Successful CRM Implementation Plan: 10 Step Strategy

Last Updated:Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Quick Summary:

To implement a CRM effectively, define clear goals and strategy, select suitable CRM software, and form a CRM implementation team. Prioritize data cleaning and migration, customize the CRM to fit business processes, and train your team thoroughly. Finally, launch gradually, gather feedback, and continuously optimize for better adoption and performance. For more details, dive into our ten-step strategy below.

Did you know that 75% of CRM implementations fail? And yes, even though this failure statistic is high and might be discouraging, you will not end up as one of those companies if you’re equipped with a good CRM implementation strategy.

Our guide breaks down the CRM process for implementation, providing actionable advice to help you avoid common pitfalls. Gain insights into selecting the right CRM, ensuring its successful integration, and achieving adoption across your team.

Here are your ten steps for successfully implementing a CRM, but make sure to read on for detailed guidance:

  1. Define Goals & Budget
  2. Think About Features & CRM Integrations
  3. Shop Around for the Best CRM Platform
  4. Select Your CRM
  5. Set Up a CRM Implementation Team
  6. Clean and prep your CRM data
  7. Test, Customize, and Configure
  8. Onboard Other CRM Users
  9. Rollout the CRM for an initial stage
  10. Analyze your data and get feedback


What is CRM implementation?

CRM implementation is the process of setting up Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software in a company. This CRM process can vary from company to company. Still, in general, it involves choosing the right CRM system, tailoring it to fit the company's processes, and safely transferring existing data. 

It's also important to train users on how to use CRM effectively and to keep checking its performance to ensure it meets the company's needs. Each step requires careful planning and involvement from different parts of the organization.

How much does this implementation process matter? A lot. It determines whether your company will start earning more money after implementing a CRM or losing it. 

A well-set-up CRM system leads to better data management, personalized customer interactions, and smarter decision-making through real-time analytics. This results in higher customer satisfaction and revenue growth.

Keep reading for clear steps and best practices to fully benefit from your CRM investment and avoid common pitfalls such as losing your data.


What Should a Business Do Before Putting a CRM Program in Place?

Before you start the implementation, here are some of the best CRM practices that will ensure everything goes smoothly once you get started:

  1. Evaluate your business needs: Identify the key challenges a CRM can help improve, such as relationship management, sales tracking, or marketing automation.

  2. Define success: Is it an increase in sales conversions or improvements in overall customer satisfaction? Define what a CRM should help you achieve.

  3. Assess your technology infrastructure: Can it support a new CRM system? This includes hardware, software, and network capabilities.

  4. Analyze your data: Review your current data management methods to determine what data needs to be migrated to the new CRM system.

  5. Align expectations: Consult with different stakeholders to gather input and align expectations. Speak with leadership, IT, sales, customer service, and marketing teams.


How to Implement a CRM System: 10 Steps for Successful CRM Implementation

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

However, here are ten steps for implementing CRM software we recommend you take to make sure the process is successful:


1. Define Goals & Budget

Have you completed all the steps from the list above? Okay, maybe you don’t have to do all five, but at least identify your business needs and goals and how you expect a CRM system to meet them. Then, consider your budget.

Define Your CRM Goals

Do you want to:

  • Enhance customer experience and customer retention

  • Provide quicker, more effective customer support

  • Improve sales team efficiency

  • Capture and convert leads more efficiently

Make sure to establish your top goals before implementing a new CRM.

Determine Your Budget

When forecasting your CRM budget, consider both initial and ongoing costs. Initial costs may include software purchase or subscription fees. Ongoing expenses can involve maintenance, upgrades, and training. 

CRM costs vary depending on features and the number of users. The prices range from free CRM plans for unlimited users but limited features to more than $100 per monthly user. Assess your financial resources carefully to ensure your CRM investment aligns with your business goals and provides a return on investment.


2. Think About Features & CRM Integrations

Do you want simple software to help you organize your leads and sales pipeline? Or do you need an all-in-one solution that includes workflow automation and marketing capabilities? Knowing your goals will help you determine what features you need in a CRM.

Then, consider integrations. Your CRM must work well with your email or any other collaboration or even marketing software such as Slack, Calendly, QuickBooks, Mailchimp, or even Google Workspace. Write down the software solutions you are using currently and make sure you can integrate CRM with them.

Pipedrive integrations with other apps

3. Shop Around for the Best CRM Platform

Time for CRM implementation step 3: shopping around. Just as you want to create an incredible 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 feature lists, compare pricing models, and read outside reviews. Often, CRM systems will give you free trials so that you can give them a try. Check out open-source CRM software as well, as it is most often free of charge.

