Implementing CRM: a guide to a successful transition

Implementing a CRM: how to take the plunge with confidence

Arthur d'Achon
February 16, 2022 - 7 min reading
Updated December 11, 2023

The implementation of a CRM for a sales force is always a delicate moment.

But once the machine is up and running, your sales force will wonder how they managed without it!

The benefits of CRM are numerous: centralized sales data, better tracking of exchanges with customers and prospects, improved efficiency and profitability...

Once adopted, CRM will work miracles at every level. Let's take a look at the mistakes not to be made when setting up a sales CRM, and the tips you need to implement it successfully with your teams.

Slow and uneven democratisation

Long considered a complex and costly tool to set up, and therefore reserved for large structures, CRM software has managed to find its way into French companies.

Implementing a CRM is no longer synonymous with headaches and tearing the company apart! This is partly due to theemergence of new off-the-shelf solutions, where users can configure the tool directly, without necessarily needing any technical skills, thanks to so-called "low code" or "no code" solutions (enabling them to configure the tool and adapt it to their company's specific needs, on their own).

Paradoxically, many companies are still reluctant to take the plunge, all too often with the same fears: in Europe, according to Eurostat, only 31% of companies use CRM solutions. Because there's a magic formula that will ensure the failure of a CRM project. And unfortunately, too many companies continue to make the same mistakes.

Today, it's estimated that 50% of all CRM implementation projects fail, costing companies considerable time and money.

Mistakes to avoid when selecting and implementing a CRM tool

Setting up a commercial CRM is not doomed to failure, provided you keep a few basic rules in mind.

Here's a quick look at the 7 classic mistakes to avoid, to make the selection and implementation of your CRM totally painless.

Mistake #1: Not involving sales teams

The first mistake is not to involve the sales team in the process of defining needs and selecting tools. Your sales people will be the first users of your future solution, and will be the first points of entry for the data.

It is therefore essential to involve them as much as possible in order to understand the real needs and problems encountered by sales teams on a daily basis and in the field. CRM software is first and foremost a sales support tool for your sector managers.

A tool that doesn't make your sales force's life easier will eventually be abandoned or used under duress, and the tool's main function as a steering tool for management won't be able to be fulfilled serenely.

Our tip: Prepare the ground by gathering feedback from your teams.

  • What aspects of their job do they find complicated?
  • How much time would they save if a tool could guide them in their tour planning?
  • How much time do they spend capturing and sharing information in the field?
  • How can they schedule their appointments more quickly, or even automatically?

Mistake #2: Misidentifying the needs of field sales staff

If you don't identify your needs properly, you're bound to over-dimension your project. On average, CRM implementation takes between 6 and 18 months. In reality, this is often closely linked to the lack of involvement of sales teams.

The cause: incorrect identification of needs, resulting in the choice of a CRM that is not sized for the size of the team and/or not adapted to field requirements.

It's essential to remain as pragmatic as possible before embarking on the search for your future CRM.

Ask yourself "what functional scope is essential for my teams to make their day-to-day work easier", and "what functionalities will only make their day-to-day work more cumbersome", and become counter-productive by creating those infamous "gas factories" so often decried by salespeople.

To avoid this pitfall, drafting a specification, even a very simple one, can be a good way of targeting or eliminating the tools available.

Mistake #3: Fighting the wrong fight

Another all-too-common mistake is to see CRM as a way to control your teams.

The CRM should not be used to "track" sales teams, as salespeople will abandon it at the first opportunity.

The CRM must be the tool that you make available to your sales staff to facilitate their daily work. Put in the best conditions, your teams will have the keys to perform, and the trust, the human touch and the quality of team management will do the rest.

When you implement CRM software, the primary objective is to simplify the life of your sales force, and thus make them more productive.

Mistake #4: Relying on siloed tools

There are many CRM solutions on the market.

The notion of CRM is essentially a catch-all concept. There are different types of CRM, responding to very different issues: sales CRMs, invoicing CRMs, marketing CRMs, after-sales CRMs, etc. It's not easy to find one's way through the CRM jungle. And not all solutions are equally open to the outside world and third-party platforms.

