Mistakes to Avoid While Deploying CRM

Recently, Small Biz in :15 on Location traveled to Austin, Texas for Zoho Day 2022 to talk with Gopal Sripada, Zoho’s Head of Marketing for Zoho CRM.

The topic of this conversation is one that is common to any business looking to implement a tool to optimize their operations: what to avoid when deploying said technology, which in this case is customer relationship management (CRM). And according to Gopal, “CRM deployment could become a nightmare if you’re not planning your requirements very well.”

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Check out the full interview with Gopal Sripada above on YouTube or listen on SoundCloud using the player at the bottom of the page.

Challenges of Deploying CRM

Gopal started out by explaining the challenges of deploying a CRM solution for a business: “CRM deployment could become a nightmare if you’re not planning your requirements very well. One of the most important things before even deploying CRM is to talk to your stakeholders: sales, marketing, customer support, then CTO and CIO—if it is a mid-range company. Then gather all those requirements and try to model them. Most companies purchase CRM and then start to reverse engineer it. Rather, it should be a bottom-up approach.”



The Three Stop-Process to Succesful Deployment

According to Gopal, most companies operate in a hurry mode. They obtain a license, then start hiring consultants, and then aim for feasibility. However, Gopal says there is a better way:

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1. It’s always better to gather your requirements in advance, document them well, then select vendors, and then work toward implementation. If you avoid the mistake of hurrying too much in the beginning, the rest of the CRM implementation will be much easier.

2. Once the CRM is rolled out, there will be issues. Gopal recommends that companies try their implementation in a sandbox environment, rather than deploying the features in an actual, real-life environment first. If everyone is happy with that, the next step is to roll it out to the entire company.

3. Periodically, sales and marketing come up with new strategies, territories, and other implementations. Be ready to prune your CRM system as well as divide your sales system into different territories. Utilizing your territory management and sales performance management functions, as well as documenting every piece of change that you make in your workflow automation or business process management, will keep everyone updated and ensure that things are not losing context.

“If these three things are addressed properly, you’ll reap a lot more benefits from your CRM implementation and in less time,” Gopal says.

Shawn: Let’s talk about smaller businesses with, as you were saying, all the different stakeholders—let’s even say businesses with fewer stakeholders—who have no experience with the software at all. What are the major pitfalls that they can hit when they’re first starting to dip their toe in the water of selecting this kind of technology and using it?

Gopal: Mid-markets have one kind of mindset and their needs are different. But startups and small businesses need to start something out of the box; they need some set of standard functionalities that are available without heavy customization or without heavy workflow automation configurations. Low-code, no-code, pro-code.

I would recommend that small businesses go with vanilla products that are out of the box, that have connectors available. If they do that, they will start unpacking the system as quickly as they can and start growing, as the CRM system implementation also will grow as their business grows.

So instead of going for a CRM solution with complex workflow automation and business process management system, they could go for a smaller variation of CRM like Bigin, which Zoho offers. So Bigin would be the ideal software for smaller businesses. They need not actually do a lot of customization; they just need to do a lot of workflow automation configurations. They can roll it out in 24 hours. They can actually see the difference day in, day out. And as they grow, they can definitely upgrade to bigger CRM platforms.

Shawn: So let’s talk about that a little more. Let’s talk about Bigin in particular. That’s a simpler application for businesses who don’t know what they’re doing yet with CRM. Let’s back up and say that we’re talking about something that’s kind of product agnostic. So at the moment, not just Bigin.

I’m just starting out and I have no idea what tool to choose. I know what CRMs are. I know that they’re supposed to help me automate customer relations, but I have no idea what to choose. Do I choose an email marketing thing that also has CRM qualities? Do I choose a full-blown technology? What do I really need? Let’s say I have an eCommerce business or a service business.

Gopal: Small businesses can’t afford to hire consultants and deploy more third-party stuff. Rather, they can go for syndicated content. There are blogs there that they can read to understand some set of processes that they can then follow. And there are so many third-party review sites. They can pick a couple of tools from the list, like marketing, sales, and support.

So rather than waiting or spending a lot of money or time on choosing the right component or right tool, they can actually try any tool just within 24 hours or within a week. They can read a lot of great content available on small, business-focused websites.

Those sites actually give a lot of information to small business startup entrepreneurs to kick start their CRM implementations. That is where our small business analysts produce a lot of great content. Three blog articles can provide more information to startup owners or entrepreneurs to start deployment than approaching consultants.

For example, you have a one-person company. Instead of questioning a product’s credibility, just go and try it out. Most of the products today offer freemium models.

Freemium is a boon for small businesses. They can choose a freemium plan and then unpack and try a couple of things. If it’s good, use it. If not, try another freemium package, rather than making a long commitment. So just buy ten seats, 100 seats, and buy a monthly subscription model, rather than committing to an annual subscription. If you like it in three months, down the line you can add more seats. That is the flexibility
that the subscription economy gives to small business owners.

There is a concept called fail fast. If you’re going to fail, do it faster, rather than waiting for 18 months, only to realize it’s not working.

Small Biz Tip in 15 Seconds or Less

Whether it is CRM or another tool you’re looking to implement in your small business, here are two tips you should consider to get you on the right path:

  • Avoid purchasing software without talking with your people first.
  • Make sure the software you purchase meets their needs, or your efforts may be in vain.

Thanks again to Gopal Sripada. If you enjoyed the conversation please leave a comment and let us know what topics you’d like to see covered in future programs. For more small business news and tips, join us@smallbiztrends.com.

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Michael Guta Michael Guta is the Assistant Editor at Small Business Trends and currently manages its East African editorial team. Michael brings with him many years of content experience in the digital ecosystem covering a wide range of industries. He holds a B.S. in Information Communication Technology, with an emphasis in Technology Management.

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