The real life guide to CRM implementation

February 2, 2021
By Adam


If you’re working at a company that is now at the stage of needing an enterprise CRM, then congrats on two fronts. The first is that your organisation is large enough to warrant a powerful tool that will enable further growth, and the second is that you have realised that getting ahead of competitors in your business space will require the automation and alignment benefits that come with an enterprise CRM. 

This is a hugely positive step, but it's always good to be cognisant of the fact that changing a CRM in a lot of ways is like moving your kids to a different school. For the kids, it’s a hugely disruptive process; they will not like it, you’ll have some temper tantrums and arguments, but in the long run you know it’s going to improve their lives and help them achieve things they could not before.

The driving ethos for any CRM implementation should be this: You have a job to do and you need to do it effectively. Initial disruption will lead to enhanced success for all users.

The key to a successful CRM integration is realising that every implementation is different and can be challenging, but they can be managed effectively by a strong team. Undoubtedly you will run into technical difficulties and internal personnel struggles, but by using these three approaches you will be able to effectively steer a CRM implementation through to success.

So what’s key to managing this change and ensuring that you are enabling your staff to use the new system effectively?

It boils down to three aspects:

  1. Having clear direction with consistent training
  2. Championing your product
  3. Employing the 40-70 rule

How to get started with your CRM implementation 

If you've been tasked with leading your CRM implementation, you are now in a position of great responsibility. This will be a transformational period for the company, so being at the helm of this shows you are both capable and trusted. 

The first thing you need to do is get buy-in from senior decision-makers and work with them to create a clear framework. This will make your process immeasurably more positive and avoid a situation where you're pulled from pillar to post whilst spinning several plates. Clarity is key in any CRM implementation.

The processes you use for positioning, on-boarding, collaborating, executing, and tracking will make or break your ability to implement the new system.

Every organisation that is getting to the stage where they need an enterprise level CRM has obviously been doing a lot of things right, meaning they will have a lot of entrenched processes and ways of working, some of which are good and others which may be cumbersome.

You need to be able to communicate and reach an understanding with the stakeholders of these processes, that the new system will aim to achieve your organisation’s goals, but the processes and ways of working may adapt or change along the way. Make efforts to explain that this isn't a reflection of their work, just an alignment to the new technology. They should see changing the CRM as an opportunity for systemic change, not just rolling out a shiny new toy.

Unfortunately, conversations around this situation can be tense, as people don’t often like change. If you are going to convince them that this is the right thing to do, you need to be uncompromisingly clear on the positive benefits of what this change will achieve for them and the eventual benefits. 

Successful change management isn’t just the new system being updated, it's in many ways more about the people and enabling them with effective processes and use cases being improved alongside the technology. Always remember that these people have got the organisation to where it is now and their opinions are not only valid, but invaluable to a successful integration.

A successful integration is not only about the technology, but also how users listen to their problems and then focus ruthlessly on solving their issues with focussed alignment. Alignment is the key strength that the top companies wield to outperform their competitors.  HR, Marketing, Sales and Operations, through a well executed CRM roll out, all becomes housed under one roof. Aligning the company's processes and infrastructure to the company vision is far easier when you have the team on board.

Evolution of the CRM: Watch recording

How clarity and understanding will align your team 

More than anything, what you'll need during a CRM migration or implementation, whether done in-house or with a CRM specialist, is clarity. Crystal clear clarity on needs, challenges, wants, wishes, and proposed outcomes. You'll need to trim away the fat and get to the core of what your business does, who it does it for, and why it’s doing it. Then you'll need to start laying out the processes and eventually the tools.

When you start, the first thing you should do is map all the problems each department is having. The challenge here is that often teams won't have an understanding of where their friction points or misalignments are. They may not know their tools are broken. Start with high-level, organisational questions:

  • What are your USPs?
  • What are the organisation's annual targets?
  • What is your understanding of the ideal client fit for your company?
  • What's your elevator pitch?

Once you've started to interview individuals across the organisation, these questions will start to highlight areas of frustration.

Then, start to break down the questioning into more targeted department, team or individual based questions:

  • What challenges do you face in your role?
  • Who do you report to?
  • Who reports to you?
  • Outline your role
  • How long is your average sales cycle?

Then start to dig into process:

  • What do you report on?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your sales process?
  • What's your least favourite part of the sales process?
  • Who should be involved in a sales process?

Once you have these questions answered, then you should start to map out each of the processes. Often, there will be multiple processes. New business, renewals, upsells - these are some of the most common we see. Map them all out together to understand how the processes fit. Then, begin to look at how you can streamline the processes with automation and strip back non-essential aspects and identify blockers.

