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CRM implementation timeline: a roadmap to finish in <6 weeks

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Last updated
September 10, 2021
“Implementing a new CRM shouldn’t take longer than a few weeks.”

Nick Persico, Director of Sales at Close

Seem crazy? Nick has helped hundreds of sales teams implement a new CRM over the years (so he knows what he’s talking about).

While your CRM implementation timeline may currently be structured in months or quarters rather than weeks, we’re going to show you exactly how to turn that process into something that won’t take the rest of your career to finish.

Let’s discuss:

  • CRM implementation timeline: a goal-based process that saves you time
  • CRM implementation roadmap template

CRM implementation timeline: a goal-based process that saves you time

If you want to get your CRM implementation timeline down to a matter of weeks, you need to set and achieve this process through structured goals.

“Start with a goals-based approach,” says Nick. “Choose a solution and a route that’s going to get this up and running within weeks.”

Wondering how to start? Here’s a goals-based CRM implementation timeline that will help you simplify your process and get up-and-running with your new CRM in a matter of weeks.

Remember, many of the steps involved in each goal can be completed in tandem. Work alongside your team to complete these steps faster, and you’ll have a new CRM chosen and implemented in no time.

Goal 1: Prepare your data

1 WEEK: It may not be a sexy goal to start with, and for that reason data clean-up normally gets pushed to the end of the process. But when you wait until the last minute to clean up your data, you add unnecessary friction to everyone involved (and end up wasting a chunk of cash you could’ve saved by transferring clean data).

Do this first, and you’ll be more prepared for a fast transfer.

Nick explains why this is so important: “This is what traps people for weeks on end with no results: the data was messy when it went in, and when they imported it to the new system, it just got messier. Then they have to spend weeks doing tedious cleanup.”

“I would focus on the data part, then worry about the CRM after you have a clean data model that you’re ready to import.”

So first, clean up your data by:

  • Eliminate or merge duplicate data
  • Understand the data formats that you need in a new system (such as custom fields)
  • Clean up the process for importing data from other systems into your current CRM

Goal 2: Get to the root of current challenges

1-2 WEEKS: It’s time to give a clear answer to the question “Why are you looking for a new CRM?”

If you’re looking into a new CRM, you’re aware there are issues. Now it’s time to give a clear definition to those issues for the benefit of your team and other decision-makers.

Ask yourself (and your team) some soul-searching questions:

  • What are the main challenges we need to solve?
  • How are these challenges affecting our main KPIs (sales quota attainment, outreach metrics, revenue)?
  • Is there a deeper issue behind this challenge?
  • What specifically do we expect a new CRM to do for these challenges?

Understanding and documenting the problems you’re currently facing will give direction to your CRM search, as well as ammunition to get approvals down the road.

Goal 3: Brainstorm a list of must-have features and integrations

1-2 WEEKS: As you define key challenges to solve, you’ll likely start to develop a list of essential features that your new CRM must have.

Let’s make this a clean, well-defined list that you can build from.

Think of your CRM as the tool that enters the scene when your sales team is working with a warm lead, someone who has hit a specific milestone that requires them to start interacting directly with a human on your sales team.

For the best results, look for a CRM that integrates well with your existing lead generation stack, but doesn't try to serve two masters: A CRM that doubles as an inbound lead generation tool is rarely a CRM that is user-friendly for your sales team, and can get in the way of closing deals.

To get a list of essential CRM features and integrations, start by analyzing what your team is currently using the CRM for. Which features are part of their daily routine?

Next, analyze your sales process. Where does the CRM fit into that process? What features will smooth out the process for your team?

Finally, make sure you’re also spending time as a salesperson in the CRM to get a first-hand feel for what works and what doesn’t in the current system.

Pare down your list of essential features to those that are truly necessary for your reps to get their jobs done in the least amount of time.


