The CRM strategy guide: Challenges and tips for cross-functional teams

Up to 70% of all customer relationship management (CRM) projects fail.

While every organization is different, many firms report the same reasons for failure: misalignment, unclear goals, and low user adoption. Still, a CRM isn’t optional. In today’s business environment, you need the best CRM to deliver the best results.

So how can your organization ensure that it’s one of the 30% whose CRM implementation succeeds?

For this article, we interviewed dozens of clients about their CRM strategies. We also asked them how they got firm stakeholders on board with related organizational changes, and how they’re getting the most out of their CRM software. They all focused on one thing: strategy.

Here, we share their best tips and tricks for developing a successful CRM strategy.

What’s in a CRM strategy — and why do you need one?

A CRM strategy builds success into the adoption process from the ground up, addressing potential failure points before the project has begun. If you develop or engage in a strategy too late, you may find that you selected the wrong customer relationship management suite altogether — and that you don’t have the features or functionality your firm needs to analyze your client data or improve the employee or client experience.

For most organizations today, a CRM is central to optimal business processes. Although any CRM change can lead to disruption, the ability of a CRM to fuel long-term success outweighs any short-term inconvenience.

3 reasons CRM projects fail

When CRM projects fail, it’s usually because of a lack of communication, which often leads to a host of other problems with alignment, goal setting, and user adoption.

Lack of consensus

CRMs are complex. C-suite decision-makers and on-the-ground users may differ in what they think is important in a CRM. They may even agree on the CRM package but disagree on the overall infrastructure, such as whether to set up CRM integrations and data wells. This is especially true when working in cross-functional teams, as each member may use the CRM differently.

Lack of clear goals

Users may know that they need a new CRM, but not exactly what they need from a CRM. CRM technology has changed so dramatically over the last decade that some may not even know what’s currently possible. When it comes to dealmaking, “any CRM system” won’t cut it; you need a CRM solution that will support your forecasting, KPIs, sales funnel, and sales pipeline.

Lack of user adoption

Decision-makers may choose a CRM without building a clear use case for those who will be in the platform day to day. Users who don’t see the value of a new CRM may be reluctant to adopt it. There are always hurdles to clear when implementing new technology, but without a value proposition, no one will bother to clear them.

These potential roadblocks can — and should be — addressed during the initial planning phase, not after a CRM has been selected or adopted. A comprehensive CRM strategy will build consensus, establish clear goals, and get buy-in before the transition occurs.

Tips for a successful CRM strategy

A successful cross-functional CRM strategy requires information gathering and socialization. The more you engage with your team, the more successful your strategy will likely be.

1. Gather input from all camps

Review the existing processes of the team. Challenge the team to think — not just about obvious use cases for a CRM, but about other tedious tasks that slow them down or frustrate them. Create SMART goals and establish the metrics you’ll need to assess whether you’ve selected the right CRM and whether the project has been a success. And be sure to speak with non-deal team members — such as compliance managers, consultants, accountants, and lawyers — since some external processes can also likely be automated or made more efficient using a CRM.

2. Make initiation a top-down priority

A CRM will impact everyone, so involve all stakeholders from the start. Even the most senior members of the team should be brought into the rollout plan for the CRM. Even the slightest hesitation or lack of enthusiasm can disappoint the whole team. Members of the firm leadership — including principals and partners — should be present for the planning and roll-out meetings alongside the junior staff.

3. Highlight your quick wins 

In the early days of your rollout (even in the first week or two), find a “win” to point to. Has your organization been able to streamline customer touchpoints? Do you have a better picture of the customer journey, interactions, or loyalty? Or are users simply finding it easier to navigate the system? Take the time to celebrate these wins. It will go a long way toward generating enthusiasm and trust.

4. Do what works

If there’s a group or team that’s finding “wins” regularly, look into how that group or team is making a difference in their day-to-day business development activities. Once you’ve discovered the reason for their success, share their process or approach with others who are struggling with or skeptical of the CRM.

5. Keep tabs on users and sessions

Inevitably, there will be a group of enthusiastic adopters at your firm who will become “power users” of the CRM. These are your advocates. But there will also be laggards. To identify the latter for additional onboarding support, managers of the CRM tool can pull lists that show which users have logged in, how frequently they’ve used the tool, and what contacts, emails, or notes they’ve added. If someone is still using old templates, Excel sheets for sales forecasting, or manually initiating follow-ups, you need to know why.

6. Identify barriers to adoption

During the first several months of implementation and onboarding, document any gaps between the team’s expectations of the system and reality. It’s likely that the system can be tweaked to address these concerns, or that third-party data can be leveraged to bridge the gap. An effective CRM strategy is frequently a holistic one that involves some level of integration to meet business goals.

7. Ask for help

If the implementation of your CRM system feels overwhelming and complex, you may need the help of a partner, such as your CRM vendor. A CRM is such a critical tool to your firm’s success, and it determines so much about your dealmaking — including how easy it is to access and track client information, and how well you can analyze your prospects. Don’t struggle through it or leave it up to chance.

How Intapp helps you fill the gaps

Thousands of firms have migrated to Intapp DealCloud because of the way it adapts to meet the complexities of modern dealmaking and business development teams of all shapes and sizes.

DealCloud’s more-than-CRM platform:

  • Consolidates: Manage all your dealmaking information in a single system to increase visibility
  • Integrates: Connect your CRM with all the third-party data and collaboration suites you need to identify potential prospects and analyze deals
  • Automates: Use automation to streamline routine tasks, such as data entry
  • Tracks: Review your team’s dealmaking pipelines and deal portfolios at a glance; get the information you need to create faster, more efficient pipelines
  • Builds relationships: Foster better relationships with your customers through relationship scoring and automated alerts driven by real-time data

At Intapp we understand how daunting a new technology system can be — that’s why we have support teams to guide you through the entire process. From tailoring the platform to your firm’s requirements to migrating your data and going live with your new system, our teams assist you during every step of implementation, leveraging their deep expertise and experience to successfully onboard your firm.

Don’t go it alone — explore an Intapp DealCloud demo today.