How to present your findings

Once you have a clear understanding of how the processes map out, you should then present it back to the stakeholders in the process. This will ensure you're all singing off of the same hymn sheet but will also help to keep your team aligned.

From this point, it will be far easier to clearly outline what can be done, what this process will improve, the required steps and the training that your team will need to remove friction. By giving a clear outline and direction, including the milestones along the way, you will set expectations and ultimately limit disruption. Project long term direction and reaffirm the needs and outcomes of the Enterprise CRM implementation with positivity. This will help you mitigate friction from internal teams, as systemic change can be challenging and uncomfortable. You need to be prepared for this and in the next section we outline how you can navigate this.

Let's be honest, a lot of the time when people hear "automation," they fear that it will take their jobs or enhanced insights will shine a light on their failings. This isn't the case. In fact, in most situations it's the exact opposite.

There is only a finite amount of time people can work, and the company should be built around technology and processes that empower these people to use their best talents more often for greater effect. For instance, Susan is amazing at relationship sales, but she can't get on the phone enough because she's always writing follow up nurture emails. On the other hand, Sam in product has 101 ideas about how to improve the company's service offering, but he can't get away from admin duties. In both of these cases, a CRM will improve their working lives and as the CRM implementer leads, it is your job to highlight this to them.

Remember, successful change management isn’t just the new system being updated, it's in many ways more about the people and enabling them with effective processes and use cases being improved alongside the technology. However, this can be a difficult narrative to entrench in a business and, unfortunately, conversations around this situation can be tense, as often people don’t like change. In the next section we look at how you can positively affect change when working through internal friction.

How to navigate conversations with internal stakeholders

Sometimes, there will be issues for implementers who are navigating internal stakeholders who may be wary of a new CRM. Technology in and of itself will not solve systemic problems. As humans, we're great at using technology to bypass issues without confronting the simpler and larger issues. But as we have said previously, a CRM is for the benefit of the people involved in the business and this should always be front of mind.

A well thought-out, well organised CRM implementation could bypass all your issues and bypass or replace some workers, but this approach will hit the rocks. As the implementer, you need to focus on bending the CRM to make the lives of the users better and aim for mass adoption and buy-in. Flexibility and awareness are a core component of any CRM implementation.

A 0.01% increase in efficiency won't be as powerful as an entire sales team working effectively and happily in a new CRM.

As the implementer, you and your team need to be self-aware in your ability to organise and execute aspects of the implementation project and empower the user to problem-solve themselves.

The best approach for success is for you to vet, qualify, and align the users' processes, staff and tools. Firstly, focus on how you solve their problems and be clear and positive about what they will be required to do to achieve this.

If users won’t adopt the new system, you run the risk of leaving them with a system that is never adopted. The onus is on you to ensure they have a full understanding of the responsibilities they have and the benefits this will bring to them.

To successfully implement a CRM you need to make allies, friends, and champions within the organisation.

Humans can be very predictable and tribal; we work better with people we like and we get jealous easily. You need to use these two facts to secure buy-in throughout the entire organisation.

Firstly, identify not only the major stakeholders within the company, but also the “doers”, as these people are going to be key in helping you with the technical details. Get these people on-board by listening to their needs and making friends with them. Ensure that you work with and listen to every member of the team who will be exposed to the CRM. These people matter the most when aligning the project, so don't alienate them by listening to one group over the other.

Your job isn’t to get dragged into internal politics; it’s to help align the company.

To do this, you should consider having the head of sales, IT, marketing, and other internal departments being compulsorily involved in the first few calls, but also representatives of their departments too. This may require more resources on their side, but securing this buy-in up front will set the whole organisation up for success.

How to find your internal champions 

Next, once you have friendship and buy-in, you need to select and empower your champions. Humans are naturally inquisitive and get jealous very easily and with the process of creating a champion, you’re going to use this jealousy positively. For example, there may be doubts in the wider sales team about the new CRM, but when they see Sarah from sales doubling her targets and leaving on time each day they will soon begin to wonder what’s going on. Soon the other staff will discover that Sarah was the Beta test user and she barely has to write emails anymore, she now just focuses on selling, empowered using the processes and technology you have implemented. Once they see this, they will all want to get their hands on the new stuff.

So how do you help happy users become loyal champions? There’s a common misconception that a “champion” is simply a user who is happy to advocate for something. And that’s part of it. But what you want to achieve from your champions is something a little less tangible. It’s not just someone who is using the new CRM well, it’s someone who is fully integrated and willing to stake their own reputation on the benefits of it.

