CRM Implementation: 6 Steps For a Winning Strategy

Updated Aug 3, 2022.
crm-implementation

Maintaining good relationships with your suppliers, partners, and clients is essential for the success of every business. Organizations are constantly looking for better ways to manage their customer relationships, which has given rise to the adoption of CRM

Choosing the right CRM software tool is necessary if you want to get the best solutions tailored for your needs. The right CRM elevates the customer experience, automates and personalizes your communications with specific customers, boosts customer service and retention, and encourages faster communication and resource-sharing between departments in your company.

Although CRM solutions are crucial in any business irrespective of their size and industry, you need to implement them the right way to make them work for your business. 

Executing a successful CRM implementation process is a challenge many businesses face, which is further hindered by a lack of proper planning. When a CRM system is accused of inefficiency, more often than not, it is an implementation problem. 

In this article, you will learn about the tried and tested strategy for CRM implementation, which if followed correctly, helps you successfully implement your chosen CRM tool. 

Let’s get started. 

1. Why Do You Want to Implement a CRM

To ensure the effectiveness of any CRM solution, you need assurance that it fits your wants and satisfies your needs. 

You first have to identify what you need it for, which includes the issues, challenges, and improvements you intend to make with it. These are dependent on your business goals and, with CRM, the number of lapses you have in achieving them through your customer relationships.

Some of the issues and improvements a CRM helps you take care of include matters on your team's collaborative workflows, cross-selling, productivity and efficiency with customer relationships, knowledge on leads and existing customers, and customer support. 

Key CRM Statistics
Source: Tech.co

Although CRM software generally ensures improvements to your business productivity, identifying the exact areas of your business you need it for sets you up for even more productivity and effectiveness. 

Considering that CRM comes in two forms (service CRM and sales CRM), this step becomes even more important for appropriate implementation. 

  • Service CRM: A service CRM is majorly concerned with your customer support needs. This direct form of CRM includes solutions aimed at facilitating the response to customer complaints and inquiries, either through representatives or self-service options. Where your identified needs majorly relate to deficiencies in your customer support system, a service CRM is the most appropriate CRM pick for you. 
  • Sales CRM: A sales CRM is the tool you need for acquiring and converting new customers. By leveraging opportunity management, it aims at improving your sales funnel and ensuring a higher conversion rate. Where your needs majorly align with your sales operations and conversions, a sales CRM is more appropriate. 

There are advanced CRM software tools that offer you both sales and service-based solutions. However, they may be more focused on one aspect over the other. 

This just shows the importance of initially identifying your needs before engaging further in any implementation steps. It is the strongest determinant of whether your CRM implementation strategy is going to work or not.

2. List CRM Software That Fits Your Needs

Identify CRM features and the best CRM software and tools that provide the most complete solutions for your business needs. You need to look out for key CRM features when searching for the right CRM software that fits your needs.

1. Pipeline Visualization

This represents an in-depth view of your sales activities and conversion funnel. It helps you understand where roadblocks seem to be and how to improve on them. 

Pipeline visualization acts as an intuitive means of improving your sales productiveness, with programs offering the most comprehensive visualizations serving as your go-to tools. You do not just have visuals into your problems but also see sales opportunities to exploit.

2. Email Tracking

With this feature, you gain valuable insights into the actions performed by prospects, leads, and existing customers with emails sent to them. 

The email tracking feature ranges from tracking whether the recipient opened the email to whether the recipient clicked links within the email. This helps improve your email marketing, a technique very important to sales productivity.

Email Marketing tracking
Source: Cognique

3. Automated Follow-Ups

Automated follow-ups include automating responses to basic customer inquiries and conversations, so there are more available agents for the more complex tasks facing your business. 

Advanced CRM software offers you a host of automated features to satisfy your CRM needs. These include outbound emails, appointment scheduling, notifications, and reminders, among a lot of others.

4. Custom Reports and Dashboards

Custom reports, presented through intuitive and comprehensive dashboards, give you a complete view and insight into your customer relationships. 