Also, there are plenty of cheap CRMs for small businesses that larger companies can use if you're on a limited budget. Last but not least, if your team doesn’t have much CRM experience, look for software that prioritizes ease of use.


4. Select Your CRM

By now, you probably have a few CRM options in mind. And, we believe you did all the testing and read all the CRM comparisons. But how to choose a CRM that will suit your business? 

First, we recommend narrowing down your choices to two or three finalists. Then, you can request a custom sales call or demo with each vendor. This way, you can explore the features in detail and ask questions. The call with sales representatives may help you decide whether a particular CRM fits your business well.


5. Set Up a CRM Implementation Team

Step 5 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 know how to implement and use it and can teach newbies; and those who work hard, who'll do things like data migration.

Here’s how we would assemble an effective team:

  • Identify Key Roles: Your team should include a Project Manager to oversee the project, a Technical Expert to handle the CRM customization and integration, a Data Analyst for data migration and system testing, and a Training Coordinator to educate users.

  • Involve Stakeholders: Include representatives from sales, marketing, customer service, and IT. Their insights will ensure the CRM aligns with cross-departmental needs and workflows.

  • Designate a CRM Champion: Choose an enthusiastic and well-respected team member to act as a CRM Champion. This person will help drive the project internally and assist in managing change among their peers.

The team should collaborate closely to plan, execute, and adjust the CRM strategy according to organizational needs and user feedback.


6. Clean and prep your CRM data

If you've never used CRM software before, chances are your customer data is on spreadsheets and other media. You'll want to review it, discard out-of-date information, and merge duplicate data. You can also do some data segmentation ahead of time.

Most CRMs support importing data from spreadsheets (.csv or .xlsx) and directly importing data from another CRM. This process is usually straightforward, and the CRMs often include step-by-step guidance and tutorials to help you merge the data. 

So, as long as your data is neatly organized in a spreadsheet or another CRM, you won’t have any issues.

Pipedrive contacts import options


7. Test, Customize, and Configure

Here’s where your team comes into play. Testing, customizing, and configuring your CRM system are crucial steps to ensure it effectively supports your business processes and meets specific needs. 

Here’s how to approach these tasks:

Test Your CRM

  • Conduct initial testing: Before going live, run initial tests to check basic functionalities like data input and retrieval, user permissions, and integration workflows.

  • Involve end users: Have a group of end users from different departments test the CRM to provide feedback on its usability and functionality.

  • Iterate based on feedback: Use the feedback to make necessary adjustments. This helps refine the CRM to suit your business requirements better.

Customize Your CRM

  • Align with business processes: Customize the CRM to align with your specific business processes. This might include creating custom fields or adjusting pipelines to match your operational needs.

  • User roles and permissions: Set up roles and permissions to control access to sensitive information based on user responsibilities and hierarchy within the company.

Configure Your CRM

  • Integrate with other tools: Ensure your CRM software integrates seamlessly with other business tools, such as email marketing or accounting software.

  • Set up dashboards and reports: Configure dashboards to display key metrics for quick decision-making. Customize reports to track performance against business goals.

Keep in mind that even if your CRM implementation team isn’t experienced enough to do all these tests, leading CRMs offer training materials or even onboarding calls to help you learn how to use the CRM. 

So, you don’t need to pay CRM consultants to get your team up and running. You just need to set aside some time for your team to learn and get used to the software.


8. Onboard Other CRM Users

Once your CRM implementation team is comfortable with the new system, it's time to bring the rest of your company on board. Effective onboarding ensures that all users can utilize the CRM efficiently and effectively. getting started guideHere’s a structured approach to achieve this:

  • Training Materials: Create comprehensive training materials that include user manuals, FAQs, and instructional videos tailored to different company roles. Most CRMs already offer these.

  • Conduct Training Sessions: Organize training sessions that cater to various departments. These can be workshops, webinars, or one-on-one training.

  • Provide Support: Establish a support system for ongoing questions and challenges. This might include a dedicated internal support team, regular check-in meetings, or a support hotline.

  • Encourage Engagement: Encourage your team to use the CRM by showing them the benefits it brings to their work, such as saving time, simplifying processes, and improving customer interactions.


9. Rollout the CRM for an initial stage

You have almost reached the end of our CRM guidance! When you finally start using your CRM, consider a probation period. We expect it will take your team anywhere from two weeks to a month to get adjusted.

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


10. Analyze your data and get feedback

So, what is the last step in CRM implementation? Now that your probation period is up, take a step back and measure your success rates against those KPIs you set before implementing the CRM.

What's more, this is the opportunity to do the most essential 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 adjust your plans. That might mean changing how you use the CRM, what you expect, or even whether you have the right plan with the right tools.

Finally, repeat that last step every so often. Stay agile to your shifting business needs and the concerns of your team using the implemented CRM.


