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The only CRM implementation plan you’ll ever need

by Steli Efti, CEO

Last updated September 10, 2021

You’ve chosen the perfect CRM for your team. You’ve gotten your approvals. The contract is signed.

Now it’s time to map out your CRM implementation plan.

Choosing the right CRM software might’ve seemed like a monumental task, but that’s just the start of this project.

Now, you need to take your team over the finish line and start using that new CRM!

How do you make sure your reps are using the new CRM effectively? How can you set up a CRM implementation strategy that doesn’t waste time or lose important data? How do you set up your CRM for success?

In this chapter, we’re going to see:

  1. CRM implementation plan: a strategy to take you to the finish line
  2. CRM implementation project plan templates

By the end of this chapter, you’ll have a clear plan to get your team started with the new CRM and track the progress of your implementation from start to finish.

CRM implementation plan: a strategy to take you to the finish line

This CRM implementation strategy is more than just migrating all your data and assigning some tasks to your reps. You need to set a plan with manageable steps that will take you from purchasing to getting full use out of your new CRM.

We’re about to take you through a specific strategy that will help guarantee the success of your new CRM by setting it up right from day one.

1. Clean up your current customer data

Let’s be real here: your customer and lead data is probably a mess.

Whether your data lives in a spreadsheet CRM or a dedicated CRM software, it can easily become a mess of outdated customer information, long-lost leads, and opportunities that stopped taking your team’s calls (even though they said to follow up in 6 months).

Now that you’re migrating to a new CRM system, it’s time to clean up that data. Doing this before you migrate data will save you time and money during the migration process. Plus, your reps will start their new CRM adventure in a system that is sparklingly clean and includes only relevant, updated information.

Separate your data into these 4 sections:

  • Active opportunities
  • Expired opportunities
  • Active customers
  • Churned customers

Now, clean up the data in each section.

Active opportunities:

  • Check for duplicates and merge them
  • Update deal stage, estimated value and close dates, and contact information
  • Find active opps that have been in your pipeline significantly longer than your average sales cycle, and move them to expired opps

Expired opportunities:

  • Delete opps that have gone more than 6 months to a year with no contact
  • Delete duplicates

Active customers:

  • Make sure all information is up-to-date
  • Delete duplicates

Churned customers:

  • Delete deals that churned more than a year ago and haven’t been contacted since

To make this less daunting, work together with your team. Have your reps categorize all the leads assigned to them into these 4 categories, and then work with them to perform clean-up on each section.

2. Make sure you have a well-defined sales process in place

A CRM is meant to work within your own sales process. If you don’t have an effective sales process set up for your team, a new CRM won’t help them do any better than they’re doing now.

Think of it like this—you’re trying to build a house. Your sales process is the foundation. Your CRM is the toolbox. With these 2 essential pieces in place, you can build a solid house that will stand the test of time.

So, take some time to analyze your sales process. Look at your pipeline stages and their conversion rates. Talk with your team about what’s working and what’s not.

A clean sales pipeline inside Close CRM

Use this time to make your sales process shine. Then you’ll have something beautiful and clean to implement in your new CRM.

3. Set up training for your team

No CRM implementation model would be complete without team training.

Hopefully, you’re already using a free trial version of your new CRM software. If so, start adding the rest of your team to that as soon as possible. If possible, import a few active leads and have your reps start playing around with the new system to track deals, make calls, send emails, and more.

If team training is available through your new CRM, take advantage of it. Ask your vendor if they’d be willing to run through a quick demo of the system’s main features with your team.

Did you know…

Here at Close, our sales team runs a weekly training webinar for our new users where they dig into main features, as well as neat hacks to set up your CRM and start closing deals. See upcoming webinars and claim your spot here.

Find educational content your team can consume on their own time, such as training videos from the CRM itself (like the Close YouTube channel) or from its current users.

CRM implementation resources on the Close YouTube channel

Curate this content and send the best pieces to your team so they can start learning the new system.

HRCovered Testimonial

4. Start migrating a small amount of data

When it’s time to start migrating your data, you’ll probably feel equally excited and terrified. While this means that you can really start using your new CRM system, data migration is always a bit scary because you don’t want to lose any of that valuable data.

