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3 key challenges to implementing CRM: defining sales processes

Implementing a CRM for the first time or changing from a legacy CRM to a new solution provider throws up significant challenges.  Defining your "to be" Sales Process is one of these which will require time and effort before you come close to configuring software. 

Over many years of being in sales and sales management, I have been

  1. on the receiving end of a sales process handed down like tablets of stone without consultation
  2. in a position to define sales processes, and fortunate enough to be able to work with individuals, teams and organisations prepared to invest their skills to get it right.

I hope to distill some of that experience to help you ... but before we go into any depth on the challenge of analysing, defining, mapping out and implementing a new sales process, what are the other challenges?

In our experience, the 3 key challenges to implementing CRM are .... 

  1. Defining a Sales Process that meets the business needs and capitalises on the new CRM 
  2. Detailing the change management process 
  3. Facilitating user adoption - finding ways to encourage your team to actually use a CRM and make it work for them and your business as a whole. 

All of these challenges need to be addressed regardless of the CRM solution you are considering.

Not getting them right will, at best, delay and add cost to the project. In the worst cases (and there are many*) the CRM implementation is considered a failure.

* the failure rate for CRM implementations is said to be anywhere between 18 and 69%


Defining your Sales Process 

We've consulted with many sales teams and sales leaders.

Sometimes we're called in prior to confirming a CRM solution selection, other times we're asked for help during an ongoing implementation and often companies reach out to us as a result of issues with sales performance. 

Our starting point is to pose a series of diagnostic questions to sales leaders, high performing sales people, internal sales, and marketing.

A favourite opener is "describe a day in a life of a lead which is passed to sales".  Another is "tell me about all typical the touch points from lead acceptance to contract close".    

Example: We were asked to provide some Sales and Marketing consultancy to a leading mid-market ERP vendor. The business issue was this:

  1. sales were contracting
  2. not enough leads were coming through to sales (typical complaint)
  3. sales cycles were getting longer, and
  4. 80% of the revenue was being closed by the top 20% of the sales team

Does that sound familiar?

We held 2 workshops, posing the 2 questions above plus a bunch of others - 1 workshop for marketing and 1 for sales. 

When we white-boarded the sales processes (yep, there turned out to be multiple versions) it became clear where overlaps and gaps existed.

The sales workshop proved to be pivotal in their journey to bring the teams together to implement a single sales process that was then used to configure their CRM solution.

What came out of the marketing workshop?

No surprises, we found a massive disconnect between Marketing and Sales:

  1. no communication on how a lead had progressed
  2. no feedback on lead quality
  3. and, even worse, in this particular case we discovered that the sales team had engaged a lead generation company without telling the head of marketing!

The joint feedback session was interesting, and ended up being the catalyst for a highly beneficial sales and marketing alignment initiative.

Challenging the existing sales process then mapping out a new structured sales process should involve consulting with the whole team.  In our experience this doubles up as the first step in getting the buy-in you need to make a new CRM system work and stick.

Timescales for this could be days or weeks, but we recommend factoring in plenty of reflection time, and documenting the sales process using a modeller such as Bizagi or Lucid Chart. 

Partial Sales Process Diagram

Managing change

Once the sales process has been agreed, the next task is to determine if your current CRM/Sales Automation platform is up to the job. Or is it outdated?

If a change of any kind is needed, this will bring into play the next challenge which is change management.

There will be challenges from stakeholders as to why any change is needed, some these are due diligence, questioning the process and business benefits. Some are more negative challenges.

Depending on the size and complexity of the organisation, change should be managed at all points before, during and after the implementation and on-going roll out and user adoption.  Don't leave it til you're ready to go live!

Example: Intellegentia was contracted to provide consulting services to a global organisation who had already made the decision to move away from their current CRM (in this case Pipedrive) to HubSpot.

There were a number of challenging issues to consider:

  1. a remote sales force in different time zones
  2. confusing (to the customer) intermediate touch points between sales closure and service delivery
  3. a back end project delivery solution that didn't integrate with HubSpot
  4. ...the list went on! 

The whole company was onside with the change of CRM, but the change management process needed to handled carefully to minimise disruption of the business and to ensure all the various stakeholders understood the "big picture" and interconnection and the effect of the changes between each business function.  

For this project we held workshops with all the business functions and mapped out the "to be" processes in each functional area, creating a comprehensive process blueprint for the whole business.

Standard change management processes were applied in terms of setting up a steering committee, technical and user sub groups, risk management logs and project champions for each functional area. 

The blueprint was explained and used at all levels and functions within the business to unify and consolidate the teams. 

The project was a resounding success.

Tedious tasks were automated as much as possible.  Roles, territories and lead criteria were clearly understood by all. And the average lead to closure time was significantly reduced.


Facilitating user adoption

So you've defined your processes, taken advantage of all the productivity features of your CRM, trained all users. What's next?

Next is to ensure that users actually stick to the processes in the long term.  And we all know that can be easier said than done.

Here's our top tips for ensuring user adoption (a mix of sticks and carrots always works well!):

  1. make it easy to use 
  2. give mobile access, provide user-specific dashboards, give hands on, personalised support where needed
  3. create user champions who help and encourage others in their team
    don't let misunderstandings get in the way of progress
  4. demonstrate the benefits to each user as well as the company as a whole
  5. make it each user's personal interest to follow process
    e.g. incomplete deal information jeopardises their commission!
  6. monitor user adoption through leaderboards and other reports
  7. provide a forum where users can suggest further changes
    encourage evolution as users become more familiar with the new CRM tools

Example: Intellegentia were engaged to implement HubSpot sales professional into a medium sized organisation, which involved moving from a process run on spreadsheets to HubSpot CRM. Our aim was to improve sales performance and train users to use HubSpot sales function.

A significant challenge was the complexity of their interaction with clients and the different data collected during the engagement process. It became apparent during the initial consultation and our work to map out of the "to be" processes that the users, whilst keen to move to the new CRM, would need a lot of support during the transition.

We quickly identified a project champion to take the lead in working with us and the users to articulate the current processes and define what changes were needed. 

That early, detailed engagement with the users and project champion, helped significantly with implementation, testing of the processes, cutover, and user acceptance.

Off the back of the success of that project, we were subsequently engaged to refine the processes following acquisitions and growth in the clients business.   


In Summary

The catalyst for change is varied: poor sales performance, customer confusion with multiple touch points, internal frustration caused by multiple manual or tedious tasks, new sales management etc.

Whatever the reason, improving your sales processes or implementing a major change to your CRM does not mean shutting down your sales operations. Analysis, careful thought, consultation, planning, respect for the end user and robust project management are required to make changes successful.  

Think your sales performance could be improved?

Need help implementing HubSpot CRM or improving your sales processes?

Book a meeting with me to find out more about Intellegentia's sales consultancy services.

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Topics: Sales & Marketing Alignment Sales Enablement Sales Processes