CRM is a costly and time-consuming investment that can last from one hour to one year and cost up to $170,000 in implementation fees. Not to mention that yearly CRM running costs can range from $ 1,000 for small companies to $2,000,000 + for companies with over 10,000 employees, based on ZoomInfo research.
To not throw your time and money down the drain, you need to prepare and implement your CRM system right. And if your organization has many disparate systems, data sources, and complex processes, you may need to use professional CRM implementation services to ensure that all the data and workflows are mapped right. But in case you want to launch CRM rollout on your own, follow the guidelines below to guarantee project success.
What is CRM Implementation?
CRM implementation is a process of rolling out its core product — CRM (customer relationship management) system — to centralize all key business activities and communication. There are 3 most common CRM software types: operational, analytical, and collaborative but CRM functions are not limited only to this classification.
Why Implement a CRM System?
CRM can improve customer retention by 27%, and companies that use CRM systems to the full extent can increase sales by 29%, based on Salesforce studies.
Moreover, the right CRM implementation helps sales reps shorten their sales cycles by up to 14%. To get these benefits (and many more), your CRM must be deeply embedded in your customer relationship culture.
Besides that, CRM implementation helps:
- Free up more time for sales reps to interact with prospects and close deals
- Reduce human error and maintain accuracy throughout customer experiences
- Enable detailed analytics via built-in analytic capabilities to transform data into actionable and easily understood metric
- Categorize information for easy reference in the form of intuitive reports and dashboards
- Access faster customer data to improve customer experiences and power up front-end collaboration
- Centralize management of all contacts and important customer information – like demographics, buyer journey, and purchase details to get a 360-degree picture of your customer and improve communication with prospective leads
- Streamline sales reporting, sales representatives’ performance evaluation, quotas, goals, and sales process tracking
- Improve decision-making and sales strategizing with powerful insights.
What are the Requirements for CRM Software Implementation?
Based on Capterra.com, there are over 1,400 CRM systems listed on their website alone. All of them offer a decent set of out-of-the-box features that any business needs. Here is the list of the must-have ones:
1. Sales Automation
- Lead Generation, Capture, and Distribution,
- Opportunity Management,
- Sales Collaboration Tools,
- Sales Pipeline Tracking and Forecasting,
- Lead Scoring and Follow-Up,
- Territory Management.
2. Marketing and Campaign Automation
- Campaign Design, Delivery, and Analysis,
- Marketing Lead Management,
- Email List Tracking and Segmentation,
- Social Media Marketing,
- Event Marketing,
- Customer Targeting,
- Competitor Tracking.
3. Custom Reports and Dashboards
- Business Intelligence, Reporting, and Dashboards,
- AI (Artificial Intelligence) Analytics and Forecasting.
4. Customer Service Automation
- Case Management,
- Customizable Ticket Status,
- Service-level Agreement Management,
- Call Center and Customer Support Automation,
- Scenario Automation.
5. Client Interaction Tracking
- Account, Contact, Interaction, and Payment Management,
- Customer Segmentation,
- Document and File Management,
- Shared Contacts and Appointment Management,
- Filtered Views.
6. Top-Level Security
Your CRM should ensure high-level security not only of your corporate data but also of your clients’ data. Make sure that your desired CRM provides you with:
- Role-Based Access Rules,
- Permission Sets,
- Data Encryption,
- Secure Workgroups Creation.
7. Industry Fit
CRM software can be a super great technology, but if it is industry-agnostic, its implementation is destined to fail.
In case you cannot find a solution that will entirely meet your market needs, you should look for highly customizable platforms like Salesforce. They allow modifications of all complexity levels to align completely with their customer requirements.
Another competitive advantage of such platforms is that they have a great pool of industry-oriented consulting experts with great technical skills.
Speaking of Ascendix, we have been operating in the commercial real estate industry for more than 17 years.
And for this time, we have mastered not only optimization of Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365 but also built our own CRM software and apps like AscendixRE and Ascendix Search designed specifically for CRE (Commercial Real Estate) brokers.
That allows us to have in-depth expertise both from the technology and industry sides.
