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

by Steli Efti, CEO

Last updated September 10, 2021

You were excited about getting started with a new CRM for your sales team—until you started hearing about CRM implementation risks.

What if you spend way more than you budgeted? What if onboarding takes forever? What if your reps hate the new CRM?

To fight these ‘what if’s, you need some clear answers to the most common challenges of CRM implementation. That’s why we’re going to discuss:

  • CRM implementation failure: why does it happen?
  • 6 CRM implementation risks: what’s most likely to go wrong

By the end of this chapter, you’ll be fully prepared to face the challenges and overcome those hurdles to getting a new CRM.

CRM implementation failure: why does it happen?

If you’re trying to avoid CRM implementation issues, it’s important to understand the major roadblocks you’ll probably encounter along the way.

Some of these factors will be more in your control than others, but being aware of them will help you do your best to smooth out the transition before you start implementing a new CRM.

Here are the four top reasons for CRM implementation failure:

  • Lack of proper research: When you don’t dig deep enough into your CRM research, you may simply pick a CRM based on its familiar name rather than its compatibility with your business and sales process.
  • Reliance on tech rather than a solid sales process: Too many sales leaders see new tech as the ultimate solution to problems with quota attainment and revenue. But when sales leaders focus on building a solid sales process first and adding tech that complements that process, they’ll do a better job of setting their team up for success.
  • Disconnect between managers and reps: When sales managers aren’t themselves involved in selling on a regular basis, they will lose touch with current trends and the needs of their sales team. This can lead them to choose a CRM that creates more challenges than it solves for the sales team.
  • Inadequate forecasting: When you don’t accurately forecast the growth of your sales process and business, you can end up with a CRM that works for now, but will severely limit your progress down the road as your business expands.

With these factors in mind, let’s talk about the main risks involved in switching CRMs, and how to minimize those risks as much as possible.

6 CRM implementation risks: what’s most likely to go wrong

Switching CRMs is a big deal, and any large software change comes with its own risks and challenges.

So, let’s discuss the main challenges of CRM implementation, and how you can plan in advance to overcome them.

Risk 1: Going over budget

This is probably the nightmare of everyone who has ever organized a big project.

Passing your forecasted budget can be a huge headache. So, how can you avoid this?

Solution: Make sure you have all the facts about your new CRM

Before you make a decision, you need to do a deep dive into how much everything costs. This may sound a bit obvious, but it’s important to get all the facts before you sign on the (virtual) dotted line.

For example, does the pricing plan you’ve chosen cover all the features that you’ll need? Are necessary features stuck in an add-on package? What about onboarding and team training? Are those included in the subscription, or do you have to pay extra for them?

Knowing these things, you’ll be better prepared to forecast your budget accurately (and avoid overspending).

Risk 2: Going beyond your timeline

You probably have a specific date in mind when you want to start using a new CRM. But migrating all of your lead and customer data into a new system can take time, sometimes more than you were expecting.

The main problem with going past your deadline is the cost—if you time the migration wrong, you’ll end up paying for two CRM systems until the transfer is finished. And in the meantime, you’ll be trying to manage a team that’s working between two different systems, and juggling new data that’s coming in while trying to migrate the old data over.

Solution: Clean up your data at the start of your process

Having clean, well-structured data should be the starting point of your CRM implementation process. When you are able to import clean data into a new CRM, this will infinitely lower the time it takes to migrate to a new CRM.

Plus, when reps log into their new CRM for the first time and see clean, structured, understandable data, they’ll appreciate the value of the new CRM much faster.

Risk 3: Getting stuck with a steep learning curve

With some CRMs, you can import your data and start working from day one. With others, your team will spend weeks trying to learn how the new system works.

During that time, they will not be productive salespeople. They’ll be struggling to do their jobs in a system they don’t understand, which means lost time (and revenue).

Solution: Make a plan for training and onboarding your team

Small, agile sales teams need a CRM that stays out of their way. So, if you manage a startup or SMB sales team, your plan should start with choosing a CRM that isn’t so hard to learn.

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If you decide that a more complex CRM is worth the learning curve for your team, remember to include practical onboarding and training for your team to get up-to-speed with the new system.

Risk 4: Low adoption rates

If your team isn’t keen on the new CRM, you’ll be facing a common cause of CRM implementation failure. A low adoption rate means your team is struggling to move over from the old system, or they’re simply not using the new one.

Solution: Align with your team’s needs

To avoid low adoption rates after the switch, sales managers need to make sure their priorities are aligned with the needs of their reps before they make a decision.

When was the last time you spent an hour on the dialer doing cold calls? How often are you sending sales sequences to prospects?

As a sales manager, when you regularly spend time on sales tasks alongside your team, you’ll have an intimate knowledge of what they need (and what they don’t) even before you begin your search for a new CRM.

Risk 5: Inability to scale over time

You may have found the perfect CRM for your business for right now; but what about in 6 months or a year? Will that CRM still fit your business, sales process, and leads?

Beware—many CRM systems with low price tags for small businesses charge hefty fees once you get above a certain threshold for leads, outreach, and other aspects.

Solution: Forecast near-term and long-term growth when deciding on a CRM

Don’t dismiss limits at your preferred pricing tier just because they still seem far away. Use your forecasts to see how long it will likely take you to reach those limits, and determine whether it’s worthwhile to stick with this system or look for one that will be easier (and cheaper) to scale over time.

Risk 6: Missing out on essential features integrations down the road

Sales is an ever-changing game, with new players and interesting tech popping up every year. If you’re not using tech that’s advancing year-to-year, you’ll get stuck with outdated, complex software.

Solution: Make sure your chosen CRM is regularly updated and improved

Check out product update posts on their blog, peruse their Help Center, and check out what more recent reviews are saying about them. When you see a company that is constantly updating features, taking advantage of new tech, and optimizing integrations with up-and-coming sales software, you know you’ve found a CRM software that will continue to grow and improve over time. Many CRM vendors have a public changelog or a dedicated product updates section on their blog.

CRM implementation that grows with Close

When you should see the results of a successful CRM implementation

Even a successful CRM implementation will take some time to show real, measurable results. Ultimately, how long it takes will depend on the stage of your business and should follow the same framework you use for goal planning.

For example, an early-stage startup often looks at goals week-over-week. So any large changes—like switching CRMs—will give you measurable results week-over-week.

Mid-stage businesses often look at their metrics quarter-to-quarter. So, you’ll start seeing results from your CRM implementation over the next quarter.

For large enterprise companies, you’ll often see reports built with metrics year-over-year. A company like this would likely need to wait at least a year to see any measurable results from this kind of change.

In short: the smaller your business, the faster you’ll see results that you can track and measure after implementing a new CRM.

Plan ahead and prevent CRM implementation failure for your team

Every project has its risks, but you can proactively fight your own CRM implementation challenges before they come up.

Think ahead about the risks you’re most likely to face when implementing a new CRM to your team. Are you likely to go over budget with fancy features and expensive add-ons? Is your team more likely to get stuck in an endless process of learning how to use the new CRM? Will your chosen system scale with your business over time?

When you’ve made a clear preventative plan ahead of time, you’ll have the right resources and mindset in place to fight these challenges and see success with your new CRM. Check out the next chapter to learn about the budgeting and costs of implementing a new CRM.


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