CRM implementation guide - step by step!

Implementing SaaS CRM, an easy journey if you’re prepared well.

It is not a one-time event, it’s a journey.

And as with all journeys, they always go better if you are well prepared. Elementary.

So, let’s assume you did your homework.

  • You know why you want a CRM system – either you have an old one that no longer meets your expectations, or you have one and realized that separate excel file kept by each of your sales people do not work

  • You chose the right one for you (Salesforce CRM, obviously, is there any other kind;)?), – there is a plethora of CRMs available today, choosing the right one is a task but a task you need to complete.

  • You know why you want it in a cloud model – a lot have been said already but we all know: smooth installation, easy access, user-friendly use, affordable pricing, high security levels and reliability, flexibility and ability to scale, are some of the reasons to choose SaaS option

  • You allocated the budget – and discussed with your finance department why OPEX makes sense

  • You prepped your team - you do remember to prep you team, don’t you? Without a team all for a new CRM this implementation will not work! Firstly, a high-level manager who will take on a role of a project sponsor needs to be appointed. Someone who understands why implementing CRM is crucial, who is convinced of the benefits and has the authority to direct various resources necessary to finish implementation. Then, your team must be briefed, reasons for a new CRM must be communicated and feedback must be heard.

Once the above is done, implementation may start.

Wait! One more question any company needs to answer before implementation process begins: do we want to do it ourselves or do we need a professional partner to accompany us during this journey? You need to remember that although cloud-based products are often perceived as easy and quick “just a few clicks in the panel” to deploy, the reality is different.

You need experts who know the product, thoroughly, and have time to run implementations. Few companies have the comfort of allocating an even a small team within the internal IT department to let them take time off to learn new things and later follow with the implementation. And even if this is possible, they will lack experience dedicated partners have gained on tens of projects across various industries.

At the same time, CRM partners’ only job is to make sure implementation is done smoothly as this will be their only job. Moreover, they will bring in additional value of vertical understanding and process knowledge, to make implementation as easy for you as possible. Finding a right partner is like finding a good, reliable tour guide for your journey.

So, once you have your journey planned and a guide picked up, an actual journey can begin. Where do you start?

  1. You start from defining the specific objectives and outcomes of the implementation. You brainstorm with your partner and all internal stakeholders and discuss their needs and expectations, analyze current operations and develop use cases. You need to have it clear what sales and CRM metrics you hope to improve by using CRM. This will be necessary to make sure your CRM solution is customized and integrated with your resources in a way that will allow you to make the most of the implementation. Make sure you work on that with best business analysts and architects that the implementation partner can make available to you. Looking for savings at this crucial stage usually does not pay off.

  2. Next, you need to outline all the necessary implementation tasks and estimate the project schedule. It would be perfect to make sure everything that has to happen in order to reach the objectives defined above is written down, on paper or, preferably, in a nice shared tool all parties have access to and can follow. Examples include Jira or Confluence from Atlassian. Your partner can also grant you access to tools he uses. The key here is to find an ideal balance between your desired sales and CRM process and software implementation. On one hand, SaaS solutions can be relatively standardized, but they are developed based on multiple companies’ experiences and have some best practices embedded. On the other, you must make sure a newly implemented software will fit your company’s workflow without ruining it. Also, remember that implementation of a new tool can be a chance to adjust your sales workflow to be even more efficient.

  3. Then, your partner will start to configure the system to make it fit your expectations and probably develop elements that may not be there, but you find necessary. It is crucial for a customer to be involved as much as possible in this phase, to make sure everything is aiming at fitting your needs already. Recently a lot of companies has been applying so called agile approach to development organized around sprints. The client is immediately presented with the result of each sprint and is given a chance to test individual components and features before the entire system has been rolled out. If any changes to the design are required they can be implemented at any time. 

  1. In a mean time, what can you do? Prepare your data. The new system will need gas to run and data is today’s world oil. You should take inventory and clean up any messy data, and it should be done even if you are sure your data governance is at the highest level. Try to eliminate data entry mistakes. Make sure all contacts are entered and up to date. Merge any duplicate accounts. Once decluttering is done, take a moment to decide exactly what data will be transferred to a new CRM. Remember, you do not move your old sales process there, you have a preferred one you want to follow. If the scope of the migration is exceeding capabilities of your excel files talk to your partner who can execute migrations of millions of records with a use of specialized tools for automated data migrations.

  2. When configuration and development are done, the application is launched, and tests begin. When you make the official switch to a new CRM start small. Import a small batch of contacts to test the import. Make sure the fields aligned and all the data components for a single contact are there? It is a good way to catch small errors and fix them before all data are transferred with minimal effort.

  3. It’s smart to evaluate all the settings. Check for any configuration issues. See if the customization is right. Talk to your implementation partner and engage key stakeholders and power users to review the system and provide feedback. They will be the ones using it, they need to be sure all is running smoothly. Also, unlike your partner, your employees will be able to help identify various current or potential issues as they know your company best!

  4. Finally, time for a big leap! Once all the adjustments are done, all your remaining data can be imported into a new CRM. It is extremely important to inform all interested parties of the date and time of a switch to avoid any possible data gaps (i.e. sales reps entering contacts or contracts in the old tools after the data has already been transferred to a new CRM).

And you’re done! Please go ahead and enjoy using your new CRM tool.

Or at least this is how it seems, but smart users will follow up with several steps to ensure CRM brings all the benefits promised:

  • Monitor the adoption of a new tool among your employees. E.g. Salesforce recommends measuring three areas for adoption: usage, data quality and business performance. All required employees should be familiar with your CRM and should be actively using it. Otherwise, there was no point in deploying a new platform

  • Create reports based on the goals and objectives defined at the beginning. This will be an additional value of a new tool, especially if the previously used systems had limited reporting functions. More importantly, with a new tool in place, reports will give you a real, hard data feedback on how effective your sale process is. Finally, as companies digitally transform, there is a growing need for new key performance indicators and with a new tool you will be able to define and, later, verify them.

  • Stay in touch with your team and your implementation partner. Ask your team for feedback: are they encountering any issues? Is the new sales process working fine? is anything taking up too much time? Is there anything they find difficult or misleading? Finding out all these answers will help you understand what worked well and what, well, maybe didn’t. Share your feedback with your implementation partner to seek best solutions. Maybe they saw similar issues before maybe not, but they should be there with you after the implementation to support you.

Finally, please do not forget that one of the most valuable features of a SaaS solution are updates. In case of Salesforce there are three major releases a year each with a set of new functionalities. They will continue to happen, usually transparent to you but often offering new opportunities for your team and your company. Stay in touch with a provider of a solution, take care of a key user within your team and continue to communicate with implementation partner for any issues. Also, always remember that your sales workflow is not given forever and as this process evolve, so should your once implemented CRM system.


22% of salespeople still don’t know what CRM is, and 40% still use informal methods like spreadsheets and email programs to store customer data.



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