Having access to these means you easily understand where general customer satisfaction levels are at, as well as means of improving them. You set KPIs for tracking and scoring your general customer relationship, then make improvements where necessary.

5. Multi-channel Communication

Providing customers with multiple access points to communicate with your business is also important for your CRM needs. From VoIP to basic chats, emails, and traditional phone calls, multiple communication channels means increased access to customers and a chance to build relationships with them on their appropriate platforms.

Multi-channel contact center
Source: 3CX

6. Integrations

As a business, you have key platforms that facilitate other important business workflows. Perhaps these platforms are so important that you do not have any intention of getting rid of them. The CRM software you choose to use should not force you to do this. 

Through integrations, your business workflows are interconnected and centralized on one platform. You implement your CRM system without hampering the usefulness or effectiveness of these other platforms and applications. 

Some additional features to look out for when choosing a CRM software include trend analysis, forecasting options, and lead management options, among others. 

Additional Factors to Consider When Choosing A CRM that Fits Your Business Needs

1. The Cost of the CRM Solution

In accordance with your budget, choose the CRM tool that offers you the best value for money. Choose the tool that offers you the most features within your price range, with pricing schemes usually structured per user. 

Cost is always an important and inevitable factor to consider. If you run a small business, consider choosing a small business CRM software that is affordable, easy to use, and provides all the necessary CRM features your business needs.

The Breakdown of CRM Software Cost
Source: Diceus

2. Scalability

Growing your business and related customer relationships should always be a priority. The scalability of CRM software is important. You do not want to be forced to transfer all customer information and management workflows because of inadequacies in the solutions offered by your tool. 

Scalability also works with the cost of the software, as you also want to determine how favorable higher plans are to your business as you grow.

3. Compatibility With Existing Framework

The compatibility factor covers both hardware and software used to run your business. You need to check to ensure that your deployed CRM solution offers compatibility with a wide range of installed software, as well as hardware components like business phone systems

Your CRM tool should also be compatible with the processes and workflows that have been proven to work for your business. This will ensure you can make improvements to your business without having to compromise working systems.

Always filter the CRM software programs available in the market. Pick the best that satisfies all your needs and requirements, and also offers the most comprehensive list of features to work with.

3. Assemble a Team to Implement the CRM System

Your CRM implementation process is a team effort. Forrester reports a 47% failure rate of CRM strategies, not because of inadequate technology to run it, but because of deficiencies in the person hired to run these technologies and execute strategies.

Having a comprehensive and productive team to manage your CRM process is very important. In creating your team and implementing your CRM, certain individuals prove to be integral to the process.

1. The Project Manager

The project manager is the leader of the team. Having this personnel work alongside a project management team with defined roles offers you expertise and a framework to work with.

A qualified project manager possesses advanced-level knowledge of your needs, the CRM implementation process, and working strategies. This individual is also required to have essential project management skills and should also possess the necessary project management certifications

Concerning the CRM implementation process, the project manager holds several responsibilities.

  • Identify the most appropriate timeline for your CRM transition processes.
  • Breaking down the CRM implementation process into detailed phases, with these phases containing the exact tasks involved in the implementation process.
  • Clear any doubt or confusions employees have about the CRM implementation process.
  • Supervise the accomplishment of tasks, with a particular focus placed on the speed and quality of work of each team member.
  • Organize training sessions on the use of selected CRM tools, strategies, and frameworks.
  • Maintain supervision after the CRM system rollout, identify issues, and make amendments where necessary.

There are also requirements for the qualities and functions of other team members within your implementation process. When organizing a team, you want to focus on cross-functional collaborations. That is, organizing team members from different departments within your company. 

This helps you have a divergent view on CRM strategies as well as sufficient and diverse expertise for its implementation. Cross-functional team collaboration is always an important factor in managing any type of project.

2. The Project Champion

A project champion is the main executive behind your CRM process, having even more control than a project manager. 

Either the owner of the business or a senior executive within it, a project champion dictates the amount of managerial and financial support received by the implementation team. 

