How to Change Your CRM Implementation Sequence

By Geoffrey James

When CRM implementations fail, the culprit often is a flawed implementation sequence.

Many sales groups start a CRM implementation by choosing technology based on the advice of a CRM vendor. Working with the vendor, sales management designs a process that leverages the features of that system and then hires the reps and technical staff who can use, support and maintain the system. After the system is up and running, sales management then generates a strategy that’s intended to bring the rest of the company on board with the CRM implementation. As a final step, sales management puts a measurement system in place to see what affect the implementation is having on customers. The sequence then starts again for technology upgrades.

This implementation sequence almost always ends in failure because the customer remains at the tail end of the sequence. While there always is a possibility, albeit small, that the technology-first sequence will result in something useful, the more common outcome is a system that does little to address customers’ needs.

To implement a truly productive CRM system, you should take the exact opposite approach. Starting with your understanding of the customer, formulate a strategy based on customers’ needs. Then decide what people you need to execute that strategy and put a process in place that harnesses those people to the strategy. Only then should you look for technology that can improve the productivity of the overall process. When that technology has proven itself, return to the customer to obtain inputs for additional improvements.

Over time, this cycle of putting the customer first will result in a mature and well-functioning sales environment. The goal is to develop the following.

1. A mature understanding of the customer. Know your customers, who they are, what they buy, why they buy, why they leave, how satisfied they are and how you can sell more to them.

2. A mature strategy for addressing those customers. Devise a strategy that is aligned with your own company’s mission, values and vision; one that has clear business objectives and quantifiable performance measurements.

3. A mature staff that can execute that strategy. Your employees should have a strong sense of job security, a good working environment, a high degree of job satisfaction, necessary skill sets, a clear job description and a system of rewards and measurements that are in line with the strategy.

4. A mature process the staff can use to sell. Institute a customer process that is stable and generally applicable, well defined and documented, and manageable in a way that allows technology to be introduced to create continuous improvements and optimize processes.

5. A mature system that can support all of the above. Make sure the sales, marketing, fulfillment, service and back-end systems are integrated with common interfaces so data and information can be shared with all stakeholders.

The above is based on a white paper provided to SellingPower by GCCRM, an independent CRM evaluation organization. They can be reached at