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How Implementing a CRM Changed Our Digital Agency

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Like most organizations, growth is good but creates pain points that made us evaluate our day-to-day processes. We saw gaps in how we collaborated and our ability to provide good customer information to the entire company. It became obvious that 1) managing by spreadsheets was no longer going to work, 2) we needed to provide the organization timely pipeline information to forecast and 3) creating a sustainable process in our growing company was essential.

We decided on HubSpot’s CRM after we researched a couple other choices. We reviewed the pros and cons and oved forward with our decision. HubSpot was a natural choice for us as it coordinated so closely to our digital and social marketing efforts. Pro tip: Think about how your business may grow in the next 2-3 years to make sure your choice is still relevant in the near future.

After we decided on the platform, we chose two champions that would own this process. I was one of the champions; I had used a variety of CRMs over the past decade. The other teammate was already using HubSpot for marketing, so he was vested in making this work. Essentially, we were the "early adopters" and committed to the challenge of bringing others alongside us.

We started by using the CRM two months ahead of everyone else. We set up the initial fields and became familiar with how it worked so we became the team's CRM “experts”. When we were organized and felt ready, we held training sessions. Being two steps ahead of the team was important so they felt confident in our ability to lead them through the process.

 So, what did we learn?

Every “game” has rules for a reason

  • We worked together to set up the details of the CRM so that the information we agreed upon would be meaningful. This is a semi-fluid process; as new information was identified, we updated our CRM to reflect the choices.
  • We decided that “if it wasn’t in the CRM, it didn't exist”. This meant unless information was entered in the CRM, we couldn’t talk about it in our meetings. This made sure that if a salesperson was excited to talk about new accounts, they needed to follow the process of adding the relevant information in the CRM.
  • Accountability had to be established for all. We accomplished this by having the CRM drive our weekly sales meetings. Our extended team was quickly able to see if information was updated (or not).

Changing the organization’s behaviors is not always easy

  • Until individuals saw a direct payoff for using the CRM, efforts were lukewarm at best. We saw that slowly, over time, colleagues learned how this could make their days more efficient. They found that the CRM was a source for answers and that it provided up-to-date information to make informed business decisions.
  • Having one place that held up-to-date information was meaningful to our leadership team, so our team was held accountable by them for updated customer information/notes. Pro tip: The CRM is only as good as the information that is inputted.
  • While we did not do it here, some sales leaders have found that providing incentives for early-adopters and best-practice uses of the CRM helpful. (A simple gift-card for lunch when you see positive changes in behaviors.) 

It takes time to get it right

  • We still define what the CRM ‘is and ‘is not’ used for in our company. For us it became important to continue to clarify that it is to track our sales pipeline and manage our customer information. It is not a place for managing projects, financial analysis, allocations, etc. 
  • We had to optimize as we went along to get the right input we needed - and this was OK. Businesses evolve and change and we found new things that were important to measure, so being flexible is helpful.
  • When teammates started to regress back to the safety of their spreadsheets, reminding them of the reason why we use the CRM and the choices we made together so that we don’t duplicate efforts.

Leading by example is important

  • If the champions are not holding to the established rules of a CRM, who will?
  • Talking positively about the new process/tool pays off. It will help folks adopt the CRM and become active contributors.
  • Onboard new employees by offering to personally train them. You'll have new advocates freshly-minted without any resistance to "the way we have always done things".

At the end of the day, your business will enjoy increased efficiencies, enhanced communication, and more transparency to the sales funnel.

This will be a cause for celebration when all of the team is onboard. The implementation takes time, patience and a process. Don't relent and go back to old ways - you might lose the battle. This is the reason why most companies aren't successful with a CRM implementation. 

The good news

We've been successful at implementing our CRM and have led CRM projects for many others so if you need help, please contact me at emily.bridson@cqlcorp.com and share your story - I'm listening.

 

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