Switching CRMs: the No BS, No Headache Guide

Best Practices

Whether you run a small business, are heading up a start-up, or planning a new CRM system for a large company, your CRM is key to your success. 

If your current CRM isn’t working as well as it should, making a move isn’t easy.

Despite the compelling reasons to switch, organizations continually find themselves settling for what’s familiar. The simple truth is that switching CRMs can feel risky and costly at first glance – which means staying put feels like a safer choice than taking this leap into uncertainty. But flip that script and think about what you’re missing out on by staying.

Why switching CRM can be a good thing

If you’re looking into a new CRM, chances are you are experiencing some or all of the following issues:

Frustrated end users – It’s hard to gain value from your CRM when end users aren’t happy. Spend time to understand the concerns of your end users. Whether you stay with the status quo or try something new, end users must feel comfortable with your CRM. If they don’t, you’re fighting an uphill battle that you can’t win.

Constant data roadblocks – Getting data flowing into your CRM seemed like a monumental achievement. Keeping it up to date has proved to be even more complex. Integrations aren’t cheap to build, What’s worse is that they always seem to break at exactly the wrong moment. 

Unavailable or restricted features – It’s not a new story. Your plan level doesn’t include that particular feature. And, since the vendor doesn’t publish its pricing, you’ll get to sit through several more pitch presentations, only to learn that you can’t afford the features you need most. 

Disillusioned administrators – You demand a lot from your CRM administrators. With so many custom integration projects, data synchronization issues, and other fires to put out, delays are commonplace. Requests for updates/dashboards/reports are always backed up. All of this puts unnecessary strain on your administrators.

Stagnant product development – When was the last time your CRM vendor released an innovative feature? Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a CRM partner that actually cares about your success? One that understands your business and designs (and thoroughly tests) solutions, aimed at making your company more profitable?

Negative (or questionable) ROI – Measuring ROI from your CRM (whether negative or positive) can be a multi-faceted endeavor. Developing a cost-benefit analysis can seem daunting, which is why many in your situation take the path of less resistance and stick with the status quo. Do some digging to see if your CRM has a negative value proposition. Your finance team can help. CRMs are priced per user and it can vary; pricing can be anywhere from $12 to $300/month. You’ll need to consider the size of your business. If it’s one of your biggest bills, chances are you may be overpaying. 

Preparation and planning are key

Whether you’ve already decided to leave your CRM or are just exploring options, one thing is clear—the status quo is not working. Having invested time, money, and effort, your leadership might be wary of change, dreading the entire data migration to a new CRM and worried that it won’t be as scalable or powerful as your current CRM.

Use your data to establish the baseline value of your current CRM by looking at:

  • User Activity
  • Relationship Management
  • Milestones
  • Revenue

Once you have the baseline value, look at the costs associated with staying or switching including:

  • Current and long-term costs of maintaining your current CRM
  • Total ownership costs by vendor
  • Implementation and training costs
  • The impact of switching on revenue and productivity
  • What is any are your sunk costs

Once you evaluate all the above you’ll need to approach this like any project – getting a plan together, selecting a new CRM, running an implementation program, and staying on track. 

16 steps to switching your CRM

Unlike most software investments that are department-specific, a CRM touches nearly every aspect of your business, so there is a higher level of complexity and accountability to consider. Every company and situation is different, but the steps below are universally applicable to organizations in this situation. 

Before Switching

This is the phase where you lay the groundwork for a successful transition. 

1. Assess your current situation

Put together a plan for soliciting feedback from across the organization. You’ll probably get a mix of detailed and brief responses. For a more data-driven approach, design a brief survey that addresses the common pain points, such as disorganized information, poor client and supplier management, inefficient collaboration with team members, and difficulty managing projects. As you collect feedback and begin to analyze the data, you might notice a few common threads. Consider using the following categories to group ideas, issues, and feature requests:

  • Important features
  • Cost and licensing
  • Scalability
  • Integrations
  • Support 

2. Prepare for CRM switching costs

Monthly subscription fees – If you’re already using a cloud-based CRM, there’s a good chance that you already budget for this. On the other hand, if you’re using self-hosted software, it’s important to note that most CRMs these days are priced on a monthly or annual subscription model.

Infrastructure & device upgrades – Do you have enough bandwidth, or is your WiFi connection somewhat spotty? Is it time to upgrade your sales reps’ outdated smartphones and tablets? The best CRMs offer a variety of desktop and mobile interfaces, so you’ll want to give your team the best connectivity and mobility possible. 

