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10 steps for a successful CRM implementation [Simple Plan]

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Implementing a CRM system in a small business might seem like a daunting task… but it shouldn’t be. If you’ve chosen a simple CRM solution, the implementation process will be straightforward.

In this post, we’ll outline the most important steps that you need to take when introducing a new CRM to your business.

CRM implementation in a small business

Before you implement a CRM in your business, make sure that you’ve chosen the right one:

  • It should be super simple to use. Intuitive and without any paid training. No extra add-ons or too many pricing plans.
  • The interface should be clutter-free. You’ll be spending lots of time in your CRM system. You don’t want to get distracted by too many elements or features that you’ll never use.
  • It needs to be action-focused. If you’re still in a growing or scaling stage, you’d want to have an Action Stream instead of the usual A-to-Z listing.
  • Your CRM should be affordable. If upgrading from one plan to another is followed by a huge cost increase, you might think twice before subscribing to this CRM.

Once you’ve found the CRM that checks all the boxes, you can start implementing it.

How to implement a CRM system in a small business

Here’s a list of steps to follow when implementing a CRM in your business:

  1. Set up your CRM system
  2. Clean and migrate data
  3. Decide on the best data segmentation
  4. Integrate your CRM with other apps
  5. Automate repetitive tasks
  6. Install available mobile apps
  7. Appoint a CRM champion
  8. Don’t forget about security
  9. Ask for feedback to increase CRM adoption rate
  10. Involve the whole team

We’ll discuss each of these steps in more detail below.

1. Explore your basic CRM system settings

Before migrating any data to your new CRM, make sure that all admin questions are dealt with. For example, how many user seats do you need? What currency do you want to use? Is the time zone set correctly?

The second biggest reason a CRM implementation fails is the lack of proper training and onboarding.

2. Clean and migrate data

The higher the quality of your database the more your teams will trust it and less resources are wasted.

If you’ve been using a different CRM before, ensure that the data you downloaded from your previous CRM is clean. Delete unused tags or duplicated records and merge accounts or contacts that have similar information.

Capturing duplicate contacts and leads is impossible to avoid. Contacts get entered by different members of your teams and sometimes automatically if your systems are not syncing the proper way. And the same contacts will sign up for many of your campaigns and offers.

If your new CRM can search and find duplicates and allow you to merge them into a single contact, you can clean your data in your new system instead of doing it manually.

In most modern CRMs, you can also import contacts in bulk which is a very handy feature if you have thousands of records in your previous CRM or a spreadsheet.

Since CRM is a central database for all your client information, it’s good if it has integrations with Dropbox or Google Drive or allows attaching documents and files to contacts. There is nothing worse than having to hunt down files, specs, quotes, and other documents across different folders, email inboxes, and systems.

3. Decide on the best data segmentation approach

Some companies sell to one particular contact within a company. Others sell into a company and deal with many different contacts across different departments. Account-based selling describes the goal of selling into a particular company, drawing up a list of possible contacts within that company and systematically targeting those contacts to get a foothold within the organization.

If you are doing company or account-based selling your CRM needs to understand the relationship between contacts, the company they work for, and associated contractors and consultants they have relationships with.

Decide on what custom fields you need to set up and how to do it the best way. Good CRMs allow customization and data segmentation. Ideally, you should be able to add your own custom information to contacts, accounts, and deals relevant to your business type.

Every so often you will need to contact just the customers who bought product x, or maybe the ones in a certain city, or the leads your team captured at a conference, or downloaded a resource from the website. Tagging, grouping, and segmenting provide multiple ways to slice and dice your customer data for analysis, marketing, and targeting.

4. Enable CRM integrations

Your CRM system should offer the ability to connect to other parts of your business (like lead generation, lead nurturing, accounting, or communications). Making sure that your CRM system is connected to all of your important apps can help you maximize your revenue and make the most of your CRM implementation.

Set up the following core integrations:

(I) Email management

  • Gmail and Outlook. Two of the most common email platforms. Enable contacts and emails sync to build a history for a customer or company.
  • Email sending. Even better is if you can connect Gmail or Outlook to the CRM and then send emails directly from within the CRM application without having to switch between different systems. Bonus points if the CRM then allows you to track if your emails were opened by a prospect.
  • Email marketing. As you can guess, in business, many things still revolve around emails. Integrations with an email marketing platform like Mailchimp will allow you to quickly select a segment of your contacts and send them an email newsletter. An example would be selecting all the contacts you met at an event and sending them a bulk email to thank them. You can include further details on how to follow up with you. Or you might notify all or a segment of your customers about a new product update.