If your new CRM software offers data migration, fantastic! That means they’re pros at it, and you can worry less.

If you have to do the data migration yourself, don’t attempt to move everything over at once. Instead, take a small amount of your lead data and try to move that first.

Remember those 4 lead categories you made in step 1? For your first attempt at data migration, start with one of the less valuable categories, such as expired opportunities. Take a small section of this category and move that over first to make sure everything is working properly.

5. Set up customization inside your CRM

Your new CRM is a blank slate: it’s up to you to fill it in with your unique sales process and team structure.

In general, you’ll probably be able to adjust these aspects of the CRM:

  • Pipeline stages: Your CRM might come with default pipeline stages for a basic sales process, but it’s on you to adjust these to fit the sales process that your team is using day-in and day-out.
  • User permissions: Set up your user permissions like your team structure. Directors and managers should be given admin access, while individual contributors like SDRs and AEs may have a lower tier of permissions across the app. Having the right user permissions ensures only the right people can delete important data or adjust account settings.
  • Email templates: If your team is using warm or cold email templates, now is the time to set them up in your new CRM.
  • Sales sequences: Email, SMS, or calling sequences that your reps regularly use should be added to the new CRM.
  • Lead lists: The way you separate your leads into lists is unique to your business, team, and process. Set up those lead lists in your new CRM so your reps know exactly where to look for key information.
  • Customized lead data: Preset data fields normally don’t cut it. Set up your own custom fields for opportunities, leads, and contacts.
  • Reporting or dashboard views: Most CRMs allow you to customize how you see reports, or even set up custom dashboards. For example, in Close, you can set up a customized Activity Overview dashboard by adding tiles with the most important metrics you want to track, as well as a customizable leaderboard to rank reps based on calls made, emails sent, opportunities created, and more.
Activity Overview report in Close CRM

6. Integrate the rest of your tool stack

Your CRM isn’t the only tool your team uses. Now it’s time to integrate the rest of your sales stack with your CRM.

This could include:

  • Lead generation tools
  • Chat and website messaging tools
  • Internal communication
  • Analytics and data warehouses
  • Project management tools
  • Documentation tools

Setting up CRM integrations correctly is a key aspect of your CRM implementation strategy. Make sure to test these integrations thoroughly before launching any automated workflows.

7. Test new features with your team

Your new CRM is packed with exciting features that your team hasn’t tried before. These can boost productivity and make your team even better closers than they already were.

But only if they know how to use these features correctly.

At this point, your team already has some training and there’s a fair amount of data migrated into the new system.

Before you go all-in, it’s time to play around with the system itself.

Set up a day or an afternoon with your team to test and play with new features they didn’t have in their previous CRM.

For example, if you’re implementing Close CRM for the first time with your team, why not try the calling automation features: Power Dialer and Predictive Dialer?

You could also test the Call Coaching features to see how to Listen, Whisper, Barge, and invite other users to an active call. Plus, why not play around with Custom Activities, Smart Views, or the Zoom integration?

8. Import the rest of your data

Your integrations are set up, you’ve imported some of your data, and your team is now feeling even more comfortable with your new CRM.

Everybody is excited to get started. Now, it’s time to bring over the rest of your data and complete the CRM implementation plan.

Just remember: Don’t delete any data until the migration is complete and you’ve tested the system to make sure there are no issues.

9. Track, measure, and report on your goals

Once your new CRM is implemented and the team is using it, you need to keep proving you’ve made the right choice.

Remember those goals you set in the last chapter? It’s your responsibility to track and report on the goals you set for your CRM implementation project.