Data accessibility costs – Some CRMs make it difficult to export your data. Others offer export functionality, only to output a file that requires significant modification and formatting. Check to see if your current vendor permits (or charges extra for) on-demand data exporting. 

Data import & de-dupe costs –  Some CRMs provide in-depth data migration guides and concierge onboarding services. Other software vendors provide minimal documentation or community-only support. Quality of support will definitely impact your team’s ability to make a smooth transition.

Early cancellation penalties – Does your current vendor agreement demand an early cancellation penalty? If you prepaid for a full year, can you request a partial refund? 

Training & onboarding expenses – Who should have access to what? Should you train everyone at once? Or, does it make sense to do a series of several role-based sessions? How much in-house documentation will need to be updated as a result of the switch? There are costs associated with training that you should anticipate.

Downtime risks – How confident are you that your team could guarantee minimal downtime? Do you need to bring on additional resources to ensure a seamless changeover? Each day spent between CRMs could translate into untold lost opportunities.

3. Get internal buy-in

It’s not possible to overstate the importance of getting buy-in from as many people as possible. Without buy-in the CRM switch will fail. 

Decide on who is going to be involved in the switchover process. Consider forming a cross-functional team that includes senior leaders along with mid-level and frontline users, so you have both big picture and daily user perspectives across different business lines. Make sure to include current/future CRM administrators and an IT person in your CRM needs assessment task force. It’s also helpful to have at least a couple of outside-the-box thinkers on the team. 

While you need a cross-functional team to collect feedback and execute the plan, you also need someone who will rally the troops, hold everyone accountable, and ensure successful delivery, i.e. someone who will own the project. This might be someone from your PM team, your lead IT resource, a sales leader, or a data and operations manager. When selecting a project owner, look for someone who is detail-oriented but also understands the bigger picture and is a good communicator.

The person or team who recommended the current CRM (or the current software being used as a de facto CRM) may be the toughest nut to crack. Ensure these people feel included in the discussion and that the research and effort they put into the initial decision is validated and harnessed for this new project. Perhaps some of the same issues still exist, or the issues have merely shifted. 

4. Define your needs

It’s likely that people have special requirements and needs that they couldn’t fulfill with their previous CRM. Based on steps 1 and 2 above, your team should have a clear list of these needs. It’s important to know what the new CRM will bring and it will help with internal buy-in.

This guide contains a CRM needs assessment checklist that can assist.

Having acquired an in-depth understanding of your needs, you’re in an excellent position to begin comparing vendors. Vendor selection typically starts by identifying those solutions that fit within your cohort group. If you’re a growth-oriented company with 50 or so employees, you wouldn’t want to waste your time on systems that only support a handful of users. Likewise, you probably shouldn’t consider systems designed (and priced for) Fortune 500 companies or systems that are actually ERPs (enterprise resource planning systems). 

So, how can you quickly identify CRMs that truly fit your business? Word-of-mouth referrals and online research are a good start, but SaaS (Software as a Service) vendor trust maps can be even more beneficial (see TrustRadius, G2 and similar vendors.) As you narrow your vendor list, drill down and seek comparative reports that aggregate candid feedback from actual users. What are users saying about your “must-have” features? Which vendor seems to check the most boxes?

Set up demos with the most qualified vendors, consider the budget and then have your selection team rank their choices. The top vendor will likely rise to the top for the whole group.

5. Set your success metrics

Increasing sales is an admirable goal, but is it specific enough? Probably not. Just because you have a new CRM, there’s no guarantee that it will magically impact revenue – especially if goals remain vague or unknown. Do some team brainstorming with the expressed intention of defining (or refining) top-level CRM goals. For example, is a 20% increase in cross-sell revenue feasible this year? Could your implementation team cut project-related expenses by 5% over the same time frame? Challenge your departments to consider lofty, yet attainable KPIs. A KPI should be more than just a buzzword. Establishing best practice KPIs will help your company monitor progress toward the achievement of its goals. But remember, defining a bunch of KPIs offers minimal value without transparent reporting. Your CRM should be able to help with that. Check to see if your CRM offers a library of pre-built reports and dashboards. Get to know your CRM’s reporting interface. You might be surprised by the many ways you can slice and dice the data. 

