Customer relationship management (CRM) implementation is the process of setting up and deploying CRM software. While most CRM tools designed for small businesses have a plug-and-play nature, careful planning and rollout are keys to maximizing your investment. The software’s settings, integrations, and data should be set up properly, aligned with your company goals. Learn about the eight steps in successfully implementing your chosen CRM tool.
A CRM implementation plan can be summed up into eight essential steps. Below, we discuss each step in detail to guide you through the process.
1. Assemble Your Core CRM Team
It’s essential to have a designated CRM team whose job it is to make sure your CRM is used correctly and adopted across the organization. This team doesn’t need to be dedicated to run the CRM—it could be assigned to current employees with existing roles and add overseeing the CRM to their areas of responsibility.
Below are the key members you need in your CRM implementation team:
- CRM project manager: The lead person in charge of the system who is involved in the whole process. They are responsible for ensuring the system is being used as planned—gatekeeping the key administrative details and giving access to end users.
- IT manager: An in-house IT manager, usually responsible for supporting the implementation of various technological tools, is instrumental in assisting the project manager in the event of roadblocks and technical difficulties.
- Sales team managers: Sales team managers are the ones who oversee the data and information being processed in the system once it’s rolled out.
For those who are implementing highly complex and enterprise-level CRMs, consider having the following people on board to make the process as smooth as possible:
- Software analyst: A software analyst is the one responsible for data migration and cleansing. Thus, they must understand how each functionality works, as well as the bells and whistles of the software.
- Software or app developer: The software developer will fully customize the software, ensuring that the pipelines and processes configured in the system match the business’ processes and address its requirements.
- Software test engineer: The software test engineer will lead the testing of various software features. They must work closely with all the members of the core team to ensure that it runs smoothly prior to the deployment to the larger team.
In addition to having a core CRM implementation team, it’s also crucial to gather all identified end users. Getting feedback from them will help you determine what features they need most, how much training they’ll need, and a variety of additional data points that help you introduce the new system with ease.
Questions you ask your CRM users should include whether they have used a CRM in the past, what types of routine tasks they wish were automated, and what other business applications they regularly use. This will shape your CRM training plan, identify workflow automation tools needed, and pinpoint essential third-party integrations your team needs.
2. Establish Your CRM Goals & Objectives
Define your objectives for using the CRM. Outline the goals you want to achieve by laying out the parameters of how your team will be measured within the system and how the system is expected to be used.
Your goals must include specific and tangible results you can measure your business performance against within a specific period of time. Having clearly defined goals helps you come up with a realistic action plan.
Here are some examples of high-level goals to jump-start creating your own:
Increase monthly incoming leads to 25%
Evaluate existing communication touchpoints (website forms, social, landing page, newsletter sign-ups) weekly to see how many leads are coming from each and focus efforts on the channel(s) that generate the most leads
Convert 30% of warm leads into deals
Send high-value nurture emails on a weekly basis to provide value-add information to your leads and keep your products and services top of mind
Increase month-on-month sales revenue by 15%
Sell into larger manufacturing companies that have bigger budgets and require more of your services.
3. Determine What Data Needs to Be Migrated
A commonly overlooked step in the CRM implementation process is determining ahead of time what data needs to be migrated into the new system and where it currently resides.
Contact, company, and deal data is exported from other business systems or CRMs using a simple, comma-separated values (CSV) file uploaded to the new platform. Most CRMs also come with an import tool to automate the process. However, each solution handles data migration differently, so it’s critical to evaluate what’s needed from the start.
Pro tip: Do not move all your data at once. Test the integrity of the data transfer using a small sample first.
You don’t need to migrate all data from your existing systems. You can opt to leave some behind especially if they will not serve a purpose in your CRM and will only occupy storage space. These could include outdated sales reports and customer details, duplicated customer information, and poorly formatted spreadsheets that may clutter your new CRM.
4. Define CRM Settings Customizations
Another crucial component of creating a CRM implementation plan is defining system settings and processes ahead of time. CRMs include a range of settings that should be adjusted to suit your team’s needs, including:
- Company profile and settings
- Custom fields
- Drop-down menu selections
- User permissions and management
- Mailing sending policy and consent list
- Admin settings
Apart from general system settings, many CRMs also offer customizable options for roles, reports, work automation, pipeline stages, and mailing lists. Before you start building out these functions, revisit your customer journey—from the first point of contact to purchase.
Here are the general stages of a customer journey:
- Awareness: Prospects learn about your products and services through various channels, such as your website, social, advertisements, referrals, and cold calls.
- Customer consideration: Customers consider if your products and services are right a good fit via inquiries, introductory calls, product demos, and free trials.
- Decision: Users’ decision on whether to purchase your product or service or not
- Retention and nurturing: Customers are strengthened by reliable customer support and overall satisfaction of products, as well as sustained contact through channels, such as newsletters and requests for feedback.