8. High Customizability
Another crucial factor to consider is platform agility. A highly customizable CRM system ensures that you can scale it without tons of custom coding and long development life cycles.
An agile platform allows the creation of custom functionality not available in the CRM system out-of-the-box. For example, custom search & filtering flow, reporting, or personalized page layouts.
9. Simple System Integration
You do not always have to re-invent the wheel and build new functionality from scratch. Oftentimes, you can extend your platform’s capabilities with third-party systems that have the necessary built-in features.
So, your CRM system should seamlessly integrate with these solutions with little or no tweak from your side. Look for CRM solutions that have a large pool of pre-built applications that you connect with your core platform in a few clicks.
Common Challenges & Caveats of CRM Implementation
There are lots of hidden pitfalls that can affect your CRM rollout success, among which are:
- No clear strategy and company-wide system requirements,
- Lack of understanding of your users’ and customers’ needs,
- Viewing CRM implementation only as a technical initiative,
- Underestimation of time and cost of CRM software implementation initiative,
- Poor CRM consultant’s choice,
- Wrong CRM solution choice,
- Lack of transparency and clear communication,
- No organized strategy for CRM software adoption,
- No definite risk management strategy,
- Poor data hygiene and governance,
- Poor system security,
- Lack of system integrability,
- Lack of resources dedicated to the project,
- CRM system does not scale along with your business,
- Poor CRM adoption challenges,
- Poor or no user training,
- Lack of post-go-live support.
How to Prepare for the CRM Implementation: Key Success Factors
1. Discuss the Main Goals and Challenges with the Business Stakeholders
The very first step in preparation for implementation is getting approval and support from executive management. Then you need to organize workshops to collect detailed requirements for the CRM functionality and prioritize:
- Functional requirements,
- Data requirements,
- UI requirements,
- Technical requirements.
Also, you need to
- Identify business goals,
- Analyze customer needs,
- Scan competitors’ and customers’ activities,
- Scope detailed requirements.
Note down all of them to further discuss with a CRM consultant.
2. Document All the Internal Processes and Daily Tasks
Analyze all the processes and tasks your sales, marketing, and customer support agents perform daily. Go into this process with the roles that will use the CRM in mind.
For example, if you want your entire sales team to use the solution, make sure it can be tailored not only to sales managers but to individual sales reps and other team members.
3. Voice Desirable Project Timeline and Budget
Plan a comprehensive budget by considering the number of users that are going to have CRM licenses. Check if these subscriptions should be paid on a user per month/ quarter/ year basis. You should also keep in mind your company’s growth potential that can affect total CRM price in the future.
4. Create Several Scenarios of the Project’s Outcome
To avoid unexpected situations and predict risks, you need to create three scenarios of the CRM implementation process: optimistic, pessimistic, and the most likely one.
5. Establish Essential Metrics for Measuring Project Success
To measure the success of your CRM implementation project and modify your implementation strategy accordingly, you need to set tangible goals and metrics.
For example, CRM rollout should help increase lead flow by 30% or reduce case resolution time by 40%.
6. Set Communication Channels and Create a Communication Plan
Define a process of exchanging ideas and providing feedback for your CRM. Set up an online form or survey to communicate feedback that you can review on an ongoing basis.
You can diversify it by adding free-form text input and role-specific questions for easier sorting out.
7. Identify your Project Stakeholders and Individual Roles
To execute the CRM implementation process effectively and in the shortest possible time, you must appoint key people who will be involved in the project.
Project stakeholders involve:
- Senior management and channel partners,
- Sales, service, and marketing teams,
- IT specialists.
It is also vitally important to have:
- Your primary stakeholder will ensure that you are ready to launch the CRM implementation project,
- The person who will manage the whole project internally and will serve as a primary contact,
- The technical resource who oversees systems that you would like to integrate with your CRM.
8. Explore and Harmonize Your Source Data
To get rid of the poor data before it enters your new CRM, perform data profiling and cleansing at the early stage.
