Successful CRM Implementation Plan: 10 Step Strategy Process

Michael Scheiner
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The wealth of new functionalities your business gets when you decide on a CRM implementation is massive. At this point, if your operation is running without a CRM solution, everyone from your salespeople to project managers to customer support reps are struggling to be as efficient as they can be. To implement customer relationship management is no longer a luxury; it’s a must!

In this step-by-step breakdown, we’ll show you why your business needs CRM software: from CRM features like marketing automation to salesforce automation, better workflows in your business processes, and for maintaining high customer retention and overall excellent customer experience. Then, we’ll do a detailed assessment of the steps of a CRM implementation process. 

So buckle in for this CRM Implementation Plan: 10 Steps to a Successful Strategy. Let’s roll!

 

 

What is CRM implementation?

One often hears talk of CRM implementation, meaning something along the lines of subscribing to a new system, doing a bunch of data migration, and getting all these new apps. 

But choosing the right CRM platform, plugging in the right customer data (and other CRM data), and doing proper CRM training after rollout isn’t always a piece of cake. There are, indeed, specialists in CRM implementing, and perhaps your business would do best to hire one. But it’s not necessary, and might be too pricey for smaller operations on a budget.

CRM technology is only as difficult as one makes it, and the level and degree of user adoption may vary. Hopefully, this article will show you a CRM implementation plan that will save you time and money in the long run. After all, great things follow from great plans, and this CRM implementation plan is no exception.

 

How proper CRM implementations impact your business

CRM project planning impacts your business in many ways. Having a proper CRM implementation plan means saving time, having the most accurate and valuable data, and getting all your staff on the same page and using the same information. 

Save time in choosing a new CRM vendor

One of the first things when it comes to CRM implementation is choosing the right CRM platform. There’s a lot of good research and reviews online, and most CRM systems have free trials or free versions. When you take this step seriously, you’ll have an up and running CRM system faster and with fewer onboarding steps which could be costly. 

Making the most of your CRM data

If CRM systems are like well-coordinated machines, then CRM data is the engine fuel that keeps them running. Improper CRM data can gravely impact your business, leading to customer mixups, inefficient sales teams, and overall clueless CRM users. Before CRM implementation, make sure your data is clean: Remove contact duplication or old and invalid information.

Giving your CRM users the best CRM tools

You have got to think of who will be the end-users of this CRM software. Your sales managers and sales reps? Your marketing team? Or your customer support agents? The best CRM have functionalities for all these departments, and they impact your business by making sure every team member works smoothly with all the others no matter the departmental siloing.

 

What makes for a successful CRM implementation plan?

A successful implementation of CRM doesn’t have to cost a million dollars nor take a year to get going. CRM implementation strategies abound online, and our step-by-step plan is based on the best intel the CRM world has to offer. Whether you are a startup, small business, or enterprise looking to combine CRM with ERP software, these CRM implementation strategies will surely boost your uptake ability. Here’s the 10 step strategy to CRM implementation:

  1. Map out your specific needs

  2. Shop around for the best CRM apps

  3. Think about integrations

  4. Select a CRM implementation team

  5. Set out your metrics, KPIs and goals

  6. Plan a comprehensive budget

  7. Clean and prep your CRM data

  8. Onboard your CRM users

  9. Rollout the CRM for an initial stage

  10. Analyze your data and get feedback

 

How to implement a CRM system: 10 vital steps in CRM implementation

The CRM implementation process isn’t necessarily a strict one-at-a-time set of rules. You have some leeway in how you go about this, especially if you parcel out the initiatives to different people involved in the CRM implementation phases. 

There are many ways you can keep organized during the CRM implementation process. You can use a spreadsheet or an app or just a whiteboard. Spreadsheets and apps, however, are better because they are accessible remotely.  

1. Map out your specific needs

The first step of our CRM implementation process is the most high-level work you’ll have to do throughout: understanding your needs and thinking hard about how you expect a CRM system to meet them.

You’ll need to think of things like your company size and industry, how many of your team members will be using the CRM, and which departments: from marketing, the sales process, or support, among others.

2. Think about integrations

Step 2 of our CRM implementation guide is all about envisioning the ecology of business software, and where your CRM will fit among it. Large businesses often use ERP, so think about how you’d like those to work together.

Some CRM platforms really do it all. There are many great CRMs that work as add ons and extensions with other major tools like Google and Microsoft products. Ecommerce operations should especially consider which integrations they’ll need for pricing and payment modules.

3. Shop around for the best CRM apps

Time for CRM implementation step 3: shopping around. Just as you want to create a great customer journey for visitors to your shop or site, so do the best CRM tools out there want to do for you as their potential customer. 

Look at features lists, compare pricing models, even read outside reviews. Often, CRM systems will give you free trials. Of course, too many free trials might add some unwanted extra time to your CRM implementation process. 

4. Select a CRM implementation team

Step 4 of implementing CRM is about choosing the right people for the job. Three good roles to consider are: advocates, who convey the importance of CRM to your team; experts, who really know how to implement and use it and can teach newbies; and the workhards, who’ll do things like data migration.

It’s key that communication is rife among everyone. Clear messaging on obstacles or setbacks can minimize time wasted.

