CRM implementations are. the. worst.
But they're worthwhile endeavors and shouldn't be treated like a begrudging or short-changed investment.
A successful CRM implementation is key to generating tangible growth outcomes, whether B2B or B2C. Unfortunately, a positive outcome isn't as simple as flipping a switch. Often, when you purchase a CRM, it's not even evident to the buyer that there needs to be an underlying strategy for it to work. And, "to work," I'm not referring to whether the tools turn on and operate properly.
I'm referring to "work" as in, it will help your business grow.
So, you may be finding yourself sitting on a new CRM, amounting to a very expensive piece of equipment that's collecting cyberdust, or maybe you're about to roll one out. Either way, this information should help you steer it in the right direction.
Context to the article:
I'm going to reference my usage of Hubspot a lot, since this is the tool I have spent the majority of my time in for the last 8+ years. But the principles are the same, whether you're getting into Salesforce, Zoho, Pipedrive, or any other tool that's supposed to help you drive more value out of your sales investments (you just may have more work to do to configure it properly).
I'm also going to specifically speak to a CRM implementation process focused on B2B.
As a salesperson, I have also worked in AS400 (hopefully I don't date myself by saying this), JDEdwards, Oracle, Salesforce, Zoho, and others. And, as a practitioner of CRM implementations for dozens of other businesses, I've cleaned up a lot of messes and seen some really cool setups in those platforms and more, including Hubspot.
I'm a salesperson, digital marketer, CRM implementation specialist, CEO, and growth hacker. I've designed, implemented, used, analyzed, and developed business strategy around CRMs for 20 years. (read more)
In other words, I'm sharing with you a successful CRM implementation process that comes with a rich history with MANY points of view.
Context to your business
First, let me state this as plainly as possible: There is no CRM implementation plan template that can possibly serve as a one-size-fits-all solution. But there is a template we follow for leveraging your business' context to derive the maximum value of this investment.
Step 1 - Alignment
Get sales, marketing, and executive leadership together to understand who is accountable for what. I suggest running a couple of collaborative workshops. Topics include who the target personas are, how to define ideal company targets, sales methodology, marketing lead qualification standards, internal communications, and notifications. Once you have clarity on where one ends and the other begins, outline it in an SLA (Service Level Agreement).
Without alignment with sales, you're going to have a really hard time getting them to adopt the system, so be sure to give them a seat at the table early.
Step 2 - Choose your weapon
Determining which CRM platform you're going to roll out specifically should be weighed against the seriousness of your growth goals, complexity of your sales and deal cycles, and the size and hierarchy of the sales team.
Solo sales operations may be just fine with starter-level products, especially if the sales role is shared with others (such as would be the case with solo practitioners and very early stage startups where a founder might be doing it all). But as soon as you have dedicated sales people and start adding teams, you're going to want professional and enterprise-level tools.
My favorite program based on the balance of functionality and cost is Hubspot Sales Pro.
Step 3 - Formalize your sales process
Identify which steps Sales should be taking every time a lead hits the pipeline. What is the calling schedule and cadence, the messaging per call, and the ultimate cut-off point?
Step 4 - Formalize pipeline stages
I like to follow 2 simple rules when it comes to identifying the right pipeline stages:
- Is it a desired goal?
- Is it a natural spot for a deal to pause or close?
I often see "negotiation" as a pipeline stage, and it drives me crazy. I think it might be default to Salesforce (or was at one point). It's a terrible place to be in, and it doesn't really describe what's going on. I prefer "presentation held" followed by "decision-maker bought in."
Step 5 - Map out MQL and SQL properties
Ideally, you get this formalized in the SLA. But it may have to be in a 2nd version.
I use MQL to populate fields on the left-hand side of a contact record inside of Hubspot. This means that important data points are easily elevated.
I use SQL to puplate fields inside of deal records. It makes life easier when going through discovery calls or trying to review the value of a living deal.
This is an important step to ensuring your CRM implementation team isn't guessing at what's important to you or your prospects.
Step 6 - Develop your sales value propositions
We use the template, "We help (ABC) investing in (ABC) but are frustrated by (xyz). Does that sound like you?"
The blanks are filled in summaries of MQL and SQL properties. You want three of these, because the email templates are going to pull from them.
Step 7 - Engineer the system
Using the MQL standards, engineer the most visible contact properties.
Using the SQL standards, engineer the most visible deal/pipeline properties.
Using the value propositions, create a series of sales emails you want your SDRs to use. I usually keep it to a series of 5 emails. The first is "how can I help?" The second is the 1st value proposition. The third is the 2nd value proposition. Then about us or case study, and finally the breakup.
Step 8 - Connect and train the sales team
This should be in a workshop collaboration-style setting as well. You want adoption for this to work, so give sales a seat at the table with another opportunity to weigh in on how things are progressing. There are usually "ah-ha" moments when they realize how much value this tool can have, and so more ideas may come your way as a result... which is a GREAT thing.
Step 9 - Reconfigure the system
Make sure you incorporate some of the changes suggested by sales (as long as they are reasonable and fit the sales methodology outlined in the SLA). It's one thing to discuss CRM capabilities in theory; it's another thing to see them in action.
Step 10 - Send out a training video
Sales people have short attention spans, and they're creatures of ego and habit... so, make sure you give them as many tools as possible to not flub this one. I always send out a 90-minute training video that shows them how to configure everything inside of Hubspot, from the meeting links to email and calling tools. The I roleplay the inbound chase sequence along with pipeline management, which is a great way to show them how to use the tools contextually.
Need a step 11?
CRM implementation projects can sometimes use a roadmap. For a more comprehensive playbook on how to set up the Hubspot CRM, click HERE: