Your Playbook to Implementing a CRM into Your Sales Team

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Jay Fuchs
Jay Fuchs



Nowadays, a CRM's utility lands somewhere between "incredibly helpful" and "absolutely essential." It's a system designed to help a business get as much mileage out of its interactions with past, current, and prospective customers as possible. And if your company isn't currently leveraging one, you could be drastically undercutting your business potential.

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So, let's say you're in that boat, and you make the call to introduce a CRM into your business operations. What happens next? Well, generally, that decision is followed by the process of implementing the system.

CRM implementation can be labor intensive and tough to navigate, so if you're considering leveraging a CRM for the first time — or switching from a legacy CRM to a newer one — it's important to have a picture of what that process might look like.

This article will provide a step-by-step playbook with the information to make your CRM implementation go as smoothly as possible.

1. Carefully consider your business needs and goals, and identify the right system for them.

Implementing a CRM is a means to an end. It's never done arbitrarily. You only leverage one of these systems if you think it can address your company's needs and improve your business operations. So if you want to get the most of your CRM, it helps to know what those needs and areas for improvement are.

When identifying the best CRM for you, consider factors like your industry, business size, and budget. An enterprise-level CRM probably won't work for a young startup, and a cost-conscious system that allows for two users at a time won't do much for a corporation with 10,000 employees.

Beyond that, you need to identify what specific problems or obstacles you hope to remedy with your CRM. Do you need better visibility into your sales pipeline? Are you having trouble reliably scheduling meetings with prospects? Do you think you'd stand to gain a lot from a solid live chat software?

Once you have a comprehensive understanding of the nature of your business and the issues you're looking to address, start conducting research — that could mean reaching out to vendors, asking others in your industry for references, or just thoroughly poring through online reviews and materials from vendors' websites.

Find a CRM that accommodates your business's general qualities and contains the features you're most interested in. After you've landed on the one you think will work best for you, you can start to set the rest of the process in motion.

2. Assign qualified people to carry out the process.

The size and nature of the team you assign to guide this process will vary tremendously depending on the scale of your business and the budget you've allocated for your implementation.

The people you tap for this kind of project could include analysts, developers, QA test engineers, and representatives from every team that will directly interact with the new system.

That said, your business might not have access to all of those resources — if any of them at all. That's okay. While all those engineers and analysts are solid assets to have in this process, you only absolutely need one specific person for the job: a project manager.

They're your point person. The one that will guide the process, provide you with updates, and come to you with concerns and issues that arise. They need to have a thorough understanding of the needs you addressed in the first step and the leadership skills to keep the process moving. In some cases, you might need to outsource to find the right one.

CRM implementation can be an intricate process with a lot of moving parts. It's important to have someone you can trust making sure everyone working on the project is moving in sync and making good on any specific objectives and deliverables you set.

3. Develop your CRM implementation plan and prep for your go-live.

This point refers to the process of introducing, communicating, and bringing your employees up to speed on your CRM implementation as an organizational movement. It's where you pin down exactly how everyone who will be impacted by the system fits into it.

Which features will best suit your sales team's needs? What functions of your CRM will fit most smoothly into their workflows? How will your company's other departments leverage the system as well? It's important to answer these kinds of questions to help guide aspects of your implementation like developing a well-structured CRM interface.

Another key factor to consider here is training. You need your team to know how to properly leverage the new system if you want to get the most out of it. Take the time to walk them through all of its features, stressing the ones that best suit your needs and goals.

This is also the stage where you start testing your CRM — ideally through your IT department. Thoroughly vet your system through processes like system testing, functional testing, integration testing, usability testing, and performance testing.

It's important to know for sure that your CRM will hold up when it's time to roll it out, and there's no better way to figure that out than to screen its functionality beforehand.

4. Migrate your data.

In most cases, implementing a new CRM doesn't mean much without the customer data you've already accrued over the years. Data migration is a tricky but essential component of a successful CRM implementation, and there are some key factors to consider when carrying yours out.

First, you have to consider what data you want to migrate. Sometimes, migrating all of your data might not be worth it. Say you're transitioning from a legacy CRM that's over ten years old. Do you really need its early data that might not be relevant anymore? You might need to set a cut-off and exclude the data that doesn't quite make it.

Second, make sure the data you're migrating is accurate and up-to-date. Check to see that you're not migrating contacts that are no longer viable, and ensure that you've addressed any duplicate data. You'll also want to back up your old CRM in case something goes awry during the data migration process.

Once you've pinned down those points, you can start migrating your data to your new CRM. Certain tools can help facilitate that process. Data2CRM is one of the preeminent resources in that space. The solution allows you to automatically import your CRM clients, opportunities, communication history to your new system.

If your data is scattered across multiple systems, Import2 Wizard is a valuable resource worth considering. It allows you to consolidate any data that might be located in multiple business applications into a single CRM.

5. Initiate and measure the success of your go-live.

Here's where you start applying your CRM implementation plan and preparation. It's the stage where your reps start leveraging your new CRM in their actual work. After you've set this step in motion, it's important to pay close attention to how your CRM is performing.

Set measurable objectives and deliverables to gauge whether your new system is improving your sales efforts as a whole, but don't stop there. There's more to consider than hard, quantifiable performance metrics.

It's also important to consistently ask for and listen to your team's feedback. Is this new system making their jobs easier? How does it compare to your previous system? Does it give them more time and flexibility to directly interface with prospects? Get a feel for the system's qualifiable performance from your team's perspective.

It's also worth noting that this step never stops. Gauging your CRM's performance is an ongoing process. Keep tabs on how it's improving or undercutting your business operations.

Ideally, the first CRM you land on will provide the boost your business needs, but if the one you initially go with isn't a good fit, you might want to explore the possibility of implementing a new one and starting this process over.

If you consistently interact with a range of prospects and customers, you stand to gain a lot from implementing a CRM — no matter the scale, state, or nature of your business. So give it some thought and genuine consideration if you haven't already. Though the CRM implementation process has the potential to be tough, the results you'll see will make it all worthwhile.

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Topics: CRM Adoption

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