- Customer loyalty: Loyal customers help businesses grow through retained customers and add the potential to cross-sell and upsell products, as well as attract new customers through existing clients’ word-of-mouth.
Examining your customer journey along with inputs you receive from your team will guide most of the CRM’s settings, permissions, and customizations. This step during the planning phase of your implementation will save when you roll out a system that’s user-ready from the start.
5. Integrate Third-party Apps
Integrating your CRM with third-party applications like Facebook, Microsoft Outlook, Mailchimp, and Slack maximizes your organization’s efficiency. This stage in the CRM implementation process allows your team to switch between apps and access important customer data without leaving the CRM platform.
CRMs usually offer dozens to hundreds of third-party integrations, so prioritize them according to what your sales teams say is most important to them. Check out our guide on how to integrate your CRM with other third-party apps.
Popular integrations include:
- Email apps
- Lead generation tools
- Project management tools
- Messaging and communication platforms
- Social media management tools
- Live chat programs
- Help desk apps
- Marketing and email automation programs
- Support and ticketing apps
- Analytics tools
6. Test Your CRM Environment
Testing your CRM environment means you’re almost finished with your implementation process and it’s time to verify if the software is fully operational and works according to your requirements. Through testing, you’ll learn how individual components work together and will be able to evaluate customer touchpoints that connect with the CRM to ensure they work as intended.
There are several components to test, including:
What to Test
All imported records are matched to the correct fields, with no duplicate data
All assigned data fields are recognized and fillable
Email exchanges are associated with the correct contact and two-way email sync works as expected
Leads route to the correct sales rep according to predefined rules
Deal columns in each pipeline match the sales process
Task triggers work as expected
All business apps are connected correctly
Data matches expected results
Form displays correctly, fields are fillable, and completed form is routed properly
CRMs are often easy to set up and maintain, no matter your level of experience. If you have a particularly complex migration or need help setting up integrations, take a look at the type of support your new CRM offers.
Troubleshooting options for free solutions like Capsule or HubSpot CRM’s free plan are generally limited to email support, online resources, and online user community forums. On the other hand, paid CRMs, such as Salesforce, include guided setup and onboarding assistance with its service plans.
7. Train Your Users
Once the testing stage is finished and all components of your CRM are properly rolled out, involve your team and show them how it works. Make sure to gather your team’s feedback to get insights on how you can further improve the system. It’s also an excellent practice to get feedback from them regularly to minimize roadblocks and issues with using the system.
Pro tip: Download this free checklist to create a CRM team training plan to help your team hit the ground running.
8. Measure CRM Adoption
The CRM implementation process doesn’t end when your employees learn how to operate the system. The next step is to make sure they put it to good use. Below are some metrics you can track to measure usage rate among your end users:
- Track user logins: One of the simplest ways to gauge system usage is to check the number of logins and see which of your employees are doing so regularly. However, this is simply a mere indicator of usage—not a measurement of adoption quality.
- Monitor data inputs: Look at how your employees are adding customer and business data into the system, such as leads, contact information, opportunities, tasks, and activities.
- Track CRM-generated reports: Encourage your employees to process data and produce reports using analytics tools within the CRM. This will help in eventually migrating all your sales and business data into the system.
- Measure KPIs using the system: Use the CRM to measure the performance and key performance indicators (KPIs) of your sales agents, such as calls made, deals closed, and revenue generated.
Remember, these metrics will take time to materialize, so don’t expect to measure all these overnight. If you’ve recently implemented your CRM system and want to make sure your employees take advantage of it, read our guide on how to increase CRM adoption.
The Importance of Having a Proper CRM Implementation Plan
Implementing your CRM software is not a straightforward task. It’s a multistage process that includes proper planning—beginning from assigning a team in place, refining workflows, identifying data for migration, and conducting proper testing and training.
Having a sound CRM implementation strategy in place will help you avoid common pitfalls, such as:
- Low adoption rate among your target users: If no system and training were put into place to make the users understand why you’re implementing CRM, then there’s a high chance they will not use it.
- Not mandating usage among managerial employees: If implementing and using CRM is embraced by the highest levels of your organization, individual employees are more likely to follow suit.
- Users don’t understand their roles: Identify a team that will oversee the usage of the CRM system and assign specific roles to each to make them accountable.
- Implementing the system all at once: Getting users to familiarize themselves with the new CRM won’t happen overnight. Map out the data and the processes you want to house inside the CRM and do it over time, so users will learn to use it progressively.
- Poor migration of existing data: Whether current customer information is stored in Google spreadsheets or another formal CRM, it must be fully and properly imported to the new CRM to maximize its accessibility and usability.
While most CRM systems are designed to work out-of-the-box, remember it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution that any member of your team can use immediately. Invest extra time in integrating, customizing, testing, training, and getting feedback, so that your team is on board with using your new CRM solution.