Preparing for CRM – Practical first steps

Getting CRM right is a tough task – one that requires a substantial amount of time, effort and commitment. 

From experience, I know this to be true. I also know that this investment is a sure fire way to ensuring that your CRM implementation ultimately delivers against anticipated business objectives.

Unfortunately, all too often CRM project teams take their eyes off the main prize. Unsurprisingly, it’s easy to become overly distracted by the technology aspects of the CRM solution itself – comparing feature sets and undertaking deep dives into the respective offering of individual vendors, for example.

But without first understanding what’s important for your organisation – selecting the right solution for your needs or measuring ROI post implementation is going to be a big challenge.

From the outset, what’s needed is a methodical plan. 

As Winston Churchill famously said, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail” – and that’s especially true when it comes to plotting your path to CRM.

Step 1    Build your team

Whatever you call it – a steering group or project team – you’ll need to include cross functional representatives from every group that will ultimately use the system. That means sales, marketing, customer support, customer service, management, IT and finance. These key business users will provide those all important insights on what’s needed – and what will work and what won’t.

Make sure you have an executive sponsor who is a board level member. Getting senior management buy in will be essential to maintaining organisation-wide visibility and back up.

Appoint a project manager who will manage all communications internally and externally and coordinate activities between team members.

Finally, nominate a CRM administrator who will oversee the IT side of things – licensing, client installs, tech support – and all things data – data entry protocols, importing leads, global updates to records.

Step 2    Define your vision

With the team assembled, you’re ready to start defining your CRM strategy and vision. 

This might include helping sales people easily close and manage opportunities, running and tracking the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, or the provision of better service for customers.

Having defined your objectives, set down the specific and measurable goals that will enable you to see how you’re performing against these goals; for example – 90% of all service calls will be responded to within a two hour SLA.

Step 3    Prioritise your CRM goals

Maximise your chances of success by initiating a phased CRM implementation, putting areas you’ve identified as offering easy quick wins top of the list.

Being realistic, structured and orderly will pay dividends and ensure that resources aren’t over stretched in the early phases of your go live. Get sales teams up and running first with the CRM system and once everything is running smoothly here – roll out to your service or post sales teams.

Step 4    Map your processes

Undertake a formal analysis of your processes and identify potential pain points and exceptions – for example, do you treat phone leads and web leads differently? 

Create process maps and evaluate these with stakeholders – what could be improved or automated?

Mapping current and intended processes helps eliminate ambiguities and will help with the creation of templates that ensure your CRM platform is tailored to the exact needs of users.

Step 5    Data fields

Think about the forms and data fields that will be required – what data do you need to track on each type of CRM record? For the sales function this may include product range, line item, time frames (start/end dates), allocated sales person, sales stage and so forth.

Try not to over engineer at this point as over complication can create a barrier to user adoption. As Einstein elegantly put it “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Focus on the minimum requirement to achieve your goals.

Step 6    Identify your data sources

Don’t underestimate how much time this will take. Just for starters, you’ll need to consider:

  • What data needs to be imported – where is it currently stored?
  • Which departments already have data bases – what format is it in?
  • Which record types do we need to consider?
  • How much historical data do we want to include – is it worth it?
  • Do we have a budget for data cleansing and de-duping – who is going to do this? 

Creating a trial import for validation purposes will be crucial.

Step 7    Integration

Integration with backend systems is a sure fire way to boost ROI. Integrating your order management, accounting and shipping systems will make it easy to deal with customer queries in one streamlined call, for example.

You can also use integrations to push data from your CRM system to other areas of the business – for example, the automated creation of a customer record in the accounts system when a new customer comes on board. Or synchronise your CRM with a third party email marketing solution provider. CRM data integration solutions abound, it’s a matter of thinking about the right one for your business needs.

Step 8    Security and data visibility

Your organisational structure will influence who can see what information and how data is shared across the business. For example, you’ll need to make decisions about how much data you want regional divisions or independent business units to be able to view or share? 

Similarly, how much access to data will you award individual user roles?

Want to find out more about how to plan for CRM?

Regardless of whether your CRM initiative is going to support 10 or 1000 users, your CRM strategy will make the difference between failure and success. I’ve just covered a few of the steps you’ll need to take when planning for CRM – but don’t despair. To help you brainstorm exactly what’s involved, why not watch my video to get more useful ideas.