It’s true. A customer relationship management (CRM) system empowers you to have a single source for managing client relationships. However, it does more than that.

Your CRM solution can inform the strategies and communication among each department, leading to more effective solutions and company growth.

But obtaining a CRM system that solves all your problems requires a bit of legwork on your end. And if you rush the process or don’t appropriately prepare, your CRM implementation can go awry.

What do we mean exactly? Here are some situations that won’t set your small business up for CRM success:

  • Having unclear goals
  • Not having executive buy-in and support
  • Choosing a vendor that’s not right for your needs
  • Expecting too much from your CRM system
  • Trying to implement too many features all at once

That said, the right CRM under the right circumstances can make a measurable positive difference in your company’s efficiency and effectiveness, particularly with important tasks like lead cultivating. Here are five things to keep in mind before implementing a CRM system.

1. Your Marketing and Sales Strategy

CRMs are not interchangeable, so you’ll have to learn what each can do (and what they can’t do) before you make a selection. One of the best ways to do this is to know what your marketing goals and objectives are before you begin researching systems.

When narrowing your options, go for CRM solutions that directly address the areas your goals are centered on. For example, if one of your goals is to increase productivity among your sales team, look for a CRM that integrates with your email provider. Or, if you need to build a newer, better sales pipeline, check for CRMs with a comprehensive deal pipeline your sales team can use.

What if you want more leads? Make sure you look into CRMs that include lead generation features, like online forms and landing pages.

2. The Type of Data You’ll Access

There is no substitute for taking the time to understand exactly what information you’ll gain access to with each CRM you evaluate. Naturally, you want to choose a system that is capable of handling the data you’ve already amassed and supports the things that your various spreadsheets, workflows, and software packages strive to do.

Create a side-by-side chart of data, features, and infrastructure requirements. It probably doesn’t hurt to include costs, type of setup, and technical help you can expect, too. Use that chart to cross-reference and compare CRM solutions to determine which is going to support the data you’re used to accumulating on your customers and prospects (or that you need to accumulate).

3. Develop Your Expectations

You might be surprised at how many businesses don’t take the time to think about their specific expectations after implementing a CRM solution. Maybe they think that since all their competitors use a CRM system, they need one too, but that’s not enough reasoning to ensure you’ll make the best choice.

Think long and hard about what you want to happen after your team is set up to start using your new CRM. Here are some examples to consider:

Having these benchmarks in mind before implementation will ensure that your new tool is actually offering value.

4. Your Implementation Plan and Milestones

The people who will use the CRM system need to know when it will start being deployed how they will learn to use it, and when they’ll be expected to demonstrate competency with it.

Let end-users of your proposed CRM system know when system elements will be deployed, and when previous tools, like spreadsheets or databases, will be phased out. A deployment schedule with definable milestones (“Everyone will have completed the online training course by April 30,” for example) that are clearly communicated to all stakeholders is necessary to prevent the disruption from damaging morale or getting people off on a bad start with the new system.

5. Key Metrics You’ll Track

Having defined your expectations for a CRM system and articulated your goals and objectives, you must also commit to measuring progress toward these goals and objectives once the new system is rolled out.

Consider metrics like:

  • Are more leads being pursued?
  • Does it look like this quarter’s sales figures will top last quarter’s? If so, by how much?
  • Are your email campaigns leading to higher conversions?

It’s up to you to know what you want from your CRM system and to measure KPIs that will give you a true picture of your progress and how long before you can expect a return on investment.

Using a new tool is exciting, but that excitement can fade quickly if you aren’t set up for success ahead of time. Keep these five things in mind before CRM implementation, and you’ll be sure to land on a solution that keeps you satisfied.