The COACT Guide to Choosing and Implementing the Most Successful CRM for Your Company

The COACT Guide to Choosing and Implementing the Most Successful CRM for Your Company

“In order to be profitable, an organization must have a CRM.”

In some ways, I feel like this is a belief held by many companies, regardless of their industries.  In order to be relevant, successful, and have the best data, you have to have a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, we’re told.  If not, well, don’t be surprised if your sales, marketing, and customer service efforts fall short.

But I don’t think it’s as cut and dry as that.

In my experience using CRMs throughout the years, I’ve found that having a system does not magically mean that all your data is well-organized and used effectively.

In fact, a lot of time, a lot of information is missing.

Or small data entry mistakes can lead to duplicate accounts and thus duplicate efforts, which, in turn, negates the philosophy behind a CRM in the first place.

At COACT, I am happy to say that we have a great CRM with fantastic add-on programs that allow us to do what we do best for 50+ clients from many different industries.

But a CRM is just a tool. And simply having a tool does not lead to success. Nor does simply using a tool. You need to have the right tool, the right plan, the right people, and the right training to use it.

So how do you go about choosing and implementing the best CRM for your company?

1) Before you begin the CRM evaluation process, explore the reasons why you need a CRM in the first place. 

Do you need better data tracking and pipeline forecasts? Do you want to use your CRM to maintain institutional knowledge, coordinate across departments, and have effective marketing and sales automation, as Ian Altman advises in Forbes?

This will help you to figure out if investing in a CRM is the best decision for your organization and if so, what functionality, data, and capabilities you will want in your system.

2) Look for a CRM that allows customization and have the team in place to customize it. 

A great CRM is flexible and can be customized to meet the specific needs of your company.  Consult with either your own IT department or an outside IT company when you are looking for the right CRM and then subsequently work with them to customize your new CRM to your business operations.

3) When you are evaluating CRMs, challenge the CRM companies on what product you actually need. 

CRMs are not cheap.  As you start talking to different CRM companies, you may find that sales reps will try to upsell you on a certain CRM package that’s more extensive—and thus more expensive—than another.

Say you’re originally looking for the basic package.   Don’t be surprised if the sales rep tries to convince you to get a more premium or advanced edition instead.  That’s their job, after all.

But bigger doesn’t necessarily need better.  It’s possible that you won’t need that more advanced edition after all and can customize the simpler CRM package to your business needs.

That’s why it’s crucial to have an educated IT person or IT team involved in the buying process of a CRM.

3) Have a thorough plan in place before you implement your CRM—and afterward.  Meanwhile, involve both operations or executive leaders.

At COACT, our CRM is our data hub.  We use it not only for our own sales processes, but for our clients’ information as well.  When we explored different CRMs, we had a thorough plan in place with input from both an IT perspective and an executive perspective.  That way, our organization’s philosophy and processes were aligned with the CRM functionality.

COACT Director of Operations Jennifer Nietz owns the operational process of our CRM.  She is the direct manager of how it is built, the content it holds, and its overall quality.  At the same time, Austin Taylor, our manager of information systems, is our go-to person for CRM customization and troubleshooting.

While it may not be the same for your company, having someone who understands your business and having someone who understands your CRM—whether an internal employee or an outsourced IT company/consultant—working together will lead to a successful CRM.

4) When you are implementing the CRM, have an in-depth training process. 

One way that many companies fail is that when they install a CRM, they don’t adequately train their employees on how to use it.   If you don’t have effective training, it’s very possible that your employees may not use it correctly—let alone use it at all.  Then your CRM can become ineffective.

Therefore, when you are implementing the CRM, provide training that is as thorough as possible.  But don’t just provide the training; explain the philosophy behind it.  Adjusting to new technology and new ways of doing things is not always easy.  People may resist it at first.  But if they understand that the CRM is there to make their lives better and are shown that, they’ll be more likely to want to use it.

5) After the CRM is implemented, execute periodic reviews and make sure that your employees have what they need to be successful.  Afterwards, make changes and customize it as necessary.

After we implemented the first iteration of our CRM at COACT, we quickly identified that certain parts of the CRM slowed things down.  There were redundant tasks, steps, and pain points that were discovered that we modified to make things run smoother.  Your CRM might be great from the get-go, but there may also be room for improvement.

After you install your CRM and get it up and running, make sure that you evaluate its efficacy.  Talk to your team; are they having any issues with it?  Make sure they feel that their participation is valuable.

Also, have someone you can always go to with questions or issues about your CRM.  This way, small glitches or errors won’t hinder your team’s activity.

6) Explore mobility—especially if you have an outside sales or marketing team.

If your employees are on the road, make sure that they can access the CRM where they are, whether on their phone, tablet, or laptop.  Many CRMs have created mobile apps now so that people can access their data and capture it in real-time.

Where we see a lot of sales departments have issues is when they have to wait to log all of their activities when they are back in the office because they don’t have easy mobile access to their CRM.  A lot of information can be missed in the meantime.

7) Have a process in place to ensure that people actually use your CRM.

Okay, so now you have your CRM installed.  Your employees have been trained.  And as time goes by, you discover that your customer service team or sales reps aren’t using it.  Maybe they’re putting some information in your system, but not all of it, and they’re still using Excel spreadsheets like they did before.

What happened here?

Often, employees won’t be convinced to start using the new CRM as their primary data hub unless they:

  • Know why it’s important
  • Know that it’s mandatory from now on

Make it a company policy that all relevant departments and parties need to enter certain data into your CRM.

At COACT, for example, our CRM is tied directly to our sales process and our performance.  Unless we log something in our CRM, it’s as if we didn’t do it in the first place.  We’re a metrics-driven company.  We track everything we do.  And where we do it is in our CRM.

So, for our sales team, not using our CRM is not even a possibility.

8) Look into outside tools and programs that can be integrated directly into your CRM.

When I first started at COACT two years ago, in addition to our CRM, we used email marketing software, an outside phone system, an analytics program, and a marketing automation program that were not integrated into our CRM at all.

We had a lot of the same functionality, but we experienced periodic disconnects and a lack of comprehensive analytics that were needed for full success.

We then explored tools which were partially integrated into our CRM but found the most success with tools that can be fully integrated into our CRM.  We now have an automated email system, an automatic phone dialer system, a sales rep automation system, and a marketing automation platform tied directly into our CRM.

All of our tools are right there, easy and accessible.

The result?  More comprehensive, real-time analytics, less superfluous tasks and wasted time, and better data.

*Note: This article was originally published in October 2016 and has been updated and revised for relevance.  

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