process. Learn how each of the steps in between will lead you to a successful implementation.

3     CRM implementation timeline: a roadmap to finish in <6 weeks

In this chapter, you’ll learn how to set up your own timeline with a proprietary, goal-based roadmap that takes you through each step. Plus, you’ll get a customizable roadmap template that you can swipe and use during your project.

4     CRM implementation success factors: 5 signs you nailed it

Your new CRM is implemented—how do you know whether you made the right choice? This chapter discusses how adoption rates, visibility, and better collaboration should look in a successful software migration, plus 4 essential KPIs to prove the success of your implementation project.

5     6 most common CRM implementation risks + how to fight them proactively

Learn why proper research, a well-built sales process, and deeper communication between sales leaders and reps are all essential to fighting CRM implementation failure. This chapter also digs into common risks, such as going over budget, extending your timeline, or facing low adoption rates with the new CRM (plus solutions to combat these risks proactively).

6     CRM implementation cost: 6 ways you’re spending + how to save

Seeing too many zeros at the end of your forecasted budget? Or are you worried you’re missing some hidden costs that will sneak up on you later? This chapter digs into the real-world costs of CRM systems, plus the extra costs of implementation that you need to plan for. This includes training, data migration, VoIP and telephony services, and extra integrations.

7     CRM implementation checklist: requirements start to finish & beyond

The short and sweet version—this checklist is everything you need to know from this guide, condensed into 39 steps that you can swipe and use to guide your process from beginning to end.


Before we dive in, let’s talk about:

  • What is CRM implementation?
  • 7 benefits of CRM implementation
  • Customer relationship management: going from strategy to implementation
  • CRM implementation challenges, failures, and risks to account for

What is CRM implementation?

CRM implementation is the process of choosing, purchasing, setting up, and using a new CRM system. The process begins when you start actively searching for a new CRM, goes through the decision and purchase process, and finishes when you’ve successfully migrated your data and have your whole team using the new CRM.

CRM implementation with Close

That CRM your team is currently using is only slowing them down. No one is updating their information or adding important deal details, and you’re never quite sure exactly what’s going on in your team’s sales pipeline.

This is the beginning of your CRM implementation project—acknowledging there’s a problem and getting ready to solve it.

After you’ve decided on a new CRM software, you’ll need to get it ready for your team to use. That includes setting up customizations, third-party integrations, and automations. Finally, you’ll migrate your data from the old system into the new one, and set up your users.

That’s the meaning of CRM implementation (in a nutshell).

7 benefits of CRM implementation

Are you starting to wonder if your implementation project is worth the work it’ll take?

Trust us: the right CRM is worth its weight in gold.

Whether you’re moving into a real CRM software from a messy Excel spreadsheet CRM, or switching to a system that fits your team and sales process better, here are the top 7 CRM implementation benefits you’ll see once you finish:

  • Collect and retain better customer information:When all your data is stored in the same place, it’ll be easier to access for the whole team, giving everyone the right insights into buyer behaviors and customer needs.
  • Get a better view of your sales pipeline:Ever wonder how much work your reps have on their plate, or where exactly each deal stands? Switching to a CRM system with a built-in pipeline view gives you a visual take on your whole team’s situation and workload.
  • Effectively automate repetitive tasks:Most modern CRMs include built-in automations that allow your team to focus on what they do best: selling.
  • Improve key sales metrics like CAC and sales cycle length: When your CRM helps reps work more productively, you’ll see shorter sales cycles, lower customer acquisition costs, and (of course) increased revenue.
  • Build better relationships with customers: Improved customer data equals deeper relationships with your customers. When your CRM works right, you’ll be able to dazzle your prospects and customers (plus increase retention rates and LTV).
  • Improve your forecasting skills: Forecasting for future sales is all about knowing what’s going on right now with your team. Switching to a CRM with updated reporting helps you see what’s happening now and more accurately plan what will happen in the next month or quarter.
  • Help your team collaborate better: Visibility is key to collaboration, especially if you’re managing a remote sales team. Implementing a CRM that keeps data visible and highlights features for collaboration will help your reps work better as a team.

Customer relationship management: going from strategy to implementation

So, what exactly does implementing a new CRM involve? Here’s a preview of the strategy you can use to implement a new CRM system for your team:

  • Make use of support and customer success resources: Whatever CRM you're switching too, they probably offer some kind of support. Find a POC and ask them how they can assist you with implementing their CRM effectively.
  • Clean up your sales data and process: A new CRM is useless if your data and process aren’t updated and ready for your team to use. Spend a few hours cleaning up your data early on, and you could save weeks in the CRM implementation process down the road.
  • Set up team training on the new system: Training your team is essential to their success. Take advantage of any training from the company itself, or find tutorials from current users online.
  • Start migrating your data: Start small to see how the migration process works.
  • Set up customizations and integrations: Build your sales pipeline, email templates, lead lists, and third-party integrations to get the most out of the new system.
  • Test the new system with your team: Working together to test and play with the new system will get your team excited about a new tool.
  • Finish the import: When everything is set up and ready to go, it’s time to migrate the rest of your data and delete the old system.
  • Track and report on your results: Success metrics could include increased outreach rates, a shorter sales cycle, more opportunities created, and higher conversion and close rates.
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Pro tip: Want a more detailed look at a CRM implementation strategy you can use to cross the finish line? Jump ahead to Chapter 2 of this guide.

CRM implementation challenges, failure, and risks to account for

As with any big software purchase, there are challenges and risks involved with your CRM implementation. Being aware of these risks and preparing for them in advance can help you smooth out the process:

  • Going over budget: Budget is a big deal when you’re getting approvals for a software purchase. Some CRMs will hide big data migration fees,onboarding costs, or charges for exceeding usage limits meaning your budget is larger at the end than you expected.
  • Pro tip: Don’t get burned by hidden migration fees. Talk to the friendly sales team at Close about how we can help you migrate your data with a transparent pricing structure.

  • Going beyond your timeline: Timing your implementation correctly is important since you don’t want to get stuck paying for two CRM systems during a slow migration.
  • Getting stuck with a steep learning curve: If your new CRM is complicated to learn and use, you could face much lower productivity across the sales team until they’re onboarded and updated on the new system.
  • Low adoption rates: Another risk if you choose a CRM that’s too complex—your reps won’t want to use it.
  • Inability to scale over time: The right CRM scales with your business as you grow. But the wrong CRM can stagnate growth with extra costs for the features you need.
  • Missing out on essential features and integrations down the road: If your new CRM isn’t constantly being upgraded and improved, it will quickly fall behind the times and become more of a burden for your team.

Curious how you can prep for these common CRM implementation challenges? Jump ahead to Chapter 5.

Start your CRM implementation off with a good plan

When you set clear goals, prepare for the risks, and build a solid plan, you’ll set yourself up for success.

Ready to build your own CRM implementation plan from start to finish? Jump to the first chapter of the CRM Implementation Guide.


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