(II) Business operations

  • Finance and accounting. Ideally, this should work in two directions. Before you call a contact, you should be able to see in the CRM if they paid their last invoice or what their last purchase was. When you make a new deal with a customer you should be able to send the details of that deal over to accounts to create a new quote or invoice.
  • Customer support. Imagine calling a customer to renew their account for another term only for them to angrily tell you they have been talking to support all day about an issue. Not the best timing. Your CRM needs to pull in this kind of information from across departments. With a central customer record and history, your team can be more effective.

(III) Custom CRM integrations

  • Webhooks and API. Sometimes the business system you want to talk to does not have an easy integration or Zapier connection. In this case, you might need to get a programmer to code something bespoke to connect the two systems. For this to work your programmer needs access to your CRMs API or Webhooks.

5. Automate repetitive tasks

Once you migrate data to your new CRM and set up integrations, explore available automation features and how you can use them for your business. For example, you can automate repetitive tasks to avoid manual data entry or schedule automatic reports delivered to your inbox on a regular basis.

Too much data entry, while great for management reports, is simply a waste of your team’s time. A certain amount of data entry is needed to be effective but it needs to be as easy and as fast as possible. You want to be paying your team for making sales and growing your business, not data entry.

Some CRM solutions also allow you to create a sequence of tasks that resemble your usual business processes. You can then add these sequences to new contacts in just one click to avoid typing each step manually every time.

If your CRM provides tools for automatic data capture, it can be a time-saving feature for your business. For example, a browser plugin that detects a lead’s contact details on a website and automatically creates new contacts in your CRM (check out Lead Clipper).

Lead clipper for capturing lead data from any web page

6. Install available mobile apps

Chances are your web CRM application has a few extensions and mobile apps that might be useful to you.

Mobile access is a vital component of your success. In fact, according to Nucleus research sales reps saw productivity increase by 26.4% upon adding mobile access to their CRM application.

Not only will a mobile CRM increase sales productivity, but it’s also a significant factor in helping sales reps meet their sales quotas. Ideally, your CRM of choice will have dedicated Android and iOS mobile and tablet apps to give you and your sales team access from anywhere.

Ensure you can access all the key functionality you need on mobile as well as the desktop, as some mobile sales CRM apps offer a cut-down feature set of the full application.

7. Appoint a CRM champion

Having a CRM champion will help you keep your team aligned and boost the CRM adoption rate and overall productivity. As with any other tool, a good CRM is evolving every year with new features going live or old features being improved. A CRM champion usually keeps up-to-date on all CRM changes and can educate the rest of your team on all important updates. Besides, when the time comes, it’s very handy to have a person who’ll be motivating the team to do a CRM audit on a regular basis.

8. Don’t forget about security

The majority of modern CRM solutions are quite secure. For example, OnePageCRM stores customer data on Amazon servers and uses an SSL certificate. The data is encrypted via 256-bit encryption which is very similar to Internet banking. that regular backups are being undertaken on a daily or weekly basis.

Not only CRM security is important. You need to take measures to educate your CRM users on how they can keep their data safe. For example, enable different permission settings for different users. In business, not everyone needs the same access to information.

9. Ask for feedback to increase the CRM adoption rate

Make sure that if there are any problems, your team is comfortable with sharing their feedback with you. If your team thinks that something is not working, find out what you can do to improve the situation.

There is no point in getting a CRM that can do everything but no one can use it. An effective CRM helps your team do their job quickly and effectively and then gets out of the way. It needs a simple and intuitive user interface where your team is left in no doubt about what to do next and how.

10. Involve the whole team

If CRM implementation is not managed correctly the results can have a domino effect. You need to have the whole team from different departments interested in implementing a CRM. The benefits of CRM implementation should be obvious to every department and person that work with client data.

Top 12 reasons why CRM implementation fails

It is easy to buy software for your business. It is less easy to get everyone to implement and use it day to day. Low user adoption is one of the biggest (and most expensive) reasons why CRM implementation fails in an organization.

Here are the top reasons why CRM implementation and adoption fail:

  1. Business goals for the CRM are not defined
  2. Lack of ownership
  3. The system is difficult or slow to use
  4. Too much data entry
  5. Poor training and onboarding
  6. Poor choice of CRM
  7. Your whole company does not use the system
  8. Management does not use the system
  9. Lack of change management
  10. Communicate often
  11. No CRM champion
  12. You use sales compensation to drive CRM adoption

Let’s look into each of these reasons in more detail.