Here are six steps to harmonize data:
- Determine where and how your data is stored,
- Define data standards, policies, and quality requirements,
- Assess the current data hygiene based on your policies and standards,
- Analyze the primary source of your bad data and its hypothetical impact,
- Improve the data quality manually and enable systems to prevent bad data from entering your platform,
- Monitor the execution of the previous stages and how well they have performed. If it is necessary, repeat them all over.
Also, check the fields in your target CRM and group the data in the source CRM before the transfer.
9. Develop a Change Management Plan
Be sure that you have a definite change management plan in effect prior to launching CRN implementation.
Highlight the benefits of rolling out the new system and using it. Make sure your employees do understand the benefits of future changes and have a personal interest in moving to the new system.
10. Give a Try to Several CRM Systems to Understand Their Capabilities and UI
Shop around for the right CRM system for your business and list your favorites that meet your needs. Do not pick at ones the software that is the cheapest or just looks good.
Focus on ones that have the maximum functionality that you need, can be easily configured, and have the most intuitive interface.
12 CRM Implementation Project Plan Steps
Once you are all set, go ahead with designing a CRM implementation plan. Here are the most significant project steps:
1. Choose the Most Optimal CRM Implementation Model
There are three main CRM implementation models:
- Managed – when a CRM implementation partner leads the whole implementation project instead of you based on your requirements,
- Mixed – when the implementation consultant and you split roles in the project,
- Self-managed – when you implement the CRM under the partner’s guidance where the partner takes on the role of an advisor and you own all the deliverables.
Your CRM system selection and complexity of the project heavily influence the implementation approach choice. If you are hesitant about which solution to select, seek a CRM implementation company’s assistance at the early stage.
They will advise on how to implement your software; help refine your existing CRM implementation project roadmap and eliminate risks.
2. Talk to CRM Consultants
CRM consultants with rich practical experience can better than anyone advise on implementing and boosting your processes with out-of-the-box or custom system functionality.
Or vice versa, they will identify shortfalls in your workflows and optimize your implementation process.
A CRM implementation consultant like Ascendix will offer a better approach to system rollout taking into consideration all specifics of your business. We will help you select the best CRM products and automation tools.
3. Outline Implementation Risks
Do not get too frustrated if things do not work exactly the way you planned for them to on day one.
Identify the most feasible risks of your CRM project and how you can re-engineer processes to mitigate them.
4. Set a Timeline and Budget for the Rollout Project
There is no universal rule as to how long each project phase should take or how much it can cost. But a rough estimation is necessary not to miss any detail and to make the most reasonable decision.
5. Build an Implementation Team
Think about the best team structure to monitor and manage the CRM implementation process. You can create this team out of your employees and distribute the key roles among them or engage with a consulting partner to streamline this process.
You need to determine first:
- Who is responsible for the CRM project?
- What are the responsibilities of a CRM implementation team?
A common team structure consists of:
- Executive sponsor,
- Project manager,
- CRM administrator,
- Power and end-users.
6. Explore Data Migration Approaches and Create a Data Model
You can store your data in existing CRM, spreadsheets, or other systems. So, data transfer planning and testing can be quite challenging from a technical standpoint. There are two ways you can perform data migration:
- Conduct migration on your own manually or with automation tools,
- Use personalized data migration services.
If you choose to perform data transfer on your own, you can start by importing a smaller data set as a test. This will make future data entry much easier.
Learn about Salesforce data import and other data management tips.
7. Design a Preliminary Prototype of the CRM Solution
Organize design workshops to create functional, technical, and UI designs, and document all the details. Review and get feedback on design documentation and agree on acceptance criteria.
Moreover, platforms like Salesforce enable the creation of sandbox versions that are a true replica of the production org. The users can play around with new functionality and test it.
8. Draft a Configuration and Customization Plan
Building a roadmap for how you will tailor your CRM system is essential. This plan should include your short, medium, and long-term goals for adjusting:
- Sales, marketing, and customer service automation,
- Objects, fields, and flows,
- Permissions and rules for various roles,
- Reports and dashboards,
9. Integrate CRM with Other Systems
Based on the HubSpot survey, 17% of salespeople consider lack of integration with other tools as the biggest challenge using their existing CRM.
