Congratulations! You’re one of the millions of businesses using CRM to improve customer relationships, accurately track data, and pull analytics. Whether this is your first or fiftieth time implementing a CRM, following best practices will help ensure a smooth transition to the new application.

With more than 33 years of CRM implementation experience under our belts, Technology Advisors is an authority at ensuring CRM success. Here are our expert tips for a seamless CRM implementation.  

Define Your Goals and Objectives

CRM implementations without a clear purpose will fail. Goals and objectives based on SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound) criteria home-in on your business’ pain points and shape your CRM implementation plan.

Begin by looking at your existing customer processes. Where are things falling short? Involve key stakeholders from each department to align the CRM goals to their needs.

For example, your sales department may want to increase sales – but you need SMART criteria to further define that goal. What is currently preventing them from increasing sales? If it’s the inability to accurately track sales forecasting metrics year-over-year, their SMART goal may look like this:

We want to increase monthly sales revenue by 15% (measurable & specific) over the next year (time-bound) with automated lead management and sales workflows (achievable) to meet the company’s vision for growth (relevant).

Once all the SMART goals are defined, they must be prioritized. CRM best practices demand that goals are ranked according to importance. There is only one #1 goal, one #2 goal, and so on.

By forcing your team to rank goals, you narrow your objectives to match the most critical and immediate needs for your business. This helps you select a CRM that has the right mix of features versus one that may have interesting functions but won’t really benefit your particular business model.

Get Executive Buy-in

Executives see success in dollars and cents, so getting them on board with professional CRM implementation requires speaking to the ROI benefits. Businesses rely on CRM implementation partners because they extract the maximum ROI from the project. Their involvement in planning, organizing, and monitoring the CRM implementation keeps the project in motion and ensures you’re hitting the right benchmarks.

Professional CRM consultants follow time-tested processes for implementing CRM software. They also use trained project managers to keep the implementation on time and within budget.

Without these resources, internal teams waste time and money trying to prioritize each aspect of their implementation. Investing in CRM implementation also positions your company for success in the long-term, as the team you’ve grown to trust remains in contact to offer ongoing support and guidance on future projects, like integration.

Expert tips for CRM implementation

Pick Your Project Team Wisely

A CRM project is a group effort. Your CRM consultant is an important player, but an internal team must also participate. The CRM implementation will impact various departments, so the internal team should be made up of key stakeholders that represent those segments. If any stakeholders have previous experience with CRM – all the better!

Every member of the project team should be assigned roles and responsibilities that define what is expected of them during the implementation process. Team members should be prepared to communicate regularly on a channel defined for the project. Online project management platforms are used to accomplish this. Project management solutions allow all voices to be heard while keeping the information organized.

Successful project teams consist of no more than 10 members and have representation from Sales, Marketing, Operations, and IT. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, members of the project team should be advocates for the CRM, getting everyone excited and interested in the benefits the CRM will bring. CRM advocates are important team members because they set the stage for strong user adoption later. Poor user adoption is the number one reason CRM projects fail, but when teams are motivated to use the solution, it decreases the likelihood of failure.

Plan Your Data Migration Carefully

The potential of a CRM to organize workflows, reflect crucial analytics, and streamline operations is immense. However, when inaccurate or incomplete data is used to fuel these operations, the CRM becomes useless.

Data migration requires thoughtful planning and organization. Here are a few key principles to remember when migrating data:

  • Do data cleaning before migration to remove duplicates, correct errors, and standardize data formatting.
  • Transform data to match the structure of the new CRM. This may also involve data enrichment or data conversion processes.
  • Use data validation checks to identify and rectify any inconsistencies or errors.
  • Test data in a sandbox or staging environment before final migration to prevent disruptions or data loss.
  • Create backups of your data and define a rollback plan in the event something goes wrong.
  • Continuously monitor the new CRM for data quality issues, anomalies, or performance issues, and establish a routine for data maintenance and cleanup.
  • Gamify data entry so once you have clean data, it stays clean.

Get Feedback From End Users Early and Often

Although the stakeholder team and project managers are leading the CRM implementation, the voices of end users are crucial throughout the process. End users provide a unique viewpoint that can make the system more user-friendly, adaptable for how users work, and intuitive.

If the CRM isn’t satisfying the needs of the end users, find out why. Should customizations be tailored to make their work more efficient? Is more training needed so users can take full advantage of the features and functions? Is the CRM missing the mark on addressing user pain points and use cases? If so, how can the implementation team pivot to rectify the issue?

Continual end user feedback will address issues proactively and lead to higher user satisfaction with the CRM.

Plan for Change Management

Change management helps businesses smoothly transition from existing processes and systems to the new CRM. It focuses on managing the human side of change, addressing the challenges, resistance, and uncertainties that often accompany such a project.

Change management begins with assessing the current state of the organization's processes, technology, and culture. This assessment helps in identifying potential roadblocks and areas where change will have the most significant impact. A detailed plan is then developed to guide the implementation.

This plan will tailor communication, stakeholder engagement, training and education, and testing to make the transition as seamless as possible. Training and education will also be guided by the change management plan and tailored to different user groups. A feedback loop will help the plan adapt and evolve to better align with users’ needs.

Ensure Your Team Can Make the Time

One of the more overlooked factors in CRM implementation is time. Your CRM consultant will alleviate some of that stress by handling the project management and being proactive in addressing concerns or issues.

However, it’s important to be realistic about the expectations and goals of your project. The longer it takes to implement the CRM, the less likely you are to enjoy a successful outcome. Before you embark on such a journey your team should be prepared to carve out the time required of them. Thoughtful planning, continual feedback, and weekly scrum meetings are all part of the implementation process.

Trying to roll out the CRM during your busy season, for example, is a bad idea. A CRM consultant would advise you to rethink that approach and choose another time when your team can focus fully on the task at hand. Successful projects require complete commitment, so make sure everyone is on board with completing the implementation when you’re ready to do it.

A structured and detailed plan is the key to a seamless CRM implementation. Crafting SMART goals to guide the project, aligning internal advocates, and thinking strategically about data migration and change management will keep you moving in the right direction.

Partner with a trusted CRM consultant who can guide your implementation and offer thoughtful suggestions for improving your process. Together, you can implement a CRM that will return optimal results for your business.   

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