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7 steps for a successful CRM implementation that boost sales

Training and supporting your sales team will maximize the impact of your investment

4-minute read

A customer relations management (CRM) system lets you keep all customer information in a central place, track client interactions and optimize sales efforts.

But for many businesses, CRM systems are a source of major headaches. They fail to deliver as expected or don’t deliver a return on the investment. The culprit is often poor implementation.

“A lot of businesses try CRM and then abandon it because it seems too complicated or time-consuming to use,” says Claudia Mason, a client partner at BDC who advises businesses on sales and marketing. “Without enough training and support, many salespeople feel overwhelmed by CRM.”

Mason says that following these seven steps is crucial to ensuring that your CRM system boosts sales.

1. Organize your sales process

Begin by ensuring your business has a well-organized, measurable sales process. That includes having defined steps and key performance indicators for your sales team.

You should know how many times each task needs to be executed to hit your goals. For example, you may need 45 contacts or emails to hit your goal of three sales per month. “You should have a good foundation before you even go to CRM,” Mason says.

Also think about what kind of reporting would be most useful to support your sales efforts. For example, you may want to know the number of new sales by region, conversion rates by product or the number of contacts made by each salesperson.

“You can implement any system,” says Mason. “If you don’t have the fundamental processes in place, no technology is going to be able to help you.”

2. Appoint a project manager

CRM implementations often fail because no one is in charge. It’s important to appoint an organized, digitally savvy person to be responsible for the system’s configuration, staff training and rollout.

They should be given plenty of time to manage a gradual transition to the new system. “In every portion of the implementation, it’s important to go slow,” Mason says.

3. Configure the CRM to match your business

Now you’re ready to set up your CRM system. You should configure it to match your sales process, performance indicators and reporting needs. Make sure the system uses the same terminology as your business.

“You want to be able to easily input information and see important data,” Mason says. “Keep your initial setup as simple as possible to start. You want to make it really easy for your salespeople.”

4. Clean up your data

Don’t upload outdated contact lists full of duplicate information. “We have an expression for that: garbage in, garbage out,” Mason says. “You get out of it what you put into it.” To avoid wasting time later on, go through your contact lists to make sure information is accurate and complete (including name, contact information, last interaction, etc.)

5. Test the system on sample data

Upload a test sample of 10 contacts to check the system’s functionality and reporting. It’s easier to make adjustments with a small sample of data than your entire contact list.

6. Train your team

You can’t just install CRM and expect salespeople to adopt it without any support. They’ll likely need training to make the switch from their existing system and get the benefits. It’s not enough to put on a short video. Employees may need a detailed explanation of the system’s advantages, hands-on training and ongoing support as they work out hiccups.

“If you don’t spent time and energy on supporting your staff, the reporting will be inaccurate and the implementation will likely be a fail,” Mason says.

7. Launch and improve

Once your initial testing is done on the sample data, you’re ready to input your entire contact list. Your CRM implementation manager should then keep an eye on how the system is being used and get employee feedback to make any needed tweaks.

Revisit the system regularly to consider adding more complex features, such as automated email campaigns, integration with other systems or forecasting.