How Sales Operations Can Ensure More Successful CRM Implementations

Today, we continue the focus on the topic of CRM from last week and take a look at how sales operations can ensure more successful CRM implementations.

Most sales organizations have a CRM in place or have plans for one in the near future, but are CRMs helping to improve sales productivity? According to our 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study, almost three-quarters of all respondents (73%) in our study reported that their CRM did NOT significantly improve their sales productivity. (Click to tweet) Even amongst the World-Class segment of respondents, less than two-thirds (62%) indicated their CRM improved their salespeople’s productivity.

In sales operations, the common CRM complaints we often hear from salespeople include the amount of time they spend entering data, lack of trust in CRM data, and not getting enough value from CRM. It is seen more as a “reporting tool” for sales management’s benefit than as something that helps them as sales professionals. If CRM stands for “customer relationship management,” salespeople should be able to use it to more effectively manage their relationships with both new and existing customers, but often times they aren’t seeing value in their CRM.

The reasons why can vary from one organization to the next. Regardless, as sales operations leaders, you are instrumental in helping to ensure a more successful CRM implementation, in partnership with sales managers, sales enablement and IT. (Click to tweet) Challenge yourself to look beyond the standard process and system integration planning with IT that sales operations is usually involved in.

Here are five things sales operations leaders can do to ensure a more successful CRM implementation.

#1. Define what success looks like. (Click to tweet) Now that you purchased a CRM and are putting your implementation plan together with IT, do you know what you want success to look like? Focus more on how you envision your sales organization using CRM effectively, and less on standard project success metrics such as time-to-implementation and adoption rate.

This will and should vary by sales role. Executive sales leaders might want to leverage CRM to have better line of sight into their sales forecast and opportunity pipeline. Sales managers may want to compile analysis on opportunities and activities to better coach their teams. And salespeople might want to use CRM’s mobile capability to capture key information immediately after a customer meeting, and to get better line of sight into which accounts or territories to pursue. If you aren’t clear on what success means for them, you won’t be able to clearly articulate the WHY and the what’s-in-it-for-me (WIIFM) of the CRM. This can significantly impact the adoption rate.

#2. Create CRM champions in your organization. (Click to tweet) Create a change network that includes CRM champions consisting of salespeople and sales managers. If others from marketing, customer service/success and sales finance are also planning to use CRM in one way or another, make sure to include them as well. Your CRM champions can help in a number of ways including providing feedback, becoming power users who can share best practices, and serving as role models for the rest of your organization. Make sure to work with your sales leadership to nominate and identify the sales CRM champions. And plan on hosting change network meetings with the CRM champions regularly, to keep them informed and to increase their awareness around how else they can utilize CRM.

#3. Partner with sales enablement to develop CRM training that is tied to a sales program or initiative. (Click to tweet). As an example, collaborate with sales enablement to deliver CRM training in support of a prospect prioritization initiative. The training should focus not only on how to pull reports, but also how to use the reports for more effective account prioritization for prospecting. You can also partner with sales enablement to pull together sales manager specific training on CRM reports that also includes how to coach their sales teams more effectively using the available CRM reports. Providing your sales organization with an opportunity to apply the skills they learn is a key step in helping drive adoption.

#4. Set clear expectations around when things will be available. (Click to tweet) It takes time to get to the “future state” after your initial CRM implementation. Being clear about when certain things will be available will help set the right expectations with your sales organization. For example, reports based on current data snapshots (e.g., number of sales activities, forecasts, and pipeline information) can be made available relatively quickly; but any analysis based on “historical” data may take more time. Sales will be less frustrated because they know when certain information will be available. In addition, your sales operations team can spend less time reacting to incoming requests they realistically cannot address for some time and narrow their focus to supporting the sales team better leverage CRM with what it currently can do.

#5. Communicate, communicate, and communicate. (Click to tweet) Change is expected with any new sales technology roll-out, so it’s important to communicate all types of expected changes whether good or bad. Have a plan in place to proactively address any changes that you expect might be received more negatively by your sales organization. If you expect salespeople to initially push back on having to import customer and prospect contact information into the CRM, make the import process easier for them and help them see the benefits of having this information in CRM. Get them excited about not having to spend time emailing contact information to marketing for an upcoming marketing campaign! Being upfront and communicating all of the changes they will experience, as well as provide support where needed, can help your sales organization be better prepared for what to expect.

And remember, communication starts much earlier than the implementation phase. It starts with raising awareness around why you are implementing a CRM and building support for the change with the help of your change network.


On a separate note, we’d love for you to participate in our Annual Sales Operations & Technology Study, which we recently launched. Click here to get started and help us continue to help you! Your participation will contribute to our research on sales operations and sales technology so that we can continue to share our findings and best practices through our studies and blogs.

As a thank you for your participation, you will be among the first to receive the full report before it’s available on the open market. You will also be able to download an asset immediately after completing the survey, and you’ll be invited to become a member of our research community.

Thank you!


Questions for you:

  • Is your CRM helping to improve your salespeople’s productivity? If not, why not?
  • If you could re-do your CRM implementation, what would you do differently?
  • What are some things you might ask your CRM champions to do, to make sure your sales organization is effectively using CRM and getting value out of it?
  • How might you partner with sales enablement, sales managers, and IT to make sure your CRM implementation is successful?


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