Goal 4: Choose your new CRM

2-3 WEEKS: You want to make the right decision for your team, but you don’t want to let this part of the CRM implementation roadmap drag on for too long.

Start by setting a deadline for your decision. Take some of the pressure off by recognizing that this isn’t a decision you’ll need to live with for the rest of your life.

“This is not an isolated decision that you’re going to have to live with for years and decades to come,” explains Nick Persico. “There are CRMs for different stages of your business, and the industry at large has gotten better at allowing you to export your data with very low friction into other systems.

So don’t think of this as something you’ll have to live with for the next 10 years."

When you’ve picked some of the top CRMs that fit your list of must-haves, start demoing different tools and testing free trials. If possible, run some of these tests with your reps to see how they feel about the new tool. Compare CRMs and check software review sites like G2, Capterra, or SoftwareAdvice to see what current users think.

Pro tip: Want to test out an inside sales CRM built for high-velocity sales teams? Your free 14-day trial of Close is waiting (we won’t even ask for your credit card)!

Also, remember that an all-in-one tool may not be the best answer. Whether you prefer a more industry-focused option that is already set up for your needs or a blank canvas you can customize from scratch, be aware of the third-party tools that integrate well and can optimize the CRM experience to fit exactly what you’re looking for.

Goal 5: Get approval for the purchase

1 WEEK: The CRM implementation timeline can easily get stalled at this stage. While it may not be within your power to speed up the approval process, you can do your best to streamline it before you present your decision for approval.

The key to this: make sure you are fully aware of how your company’s purchase approval process workser. Know beforehand who must be involved, and how they like to decide on new software purchases.

Before bringing this to decision-makers at the company, be sure you have:

  • An executive summary
  • All necessary documentation
  • Technical requirements and information for the engineering team
  • Detailed goals and metrics
  • Documentation about known issues
  • Full risk assessment
  • Forecasted budget

Also, as you get buy-in from higher-ups, don’t forget to get buy-in from your sales team. Focus on the productivity of your reps: help them see how this change will help them be better at their jobs.

Goal 6: Complete the system setup

1-3 WEEKS: If you have completed the first goal in this CRM implementation roadmap, then your data is already cleaned up and ready to export into a new system.

Now that the purchase is done, you will reap the rewards of that early prep work. Not only will you save time migrating data into the new CRM—the faster you move into the new system, the less time you have to spend paying for two CRMs, which could easily save you thousands of dollars.

To complete your system setup, follow these three steps:

  • Configure your CRM: Customize your sales pipeline, lead pages, and custom fields, and import any email templates and sequences you have set up.
  • Migrate your data: Import customer and lead data, test to make sure it’s set up correctly.
  • Import users: Set up your sales team in the new system, make sure they have the right user permissions, email setup, and phone numbers.
  • Integrate the rest of your sales stack: Alongside your operations, marketing, and engineering team, set up APIs, Zapier integrations, or native integrations to the rest of your sales and marketing tech stack.
Did you know...
Close CRM integrates with 75+ top tools for sales, marketing, prospecting, communication, and more. Check out all our top integrations here.

Goal 7: Train your team on the new CRM

1 WEEK: Now that everything is in place, it’s your job as a sales leader to make sure your team’s adoption rate and usage are high.

The best way to get your team going is to make sure their first interaction with the new CRM is infinitely smoother than their previous system.

Here’s how Nick Persico explains it:

“We’ve seen that when a company switches to a new CRM, what matters is that first moment when the sales rep logs in, they see their accounts, their past activity, their tasks, and they’re ready to go. That’s what they respond to. The value strikes when they see their data and their activity represented in the new CRM in a better way to help them be more productive.”

Take advantage of any training offered by the new CRM provider. Also, check for video tutorials from current users, and curate the best training materials for your reps to learn the new system, fast.

Close CRM implementation

Goal 8: Complete the transfer to the new system

<1 WEEK: This final goal of your CRM implementation timeline will take you over the finish line and push your project completion to 100%.