We’ll talk more about the main sales KPIs that indicate your CRM transition was a success in Chapter 4 of this guide, but here are a few key metrics you’ll want to keep on hand:

  • Calls and emails per rep
  • Call reach rates
  • Email response rates
  • CRM adoption rate across your sales team
  • Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
  • Customer lifetime value (LTV)
  • Retention and churn rates
  • Productivity metrics (eg. time spent on data entry vs. actual sales activities)
  • Sales cycle length
Hownd Testimonial

CRM implementation project plan templates

Want to get started fast? Swipe this checklist of our CRM implementation project plan:

  • Categorize your sales data: Divide leads and customers into 4 categories: active opportunities, expired opportunities, active customers, churned customers.
  • Clean up your data: Remove duplicates, expired or ghosted opportunities, or churned customers you haven’t heard from in years.
  • Define and document your sales process: This is the foundation of your sales success, and you’ll use this to implement your new CRM successfully.
  • Set up training for your team: Make sure your whole team knows how to use the main features of the CRM.
  • Begin migration: Start with a small amount of data to test how the migration process works.
  • Customize whatever you can: Including user permissions, custom fields, pipeline stages, email templates, and sequences.
  • Integrate other tools: Make sure your tool stack is integrated with your CRM.
  • Identify new features to test with your team: Look for features and tools they didn’t have in their previous CRM.
  • Set aside an afternoon to play with the new CRM with your team: Test new features, answer questions, and generally get comfortable with the new tool.
  • Finish data migration: Add the rest of your customer data into the new CRM.
  • Identify key metrics to track your success: These might include adoption rates, outreach rates, sales cycle length, CAC, and LTV.
  • Report on these success metrics: Stakeholders in the deal will be happy to see improved metrics and goal achievement over time.

How to execute a CRM implementation plan using popular project management software

Any good project needs a handy project management tool to keep it organized and on track. Here’s how to set up your CRM implementation plan inside 4 of the most popul ar project management tools:

1. Asana

Best for: Larger teams with lots of stakeholders

Setting up a CRM implementation project in Asana

In Asana, many users can be invited to the same team and can collaborate on separate Projects. Start by using one of the available Project templates or use our checklist above as a CRM implementation project plan template.

Inside your project, you can create individual tasks, categorize them by sections, set due dates, and assign them to different members of the team. You can also create dependencies between tasks, so the right user is alerted when it’s their turn to get the ball rolling.

A big advantage of Asana is that you can easily switch between List, Kanban Board, Timeline, and Calendar View, meaning everyone can look at the project in a way that makes sense for them.

2. Trello

Best for: SMBs and smaller sales teams

Trello for project management

Based on the Kanban-style of project management, Trello allows you to create shared boards and build tasks within them. It’s easy to get started with the free version for smaller-scale projects with fewer members. There’s also a crowd-sourced template gallery with hundreds of different templates to choose from and customize.

Once you create your CRM implementation board, set up the different stages of the process, and add tasks to each stage. When you upgrade to a paid plan, you can also get cool automations and integrations (called Power-Ups) that allow you to smooth out your workflow, get permissions, add dependencies, and more.

3. Excel (or Google Sheets)

Best for: Early-stage startup founders & solopreneurs

While not the sexiest project management tool on the list, many of us who managed projects before all these fancy tools were born are more comfortable running projects in an Excel sheet than anywhere else.

Most importantly, this is a tool you probably already own, so using it is free (and if not, Google Sheets is a free alternative). There are plenty of ways to maximize the power of Excel as a project management tool, but remember that it’s not easy to share and collaborate.

If you’re on a tight budget but need to collaborate with a team, you’d probably be better off using the free version of Trello.

4. Miro

Best for: Remote teams

CRM implementation project in Miro

Miro is built for remote collaboration, and it’s a stunning visual tool that can be used for almost anything. It’s basically an unlimited whiteboard, which makes the possibilities for using it practically endless.

What’s great about using Miro to plan your CRM implementation model is that you can collaborate in real-time with team members across the globe. There’s also a robust template gallery, with plenty of templates made solely for project management.

If you’re running a remote team and planning a strategy to implement and start using your CRM across different physical locations, Miro is a great tool to manage the project from start to finish.

Plan and implement your new CRM

When you build a solid CRM implementation plan from the start, you’ll increase your chances of success as you migrate your whole team to the new CRM.

This will result in:

  • Higher adoption rates
  • Higher user satisfaction
  • Proven sales results from the new system
CRM implementation with Close

(Want to see how Close can help your team increase sales efficiency? Give Close a spin for 14-days, no credit card required!)

Ready to start implementing a new CRM, but wondering how long it’s all going to take? Jump ahead to Chapter 3 to learn about building a CRM implementation roadmap and expected timeline.


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