3 Biggest Problems Implementing a CRM System, and What to Do About Them

CRM or customer relationship management systems can be an incredibly powerful tool to grow your business. With CRM you can track sales leads, turns leads into closed sales faster, manage customer support issues and better market to your customers for follow-on sales and renewals.

And that's just a few of the things a CRM system can do. In my company we are in the process of evaluating CRM systems. We know we need help organizing sales leads and following up on sales leads. Any system would be better than what we have. Today we rely on a hodgepodge of disconnected, hard-to-find emails, chat messages and calendar reminders.

Without a system to see “end to end” sales leads, inevitably fall through the cracks. Important commitments are not followed up on. Opportunities we work hard on disappear. The sad truth is, we're not alone. CRM adoption by small businesses is low. According to industry analyst Brent Leary, a partner with CRM Essentials, CRM adoption by small businesses “definitely lags that of larger companies.” And it's not because CRM is less useful to small businesses.

Rather, there are three significant problems small businesses face when it comes to implementing a CRM system.

Problem 1: It's hard to figure out what different CRM systems do

All CRM systems are not created equal. The good news is, there are dozens of CRM systems on the market. The bad news is; they each do different things well.

Some are great at managing sales leads. Others are focused more on managing relations with existing customers. Some are focused on marketing automation, i.e., automating your follow-on marketing. Others are simple and mostly help you keep track of contacts. Some do better at helping you maximize your social media networking.

Make sure you devote enough time up front to evaluating CRM providers, with a well-organized and focused approach:

  • Focus on YOUR needs. Don't get dazzled by shiny objects. Write down your two or three primary pain points that you want to fix.
  • Organize your evaluation. Set up a spreadsheet and list each CRM you evaluate, noting your impression of how well it meets your needs. Use live chat and take advantage of demos and free trials -- most providers offer some combination of these.
  • Evaluate price. While isn't everything, in a small business it's very important. In fact, a pricey CRM system often delivers a double whammy, because it may be loaded with bells and whistles that can make it overly complex to implement in a small company.

Problem 2: The perception that CRM is too costly and too complex to use

According to analyst Leary, many small business owners perceive CRM systems to be costly and overly complex. And indeed, we've found some are complex and expensive. Those are better suited to larger enterprises.

Here's how to deal with the cost and complexity issues:

  • Analyze price as a key factor in your decision tree. Leary points out there are even a number of cloud-based systems you can use for free making it “pretty painless to start.”
  • To deal with the complexity issue, look specifically for CRM systems that mention small business on their websites. The more they focus on small business as their core market, the more likely the functionality will be in keeping with what a small business needs. And if you go for a free cloud CRM, the added advantage is that the free version may be more entry level. That means it won't be overkill when you go to implement it.

Problem 3: Not budgeting enough resources for a proper implementation

Many businesses get frustrated and give up too early in the implementation process, according to Leary. It takes work to implement any new software, as we've discovered repeatedly. Whatever amount of time and effort you think it will take, it's likely to be double or triple that once you're done. But that's not a reason for not choosing a CRM system, because the benefits far outweigh the implementation costs.

It all gets back to being prepared. “Take the time up front to understand at a detailed level what challenges you're trying to solve, and know what success is and how to measure it,” advises Leary. If you do that, you're more likely to stick with the implementation and recognize when it's starting to help your business.

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