Implementing your CRM… in less than 6 weeks

It’s summer over here, at least on paper. It is a quite appropriate time to travel to an exotic country, hike in the jungle or enjoy sea & sun on the beach… It’s also a fantastic moment to take a step back and to think deeper about your organization and processes. We just emphasized last month how a structured sales process is key to increasing your chances of winning.

If you’ve read it, then you must know that the angular stone of a sales process is your CRM. But not only when it comes to sales, your contacts are your main asset. The people you meet every day contribute actively to your value creation.

Let’s check out some tips on how to set up an efficient CRM from idea to implementation in less than 6 weeks, just in sync with the end of GoT.

Brace yourselves & have a great summer!

When should you think about CRM ?

You should think CRM starting from the first day of your business activity. When you create a company, you are building a community that you will have to nurture every day. It can be anyone you meet, customers, prospects, investors, partners… you see the point. Every single person taking an interest in you or your company must be part of your community and become a fan, a future ambassador.

What kind of benefits ?

Do we really need to explain why you need a CRM ? Below are some of the main benefits you could expect from a good CRM tool.

1/ Building your contact asset. As you create value with your product, one of your business values is all the people you meet. When referring to CRM, we don’t only talk about prospects but about your whole ecosystem. It is crucial to capitalize on it, to get a precise and segmented view of all interactions you had with these contacts over time. A CRM will prevent you from losing contacts and key information when your sales people move to another job.

2/ Nurturing leads. It is unusual that a prospect becomes a client right away the first time you meet him. The act of sale is often preceded by a maturing phase. In fact, a customer should be exposed to your solution a few times before understanding the value and signing. Hence, it is really important to make your CRM base mature and detect the right time to transform opportunities in business.

3/ Monitoring sales performance. A CRM will allow you to track relationships records over time and monitor efficiently sales performances. It is really important to have different levels of details like macro (management), for each business unit and for each sales people allowing you to easily monitor performance in the sales cycle, per sale, per region and per stage.

4/ Preparing for International deployment. International deployment is a strong challenge for companies. Your CRM will help you prepare it and facilitate upsell and cross sell. In fact, a sales rep should be as equipped as the one next to you wherever he is in the world.

5/ Forecasting your future revenue. It’s quite simple : no CRM, no forecast. As CEO, one of your key tasks is to forecast your revenue and cash. Your CRM will help you analyze your sales cycle, success ratios and average deal size to forecast the future based on your existing pipeline.

6/ Raising funds. No CRM, no fundraising as well. As a VC, it is quite anxiety-provoking to invest in a company that manages its sales process with an excel. It is not really scalable, quite difficult to collaborate, you couldn’t share it easily and you could lose it at any time. Not ideal for an investor.

7/ Preparing to scale. CRM is usually the first block in your back office IT system. It is a key element to structure your information system and to deploy it internationally.

Which CRMs exist ? And which one should you choose ?

Okay, there are three main options, but do you know which one to choose ? First, let’s present them. Then, we’ll explain to you how to choose between those options.

1/ The all in one approach. Salesforce is the most used and deployed CRM in the world. Usability may not be the best but the functional scope is huge. In addition, a lot of connectors will allow you to manage your sales, marketing and whatever you want. However, Salesforce is one of the most expensive CRMs on the market with a price ranging from 25€ to 150€ / user / month.
Zoho is a good challenger. Usability is significantly better than Salesforce but functionality perspectives are quite limited. It is mainly used by startups and pricing varies from 12 to 35 euros / user / month.
A lot of other integrated CRM platforms are obviously available.

2/ The best of breed approach. It is the best in its class focusing only on the commercial part and the act of sale of the CRM. Pipedrive is a very good one with a great usability. However, it is less relevant if you want to integrate your marketing campaigns. It is often used by early-stage startups.

3/ Specific development. It consists in developing your own CRM. It will necessarily match your needs. However, it is quite expensive as you need developers to build it and to maintain it accurate. It could be a heavy work. As they grow, most startups integrate the specific part of their own CRM in an existing standard one.

From the simplest to the most complicated usability : Pipedrive, Zoho and Salesforce.

Whatever the CRM you choose, the most important thing is to implement and use one on a daily basis.

How can you make the choice ?

It is not uncommon to spend a lot of time choosing your CRM tool. If you use a standard methodology with specifications, test, POC… asking yourself too many questions, you could spend more than 6 months to make your choice.
We recommend that you do not spend too much time thinking which one you should deploy. It is in fact quite easy to switch from one to another. It’s more complicated for your business to stay 6 months without a CRM. We also recommend that you do not make any specific development and choose standard tools to quickly be operational.
The longer you wait before setting up a CRM, the more the integration is tedious and expensive. Hence, you should make your choice in 2 weeks and implement it in 1 month. Exceeding that time frame things will become too complicated.

How to set up your CRM ?