Here again, beware of unpleasant surprises. An editor tells you that the tool can be interfaced with your email system, with a few days of specific development? Run away! Modern tools allow them to communicate with each other via APIs, in a totally native way.

An editor shows you that you're in control of your data (import and export as you wish). Try it first! Unpleasant surprises can happen.

Once again, keep it simple and start with the software you already use. Ask yourself what other software and business tools you'd like to integrate with?

  • Your calendar?
  • Your mailbox?
  • Your billing software?
  • Your ERP?
  • Power BI tools?...

Sometimes, CRMs integrate this entire ecosystem under the hood. In this game, it's the CRMs designed from the ground up that win the day.

Use a tool based on your real needs. A hammer, by itself, won't do you any good... unless you have a very specific project that prompts you to use it. Unsurprisingly, CRMs follow the same logic.

Mistake #5: Choosing software with inadequate support

Few companies pay much attention to the post-implementation phase, under the mistaken assumption that all CRM vendors offer quality support. Many find themselves in the unenviable position of being left to their own devices, with no one to answer their questions or provide solutions to their problems.

The language of the publisher is also an important component to take into account when selecting the solution. It has become easy to translate software into different languages and to market it across borders. But make sure you have training materials that everyone can understand. You may be comfortable with the language of Shakespeare, but not all your employees are, and you could lose a lot of time due to this misjudgement.

Videos, training webinars, chat,... The resources offered can come in a variety of formats. Choose these tools rather than a solution that offers no support once the invoice has been paid.

Mistake #6: Not properly cleaning up your data before integration

A CRM is nothing without data. Whether you're retrieving data from your old CRM or from your various Excel spreadsheets(to which it's time to say goodbye), chances are that the data is unevenly qualified and more or less clean. It's absolutely crucial to clean up your data before you start integrating it.

Indeed, you can take the best tool available, without clean data, the tool will be unusable and become counter-productive.

Our tip: some editors offer simple ways of retrieving verified data, either via the integration of pre-existing, pre-qualified databases (e.g. the integration of all French supermarkets), or via functionalities enabling the integration of data from third-party platforms (whether your own data, such as that from your invoicing software, or data from Google, for example).

Mistake #7: Not communicating the benefits of the tool upfront

The last mistake on our list is not communicating in advance the benefits of the chosen solution to users, and presenting them with a fait accompli.

Communicating internally and supporting your sales staff as they get to grips with CRM will help them to switch over more quickly, and more willingly.

As with any new tool or working method, there will be a period of familiarization, which may take more or less time depending on the complexity of the software. It's your responsibility to make this period as easy to digest as possible, so it's crucial to prepare the groundwork in advance.

Here again, be very factual about the benefits of using the new CRM for your sales teams.

The most enthusiastic salespeople will act as ambassadors: identify them now and we will see how to mobilise them.

You can also identify the obstacles faced by the most reluctant sales reps, and respond to their reluctance. In short, listen to your teams' (legitimate) fears and support them.

Are your field sales representatives (area managers, pharmaceutical delegates, zone managers, etc.) complaining about a new workload linked to entering more information? Reassure them that events can be entered quickly, especially via mobile solutions.

Do they expect to lose time? In practice, they will save time by capturing these elements in the field, in real time!

Change management, or the art of getting your teams to adopt the CRM tool

That's it, you've successfully navigated the delicate phase of defining requirements and selecting a tool, avoiding the mistakes mentioned above. You've set your sights on a solution that will meet your team's needs, and enable you to achieve the ambitious sales targets you've set yourself. Congratulations!

But don't make the mistake of thinking you've already arrived. Now that you've put your new tool in the hands of your sales force, it's time to take action and get all your colleagues on board! To continue your "quiet force" approach and accompany this change smoothly, there's nothing like the choice of words...

All too often, CRM project managers make the mistake of not taking the time to train their teams in the use of the tool. Training has always put off many managers. But training doesn't have to be boring.

Here are a few tips to make your CRM implementation a success:

Tip #1: Opt for short sessions

Forget about training on Friday afternoons from 2pm to 6pm. Your sales reps won't have the motivation or brains to work on issues like these, and you'll be wasting your time trying to mobilize them.