How Important is CRM Implementation?

Remember our stats from the beginning - that 75% of CRM implementations fail? Well, what happens if you’re one of them?

A failed CRM can lead to wasted investments, disrupted business processes, and lost opportunities for revenue growth and customer engagement. Over time, inefficient CRM can impact your operational efficiency, leading to decreased customer satisfaction and even financial loss.

How much money can you lose due to CRM implementation? Well, a lot. In 2002, Cigna, a global health service company, wanted to move 3.5 million customers to a new system. A hastened approach to CRM implementation led to a $445 million net loss in 2002 and a drop in membership from 13.3 million to 12.5 million users.

But let’s not focus on the negative side. The benefits of CRM are numerous once your CRM implementation project is carried out successfully. Check out the case studies below!


CRM Implementation Success Stories

ResQ Club, a Finnish company focused on reducing food waste, successfully implemented CRM to manage customer and partner interactions across European cities. This CRM system enabled them to scale quickly and efficiently, highlighting the benefits of tailored CRM solutions for business expansion and customer management.

Another positive example is The company has optimized its sales process by integrating CRM automation effectively. Their strategic use of automated lead qualification and distribution workflows showcases a proactive approach to managing sales leads. This way, their sales reps focus on high-potential opportunities, enhancing their overall sales performance.


CRM implementation project plan template

A six-months CRM implementation plan timeline

Image source: Slideteam

Working with a CRM implementation plan template is always a good idea. There are many great resources online where you can view, copy, or download such a template. What's important is to find a template or plan that is right for your timeframe and budget when it comes to CRM project planning.

Otherwise, you and your team can create your CRM implementation project plan template.

Critical considerations for CRM project planning should focus on selecting a template that aligns with your specific goals, available timeframe, and budget constraints.

Here's an example of a template you can use:

1. Preparation Phase:

  • Define business objectives and CRM goals.
  • Identify key stakeholders and form an implementation team.
  • Conduct a thorough needs assessment.

2. CRM Selection:

  • Research and evaluate potential CRM systems.
  • Choose a CRM that fits your business requirements and budget.

3. Project Planning:

  • Establish a detailed project timeline.
  • Outline clear milestones and deliverables.
  • Allocate resources and define roles and responsibilities.

4. Data Migration Strategy:

  • Plan for data cleaning, mapping, and import processes.
  • Test data migration to ensure integrity and accuracy.

5. Customization and Integration:

  • Customize the CRM to fit your business processes.
  • Integrate with existing systems and software.

6. User Training and Support:

  • Develop a training program for users.
  • Provide resources and support for troubleshooting.

7. Testing Phase:

  • Conduct system testing to identify and rectify issues.
  • Validate the CRM setup with end-users.

8. Go-Live Preparation:

  • Prepare a launch plan and communication strategy.
  • Ensure all technical and support systems are in place.

9. Launch:

  • Go live with the CRM system.
  • Monitor performance and user adoption closely.

10. Post-Implementation Review:

  • Gather feedback from users and stakeholders.
  • Make necessary adjustments and provide ongoing support.

Selecting the suitable template should offer a solid framework that can be customized to reflect your organization's unique processes and customer relationship management needs, paving the way for a smoother transition and tremendous success in your CRM endeavors.


Key Takeaways on Successful CRM Software Implementation

Now that you've all read up on best CRM practices for implementation, it's time to implement customer relationship management into your sales cycle. Just remember the key takeaways:

  • Consider your specific needs and who in your organization will use the CRM. Ensure 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 regular reports on the CRM's efficacy and adoption rates. Ask for feedback from CRM users often, and don't hesitate to change courses.

That's about it for now. Good luck with your CRM implementation!


CRM Implementation FAQs

What are the 5 phases of CRM implementation?

The five phases of CRM implementation include planning and strategy formulation, system selection to meet specific business needs, project design detailing CRM's architecture, implementation and customization for business alignment, and finally, training and adoption to ensure effective use across the organization.


What are the six steps of implementing a CRM?

Implementing a CRM involves defining clear business objectives, choosing the right CRM system that aligns with those objectives, planning the implementation with a detailed project plan, customizing and integrating the CRM into existing processes, training the team on effective usage, and continuously monitoring and iterating based on feedback for improvement.


What are the four types of CRM implementation?

Four main types of CRM implementation are operational CRM, focusing on automating customer-facing processes; analytical CRM, dedicated to analyzing customer data for insights; collaborative CRM, aimed at enhancing inter-departmental collaboration; and campaign management CRM, which combines operational and analytical aspects to manage marketing campaigns.


What CRM means?

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It's a strategy and technology businesses use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, aiming to improve relationships, retain customers, and increase sales.