6 CRM Implementation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Throughout the ages, people have trusted to many methods of recording their business dealings.

First came cave walls and clay tablets. Then papyrus and parchment and paper. After that, files and Rolodexes (may they rest in peace). Next: Excel spreadsheets.

Bum bum buuuum.

Why the dramatic music? Because unfortunately, Excel is still alive and well as a method of managing business processes and contacts, rather than consigned to the dust heap of history along with the stylus and the feathered quill.

Okay, fine. Excel still has plenty of worth (looking at you, Accounting Department). But if you’re using it in place of a CRM system, you’re doing it wrong. Instead, it’s time to prioritize CRM implementation—and ideally, avoid the most common mistakes while doing so.

The initial implementation process of a new CRM can admittedly prove tough. Yet if you can avoid the biggest CRM implementation mistakes, it will make all the difference in how effectively the CRM software can be used later, as well as how productive and successful your reps will be with it.

Are you wondering what is Customer Relationship Management and why it matters? Check out our article about CRM basics.

So, just what is CRM implementation? And can you really implement customer relationship management (CRM) software “wrong”?

Today, we’re going to talk about implementing CRM systems in a way that works now and scales for the future—all without making you go completely bonkers. Ready for CRM Software Implementation 101? Let’s get started.

Can CRM Implementation Really Be Done “Wrong”?

The first question most people have about the implementation process of a CRM solution is, “Can you really do it wrong?” Isn’t it nothing more than the automation of a few business processes? A bit more workflow functionality for the end users here and there?

Well, yes and no. One of the main benefits of CRM software is that it is straightforward and user-friendly. But most common CRM systems differ from regular software.

See, software installations are usually pretty simple: download, install, open, and start using. But this isn’t a software installation‚it’s a brand-new system that requires users to build out processes that can supplement your employees’ efforts... or become an essential element of your long-term growth strategy.

There are many benefits of CRM use in a sales organization/sales role, but those benefits are only truly captured when the entire system is properly put in place. Therefore, the thought and effort you put in while planning for the current and future use of your CRM will absolutely show in the long run.

Plus, it’s a looooooot of work to fix a CRM that isn’t set up correctly. Best case scenario (and it’s not a pretty picture): you lose time, money, and even leads if you aren’t leveraging your CRM to its full potential. The worst case looks even worse, though, involving switching to another CRM entirely and having to start all over again from scratch. Seriously, bring on the Advil and hot compresses.

There’s another route, though: you could just avoid those mistakes in the first place.


6 Common CRM Mistakes to Avoid During Implementation

The following are the most common CRM mistakes we’ve seen over more than a decade in the industry. Now, messing up in the pursuit of the ideal inside sales process is, of course, natural. But if you can head off those mistakes, why wouldn’t you?

Common CRM Mistakes to Avoid During Implementation

1. Failure to Consider Software Capabilities

Underestimating or overestimating the abilities of the software you choose can have serious consequences when it comes to scalability, mobile access, customization, and integration capacity.

Unfortunately, it’s plenty common for companies to choose software that seems to meet their needs at the moment, failing to consider what they’re going to need down the road.

But then your company grows, and your old system can no longer handle your new needs. You find yourself with lots of features that looked good at the time, and not enough that’ll help you in the long run.

The process of cleaning up such a mistake is not a light one, either, typically involving:

  • Courting and then switching CRMs
  • Exporting any important contact information (which can get disastrous, as we’ll discuss in No. 4)
  • Learning your new tool and recreating essential workflows and automations
  • Crying into your morning matcha (optional)

How to Avoid This Mistake

Ensure you think through your software in every way before making a choice. If possible, upload your data to a free trial software so you can learn more about it before giving out credit card information.

Planning what you’re going to need in the long run is critical. You’ll want to make sure that you consider how your new system will play with the other systems (such as Microsoft or Gmail) that you already use. You also want to make sure that your salespeople feel good about it.

Knowing what you’re looking for will make a major difference in the long run, and you can save yourself a lot of heartache if you avoid implementing the wrong software. Figure out your goals and KPIs, then translate those to software needs before you start that free trial.

Oh, and anyone that wants you to pay them for a trial? They can go kick rocks.

2. Not Customizing the CRM for Your Business Needs

This is one of the most serious CRM implementation mistakes, common to those who are adopting a customer relationship management tool for the first time. Assuming an out-of-the-box system will work for your business fails to account for your specific goals, metrics, KPIs, workflows, outreach efforts, and more.

As a rule, CRMs operate best when they’re customized. Even those touted as “out of the box” solutions don’t work nearly as well as a system you’ve essentially designed to fit your needs. You should think of the CRM less as its own solution and more as an oh-so-capable wireframe for your specific workflow processes.

Failing to customize your CRM leaves things feeling a bit clunky. Your reps may have to input information manually or move data from one bucket to another—and manual work creates room for human error, like duplication... or deletion.

Even if your CRM is customizable, you have to make sure it’s compatible with all the systems you’re currently using, as we talked about above. It’s a real bummer to discover that, yeah, you can customize things… but not to your satisfaction or usefulness.

How to Avoid This Mistake

Choose a CRM platform that offers all the flexibility you need to meet your business needs, and ask the sales rep with whom you speak to give you specifics on how their system will work for you.

The good news is, there are plenty of CRMs out there that can do what you need them to do. You just have to find them, which is a matter of talking to the right people at the software companies you’re considering.

For example, Close allows users to create customized sales Pipelines, Custom Fields on leads and opportunities that can be used to search and segment lead lists, and Custom Activities to track interactions the way YOUR team wants to track them.

Avoid CRM implementation mistakes

Best advice at this stage? Don’t rush. Take your time, explore your options, and try them on for size.