1/ Step 1 — scoping phase

  1. Select an internal taskforce and define the target date for deployment. It must imply the CEO, the founders and a person dedicated to the implementation. If there is no involvement of the CEO or if it is not perceived as strategic for the company, it’s doomed.
  2. Your specifications should be written on 2 pages max : What kind of benefits do you expect from the system ? Save contacts ? Manage your sales team ? Manage your marketing campaigns ? It will impact your choice.
  3. Who are the users ? Sales reps ? Marketing ?
  4. List the key processes you want to cover at the beginning (define eventually a second phase for more complex processes). It will allow you to quickly make your first mock-up.
  5. Your 5 criterias to base your choice on like usability, cost, sustainability, integration, etc
  6. List 2 to 3 potential solutions with a quick comparative analysis : pricing & packaging, risks & opportunities evaluation and feedback from other companies using the solution you may know

At this phase, you should have selected one or very few solutions to validate.

2/ Step 2 — mock-up phase

  1. Prepare the mock-up phase defining your test scenario. Example: Create a contact => create an account => create a lead => convert it into an opportunity => close the opportunity
  2. Start the mock-up phase
    • Free trial for the selected solution 
    • Test scenario without any customization
    • Start a simple customization for your test scenario : stages in your sales process for example 
    • Build a specific report
    • Mock-up demo
    • Organize a demonstration to the taskforce. Everybody should participate to the demo to visualize the solution and anticipate pitfalls => Global choice

At this stage, you should have chosen the CRM tool that fits your needs and have spent 15 days from the beginning of the project.

3/ Step 3 — implementation phase

  1. Define precisely your data model 
    a) Contacts type : customers, prospects, partners…
    b) Customer classifications
    c) Stages of your sales process 
    d) Product or service definitions 
    The classification will allow you to do the right marketing actions at the right time. Hence, it is important to think about it upstream. It is also important to appoint an owner who is going to talk to everybody to understand needs and use cases.
  2. Prepare a contact list to inject into the system (you can use tools like excel or Dataiku). To be honest, it can take a lot of time…
  3. Identify your 2 to 3 users for the test period : marketing, sales…
  4. Identify the interactions with the other IT Systems (website, backoffice)
  5. Set up a MVP as simple and standard as possible and check the main processes (UI, main features)
  6. Inject the data
  7. Test the system with the 2 or 3 key users and adjust. When it is enabled, inject all your data and broaden your user base

Now, you’re ready to deploy!

4/ Step 4 — deployment phase

  1. Create user profiles and define precisely their own authorization. CEO should be trained and use it
  2. Integration with the other IT systems + integration tests
  3. Organize a training session to onboard all users
  4. Define an admin user who aggregates all the feedbacks, customizes and builds the first reports to make the users happy
  5. Small customizations, first reports
  6. Second training sessions to fix issues and report training
  7. Check every week who is using the system. For those who don’t really use it, interview them to understand why, adapt the CRM if necessary and try to onboard everybody

How to ensure data quality in your CRM

This is definitively the most critical point. Below are some tips to ensure data quality over time :

  • Define an admin in charge of new users, new authorizations, quotas and new reports
  • Generate reports to track inconsistencies and fix them. We recommend that you generate monthly reports to the CEO and VP Sales with sales usage and the level of documentation of the opportunities. It will allow you to anticipate any issue.
  • When you hire a sales person, mention in his description that CRM usage is part of the job
  • Onboarding and training sessions should include CRM usage. The employee handbook must explicit your operating rules and what is expected in terms of usage.
  • Opportunity not properly documented in the CRM = No commission. Merely writing it on your compensation plan should be sufficient.
  • CRM usage should be part of the annual evaluation.
  • Plan a less busy period (often during the summer) to check if your CRM is up-to-date. If not, anticipate an updating process.

Finally, seven points that make the difference

  • You must have a unique customer and prospect database for the whole company with clean data.
  • Give to your sales team its own tool. Define a dashboard per sales to help each one with his own evaluation : quota achievement, pipeline health
  • Most CRMs do not keep any log files history. That’s why we recommend that you generate a report and save your detailed pipeline the first of each month. It will allow you to keep track of your metrics and pipeline evolution over months to come.
  • Implement as soon as possible the ideal pipeline calculation per sales. We recommend that you implement a report with the number of opportunities for each phase allowing you to check if you’re in a good position.
  • Track your win and loss ratios over time by segmentation (geographic, customer type…) to identify early enough issues like a new competitor emerging or product out of its market for example.
  • Every business review should be done directly in front of the CRM system. When one of your sales talks about an opportunity, check it with him on the CRM. Hence, it is easier to target any missing data.
  • Products should be precisely defined to ease product mix analysis

We sincerely hope it will help you save a lot of time in implementing or improving your CRM !

Amélie & Sébastien

ps: If this was useful to you, don’t forget to ❤ ;)

ps 2 : If you missed it, you should also check our previous templates to structure your sales process, to become a SaaS Budgeting Killer or to prepare your next board meeting


About Serena Capital

We are a capability-driven investor, bringing operational value to our portfolio companies and to the ecosystem.

Find out more about us at

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