CRM success ain’t easy. Between a slew of software options and a ton of marketing mumbo jumbo, it’s easy to assume that simply purchasing a CRM will transform your company into the money making machine you always knew it could be.

CRMs can certainly help put a company on the right track, but it’s not as easy as plugging it in and cashing in on its functionality and features. Countless studies show that anywhere between 18 and 69 percent of CRM implementation fails because not enough planning and effort is put into the process. Without putting in the time and effort to choose and implement the right CRM, a company won’t see any benefits from adopting CRM software.

I interviewed five sales and marketing experts about the biggest CRM myths that they’ve encountered during client implementation, and how to avoid these pitfalls in order to get the biggest benefits out of CRM software.

Below are five common CRM myths and how to avoid falling into their trap. If you’re responsible for CRM implementation at your company, take note of the key actions in each section to ensure that your CRM implementation will be a success.

Myth: CRM is just software

Reality: CRM is a strategy that you need before you can effectively implement software

CRM isn’t just a three-lettered acronym removed from the words that contributed to its name. Customer relationship management is an integral strategy that needs to come first before you can effectively adopt software.

Gartner defines CRM as “a business strategy that optimizes revenue and profitability while promoting customer satisfaction and loyalty. CRM technologies enable strategy, and identify and manage customer relationships …”

Laurie McCabe, cofounder and partner at SMB Group, agrees.

“Most companies start out with lofty goals for how CRM will help their businesses—they want to improve sales, marketing and service, streamline processes, and make it easier for everyone to understand what’s going on with customers and prospects. But these good intentions often don’t pan out in the real world,” says McCabe.

In order for CRM software to be successfully implemented, the strategy needs to come first. This gives you a better idea of what you’ll need from a solution and how you’ll want to use it.

“You need to think about your goals for CRM from a business perspective first before you start shopping for CRM software,” says McCabe. “Figure out your goals for CRM and how you want different groups and people in your company to use it first before evaluating different solutions.”

Key actions:

  • Set goals for how you want to reach business objectives, and use your CRM as a tool to help you achieve those goals. Include things like weekly sales reports or sales rep activity summaries, which your CRM will help you identify.
  • Communicate your plan with your employees and internal stakeholders to ensure that all parties involved understand the importance of CRM adoption and implementation.

Myth: CRMs are only for sales teams

Reality: It’s just as important for sales as it is for marketing

While most CRMs are thought of within the context of sales, it’s important to get buy-in from other departments too. According to data from Capterra, 80 percent of CRM users said that their sales teams are using the software, but 50 percent of both marketing and customer service teams report using CRM software too. Collecting data in a structured way will ensure that a CRM is as useful for sales departments as it will be for customer service and marketing departments.

Joshua Feinberg, president of the Data Center Sales and Marketing Institute, says that marketing and sales alignment is especially integral for successful CRM implementation.

“Most clients don’t understand just how critical it is for there to be strong alignment between their marketing technology and marketing team, and their sales technology (CRM) and their sales team,” says Feinberg.

Feinberg recommends consulting with the marketing department to get a good overview of the buyer journey and considering things like:

  • The role of the sales team in the buyer’s journey.
  • Why it’s important for marketing and sales to collaborate early on in the buyer’s journey.
  • How closed-loop reporting is essential for linking closed-won outcomes in a CRM back to marketing campaigns in marketing automation platforms.

Having insight into the entire customer journey means having both sales and marketing teams involved, and the way that you collect data in your CRM will have an impact on how other departments can use it.

Key actions:

  • Consult with other departments to see if and how they might need to access the data in your CRM. Agree on the most important tags and filters that you’ll need so that all teams can easily find, access, and export CRM data.
  • Ensure that your CRM integrates with other software in your stack, especially where data-sharing will be helpful for informing the customer journey.

Myth: You can use a CRM ‘out of the box’

Reality: You’ll need to tailor a CRM to your needs

In the interest of appealing to the largest possible buyer demographic, many CRMs market themselves as easy to use or “out of the box,” meaning that anyone can start using the software with little to no set-up. But “out of the box” still needs setup and configuration to make full use of a CRM’s functionality and features.