These voices matter incredibly in creating validation and buy-in, particularly in the early stages when a company likely doesn’t have as much weight.

It’s not easy and it takes time. It requires you as the implementer to pair a short-term charm offensive with a long-term focus on understanding what those individuals care about. Next, you should be creating touch points and milestones that allow you to build a connection with your champion and allows them to advocate the brand. This could be bringing them into stakeholder meetings or catch-ups to ensure they are heard, giving them access to betas or processes before the rest of the team, or including them in any reports and asking for their feedback.

How to improve user adoption

The ultimate aim of a successful CRM implementation is to have full user adoption and every person comfortable, secure and skilled in using the platform. Now, whilst this is ideal, implementers need to be aware that attempts to ensure everyone is secure and knowledgeable, sometimes we can actually prevent full adoption by stifling self learning. Returning to the child analogy, we want to give our kids the best in life, but doing everything for them early on means they won't be able to do it themselves later. Empowering the users on the how and why of a CRM is key to their learning and adoption, and in many cases I've seen, allows the implementer to learn some new things too.

How to foster problem-solving with the 40-70 rule

Once you have the CRM up to the stage of first adoption and you have trained the staff on some of the basic processes you need to back off a little. Let the user begin to problem-solve using the system in their own way and come up with new processes.

For example, in a recent implementation we had a well-aligned process in place using HubSpot's sales tools, but what we found was that the sales teams were overwhelmed with the solutions. We stepped back and implemented some more basic solutions and provided training on the different aspects of the tool, namely snippets that would provide automation and time savings whilst still giving them control. What happened next was that within a week, and with a few questions bouncing back, they had fully implemented a new process using snippets, but integrating them with the HubSpot File Manager to create a host of processes that were not what we had planned initially. But this achieved the same goal and had improved their experience and adoption of not only the Sales Hub, but multiple parts of the platform.

This was a prime example of using the 40-70 approach to guided learning, as described by Colin Powell. The 40-70 approach can be used effectively to improve decision-making and learning within organisations by reinforcing that you can't have all the information, and waiting until you have "all" the information means losing opportunities. Regardless of how good a process is, mistakes will happen and that is OK.

Many of us fear making tough decisions and when the moment comes to make a big one, we look for information to help make the decision, but we are not too sure how much information is adequate to make a good one. On this particular subject of making tough decisions, Powell prescribes the amount of information that one needs to reach a conclusion as between 40% and 70% of the total information available.

With less than 40% of information, we are bound to make a wrong decision. At the same time, if we keep looking for information beyond 70%, then by the time we decide on the conclusion, it will be so late that others will have taken that decision and moved on, or we have become too overwhelmed to make any decision at all. 

According to Dr. Steven Anderson, a leadership author and analyst, we as human beings can tap into intuition to fill in the rest of the 30% gap between the 70% information that we get and the full information required to make a decision. Our intuition and problem-solving, or guts, come in handy to help make good decisions in spite of having less than complete information.

If you aspire to drive adoption in the wider organisation, you need to empower the users to lead the process. In the example above, we gave the users too much information and stifled their learning and leadership. This principal may not be easy to embrace as you are leading the implementation process and, as such, you are not meant to be unaware or have incomplete information processes. This is a negative approach that won't improve your project because, at some point, a good implementation is about the team and not your structures.

A great implementation is about aligning the systems and enabling the users to make their lives easier, more efficient and ensure that they have enough information available to make more correct decisions than wrong ones. A failed system is one that is so rigid that it allows for no wrong decisions, and will make so few moves or discoveries that it is essentially inert.

The reality of the example above is that a company didn’t know every detail of how a new system would fit into the larger organisation — or they didn’t plan for the relationship this new system and its users would have with the rest of the organisation. This is normal and things change. It’s your job to help them sort this out and enable and align them. A successful implementation will be built on your ability to be flexible with the users and ensure you empower them and align the technology to fit into their company like a puzzle piece.

In conclusion, a CRM implementation is about more than just great tech. It’s about the people and the destination too.

Implementing a CRM is difficult but highly rewarding, as there are very few activities that will have a bigger organisational impact.

It's your responsibility to create a system that empowers the users of the platform and gives them consistent direction and information whilst empowering them to problem-solve. You need to remember that, at its core, it's about the people involved from the users up to the CEO and it's your job to help them understand exactly who and what a new CRM will directly and indirectly impact across the company.

A CRM exists to enable a company to compete and grow, bringing the talents of their best and brightest to the forefront of the company by empowering them to do more.

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