3. Underutilizing CRM Tools & Capabilities

A good CRM offers massive power when it comes to marketing automation, and failing to take advantage of all of them basically amounts to leaving money on the table.

Any CRM worth its salt will offer an array of useful tools and capabilities, along with lots of ways for tailoring them to your needs. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re using them, though. And if you don’t make the most of your CRM applications, then two things happen:

  • You aren’t getting your money’s worth vis-à-vis the amount you’re paying for the service
  • You fail to bring in the leads and prospects who are either out there and waiting for you to contact them, or who are interested but aren’t adequately nurtured toward a deal

In other words, using some tools but not others, or using some tools only to a small degree of their full capability, hinders your sales potential.

How to Avoid This Mistake

Know the CRM system before you select it, understanding how its different capabilities can work for you. If you aren’t yet CRM-savvy, then ask the company to help you with setup and onboarding.

Training and assistance are services your customer relationship management company should provide for you. If they don’t, that’s a sign that their customer service may not meet your needs down the road.

This is something you have the right to know ahead of time, so ask the sales rep point blank what they’ll do to help you onboard the system. If they’re good, they should offer to set up your individualized system even before you start paying, during a free trial period.

(Psst … that’s what we do for you during your 14-day Close CRM trial.)

4. Overcomplicating Customer Data

Data imports should be handled carefully when setting up your new CRM. Duplicating, losing, incorrectly labeling, or otherwise mishandling customer information can cause serious confusion and loss of profits. Incomplete data sets or unnecessary and empty fields all hinder your ability to get the job done quickly.

These issues can crop up due to user error, confusing import instructions, or simply because of a poorly designed CRM. This obviously makes it hard for your sales team to maintain a handle on personal data when actually doing their work, especially when there are multiple profiles for the same person.

Another issue to beware of: creating too many unnecessary customer profile fields during set-up (because why not, right?). While it may seem like a great idea right now to capture every element of data possible, it may later cause the system to feel bulky when those reps feel like they have too much data to log, and none of those inputs actually get used. Not awesome.

How to Avoid This Mistake

Make sure personal data for existing and potential customers alike gets entered into your CRM in a well-organized way that makes sense for the sales rep that’s using it. Stick with a lean and clean template to prevent unnecessary data overload.

Overcomplicating Customer Data is a CRM Implementation Mistake

It’s not always easy to tell if a CRM will import or export data easily, so feel free to ask a customer service rep at the software company how this process works before you do it. Most good software companies will guide you through the process or even do it for you.

5. Not Considering Future Needs

Failing to anticipate where your company will be 1, 3, or 5 years down the road will lead to heartache when you realize your CRM has worked well to this point, but you have to switch.

Not only does this mean you have to confront an enormous export-and-import process—#thanksbutnothanks—it also means you’ll lose valuable work time dealing with a transition.

The thing is, your choice of CRM does need to work for you now, but if it doesn’t scale for future use based on your long-term business goals, you’re going to have a serious problem. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a cheaper solution with limited features or capabilities, or you’ll simply outgrow the system and have to undertake this process again in a few years.

How to Avoid This Mistake

Make sure your new software has all the CRM tools you need or might need not only now, but also down the road after you’ve scaled to a larger entity.

Yes, anticipating the future can be hard. How many workers will you have then? Will you have switched your sales model at all (e.g. expanded from inside sales only to field calls as well)? If you have limited resources for features and functionality at the moment, is there a chance you’ll definitely want them when your team is larger and more profitable?

One option to ensure your future needs are met is to select a CRM with a la carte or tiered access to certain features—and that’s why you’ll see so many of those options on the market. It gives you the capability to pay for what you need now, and buy into additional functionalities later on when you need them.

6. Not Having Change Management and Training Plans in Place

Without helping your team understand the need for this new software, and providing them the education and support to use it correctly, you run the risk of frustrating your sales team—and their buy-in is critical since they’re the ones who are expected to use this CRM the most.

It’s essential to involve key stakeholders and end-users in the entire CRM decision-making process. That means not only taking their opinions into account before you bring a new system on board, but also taking all the right change management steps once you do. Sadly, many companies fail to:

  • Give their reps reasons to buy into the platform (simply showing helpful use cases can go a long way)
  • Adequately prepare the team for transitioning processes with announcements and deadlines for the switchover
  • Encouraging successful user adoption with hands-on staff training on using the new system

Simply introducing a brand-new, massive process—one that’s critical to your reps’ income, at that—and expecting people to give up their old ways cold turkey, is setting yourself up for disaster.

How to Avoid This Mistake

The number one thing you can do to ensure that your new CRM receives a warm reception is to keep your sales staff involved in the CRM conversation well ahead of the actual software being chosen and implemented. Be open and honest about your reasons for wanting to choose a new CRM, and invite them to participate in sales demos. Make sure all your users know how a new platform will integrate into their workflows and lives.

You’ll want to plan well ahead for the rollout process—many opt to roll out in phases, from one department to the next, addressing concerns as they arise, so the entire company doesn’t have to experience the learning curve at the same time. On that note …

Make Sure Your CRM Implementation Runs Smoothly

If you’re looking for a successful implementation process, start by doing your homework and choosing the best CRM for your business—one that will help you optimize your customer data and sales processes and integrate with your other programs.

The above tips will help your CIO or project manager introduce the CRM into your existing business processes in a smooth and productive manner. And with the right CRM in place, sales reps will be eager to use your new tool to their advantage.

That’s where we come in. Incredibly simple to onboard and use, Close will help reps schedule and complete calls, send emails that require no thought but still make sales, and play nicely with your existing software.

Best of all, you don’t have to put money on the line to do it. We encourage you to try Close free for 14 days to see if it meets your business needs!

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