It might take quite some time to identify the right tools. Evaluate all tools and systems that can be linked to CRM and check how well they can work together.
Check if you can integrate solutions smoothly by API (Application Programming Interface) or if you will need third-party connectors or custom coding.
10. Test Your CRM System and Collect Feedback
Perform final user acceptance testing to ensure that everything is working correctly. Check if:
- Data migrated correctly and assigned data fields are recognized and fillable,
- Mail addresses are associated with the correct contacts,
- CRM fields objects, and flows work as expected,
- You are comfortable with using the new functionality, reports, and dashboards.
11. Train and Support Your Teams
Train your teams in using the CRM to make sure everyone is confident in managing it.
Your CRM training will have the most impact when you combine proactive in-person training with self-paced resources such as video training or guides.
12. Ensure User Adoption and Explore Growth Opportunities
Your CRM system should not be set in stone and should evolve together with business, making sure the solution reflects the new business tendencies and needs. Less than half of all businesses with a CRM have a user adoption rate of over 90%—make sure you are one of them.
How Much Does a CRM Implementation Cost?
An average CRM implementation cost depends on many factors including CRM software selection, company size, and project complexity.
You should pay $1 for implementation for every $1 you spend on an annual CRM subscription. For example, a simple 40-hour project can cost small firms with less than 100 employees up to $5,000 in consulting fees and plus $1,500 per on-site training visit by a CRM consultant.
Organizations with more than 1,000 employees should expect to spend on CRM projects up to $175,000. And companies with more than 10,000 employees can pay up to $450,000 for their CRM implementation.
You can have a more detailed analysis of the CRM rollout cost by the example of the Salesforce implementation.
How Long Does It Take to Implement a CRM System?
The CRM implementation for most small businesses can take from one hour to three months. And it can take from three months to one year for bigger companies to roll out a CRM system.
How to Select the Best CRM Implementation Consultant: Questionnaire
Before investing money into CRM implementation, ask these example questions to assess your CRM implementation partner:
- Can you describe a similar project and the results you helped your client to achieve? How many similar deployments have you done so far? Can you provide case studies or customer references?
- What challenges have you faced with this type of business transformation? How did you help your customer overcome those challenges?
- What are the technical skill set and certifications of your team? Will these certified resources be assigned for the duration of the project?
- What is your experience in the “X” industry?
- What type of engagement do you offer: onshore, offshore, on-site, or outsourced staffing options? What is your geographical presence?
- What is your pricing structure? Do you charge on an hourly, monthly, or annual basis?
How do you protect sensitive customer and organizational data? Do you have any company-wide security policies?
- How much time do you require for staffing the project?
- How would you describe your company culture and values?
- Can you deliver training to our admins and users?
- What scalability options do you offer? Can the CRM software easily integrate with other systems?
- How extensive is your customer support? Do you provide post-go-live support and system maintenance?
CRM is not a magic wand that can improve your business in a moment. However, if implemented right it can really improve many facets of the business.
CRM rollout is a serious investment that should not be taken lightly. And if you do not have enough experience and resources, it is better to delegate this process to professionals.
Contact us and share your vision of your ideal CRM solution.
CRM Implementation FAQ
What does a CRM implementation consultant do?
CRM implementation consultant provides a broad scope of services like business requirements collection, system selection, rollout consulting, and even custom CRM development.
CRM consultant cost depends on many factors like seniority level, technical skills, location, and employment model. CRM consultant rates range from $30 to $250/ hr.
How much does a CRM consultant cost?
CRM consultant cost depends on many factors like seniority level, technical skills, location, and employment model. CRM consultant rates range from $30 to $250/ hr.
What are the five major phases in a CRM implementation?
There are five major CRM implementation phases such as strategy creation, project foundation establishment, requirements specifications and consulting partner, CRM deployment, end-user training, and CRM system performance evaluation.
Anzhelika specializes in B2B content marketing and has in-depth expertise in promoting the company's products and services through high-quality content. On the Ascendix Technologies blog, Anzhelika shares her insights of Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM tips & tricks as well as overviews of new CRM tools and technology trends on the market.