5. Set out your metrics, KPIs and goals

In step 1 you made the grand plan for your CRM system. Now in step 5, it’s time to get down into the details and numbers. This step is important come the final step too, as any new business process is cybernetic in nature: implement, get feedback, adjust and repeat.

Metrics you might consider are the cost of CRM versus sales or profits. It can measure marketing campaigns against new contacts and leads. It can analyze customer support issues and resolution times. Lots of Types of CRMs have great dashboards for instant reporting.

6. Plan a comprehensive budget

With step 6 we talk about dollars. Now of course a great CRM system will make you more efficient and save you money in the longer run. Up front, however, there’s likely going to be a down payment.

Free versions won’t cut it if your business aims to scale. Make sure when picking a plan, that your budget remains safe even if you need to suddenly upgrade for some reason or other. Also, integrations can either be a cost-saving device, or a costly one, if you don’t add up the numbers first.

7. Clean and prep your CRM data

On to step 7 of CRM implementation. If you’ve never used a CRM software before, chances are your customer data is on spreadsheets and other media. You’ll want to go over it, discard out-of-date stuff, and look to merge duplicate data. You can also do some data segmentation ahead of time.

If all you're doing is merging your data from an older CRM to a new one, the best CRMs come with tools to do it for you. Otherwise you get simple tutorials. If need be, there are always outside specialists you can hire, either from the vendor you subscribed to or a 3rd party specialist.

8. Onboard your CRM users

Step 8 of the process to implement your CRM is something people often overlook, and that’s giving your team ample time to get to know the software. You can’t just have it installed and expect everyone to understand what it can do, and why you’ve implemented it.

This means expecting there to be downtime from their regular work tasks. You might even hold training sessions outside the usual workspace. There will be holdouts who don’t like new things, but communicate clearly how CRM is a tool to help their work, not add to it. Finally, make sure your specialists are still dedicated for some time to helping everyone.

9. Rollout the CRM for an initial stage

This step 9 of your CRM implementation brings us closer to the end, because it fuses implementation with initial usage. When you finally start using your CRM, have a probation period in mind, which could be two weeks or a month.

The idea here is to manage expectations. There will be bumps in the road, so as long as you don't hit that road running full speed you’ll be able to come out unscathed. It also eases up pressure on your team to become CRM user experts instantly. And this takes us to our final step.

10. Analyze your data and get feedback

So, what is the last step in CRM implementation? It follows naturally from steps 5 and 9. Now that your probation period is up, take a step back. Measure its success rates against those KPIs you set in step 5.

What’s more, this is the opportunity to do the most important thing: Talk to your team about how they feel about the CRM software. Hear their pain points out and look for solutions together. Feedback from users is invaluable to proper CRM implementation.

Once you’ve assessed the results and heard the feedback, you might want to change your plans to adjust. That might mean how you use the CRM, or what you expect from it, or even if you have the right plan with the right tools.

Finally, repeat that last step every so often. Stay agile to your shifting business needs as well the concerns of your team who use the implemented CRM.

How long should a CRM implementation strategy take?

Before you set down deadlines for total CRM implementation, remember not every organization, nor every CRM system functions identically. 

Startups and small businesses will likely get their CRM implemented in about 2 weeks to 2 months. Larger businesses should bank on anywhere from 1 to 4 months. 

 

CRM implementation project plan template

Working with a CRM implementation plan template is always a good idea. There are many great resources online where you can see, copy or download such a template. What’s important is, when it comes to CRM project planning, to find a template or plan that is right for your timeframe and budget. Otherwise, perhaps you and your team can sit down together to create your own CRM implementation project plan template. If so, would you prioritize step-by-step planning, or high-level goal meeting?

Key takeaways on successful implementation of customer relationship management

Now that you’re all read-up on CRM implementation best practices, it’s time to get ready for implementing customer relationship management into your business process. Just remember the key takeaways:

Think of your specific needs, and who in your organization will be using the CRM. Make sure they have a say in choosing the CRM system and are involved in the implementation and onboarding.

Know your bottom line. This means having a firm sense of your budget, how long your operations can slacken while your team adopts the CRM system, and what kind of ROI you expect from a well-implemented CRM.

Gather data and analyze it. Make regualar reports on the CRM’s efficacy and its adoption rates. Ask for feedback from the CRM users often, and don’t be afraid to change courses if need be.

That’s about it for now. Good luck with the CRM implementing.

 

FAQs

What is the average cost of CRM implementation?

The average cost of CRM implementation depends on the number of users. This could be from free to $20 per user per month. More robust CRMs with full stacks of features offer package deals, and these can run from anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 per month.

Are there any CRM implementation companies that can help with the process?

Many CRM vendors offer services to help you with your CRM implementation. These include many of the big names in CRM such as Zoho, HubSpot, Zendesk and Freshsales. There are also 3rd party companies that can help with CRM implementation, although these can be pricey.

What are the biggest challenges in CRM implementation?

The biggest challenge in CRM implementation is getting the buy-in from your team. A CRM system is only as effective as its adoption and use. You must communicate clearly with your team why you are implementing a CRM, and provide time and resources to help them master it.

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