The six-step guide to effectively implementing a CRM solution for your business

29th August 2019
Article from Freshworks


So you’ve chosen a CRM solution for your company. What next? You have to implement it. But, implementing a CRM is not as easy as it sounds. Research shows that around 33% of all CRM implementations fail. And some of the most common reasons for failure are low user adoption, slow system performance, and implementing the CRM in haste. If you are implementing a CRM for the first time and want it to be successful, you need an implementation plan. 

But, before we talk about a plan for implementing your CRM solution, let’s rewind the clock a bit. 
When you were in the process of choosing the right CRM solution for your business, your priorities would have been:
-Contemplating the choice between an on-premise solution and a cloud solution
-Evaluating different solutions
-Choosing the right plan to go with 

Figuring out how this new tool will impact you, your employees, and your business processes.
This implies that you went about this process in a systematic manner knowingly or unknowingly. You need to embark upon your implementation process in a similar fashion. Here are six steps for a successful CRM implementation:



"Research shows that around 33% of all CRM implementations fail. And some of the most common reasons for failure are low user adoption, slow system performance, and implementing the CRM in haste"

Step 1. Come up with a good implementation outline

Start off with segmenting your employees, sales processes, and data because this is an important factor for the outline. 

Your employees are the most crucial part of the plan. Their routine, i.e., the sales process, is going to be changed with the implementation of the CRM: what was previously achieved with spreadsheets and paper notes is going to be completely digitized. The data structure is all the information that is mapped from the previous tool into the CRM. 
Start off by talking to your employees. 

Sit and spend an entire day with them to understand different aspects of the system such as: 
-Its ease of use
-How simple it is to set up
-Is the information displayed in a single page or runs into multiple pages?

 Similarly, it is critical to understand what challenges they face in the current system such as:
-Manual lead and customer data entry
-Maintaining multiple spreadsheets
-Using a multitude of tools to achieve tasks

 This step gives you big pointers to how you can sell this project to the end-users. 

Step 2. Form a team for the implementation

You need to appoint five key personnel who will play a big part in the implementation process:

-The Senior Executive  — The senior executive in your implementation team can be the head of sales or the CEO. They are your advocates for the CRM. A higher-up executive is more authoritative and influential, and their words sound more credible and convincing.  

-The Spearhead  — A sales-savvy techie or a marketer in your company who will lead this project. This person will also test out the CRM for custom use-cases and ensure the solution is good to go. For this crucial role, you should select someone who has the willingness to learn about the product and educate your team as well.

-The Internal Champion  — The “champion” is a term for one rep in your sales team to learn the CRM as much as they can and become well-versed with it before its execution. Although having a senior executive helps with the advocacy, an internal champion rep connects better with other sales reps in the team. The internal champion can help explain — with hard-hitting pain points — how much better the CRM is compared to Excel sheets or paper notes. The champion also drives the implementation of the CRM by acting as a liaison for other reps and works directly under the spearhead. This means your reps can reach out to them to get an early glimpse of the CRM and clarify their doubts before it is completely rolled out.

-The IT Specialist — The IT specialist heads the IT team to help ensure that your system is free of bugs and tests the CRM for optimal performance. 

-The Handler  — The handler is your sales ops manager who will work in tandem with the IT specialist’s team to administer the CRM solution, migrate data, and customize it. 

Brief your employees about the change

The senior executive in your company can brief your employees about the following:
-What a CRM is
-Why you are implementing the CRM
-What the business impact is
-When it is going to be implemented and how it replaces your current process
-Or if you’re attempting to implement it for the second time, how different your approach is from the last time you had tried

These key discussion points give your employees a heads up about this new change and help them prepare for the change, which in turn can increase the adoption levels of the CRM. 

Set a date to make the CRM live

This date is your target, and you need to put in your maximum effort to ensure that the CRM is implemented by then. 
Many things can go wrong. You may experience meeting targets as plausible distractions at work. 

One thing you can avoid in general is setting a go-live target of one day. In all honesty, it is impossible to completely implement the CRM system in a single day. 

Even if you manage to do so, you will be faced with the herculean task of fixing things you may have missed out.
To implement your CRM bug-free, you need to set a go-live date of 3 months from the day you start the implementation. 

Step 3. Come up with a good change management plan

Change management is largely people-driven and the roles they play in this step are critical to determining the success of your CRM implementation.

From giving master roles to sales reps to conducting regular sessions to educate your employees about the CRM, how you take this step will have a strong bearing on whether the solution is used optimally or below its full potential.