Instead, opt for short, one-hour workshops on specific topics. For example: how to plan a sales tour, or how to take attendance at the point of sale.

Tip #2: Focus on continuing education

There is a good chance that the chosen CRM will evolve over time, and that new entrants will need training on the tool.

Here again, you should encourage ongoing training and organize refresher sessions to ensure that the tool is correctly used by all your employees.

Tip #3: Use the resources provided by the publisher

As we saw in the first part of this article, not all CRM vendors offer the same level of support and resources for your employees.

If you have not made the mistake of selecting an unsuitable tool, you will be able to offer your sales staff, in addition to the training you provide, a number of resources that will help them to get to grips with this new tool (videos, webinars, access to chat, tutorials to name but a few).

And if they still have questions, they can turn to our customer service team, who will help them get to grips with the software and application.

Tip #4: Identify ambassadors to spread the word

Lean on the sales geeks and/or enthusiasts from earlier.

Turn them into product ambassadors: this will motivate them all the more to pass on their desire to use the CRM. As true allies, they'll spread the energy and provide useful advice that will convince even the most recalcitrant.

Stages in CRM implementation

To sum up, here are the steps involved in setting up a CRM. By following them, as well as our advice above, you're putting the odds in your favor for a successful CRM project.

Step 1: Define your teams' needs and your company's objectives

  • Assess the specific needs of the company, your sales force and the business issues you're facing today (with your current solution, or because you don't have one).
  • Determine the objectives to be achieved with CRM: improving customer relations, automating sales, etc.
  • Determine the mandatory functionalities (those without which your sales representatives cannot carry out their missions): shelf space survey, mapping, tour planning, mobile application...
  • Determine the features and support you're missing today: no automatic synchronization, no French-language support, CRM unusable without an internet connection...

Step 2: Choosing a CRM solution

  • Research and compare different CRM solutions available on the market. Take into account the specialization of CRM software. If you're a supermarket brand, there's no point investing in a Marketing CRM. What's more, if your sales development is based on a geographical approach, we advise you not to opt for one of the classic CRMs. They are not adapted to these specific needs.
  • Consider ease of use, customization, integration with other tools, and cost. Costs can hide!

Step 3: Implementation planning

  • Draw up a detailed project plan and share it with the various departments involved: finance, marketing, sales, IT...
  • Define a timetable for deployment and training and share it with the various departments involved.

Stage 4: Data migration and integration

  • Transfer existing data to the new CRM system. To do this, it is important to carry out a "clean" job upstream.
  • Ensure integration with other information systems (ERP, marketing tools, etc.). If your software has an open API, you can directly carry out integrations in-house with your IT department.

Step 5: Customization and configuration

  • Adapt CRM to your company's specific processes.
  • Choose the rights and roles for each user.
  • Configure dashboards and reports.

Step 6: User training

  • Train your sales force to use CRM.
  • Train the other teams involved in the processes. In addition to introducing them to the tool, you include them in the project, which leads to better synergy between all the teams, and therefore greater adoption of the software.
  • Create training materials and user manuals.

Step 7: CRM deployment

  • Deploy gradually or all at once, depending on your strategy.

Step 8: Evaluation and continuous improvement

  • Monitor CRM performance and its impact on business operations.
  • Gather user feedback for continuous improvements.
  • Measure your return on investment (ROI): Analyze the effectiveness of CRM in terms of achieving business objectives, and adjust your CRM strategy according to the results obtained.

In a nutshell,

Implementing a CRM solution is not a trivial step in the life of a company. The CRM will be one of the keystones of your organisation, and will be the receptacle of all the exchanges of your company with its commercial ecosystem.

Modern SaaS CRMs (hosted in the cloud) have democratised access to these tools and all companies, regardless of their size, can now equip their sales force with a CRM.

However, for the project to be successful, it will be crucial to get it right and ask the right questions during the needs analysis phase.

A good framing of the needs and the involvement of all stakeholders will allow you to avoid most of the pitfalls on which many projects break down.

Training is also too often neglected and is probably the most important key success factor for any CRM project. You can have implemented the best CRM solution, but if you don't convince the user to use the tool and to do it well, you will be exposing yourself to a blind pilot based on flawed or erroneous data.

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