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Framework for Implementing CRM: A Step-by-Step Process

A CRM implementation strategy ensures you’ve considered the right foundational steps before rolling out your CRM to the company. It helps avoid common pitfalls, including:

  • Failure to get executive buy-in: If implementing and using a CRM system is embraced by the highest levels of your organization, individual employees are more likely to follow suit.
  • Poor migration of existing data: Whether current customer information is stored in Google spreadsheets or another formal CRM, it must be fully and cleanly imported to the new CRM to maximize its accessibility and usability.
  • Lack of training: While most CRMs are user-friendly, they still require training to squeeze the most value out of the system.
  • Wrong CRM for the job: All CRM solutions are not created equal. Customer relationship management platforms have many core features and functionality in common, but some are adapted for role- or industry-specific environments.
  1. Get Input From Your Users

It’s always a good idea to bring users into the conversation before rolling out any new software, particularly when it’s an integral part of a team’s success. Input from your primary users helps you determine what features they need most, how much training they’ll need, and a variety of additional data points that will help you introduce a new CRM with more ease.

Questions to ask teams include whether they have used a CRM in the past, what types of routine work tasks they wish were automated, and what other business applications they regularly use. This feedback will shape your CRM training plans, help decide what workflow automation tools are needed, and whether integrations with popular business apps like email, project management, and team messaging are necessary.

  1. Establish Your CRM Goals

Define the goals for your CRM by first outlining how your team will be measured within the system and how the system is expected to be used. These goals and action plans should also support your overall strategic business goals and always be top of mind as you move through the CRM implementation process and beyond.

This step involves defining high-level, strategic goals, then adding a basic action plan as a framework to achieve those goals. Use these examples of high-level goals to jump-start thoughts about your own.

High-level Goal Basic Action Plan
Increase new sales revenue by 25% Sell into larger manufacturing companies that have bigger budgets and require more of our services.
Reduce customer churn by 10% Improve the rate of first contact resolution from 70% to 85% by implementing live chat software.
Increase gross margin from 35% to 40% Sell into firms with annual revenue greater than $500,000 to increase the sale of higher-margin add-on services.
Decrease customer onboarding time from two weeks to one Send a series of emails with instructional videos and schedule a follow-up call the first week.
  1. Determine What Data Needs to Be Migrated

A commonly overlooked aspect of CRM implementation is determining ahead of time what data will need to be migrated into the new system and where it currently resides. While customer contact data from manual filing systems will need to be entered by hand, migrating data from other digital systems is typically a straightforward process.

Contact, company, and deal data is typically exported from other business systems or CRMs using a simple, comma-separated values (CSV) file that’s uploaded to the new platform. Most CRMs also come with an import tool to automate the process. Each solution handles data migration differently, however. That’s why it’s critical to evaluate what’s needed before beginning CRM implementation.

  1. Define CRM Settings

Another crucial component of creating a CRM implementation plan is defining system settings ahead of time. All but the most basic customer relationship management software include a range of settings that should be adjusted to suit your team’s needs, including:

  • Required fields
  • Drop-down menu selections
  • User permissions
  • Admin settings
  1. Integrate Third-party Applications

Integrating your CRM with third-party applications like Facebook, Outlook, and Slack maximizes your organization’s efficiency by allowing workers to switch between apps without leaving the CRM environment. CRMs usually offer dozens of third-party integrations, so prioritize them according to what your sales teams say is most important to them.

Popular integrations include:

  • Email
  • Social media management
  • Live chat
  • Marketing automation
  • Support ticketing
  1. Test

The final step of CRM implementation is to learn how all the individual components work together when put to the test. Be sure to also evaluate any customer touch points that connect with the CRM to ensure they work as intended. There are several components to test, including:

Component What to Test
Migrated Data All imported records are matched to the correct fields, with no duplicate data
Contacts All assigned data fields are recognized and fillable
Email Capture Email exchanges are associated with the correct contact and two-way email sync works as expected
Lead Routing Leads route to the correct sales rep according to predefined rules
Pipeline Management Deal columns in each pipeline match the sales process
Automated Tasks Task triggers work as expected
Integrations All business apps are connected correctly
Reports Data matches expected results
Website Forms Form displays correctly, fields are fillable, and completed form is routed properly

CRMs are generally easy to set up and maintain, no matter your level of experience. If you have a particularly complex migration or need help setting up integrations, take a look at the type of support your new CRM offers.

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