Take the time to educate your sales reps

Let’s face it  — the sales reps in your company are most impacted by the CRM solution. To start with, do this if your company is using Excel for contact management, compare it side-by-side with the CRM. Having regular sessions like this helps your employees understand exactly how the CRM steps in in place of spreadsheets.

Explaining each feature of the CRM by correlating it with spreadsheets allows your employees to grasp the concept of a CRM better.

Step 4. Prepare for the CRM launch

Customize the CRM according to your needs

Customising the CRM is crucial as it helps you tune it according to your business process. It is a known fact that every industry has its own sales process and jargon. How does customising the CRM solution help?

For one, a customised experience makes it easier for your reps to use the CRM. They’d know exactly what to find and where to find it.

When the customised CRM solution perfectly emulates the way you handle your sales, it is innate and much more structured.

Take the case of the “contacts” module, for example. If your team refers to contacts as clients or customers, the sales head can easily go about making this customisation and as a result, this reflects throughout the CRM.

Another example of how you can customise the CRM is by having multiple pipelines. Multiple pipelines can be used for multiple products or sales processes — which helps in keeping things clutter-free. Most CRM solutions allow you to have up to 10 pipelines.

Remember, a great CRM solution always allows you to customise it from end-to-end. Ideally, the handler should be in charge of customising the CRM solution, because they know and understand the nuances of the sales team perfectly. 

Set user roles and permission levels

Coming from spreadsheets, you would definitely see the need for users and permission levels set for every sales rep.

But consider this: 
-Are your leads following leads that are not theirs?
-Have you noticed your reps going through the entire database to find their lead or customer? 

 This sets a need for clear user roles and permissions. And a CRM solution allows you to do this. When your company grows and you add more users to your CRM, you have to regulate access for team members. And hence, it is only fitting that they are allowed to view and access only what is relevant to them. 

In such situations, System Administrators can create roles to set the right level of permissions for users. The handler can work with the IT specialist’s team to administer clear roles and permissions for the reps in the system.

Back up and migrate data to the CRM

Understandably, migrating from your old tool to one that is completely different can be hard. But, as you’ve found out so far, it doesn’t need to be if you have some tricks up your sleeve.

Now that you’re nearing the launch date, you have to transfer data. This is necessary to ensure that none of your data is missed out in the final implemented system  — which can be troublesome. Who can do this task?

The handler. They can simply clean and back up data from your existing tool and completely transfer it to the CRM.

This process is not difficult because many modern CRM solutions allow you to easily migrate information by simply uploading your leads, contacts, accounts, and deal CSV files. 

Step 5. Testing and confirming if everything’s good to go

“Testing” often sounds like a complex and time-consuming process but, in reality, it isn’t. You need to have this step to double-check on everything you’ve done so far with the help of the IT specialist, who heads this task. To begin with, divide  your testing process like this (not necessarily in order):
-Testing the system based on stress levels
-Performance and loading time
-Usability
-Data integrity

Now that you have a plan for testing operations, the IT specialist’s team can check the system to ensure the following:
-No duplication or missing data
-Roles and permissions are clearly defined
-The loading time of the CRM is consistent
-Performance of the CRM under peak usage is good
-Data updates are synced universally and data integrity is maintained

Step 6. Launching the CRM

During the launch, all your employees have become aware of the CRM solution and you can finally transition from your older methods to the new way of working. Or can you?
It is possible that your employees are so used to Excel that they go back to using it. Your biggest challenge now is ensuring your employees use the CRM. This means you’ll have to prevent them from eventually going back to Excel or any other older method that the CRM is meant to replace. Here are some tips you can follow to prevent this:

1.One easy way to prevent your employees from doing so is to make it mandatory to use the CRM.  

2.Make your sales ops manager fetch a report for metrics directly from the CRM. When you inform employees that their target attainment will be measured from the CRM and from no other methods, you will surely see a spike in adoption levels.

3.You can also showcase some real-time stats to prove how the CRM solution works better than your older methods. 

For example, do this: after six months, you can craft a comparison report that shows how many leads slipped through the cracks because of older methods and how this has reduced considerably by using a CRM solution. These are essentially nurture programs and real-time stories that you can present to prove that CRM really has made life easier for your company.  

Final Notes

CRM implementation cannot be done in a day and even if you try to, you won’t see great results. This is why each step in the CRM implementation is important, from coming up with a plan to ensuring that employees adapt to it. The key here is your employees —  the ones who will be using the solution on a daily basis  — so, when you include them in the implementation process from the very beginning, you are well on course for better adoption and usage.