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CRM Implementation 10 Step Guide – Forbes Advisor

Your CRM strategy should always include a CRM implementation plan. There are 10 essential steps to implement your CRM successfully; we’ve outlined each below.

1. Establish Your CRM Selection and Implementation Teams

If you want your CRM implementation to be successful, you need to include key stakeholders in the evaluation and CRM selection process. You also want an implementation team ready to take the project forward once a CRM choice has been made.

When forming your CRM selection and implementation teams, be sure to include people with a wide range of technical capabilities and business skill sets. Teams should consist of knowledgeable professionals who can speak to top CRM needs as well as technical staff who can advise on CRM installation, data migration and system maintenance matters. Teams should include marketing and sales leadership staff as well as end users.

It’s best to go with cross-functional teams with representatives from IT, sales operations, sales management and end users—including light users and power users from sales, marketing and customer service.

Assign a project manager to each team. Also, make sure there is an executive or senior leader sponsor for your CRM selection and implementation teams. Differences of opinion are bound to emerge, so you’ll need a designated leader who can make final decisions.

2. Identify Your CRM Goals, Needs and Budget

What are your top CRM goals? What do you want your CRM to do for you? What is your budget? These are three questions you must answer before moving forward with CRM implementation.

Define Your CRM Goals

Businesses use CRMs to drive sales by creating a strong experience for prospects and customers. Common CRM goals include:

  • Increasing lead capture rates
  • Assuring lead capture quality
  • Improving sales team efficiency
  • Boosting sales support team productivity

Most organizations also want to identify more “hot leads” and spend less time on cold ones. Be sure to establish your top goals before shopping for a new CRM.

Determine Your CRM Needs

Many CRMs on the market come with a wide array of advanced bells and whistles; those extras often come with a hefty price tag. That’s why you need to determine what features you truly need in your CRM.

Think in terms of “must haves” and “nice to haves.” Common CRM must-haves include built-in email marketing tools, live chat, document/form signatures, live chat, sales analytics, lead segmentation, sales forecasting, lead tracking and pipeline management. For many businesses, nice-to-haves include lead scoring, marketing campaign management, e-commerce and social profile integration.

Establish Your CRM Budget

CRM prices vary based on your chosen platform, the number of users you need to support and required features. A few providers offer free CRM systems but those are typically best for small businesses with minimal needs.

For a premium CRM system, expect to pay anywhere from $8 to $1,250 per user per month. You’ll likely have to sign up for an annual or multi-year contract to get the best price for your new CRM software. Given the potentially large investment you’re about to make, be sure to consider your current needs as well as how future needs might expand or shrink. Factoring in anticipated changes can help you from underspending or overspending on your CRM.

3. Determine Required CRM Integrations

The last thing you want to do is purchase a CRM only to find out that it doesn’t integrate with your current email, calendar, phone or other essential software. Choose a CRM solution that integrates with your current software to ensure your applications work seamlessly together.

Popular CRM integrations include Zapier, CallRail, Zoom, DocuSign, Slack, QuickBooks, Calendly, Mailchimp, SurveyMonkey, Eventbrite, Vidyard, Google Ads, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Google Workspace and Microsoft 365.

4. Evaluate CRM Solution Options

Once you’ve established your needs, goals and integration requirements, it’s time to explore CRM providers and evaluate how each solution serves your needs. Forbes has simplified this process for you. We’ve conducted several extensive reviews of CRM solutions for a variety of needs, including:

Forbes also offers several head-to-head CRM solution comparisons, including:

When evaluating CRM solutions, be sure to take advantage of free trials so you can experiment with the platform firsthand. Also sign up for complimentary CRM platform demonstrations where you can view the solution while getting answers to your specific questions in real time.

Depending on the size and scope of your CRM investment, you may want to bring in an outside consultant to help your team evaluate various solutions. While a CRM consultant can cost between $750 to $1,250 per day per consultant, that may be a relatively small price to pay to ensure you make the best decision for your company.

5. Select the Best CRM for Your Needs

Once you’ve completed your homework by thoroughly evaluating your CRM options, you may be ready to make your final decision. If, however, you’re investing well into the 10 or six digits, I suggest one more step: request a custom sales presentation from each of your two to three finalists.

Spending another hour or so with each of your top CRM contenders in one final meeting will provide clarity that may have been lacking before. CRM providers are accustomed to delivering sales presentations that overview key platform features and benefits. After this round of final CRM platform reviews is completed, your CRM selection team should be well-equipped with all the information necessary to make a well-informed CRM purchase decision.

Once the final decision is made and the solution is purchased, it’s time for the CRM implementation to begin. Your CRM implementation team project leader should now work with the team’s project manager and other members to begin the execution process.

6. Prepare Your Data for the CRM Transition

Have you heard the saying, garbage in, garbage out? If your data isn’t clean before the transition, it won’t be clean when it is imported into the new CRM—which can spell disaster. In this step, your technical team needs to ensure that complete and accurate contact and customer data is available prior to proceeding with the CRM transition.

7. Test Your New CRM

Once data has been uploaded to the new CRM, it’s time to test your system before introducing it company-wide. In this phase, your team tests data integrity, system reliability and ease or difficulty of platform usability. Basically, you’re verifying that the CRM is behaving how it is intended to work and handling data accurately.

Test for hiccups or problems in core functionality, security and overall performance. Challenge test users to explore every possible use scenario and offer candid feedback about their experience. Working through the kinks at this stage will prevent more extensive problems down the road.

8. Create Final Training and Support Plan

It’s relatively common for CRM providers to offer training and support services; these may be included as part of your CRM onboarding package or via an add-on service charge. Even bare-bones CRM plans typically come with online support via video tutorials and help centers.

Provider-led training is an excellent option when it’s available and affordable. It’s also wise to have one or more in-house experts who can train new users and support staff.

Training and support options need to be available for all levels of CRM users. An added benefit of having a well-documented training plan in place is that it assures staff brought on board after the initial CRM launch can get up to speed quickly.

9. Roll Out Your CRM

Your initial CRM rollout is an exciting yet sometimes nerve-racking period. A CRM rollout is when you learn how well the system you built works and get your first feedback from live users. Don’t be surprised if there are a few thorns to work out; those are handled in the final step of CRM implementation.

10. Monitor Performance and Adjust as Necessary

The final steps in CRM implementation are monitoring performance, fixing issues and making adjustments where they are warranted. This is when you proactively gather user feedback for all levels of users and take those findings to improve your CRM.

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