It’s no secret: even a quick google search shows that CRM implementations have a surprisingly high failure rate. Failure rates between 31% and 70% are cited across the internet even though these digital tools have been touted as the answer to streamline many aspects of sales management.

Most companies would agree that in the modern digital age, some electronic form of customer management is vital. Unless your business is very small, there is simply too much to keep track of manually. Spending the resources to make a careful choice of CRM product is only the first step. Identifying software use issues and correcting them early is the key to successful implementation.

What are some of the reasons for these implementation issues and how can they be circumvented so that the advantages of a CRM can be exploited?

We’ve outlined some of the most common pitfalls for CRM implementations below.

Issue 1: Failure of Stakeholder Adoption and Use of the System

“A good CRM implementation is a disruptive one”

A successful CRM is not simply an electronic version of the old-fashioned spreadsheet format for recording data. Today’s CRM systems are sophisticated software packages designed to collate and integrate many, if not all, of the existing workflows and processes for a business.

Because of this, stakeholders in modern CRM projects often include management, admins, and operations teams and not just the sales representatives. For the implementation to be successful, all these employees must understand that “business as usual” will not look the same anymore. Users have to be well trained and shown the advantages of integrating their jobs with other departments, using the best practices within the new software.

Once the new CRM is fully implemented, change management will be required to encourage adoption and ongoing use. It’s up to management and in some cases a quality onboarding team from the CRM supplier to convince stakeholders of the ultimate advantages of the inevitable learning curve and frustrations of learning a new system.

Issue 2: No Executive Buy-In

“While your sales and marketing departments may be able to easily grasp the value of a CRM, the advantages might not be as obvious to other departments. This can even apply to executives”

Your company is in business to make money. That is, of course, a primary focus of the executive team. They may be focused on the financial implications of implementing a new CRM system, but the financial benefits are not always tangible. Factors like time saved on projects and the reduction of lost opportunities can be challenging to quantify. Business leaders need to grasp all the strategic aspects of a comprehensive CRM tool because they often have tremendous influence to inspire buy-in by the rest of the employees.

According to Harvard Business Review, Sales management executives must understand their role in using a CRM tool. Powerful data collection and analysis tools are attractive to managers for their ability to track sales representatives’ activity and generate comprehensive reports. However, a secondary, and equally important managerial role is to provide coaching. A quality CRM system provides them with the data they need to help sales representatives strategically use the system to maximize sales opportunities.

Issue 3: Lack of Goal-Oriented Planning

CRM software packages are expansive and multi-faceted. The right tool can be daunting, and there are several common mistakes that businesses make when they choose a system. Purchasing a CRM before defining company-specific goals and targets can lead to poor fit, with a package that does not work well and is therefore underused by frustrated employees.

The process of choosing a CRM system should begin by outlining your business’ sales workflow. With an understanding of this, you can define the must-have features of the system. Ask yourself:

  • What steps need to be accomplished to ensure sales?
  • What software systems are currently in place and is there a CRM with integrations to these systems?
  • How does your company curate and use data?
  • What ongoing employee training and support will be needed?
  • What products are available that mesh with your business size, sales goals, number, type of departments, and requirements for collaboration between those departments?

Once the company needs are defined, specific goals should be considered before CRM purchase. Some examples of goals for CRM implementation are:

  • How will the tool improve a specific KPI over time?
  • How will the tool improve a specific aspect of the customer experience?
  • How will the team save time and be more productive in a specific aspect of sales, such as sales cycle time or client communication tasks?

Issue 4: No Plan for Growth

If you are a smaller company, you may not need a CRM software system with all the advanced features but consider your corporate projections for growth. Will the package you choose grow with you?

There is an important balance between a standard configuration of your new software and investing in customization. The software may be a good fit now, but what if you expand into new product lines? Management should have an ongoing process in place to identify growth-related issues and needed improvements and ensure that they are included in the next iteration of the CRM or can be updated or customized by the supplier.

“A great CRM isn’t the result of a single, perfectly executed implementation. Instead, ongoing refinements, revisions, and expansions lead to success. The CRM is never ‘perfect”’ because your business is always changing”

Issue 5: Too Much Change at Once

A successful CRM system implementation will simply take time. In a profit-oriented business environment, where time is money, this is sometimes a hard message to hear.

However, a company cannot purchase a new system, go live with minimal training, and expect immediate success. Accept that change management requires an input of quality stakeholder buy-in to ongoing training, data entry, software integrations, and troubleshooting workflows.

Good CRM providers will help break up an implementation project into manageable stages and be sure to integrate user training, testing, and feedback into the process, all within a reasonable (not rushed!) timeline. They should be flexible enough to work with your company on workflow design revision and should be available after you have gone live for service and support.

Issue 6: Bad Data

We’ve all heard the old computer science adage “garbage in, garbage out.” When it comes to CRM data, this couldn’t be truer. If employees and/or clients do not trust the data produced for any reason (dated information, inaccuracies, duplicate records) it is meaningless.

Again, full stakeholder buy-in is essential since all are responsible for timely and accurate data input. Old systems can contribute corrupt, outdated, or incorrect data sets to your new software system during implementation. Look for a product that can provide database cleansing and de-duplication.

Issue 7: Choosing the Wrong Software or Provider

When considering options for a new CRM system two key factors should not be ignored: the provider’s willingness to work with you after purchase and the level of support you can expect to receive on an ongoing basis.

There are several pre-packaged, cookie-cutter software tools available for CRM needs, but these bare-bones systems may prove costly in the long run.  One-size-fits-all won’t grow with your business, and the vendor may be unwilling to create a customized solution to fit your changing workflow needs.

It is also important to evaluate the level of support you are contracted to receive from your CRM vendor.  User buy-in is enhanced when technical help is readily available in a variety of formats and stakeholders feel heard when they have questions, express concerns, and can offer suggestions for improvements and even customization strategies as your business grows.  Ideally, a provider project manager continues to be available to work with you long after the implementation procedures are complete, and service desk personnel are friendly, knowledgeable, and readily available.

When the CRM’s technology is combined with the right workflows, operated by well-trained staff, and managed thoughtfully, the system’s full potential can be tapped into to generate powerful results”.