The Proven Method for Successfully Implementing a New CRM: Part 2 (The Set-Up)

We’re back with Part II of The Proven Method for Successfully Implementing a New Customer Relationship Management Database (CRM). Part I was all about preparing your organization for the tech. Part II will cover how to prepare your tech for your organization.

You’re here, so you understand the importance of a CRM. You need a central database to track your sales, marketing, and customer data. But what is the importance of setting things up the right way? What are the implications of getting it wrong? Deciding you need a CRM is a great first step, but an unsuccessful roll out could slow down your sales team and throw your data into chaos.

Take a look at Vodafone’s bungled implementation of Siebel CRM which began with promise in late 2012 and ended with approximately £59 Million in losses over the following four years! A quick google search for “CRM Fails” yields hundreds of case studies and even more anecdotal stories from frustrated CIOs. Depending on how you set things up, your CRM could end up being one of your greatest assets or liabilities.

So it makes sense that in 2017, CIO Magazine reported that one third of all CRM projects fail. A year later, the author of an HBR article quoted that study and estimated that the failure rate was closer to 90% in their client network. The reasons for these failures vary across companies and industries, but the common threads include poor planning, misaligned expectations, and internal miscommunication.

So let’s explore the steps we recommend to avoid being like Vodafone.

Procure CRM

At this point, you’ve set goals for your CRM, scoped out where it fits within your existing processes, and identified who will be managing what parts of the implementation. Awesome. Refer back to Part I if any of that sounds new. So now its time to purchase a CRM! Right?

Wait! Before you fill out that “Get Demo” form… Talk to an expert. It is absolutely vital for you to connect with someone that has experience dealing with either that specific CRM, or the company that sells it (and preferably both).

This can be a company advisor, someone from your network, a team member with recent experience, or even an outside consultant. You’re about to enter a negotiation with a vendor; the more info you can get, the better. Remember, your potential CRM vendor has a sales team too. Because of the nature of this relationship, you do have some leverage. Here are some tips for dealing with CRM sales teams:

  • Make sure your IT and internal implementation team hops on one of the later stage calls. Fines around data security were a decent chunk of Vodafone’s losses. Your team will need to examine the security of the system you want to select.
  • Unpack any “Implementation” charges you see on proposals. If you don’t need as much initial support, you can talk this number down or out of the bill.
  • Speak aspirationally about the growth of your team. More team members means a potentially larger deal down the line for the vendor. We’ve seen rare cases where vendors with minimum seat requirements waive those requirements for fast growing teams.
  • Hold your purchase to the end of the month / quarter to get those last minute discounts. Your team does it too!

The vendor should do most of the driving for this deal. Once you’ve agreed on reasonable pricing and a contract rate, sign on the dotted line, and set a launch date! It’s time to start implementation.

Customize & Integrate

If you paid attention in Part I, you’ve already defined your vision of how this CRM fits into your company. You’ve also identified a technical admin to translate that defined vision into a working CRM. Let them and the Project Manager take over to set up fields, objects, products, automation rules, validations, reports…everything that you already mapped out as necessary to your processes in Part I. You should be able to trace a test lead through your funnel within your CRM when they’re through.

Be patient, here. Allow for changes once you’ve seen things go live in the CRM. These things can and should encourage an interactive approach. You’re setting up a new “system of truth” to live at the intersection of multiple teams, data sources, and technologies. It’s going to get complicated.

Next up is setting up the integrations. You likely selected this CRM based on the integrations possible with your existing tech stack. That is the strength of great CRM: the ability to synchronize data across multiple systems. Your sales team’s calls, marketing emails, and customer support tickets all living in one place.

Always leverage a native integration over a custom one. For example, Salesforce integrates with SalesLoft. They have articles showing how to set this up and support to help out when it doesn’t work correctly. You’ll also have an active community of people using the same systems that you can turn to.

Where native integrations don’t exist, you may have to set up a custom integration using a tool like, Zapier, or Piesync. They are less ideal, but can still deliver great results. In both cases, you will need someone (preferably a manager or admin) to own the integration and update it as your processes evolve.

Document & Report

This last bit of Part II has been developing since the very first section of Part I. You’ve already documented your process in order to bring a CRM into them. As you install your CRM, update this documentation so the two always support each other. You will also need Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) & Service Level Agreements (SLA) to dictate how teams will use these systems and interact with each other within those systems.

SOPs are essentially the manuals to your systems. The same way a sales rep might have a script dictating what they say on the phone, they’ll have an SOP to dictate what to do in their systems prior to, during, and following a call. You create these processes to encourage uniform activity for clean reporting. Those reports will be a necessary part of taking your team to the next level and identifying what they need to do to remain successful.

SLAs set ground rules within and between teams. Your SLA for your sales team might mention how long reps have to wait before reaching out to an inactive lead. The SLA between sales and marketing might say who gets credit for a lead that came in through a certain source.

As always, feedback is crucial for these two types of documents to work. And an iterative process with all relevant stakeholders involved is required. The goal of these documents is process adoption, and you need buy-in from your team in order to make sure this result comes through.

Your reports will be where you look to see if the process is being adopted. Overdue steps in Outreach? You can report on it. A certain marketing list has a high bounce rate? Of course. Which client has the most support tickets? Easy. Your PM and Technical Admin are the resources dedicated to getting your reports up and running.

Look Out for Part III

Now pat yourself on the back. You’ve come so far from where you started. Your systems are installed. They’ve been customized. They’ve been tested. The processes have been documented, and your team is ready to roll. Part II is complete.

Part III will focus on how to train different levels of team members on leveraging your CRM for success. To simplify things, we will focus on Executives, Managers, Reps, and Admins.