1. Business goals for the CRM are not defined

One of the biggest reasons users do not adopt and use a CRM is due to neglecting to clearly define the business objectives of the CRM.

“85% of companies that buy CRM software to automate sales do not pick the right tools because they fail to define business objectives or to develop processes for meeting objectives.” – Gartner analyst Robert DeSiste

2. Lack of ownership

To ensure that your team buys in, CRM decision-makers must involve the team in the selection process, analyze their needs, and answer a few questions early in the CRM selection process. A good idea is to designate someone in-house as being responsible for keeping the CRM in check, the CRM advocate of your company also known as “the super user” (or a CRM champion).

3. System is difficult or slow to use

A CRM is a tool that will be heavily used by non-IT users. It needs to be simple and make their job easier not harder. The user interface must be very friendly and appear simple and responsive. Your team must be in no doubt about what is happening at any time and how to do what they need to do next.

4. Too much data entry

A good CRM asks for the minimum of data and makes it as easy as possible to add it automatically. It should ideally eliminate manual logging of interactions and activities. All calls, emails, and replies should be recorded automatically within the CRM or added with a single click.

5. Poor training and onboarding

Getting to know and use new software and a new process is not something that happens overnight. It can take up to a week or more depending on how many people you have on your team. You need to give your team time to get familiar with the software and not penalize them for lost sales and slow processes during this transition.

6. Poor choice of CRM

Choosing the CRM that is not right for your business can cost you both time and money. It must fit your sales process and help everyone achieve their stated goals.

7. Your whole company does not use the system

While sales may be the core users of a CRM they should not be the only ones. Ideally, the CRM should be the system of record for all customers. Lack of organizational use can also be due to a lack of technology integration options within the CRM which probably means you have chosen the wrong CRM.

8. Management does not use the system

If management asks for sales reports directly from salespeople and bypasses the CRM, salespeople will simply ignore the CRM. It sends a signal down the chain that not using the CRM is not only condoned but actually OK.

Management needs to lead the usage of the CRM and lead by example. Many managers use the approach of “If it’s not in the CRM, it didn’t happen”.

9. Lack of change management

It is also important for management to oversee, guide, involve, and lead the changeover. Dumping a new sales CRM on the team one day will just engender resentment towards it.

According to a survey conducted by Forrester Research, “people” issues are the biggest challenge to a successful CRM implementation. These “people” issues fall into three distinct categories.

most common reasons why CRM implementation fails

10. Communicate not very often

Hold regular meetings to ensure parties are updated on what’s been achieved, what hasn’t, what’s going to happen next, etc. Ask for rep feedback on the process so far and any ideas to improve upon it. And above all, celebrate your wins and celebrate them often.

11. No CRM champion

A good CRM system will have great customer support. However, it is not a match to having an internal CRM champion. Nothing is as effective as having someone on the team to lead by example. They should be there to answer questions from the sales team when they run into issues, shout about the benefits and results of the CRM loudly and often, and watch for the team avoiding using it for all kinds of reasons.

12. You use sales compensation to drive CRM adoption

It can drive the wrong kind of engagement and result in an increase in resentment by the sales team. They need to see the benefits for themselves, not for management.

Key takeaways: Importance of CRM implementation

Introducing a new tool to your business, be it a CRM or some other app, will require a proper plan. For a small business, the CRM implementation process is not as multi-layered and complex as for large enterprises. Having said that, you still need to keep a few things in mind to stay away from implementing a confusing system or running into database management problems that could have been avoided beforehand.

For a small business, the setup of the right CRM system will take just a few days.

As a key takeaway, here are the most important things to do when you implement a CRM system in a small business:

  • Set up basic settings before migrating data to your new CRM
  • Clean data beforehand (don’t migrate inefficiencies from the past system)
  • Find the best way to segment your client database for easier navigation
  • Enable all CRM integrations that can help you save time and be more efficient
  • Configure simple workflow automations to minimize manual work
  • Install mobile apps to have instant access to your database
  • Appoint or become a CRM champion to keep an eye on new features
  • Introduce data security processes for your team when they deal with client data
  • Ask for feedback from your team who are using the CRM
  • Make sure that everyone who comes in touch with clients or leads use the CRM
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