As Mike Melvin, marketing manager at BAM Communications notes, “out of the box” is only valuable if it goes beyond basic integrations. While some features like connecting social media or adding a web tracking code may be a quick fix, setting up the funnel and development stage is where the real “out of the box” value lies, says Melvin.

“These processes typically come with proprietary coding in place to develop these funnels, so if a company has an extensive background with one CRM, that experience may not directly transfer well to another,” says Melvin.

“For companies to get an out of the box experience, there needs to be demo content in place for the things that matter for CRM users, not just email templates. For the client, this myth typically results in expensive training or hiring a CRM expert to assist in the implementation.”

Whether you’ll need to outsource implementation of your CRM or can do it yourself in-house, check first to see what type of configuration is offered beyond the basics.

Key actions:

  • Customize your CRM sales funnel to your sales processes in order to ensure alignment, or use it as a way to improve upon your sales process.
  • Have at least one dedicated person in your company devoted to setting up and implementing a CRM system properly.

Myth: All CRMs are the same

Reality: Not every business can (or should) use the same CRM

If all CRMs were the same, there wouldn’t be such a long list of CRM software on the market claiming to be better than the next guy. Aside from straight-up marketing lingo, there is no one-size-fits-all CRM solution for every company. Depending on company size, needed features, and price point, some CRMs are better suited for a company than others. Choosing the wrong CRM will cost time and money in switching solutions and further delay user adoption.

According to Jake Jacobs, CRM Team Leader for Frank Recruitment Group:

“Just like all CRMs are different, so too are the businesses that use them. No CRM, no matter what the sales consultant has pitched, is going to meet a business’ every need straight out of the box. Tailoring a CRM’s functionality requires careful configuration, and often custom development. It may also need to be integrated with other apps and platforms, something that will likely require specialist, program-specific knowledge to achieve.”

Whether you’ll need a specialist to implement your CRM or not, don’t try to squeeze a square peg into a round hole. You shouldn’t pick a solution because it’s popular or cheap—choose one because it has what you’ll need to make your sales process smoother.

Key actions:

  • Demo as many CRMs as you can to make sure that you’re getting a good sense of how the software works before making a purchasing decision.
  • Find a CRM that’s built for your business size but also one that can easily scale up if you need to grow your sales team quickly. Looking at pricing plans and reading user reviews that show company size will give you a better idea of how similar sized businesses are faring with the software.

Myth: It takes too much time to input data into a CRM

Reality: Automation and integration have made CRM data collection much less time-consuming

It’s not all bad news. While most of the myths here point to the effort involved in getting a CRM up and running, a majority of this work takes place during the planning and implementation phase. Once that’s complete, a CRM acts to save time and give better ROI during the sales process–in fact, a CRM can actually increase sales and productivity by 29 and 34 percent, respectively.

Says James Pollard, founder of The Advisor Coach:

“I’ve found that the biggest myth about a CRM is that it takes too much time to put the data in, or that it takes too much time away from actually ‘selling.’ This may have been true a decade ago, when people were manually entering most of their information, but it’s not true anymore.”

As Pollard notes, many CRMs have mobile apps and email sync options that automate much of the data input process, even when reaching out to a prospect for the first time. “CRMs are designed to save time and improve the sales process,” says Pollard.

Many CRMs offer automation and integration that will, for example, automatically important data from your email into your CRM, sync data from your smartphone via a mobile app or mobile website, or track interactions across multiple touch points so that manual data input is limited.

Key actions:

  • Check which type of automation options (email integration, mobile sync, etc.) are available in a CRM before you make a purchase.
  • Make use of your CRM’s mobile apps to save time with data entry and get better access to and oversight of the status of your deals.

Put in the work and see the results

Your CRM won’t start working overnight. Without taking the time to properly set up the system and tailor it to your company’s sales processes and business strategies, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

To successfully implement a CRM, you need to ask yourself:

  • What are my business strategies, and how does CRM software fit into them?
  • Which department, other than sales, might benefit from a CRM?
  • Which implementation features are in place to help me set up and tailor a CRM to my needs?
  • What types of automation and integration do I need in my CRM?

The bottom line: if you put in the work, you’ll reap the rewards of adopting a CRM.

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