He or she also dictates how satisfying the CRM implementation is. This individual maintains a close working relationship with the implementation team.

3. The User Pilot Group

The user pilot group is a set of end-users used to gain feedback about how effective the implemented CRM system is in ensuring customer satisfaction.

They help to test the CRM system before it is launched. These individuals also maintain a close working relationship with other members of the team.

The existence of these individuals within your CRM implementation team means the CRM implementation process stays structured, seamless, and eventually satisfactory to customers.

4. Set Up a Timeline for Key Implementation Events

Create a timeline for your CRM implementation. Your implementation project manager is responsible for this step. Through a calendar or visualized dashboard, he or she identifies the length of time it takes to implement the CRM system as well as the different stages in its implementation.

A CRM implementation timeline, on average, spans between 6 to up to 14 weeks, with this length determined by the number of activities and tasks involved in it. 

Tasks are additionally determined by the type and purpose of the CRM deployed. Nonetheless, there are key events that cannot be neglected in setting a timeline for your CRM implementation process.

1. Backup and Migration of Data

Your existing data includes information on your customers as well as important information concerning your sales and general business management workflows. This data is located in different software tools you currently make use of, such as spreadsheets and other programs used for manual entries and record-keeping.

Before you transfer your data, ensure this data is backed up. You do not want to lose years, months, or even days of crucial data.

After backing up your data, you can begin to migrate data from these different platforms. Although migrations may be done manually, making use of CRM software with extended integrations with other platforms makes migrations a lot more seamless. This process is automated and data is imported more accurately. 

The time spent importing data depends on the size and amount of data to be migrated. You want to make sure all data is imported in appropriate formats. Numbers are in the right country codes and customer data is categorized as need be.

2. Setting Up Your CRM Software

This key event encompasses the creation of customized settings for your CRM software’s use. Comprehensively-featured CRM software gives you all the tools, features, and solutions you need. 

Nonetheless, you are also presented with additional features you do not need, which results in an overwhelming user interface and feature set. 

These settings include setting up stages within your sales pipeline for proper visualization, permissions, custom templates for quick workflow creation, automation, custom fields, and others.

3. Testing and Reporting

This is where you make use of imported data to test out current customizations and identify areas that need further improvements. In addition to running tests on your CRM system, you generate reports for testing out the accuracy of data. With this, you know just how your current system settings operate with your data. 

4. CRM Role Training

CRM role training is a key event that affects the length of your implementation timeline. You need to train your employees in the use of CRM software. You can do this through direct physical training sessions and self-service knowledge bases like text, audio, and video resources. 

In addition to training specific to the roles of the team member, you provide general training or knowledge on company goals, customer historical relations, your CRM configuration plan, and KPIs.

Do not skip any of these events while creating your CRM timeline. The entire length of your CRM implementation process is based on other tasks and events specific to your needs and CRM implementation strategy.

5. Reduce Errors with a Fast-Channel Feedback Loop

A feedback loop is a process or means of collecting information to use to guide future actions. When it comes to CRM, your feedback loop means the medium through which you collect customer opinions or reviews on the use of a product. This is done to improve the product, your sales activities, or customer service. 

For your implementation process, providing a clear and organized channel for feedback is also important. Rather than customers, you deal with team members, especially the user pilot group, considering that they exist only to give feedback. You do not want their effectiveness hindered. 

This also goes for other members of the team as everyone is involved in and expected to contribute to the whole process.

You create both positive and negative feedback loops, ensuring that you duly identify the practical strengths and weaknesses within your implementation process. Feedback loops involve four stages.

  • Gathering Feedback: You gather feedback from the relevant groups which, in this case, are your implementation team members. Feedback could be gathered through surveys or open communication hubs.
  • Analyzing Feedback: Feedback typically comes in the form of qualitative data, which is a little bit more difficult to be analyzed than ratings, numbers, and percentages. Nonetheless, you still understand the complaint or review given its context. 
  • Acting on Feedback: Based on your understanding during the analysis phase, you then act on your feedback to improve your implementation process. 
  • Following Up on Feedback: Follow up on feedback to make sure that your changes make a positive difference.

The process goes on and on, like a loop based on continuous improvement until the whole implementation process is complete.

However, in creating a feedback channel, special emphasis is placed on the words “clear” and “organized”. You do not want every communication ending up in the same communication hub. This makes messages and important feedback very difficult to sift through. Errors are bound to happen and the commencement of work on very crucial feedback is slowed down or totally missed out on.

Instead, you want every channel for communication to be properly defined, especially a dedicated hub for feedback on the CRM implementation process. This dedicated hub should also include the categorization of messages or groups to properly distinguish feedback and easily act on them. 

6. Launch Your CRM and Monitor Results

Launching your CRM is an important step in your CRM implementation process but it is not the final stop. You need to make continuous improvements to ensure your CRM implementation process is a total success. 

Make use of metrics to measure the effectiveness of the CRM system and strategies, then improve upon the processes as required. Creating key performance indicators (KPIs) is the only means of measuring the success of your CRM system.

The main purpose of a CRM is to improve your sales operations to attract more customers and your customer servicing workflows to ensure your customers remain satisfied with your products and services. Therefore, metrics to be measured are to be concerned with these. 

With a lot of metrics worthy of consideration, a few serve as the most crucial for your CRM. 

Sales Metrics

  • Close Rate: This is your conversion rate, which is a comparison between the number of leads you generated and the eventual number of sales made. This metric is usually represented in percentages and also takes the total worth of the deals into account.
  • Upsell Rate: Deals with the number of customers you convince to make additional purchases than they planned to. Your CRM is expected to show predictive information about the types of lead expected to make additional purchases. 
  • Net New Revenue: This is the amount of revenue generated from new customers. How you define a “new” customer depends on your business type. 
  • Length of Sales Cycle: Another name for this sales metric is “lead velocity”. This relates to how long it takes to convert each lead. Achieving a lower sales cycle length is one of the major goals of a CRM system. 
  • Length of Each Sales Pipeline Stage: With your entire pipeline split into different stages, this metric shows you how much time it takes a lead to leave each stage. With this, you know exactly where bottlenecks lie. 

Marketing Metrics

  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): This shows you the amount of revenue you are predicted to generate from a single customer. CLV takes note of the value of each purchase and the purchase frequency rate, with an average of these used to determine your CLV. 
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): This is the average cost your business spends to convert a customer. CAC compares the amount a company spends in bringing in customers to the volume of sales it generates from them. 
  • Revenue Generated By Campaign: This includes data on how much revenue you generate from each marketing campaign you engage in. 
  • Email List Growth Rate: Considering the effectiveness of email marketing, you also want to measure the health of your email list. You take note of the number of subscriptions and individuals who unsubscribe, with these converted to a percentage for measurement.

Customer Servicing Metrics

  • Churn Rate: Your churn rate takes the number of customers that leave your business into account. A high churn rate means customers are generally unsatisfied and your CRM strategies and operations are failing to do their job.
  • Average Time to Resolution: This presents the average time it takes your team to resolve a complaint or issue. Just like your churn rate, you also want this average as low as possible.
  • Average Number of Follow-ups Per Ticket: This is a deeper metric into your complaint resolution, taking into account the average number of calls, emails, or communications it takes to resolve an issue.

These are the important metrics you need to pay close attention to, as they help you rate the success of your CRM implementation process and improve the effectiveness of your deployed CRM system.

Martin Luenendonk

Editor at FounderJar

Martin loves entrepreneurship and has helped dozens of entrepreneurs by validating the business idea, finding scalable customer acquisition channels, and building a data-driven organization. During his time working in investment banking, tech startups, and industry-leading companies he gained extensive knowledge in using different software tools to optimize business processes.

This insights and his love for researching SaaS products enables him to provide in-depth, fact-based software reviews to enable software buyers make better decisions.