How to successfully implement a CRM

A version of this article also appeared in Forbes on Feb. 03, 2020.

Choosing the right CRM solution is crucial, but key steps are needed to make it work for your business

Whether you’re replacing a customer relationship management (CRM) platform or you’re a first-time user, your implementation strategy is critical.

Nowadays, a CRM is the hub for all customer-facing activities, and solutions exist for every business regardless of size or industry. With the right CRM, your business can deliver timely, automated, targeted communications to customers to personalize the customer journey.

Working with a tool that elevates customer experience (CX) advances the sales process, customer service and retention. Communication between departments also improves with timely access to information.

But every department needs to be heard when a new CRM is planned. Getting sales involved is as important as involving marketing, customer service and every other customer-facing function. If your CRM doesn’t work for every department, it’s a problem for the whole company.

And when a new CRM is accused of “wasting time,” it is more often an implementation failure.


Today’s CRMs are highly configurable, but unless you have a complete understanding of your business needs, you will not make the right choice. Consider the CRMs your competitors currently use, and evaluate their pros and cons.

According to Gartner’s 2019 “Strategic Roadmap for CRM Technologies” (paywall), 88% of CRMs were on-premise in 2008, but by 2018, 87% of CRMs used by businesses were cloud-based.

Impact CRM is cost-effective and efficient way to bring AI into your business. AI can automate data entry and lead management, and it also offers a greater understanding of customers and how they will act in relation to a scenario.

Gartner’s report recommends that businesses “prioritize prospective data intelligence solutions that offer AI capabilities to augment your sellers’ knowledge about their top accounts and clients.” It predicts that by 2022, 20% of sales training and coaching solutions will provide in-context personalization based on machine learning.

Also, using AI-based data intelligence solutions will reduce time B2B sales organizations spend prospecting by up to 50%.


Leveraging new technology has always helped businesses stay competitive. But unless you first define your business goals and needs, it’s difficult to understand how any new tech meets those needs and achieves those goals.

Achieving these goals requires mapping processes. This identifies which processes can be automated through the CRM to increase efficiency and frees up time for more creatively demanding tasks.


Protect your investment in existing software solutions and apps by ensuring they are connected during implementation.

Having one new piece of tech to learn is disruptive enough. Being told that the new CRM doesn’t work with software they’ve just gotten to grips with is a headache your employees will quickly pass on to the implementation project manager.

Integration with existing apps will increase customers’ understanding. By collecting and analysing the data from every touch point and combining it with CRM data, your business will better understand the customer journey.

This will in turn elevate the CX your business can deliver. Why is this important? Because CX drives purchasing. And nowadays, it is more important than the price or product features.


Make giving feedback an obligation from every tester. The earlier users are involved, the better the development will be. Your testing team needs to represent every function within the business, so have that in mind when choosing its members.

This process accelerates familiarity with the CRM and will lead to the creation of custom fields that reflect tester input. It also creates a greater sense of ownership of the new system.


Data migration and creation of data backup is a top priority. Also, set a timeline for clear deliverables and training schedules. The project manager should be someone who was integral to the CRM selection process and who can secure buy-in from management.

Create a budget that covers training costs and the cost for the absence of department members who are focused on CRM implementation.

Identify if your business has the internal resources and technical acumen for implementation. If there’s a skills shortage, look to the CRM vendor for support.

When putting your implementation team together, there are some key positions that need special consideration. A project manager to lead the team is one of the most critical choices. That person will be the focus point for the duration of the implementation and beyond.

The team also needs an application developer and QA test engineer. Data migration and cleansing is carried out by the developer, while the QA test engineer heads up testing.

Beyond these key members, also include representatives from every department that will use the CRM: sales, marketing and customer service. Involving different departments provides expertise for what solutions are needed to solve specific issues in their respective functions.

The key question to ask at the end of your plan is whether the CRM achieves the goals that were set when it was selected.


There is no single training programme every user takes to bring them up to speed with a new CRM, it needs to be customised to each business function.

The marketing department needs to focus on things like contact segmentation, list building, event management and reporting, while data teams should be trained on research and data-quality best practices.

The sales team will need to come to grips with new processes that improve their close rates and productivity, whereas assistants will need to adopt the discipline for inputting and updating information and activities and adding contacts to lists.

This should extend to the company’s C-suite. With all key decision-makers using the same solution, the key players in your business will access unified BI. With the global overview a CRM provides, KPIs can be set that ensure everyone will sing from the same song sheet.

Your CRM should put the customer at the centre of your business. The ability to collect and process all customer data through a single platform that connects the entire organisation is critical to high-level CX.

If by the end of the implementation process you have been able to marry this new technology with redefined internal processes and empowered your employees to perform their jobs better, your new CRM will reach the ultimate goal of enabling your business to achieve more.