CRM for the Small Business, Part 4: Getting the New System Up and Running

Part 1 of this series on getting started with CRM addresses factors to consider when deciding whether the time is right to take the plunge.Part 2 offers advice on how to choose the right CRM tool.Part 3 provides some guidance on preparing for contract negotiations.

When it comes to implementing a new CRM system, small companies have several options. If they have enough resources and experience to devote to the task, they can implement the system themselves. If they choose not to go that route, a third party can be brought in to help them implement it, Craig Klein, president and CEO of SalesNexus, told CRM Buyer. In many cases, however, the CRM vendor helps to implement the system.

“We try to make the experience relatively straightforward and simple,” Klein said.

The implementation process will vary depending on the vendor selected, Sheryl Kingstone, director of the enterprise research group at Yankee Group, told CRM Buyer.

“A lot of times these vendors have support packages you can buy,” she pointed out.

Vendors can also give small businesses advice on industry best practices, she added.

A small business should choose a vendor with a track record of success and a consistent methodology to rely on, and then let the vendor lead the way, Dan Brennan, principal of A-Frame Technology Assurance, told CRM Buyer. A small business should consider implementation methods and plans from the start, and this should be a factor in its choice of a vendor.

Focus on the People

The qualifications of the people implementing it and the methodology they use are more important than product features, Brennan advised.

“Focus on the people, not the technology,” he emphasized.

For example, A-Frame uses the same processes as the construction industry to implement technology projects because they are more mature and work well, Brennan said.

Project Leadership

A successful implementation needs a dedicated business resource, not just an IT expert, Kingstone advised, and the vendor should also have a project lead.

Both a marketing champion and a sales leadership champion within the small business can help tremendously with the implementation, noted Klein. However, many small businesses are not aware of that.

“There are some customers who have neither,” he remarked.

The Implementation Process

For SalesNexus, begins The implementation process begins with a “success planning call” to gather as much information as possible about the small business, said Klein. The goals are to identify the project lead and determine what the customer’s needs are with particular attention to its strategic objectives.

“That’ll elicit all sorts of different answers,” he noted. Another important goal is to obtain a copy of the company’s data so that more can be learned about the business and its processes. “We can see the world through their eyes. We immediately start peeling the onion back more.”

This allows SalesNexus to determine the types of reports, email templates, and training that need to be set up.

“We document that stuff in our database,” Klein said.

Once SalesNexus identifies the company’s key objectives, it uses that information to keep both the implementation and the small business on track. Sometimes, a small business can become distracted during implementation like a “kid in candy store” by trying to add too many bells and whistles along the way.

“It helps the customer stay focused,” Klein pointed out. Adjustments can be made as needed.

Risk Factors

Stakeholders with the small business often pose the biggest risk to a successful implementation, according to A-Frame’s Brennan. If the people sponsoring the project fail to champion it and do not obtain buy-in — or do not stay involved — that can jeopardize the implementation process.

“That’s often quoted as the biggest risk,” Brennan remarked.

Other common causes of failure include situations in which management is not on board or the system being implemented is overly complex, Yankee Group’s Kingstone said.

Messy data can also cause problems and should be cleaned up before being imported, she added.

Resistance to change is always a factor, but setting expectations in the beginning can help avert trouble down the line, Kingstone pointed out.

Data migration proved to be a troublesome aspect of implementing a CRM tool, said David Ciccarelli, CEO of, until his company started using

Salesforce offered a free trial that allowed to run several test imports of its customer information to ensure that data was mapped to the correct location, Ciccarelli told CRM Buyer.

Understand Goals and Objectives

Before attempting to implement a CRM tool, small businesses need to have a clear understanding of their goals and objectives, Kingstone recommended. Understanding how the system will meet those needs is just as important as the price of the solution. It will also help tremendously during implementation. started out using a very rudimentary system to organize, complete and archive communications, Ciccarelli said, but quickly discovered that the typical methods small businesses start out with — such as email and spreadsheets — could not keep up with the sheer amount of communication with customers.

“There’s no reason to use Excel spreadsheets any more,” Kingstone remarked. “That’s just asking for pure torture.”

CRM for the Small Business, Part 5: How to Save a Troubled Implementation

Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.

CRM Buyer Channels