by Steli Efti, CEO
Last updated September 10, 2021
For your CRM implementation process to be successful, you must check these two boxes:
In this chapter, you’re going to learn the exact CRM implementation steps to start your journey towards an updated customer relationship management system. That includes:
Pro tip: Already have your CRM picked out and your approvals checked off? Skip ahead to Chapter 2 to learn specific strategies to get you over the finish line and onboarded with your new CRM.
Maybe you’re looking to update your CRM to a more modern system, or you’ve finally decided to upgrade from the infamous Excel spreadsheet.
Either way, the early phases of CRM implementation are the most critical. You need to make sure the system will fit your needs, as well as your team’s. Plus, you’ll need to communicate clearly why this is the right choice for your team.
Here are 9 steps to get you started on that road towards a new CRM (or if you're short on time, check out our CRM implementation checklist:
Your ideal CRM will depend on who is using it (and why).
Most commonly, a CRM is used by the sales team to keep track of important lead and customer data, log conversations, and manage their pipeline.
So, make a list of all the people on your sales team who will use the CRM, including everyone from the Director of VP of Sales down to each individual contributor on the team.
Next, find out who else in the company will be using this system.
Other customer-facing teams, such as Customer Success, may also use your CRM to keep track of the customer and their interactions with your company throughout their lifecycle. So, make sure to get their input before moving forward to the next CRM implementation steps.
Once you know who will use your CRM, it’s time to think about how they’re going to use it.
Ask yourself (and your team) questions such as:
When you understand how your team spends their day, you can find the right software to help them make better use of their time.
For example, does your team do a high number of outbound calls in their sales process? Then a CRM with a Power Dialer or Predictive Dialer will significantly boost the productivity of the team.
Know your team’s day-to-day process, and think about what they need to make that process smoother and more efficient.
Whenever a company makes a big software change, it’s important to have a project manager overseeing the process. (As the sales leader, that’s going to be you.)
But that doesn’t mean you have to run the whole project alone.
As you go through the different stages of your CRM implementation process, delegate tasks to your team. Brainstorm with them whenever possible. Be open to their ideas and opinions.
When the whole team has a share in choosing and implementing the new CRM, they’ll have skin in the game. Down the road, this will help with your adoption rates and the success of your chosen CRM within the team.
Together with the people who will be using this tool every day, make a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves for your new CRM.
In the early stages, have fun with brainstorming. Make a ridiculously long list that no software could ever contain. Later, pare down this list to the most essential features that your team will use day-in, day-out (not just the ones that sound cool).
And remember: some of those really cool features are probably available as separate software that will integrate with your CRM. You don’t always need an end-to-end solution. In fact, many times the tools that "have it all" are the ones that are so bloated that Salesfo… ahem, the CRM becomes very cumbersome to use. A modular system that has the core features built-in, and allows you to to add secondary features through integrations or an API often will help your team be much more effective.
Some companies opt for a CRM that lets sales, support, success, and marketing all use the same software. While it may work for some, remember that software that’s designed for everyone isn’t going to be as adapted to your team as you might need. In the end, you’ll probably end up paying for features and integrations your team hardly uses.
That’s exactly what Marko Mrkonjic, Director of Sales at Trufan, found when his team tried to implement a new CRM:
Need some inspiration? Here’s a list of some essential CRM features to get you started:
Pro tip: Check out our CRM buyer’s guide for a deep dive into feature comparisons and use cases. You’ll also learn how this can help you make a more informed CRM purchase decision.
Now you have a better idea of what you and your team need in a CRM.
It’s time to start testing your options.
It’s impossible to make an informed decision without actually getting your hands on the software that you want to purchase. That’s why free trials, demos, and chats with sales reps are essential at this stage.
While you demo your new CRM options, be especially on the lookout for:
Actually going in and testing different CRMs may take time, but it will save you headaches down the road.
You’re getting closer to a decision (or maybe you’ve already chosen your perfect CRM). Now it’s time to start putting the right materials together to get buy-in from higher-ups.
First up: Define the problems you want to solve.
For example, are you trying to increase your team’s outreach rates? Spend some time digging into the numbers: What are your current outreach rates across the team? What about each individual? How many calls are they making or emails are they sending each week? What are their response and reach rates?
Or, maybe you’re looking for a system that’s easier to use and scale for SMBs. That’s exactly what Kyle at High Kick Sales looks for when helping his consulting clients implement a new CRM. He’s documented a curated list of best practices for SMBs to assess their workflow and CRM and implement software that helps their team increase velocity and results.
“I fell in love with Close because it empowers a team to run a playbook that works. It allows sales leaders to pull their teams out of clunky Salesforce and into something SMB-focused––and awesome. As a rep, team lead, manager, and then director, I know the pains of CRMs from every point of view. In Close, I can just dish out leads, while my team focuses on closing deals. You can enable any rep in Close, which is the ultimate goal of a sales manager.”
– Kyle Stremme, High Kick Sales
Once you’re clear on the problems you’re trying to solve and your current situation within those problems, it’s time to set some goals.
Here are some best practices for setting these goals:
Build goals that the whole team will buy into and give yourself a starting point to report on the success of your CRM down the road.
When presenting your CRM business case to stakeholders and decision-makers at your company, you’ll need to present the estimated budget.
So, what does that budget include?
Remember, this is more than just the price of the CRM itself. We’ll talk more about the costs of CRM implementation in Chapter 6 of this guide, but here are some areas you may need to dish out some dough:
It’s a good idea to double-check the final cost of your CRM itself as well. Don’t get surprised by expensive add-ons or price tier limitations once you’ve already committed.
Did you know…
Data migration is a hassle (and can add a hefty price tag to your final budget). But we’d rather reduce your stress than add to it—that’s why, when you sign up for Close, we’ll help you migrate all your data, from any CRM, for free.*
Talk to our sales team about getting your data migrated to Close.
* Offer valid for migrations that take place during 2021. If after 2021, please contact our sales team.
At this point, you’ve gathered enough information to be confident about your choice of CRM. But, how can you make your bosses just as confident in the decision?
It’s time to build a clear business case for your CRM choice.
This should give them the answer to two ‘why’s:
Make the presentation short, digestible, and convincing. Use the metrics and data you’ve collected above to prove how switching to a new CRM will solve real business problems and benefit the company as a whole.
When deciding on the perfect CRM for your sales team and your company, it’s important to clearly define what’s currently working (and what’s not).
By asking the right questions for your CRM implementation project, you’ll have a clear idea of what you need, and improve the way you explain that to your bosses.
Here’s a sample questionnaire you can use for your CRM implementation process:
By asking these questions for CRM implementation before (and during) your decision process, you’ll be better prepared to make a good decision for the right CRM and handle the implementation smoothly.
Any big project that doesn’t follow a plan has failed before it even begins.
Want to get buy-in from company leaders? Then you need to prove that you’re ready to take this project over the finish line.
In the next chapter, you’re going to learn the exact steps to take in order to build a successful CRM implementation plan.
Thinking about skipping ahead and buying your CRM without a clear plan? Here are 3 reasons you should think again:
Your plan can be a simple checklist that lays out the steps with dates that you can share with your team and CXOs. In chapter 7 of this guide, you'll get a CRM implementation checklist that you can download, annotate and edit to make it fit for your own process, independent of which CRM software you choose.
So far, you’ve learned that, in order to choose the right CRM and get buy-in from stakeholders, you must:
You’re ready. But if you want to make your CRM implementation process smooth from day 1, you’ll need a clear plan to follow. Jump to Chapter 2 to build your own CRM implementation strategy.