CRM implementation made easy: a 9 step guide

To get the best out of your new CRM, you need to have an effective implementation plan in place. We walk you through the process.

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Connecting with your customers is essential for business growth and success. CRM software allows you to store, manage and gain insight into your customer behaviour and experience. But the stakes (and the costs) are high with a wealth of CRM options out there. How do you go about choosing the right one for you and integrating it into your operations with minimum disruption and maximum effect?

To help you navigate the process, from initial research to monitoring ROI, we’ve put together this step-by-step guide, as well as offering practical tips, highlighting key considerations, and flagging common pitfalls.

Why do you need a CRM?

The first thing you’ll need to do before implementing your CRM software is understand what you want it to accomplish. Begin by defining your CRM goals: identify what you want the software to achieve for your business and which teams will profit most.

Whether it’s increasing lead capture rates, ensuring lead quality, enhancing sales team efficiency, or boosting sales, clarity on objectives is key.

Here are 5 essential questions to ask yourself as you complete this step

  • What problems are you trying to solve by using a CRM software?
  • How are you managing those issues now and what isn’t working?
  • What exactly are the needs of your organisation?
  • What results do you want to achieve by implementing the CRM software?
  • What timeline do you want to abide by to see those results?

Choosing the right CRM solution

Now that you’ve identified why you need a CRM software, it’s essential to pick a provider that understands your business needs. Tailor your choice to your individual business model, carefully weighing factors like cost, features, and user-friendliness against budget constraints.

Popular CRM providers like Zendesk or Salesforce are a starting point, but delve into their integrations – does the software seamlessly connect with essential tools like Zoom, QuickBooks, Calendly, or MailChimp? Do they offer different subscription models that will make it affordable and easy to scale alongside your business? How easy is it to customise to fit your workflows?

Moreover, consider scalability, integration capabilities, and customisation options. Opt for a CRM solution that can integrate into your existing software infrastructure, ensuring a smooth transition and long-term adaptability. This foundational step ensures that your chosen CRM aligns precisely with your business needs, setting the stage for successful implementation.

If you don’t want to commit to one provider immediately, maximise the benefit of free trials to experiment with the platform’s functionality.

Licensing and budget considerations

Another important consideration in your implementation journey is what degree of access to customer data you want. This will be dictated by the type of licensing of your CRM provider, of which there are 5:

  • Public domain – least restrictive, anyone can access
  • Lesser General Public → can link to open source and code is shared
  • Permissive → partially distributed and requires specific distribution rights
  • Copyleft → can be distributed or modified under one licence
  • Proprietary → cannot be copied, modified or distributed

Most traditional CRM providers will be proprietary but you might want to consider Lesser General Public if you want to try out open source CRM. This type is budget friendly – as well as being free, it’s easily customisable.

Onboarding staff effectively

As you bring other software into your digital suite, you’ll want to make sure your team understands how it works. It’s a good idea to create a wiki or document storage solution housing CRM resources so your staff knows where to look in case they run into a customer relations SOS..

Consult your CRM provider for tailored onboarding and training programs to ease this process. You might also want to consider a phased rollout, introducing CRM usage gradually by team or territory. This staggered approach can facilitate a smoother transition, allowing staff to familiarise themselves with the system incrementally.

Migrate customer data

Your new CRM needs your existing customer data to perform and deliver you expectations. This requires migrating information from your pre-existing system whether this is another. CRM platforms or lead management tool.

Collaborate with your CRM provider, exploring their capacity for data migration from your current platform. Allocate enough time for this process, specially because it can become a tedious task if handled internally. Thoroughly ensuring the accurate transfer of customer data will lay the foundation for a seamless CRM operation, avoiding potential disruptions

Setting up custom workflows

The best CRM systems are the ones that feel like they are native to your organisation and not provided by a third party. To achieve this you’ll need to grasp your teams’ daily operations and identify repetitive processes that can be customised and integrated into your new platform.

For instance, you might want to create a custom workflow for your sales team, who have a 7-step phone call, email and meeting cadence for every potential lead. We recommend creating a collaborative forum for employees to share insights on their implementation processes, so you can easily get useful ideas on what extra custom workflow needs to be established.

Integration with existing systems

In order for your CRM implementation to be successful, your software will need to fit into your systems matrix. Have a look through the menu of integrations of each provider to understand how compatible it’ll be with your current software, specially those used by your sales and marketing teams who will be the primary users of your CRM software. We also recommend engaging with your CRM provider to address any concerns you might have about integrating your CRM system into your business.

Automation for efficiency

Thanks to automation, you’ll be able to streamline tedious repetitive processes and boost your efficiency. Make sure to collaborate with your support and sales teams to identify what needs to be automated and then consult with your CRM provider to set this up.

By strategically automating workflows, you not only reduce manual workload but also empower your teams to focus on high-value activities, enhancing overall productivity and optimising the full potential of your CRM investment.

Measuring success and ROI

Nailing down CRM success will heavily depend on how closely you monitor your performance and are adapting to ensure you maximise your ROI. It will help to proactively gather feedback from all user levels and leverage those insights to enhance your CRM system. This will ensure that your software aligns with your evolving business needs and user expectations.

Want some extra help to manage the implementation of your CRM software? Read our guide for the top project management software for small businesses.


You should now be ready to implement your CRM system! Although it might seem like a lengthy process, if you fail to prepare, you should be prepared to fail. As our 9 step guide illustrates, by actively researching and trialling CRM companies, considering communication with your staff and collaborating with your chosen provider, you should have all the tools to roll it out successfully.

That said, implementing a CRM software is not a linear process. It’s ok to pause, collect feedback and correct how the implementation process is going to maximise its benefits in the long term.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • How do you implement a successful CRM system?
    Define goals, choose a compatible CRM, migrate data meticulously, tailor workflows, integrate with existing tools, automate tasks, onboard staff effectively and constantly measure and adapt for success.
  • What are CRM tools?
    CRM tools are software solutions that streamline customer relationship management. They organise, automate, and analyse interactions with clients, enhancing businesses’ ability to understand and serve their customers effectively.
  • Is CRM easy to implement?
    It depends on how easy you make it for yourself! With clear goals, careful planning and staff involvement, it can be a straightforward process.
Written by:
Fernanda is a Mexican-born Startups Writer. Specialising in the Marketing & Finding Customers pillar, she’s always on the lookout for how startups can leverage tools, software, and insights to help solidify their brand, retain clients, and find new areas for growth. Having grown up in Mexico City and Abu Dhabi, Fernanda is passionate about how businesses can adapt to new challenges in different economic environments to grow and find creative ways to engage with new and existing customers. With a background in journalism, politics, and international relations, Fernanda has written for a multitude of online magazines about topics ranging from Latin American politics to how businesses can retain staff during a recession. She is currently strengthening her journalistic muscle by studying for a part-time multimedia journalism degree from the National Council of Training for Journalists (NCTJ).

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