It’s time to check off those last tasks from your project plan:

  • Check that all of your CRM data is moved over from the old system.
  • Make sure your whole team is up-to-speed on the new system.
  • Delete the old CRM and its data as soon as you can and increase compliance with applicable data regulations.
  • Remove your subscription for the old system, and say goodbye to extra costs for a system you’re not using!

Once these last tasks are completed, you’ll have successfully implemented your new CRM!

CRM implementation roadmap template

Looking for a roadmap template you can swipe and use to keep track of your progress? Here’s our CRM implementation roadmap template to use.

Remember: most of the tasks leading up to your CRM implementation milestones can be done in parallel. Use this template as a guide to get a birds-eye view of the project as a whole, then dig into what can be done at the same time, and delegate whatever you can to move the project forward faster.

Goal 1: Prepare your data 1-2 weeks Clean up your data to prepare for export later
Delete or merge duplicate data 1 week Find duplicate leads and customers, and merge them
Clean up the data import process 1 week Make importing new leads and other data as simple as possible from the rest of your sales stack.
Goal 2: Clearly define the challenges you want to solve 1-2 weeks Analyze your process and document the current issues you want to solve with a new CRM
Analyze your sales process 1 day See how reps are using the current CRM within their sales process, and where they’re finding bottlenecks.
Determine affected KPIs <1 week Measure the main sales KPIs that are lowered by the current CRM’s limitations
Define how the new CRM will improve these metrics 1 day Identify what you expect the new CRM to change with current challenges
Goal 3: Make a list of features and integrations 1-2 weeks Brainstorm alongside your team, based on the current sales process and unique needs of your industry or business size
Make a list of must-haves <1 week These are essential features and integrations that your team cannot live without
Make a list of nice-to-haves <1 week Includes features or integrations that would make your process even smoother, but aren’t necessary (or can be done with third-party tools)
Goal 4: Pick your perfect CRM 2-4 weeks Test different systems and choose the right one for your team
Make a list of CRMs that fit your requirements 1 day Find CRMs that match up to your list of must-haves, and that allow you to structure your data in a way that works for your sales process
Start demoing and testing different tools 1-2 weeks Get your hands dirty inside different systems, use them to see first-hand how they work and whether they’re right for your team.
Choose your favorite 1 week Get decision-makers and end-users on board with the new CRM
Goal 5: Get buy-in 1 week Get decision-makers and end-users on board with the new CRM
Prep for the approval process 1-2 days Make sure you have all the necessary documentation in order before presenting your findings to higher-ups
Get buy-in from your reps 1 day Show them how the new system will help them be more productive
Goal 6: Set up the new system 1-4 weeks Move your team from the old CRM to the new one
Set up customizations <1 week Create custom fields, lead lists, email templates, etc.
Migrate your data 1-2 days Move all your data over from the old CRM
Import users 1 day Get your whole sales team set up in the new system with the right user permissions
Set up integrations 1 week Integrate third-party tools from the rest of your sales and marketing stack
Goal 7: CRM training 1 week Train your reps to get the most use out of the new CRM
Goal 8: Finish your CRM implementation project <1 week Check off any last tasks left in your CRM implementation roadmap
Delete your old CRM 1 day Destroy data in that system and quit your subscription
Make sure your whole team is ready to make the switch 1 day Get all your reps on board and ready to go.

Start your journey with a complete CRM implementation roadmap

The key to any successful journey is making sure you’re using a good map.

The steps above are curated tips we’ve learned through helping thousands of startups and SMBs implement a new CRM and scale their businesses.

This proprietary roadmap is yours for the taking and is guaranteed to help you get from point A (your current CRM) to point B (a brand new CRM) with as little friction as possible.

But, once you’ve moved into a new CRM, how do you know whether you made the right decision? Jump to Chapter 4 to see success factors for a CRM implementation project. →

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