Bring these success metrics to each demo and have your sales rep talk you through how exactly this solution fits your needs.

Then, sign your contract.

6. Tell your Sales Reps to clean their data

Think of this transition as a ‘spring cleaning’ of sorts. You’ll do a global data examination in Step 8 below, but before that can occur, you’ll want to ask your reps to clean up their individual records. You may ask a sales leader to set time with each rep to do this process with them. Encourage them to get rid of dead opps, be realistic about timelines, and clear out duplicates. It will make the first few weeks of the new CRM much more efficient. 

7. Communicate on the migration date

When choosing a migration date, consider end of month/quarter/year timeframes that may make for an easier transition, but don’t draw out the process any longer than it has to go. Consider a brief period when systems may run in parallel. Also, plan a final cut off date when your old CRM will no longer be accessible. (Don’t panic about this. You can store the data in a file in perpetuity.)

Data migration

8. Clean and prepare your data

After your reps have made a pass at data clean-up for their own records (step 6 above), it’s time to act globally. A new CRM is your opportunity to start fresh and leave the junk behind. Bad data creeps in over time. Common examples of bad data include duplicate records, unused custom fields, overlapping tags, confusing dropdown menus, and various hacks/workarounds. Before switching CRMs, challenge your team to identify only those records, fields, and objects that are truly needed. You can always save the “extras” in a CSV file, in case someone needs that data later. You can easily clean your data in your new CRM, but it’s best to start with a clean slate. Taking a somewhat minimalist and deliberate approach could offer additional clarity, reduce confusion, and expedite CRM success. 

9. Export your existing CRM data

When it comes to migrating data, you’ll start with an export of your old CRM data. Your new CRM should offer a migration tool that transfers all data for all fields from all standard objects, such as calendars, tasks and events, emails and notes, leads, accounts, users and roles, contacts and opportunities. 

10. Import your data in the new CRM

Most modern CRMs will have a migration tool that imports exported CRM data into your new instance. You should not have to import the data manually or do any mapping. The migration tool does all the hard work for you so you can have a smooth transition. Great measures must be taken to preserve all existing data relationships you have in your old CRM and migrate your data over with high fidelity. If the set up is done properly, this step should be a breeze. Log in to your new instance and start to look around!

11. Set-up your integrations

Your data is in…great. You know that integrations are just as important as data. They ensure everything keeps working together without disrupting people’s current habits and tools. In your plan, you identified your integrations, so now it’s time to link your new CRM with other apps in your business. Depending on the CRM you choose, this can be a long, technical process, or it can be a ‘drag and drop’ no-code or low-code experience. However you accomplish it, you must test these integrations as part of your migration process. Common integrations to HR apps (e.g. BambooHR), communication tools (e.g. Slack), and sales tools (e.g. DocuSign) will need to be up and running immediately.

12. Verify everything and test

You cannot send people on the new CRM if you are not 100% sure everything works as intended and everything promised is there. Your project team’s individual areas of expertise should come in handy here. Each team member should be responsible for testing the CRM and integrations for their team. Then, each team member should walk through the test with another team member as a back up. This adds a layer of accountability.

13. Make the switch

If all of the above steps are followed, the actual cutover should be fairly smooth. People will start work one day and be in the new system. You may run the two systems in parallel for a while, just to ensure that the data is all migrated. 

Just After Switching CRMs

14. Onboarding and training

Every CRM is different. Although there may be some similarities between systems, your end users are bound to encounter countless differences. These differences inevitably create questions – and, if not answered, can cause confusion. Be proactive and put together a rock-solid training and onboarding plan. If you’ve picked a good vendor, you may be delighted by their robust support documentation and user community, which definitely helps.

You’ll want to subscribe to a “just in time” training philosophy where users are trained as close to the cutover date as possible. Experts say they need to get hands-on with the system just after the training to increase the rate of adoption. Plan multiple sessions and record them for those who can’t attend.

If there are specific areas or terminology where the new CRM and the old differ, it may be a good idea to have a ‘cheat sheet’ of sorts to highlight those trouble spots. 

Effective training will be a big factor in the success of your CRM implementation. Don’t skimp in this area. Those who attend training sessions are more likely to report positive experiences with the new system.

15. Pay attention to user feedback

How will you collect feedback in the first days of the implementation? This will be the most crucial time. What do they like about your CRM? Are users creating unnecessary workarounds? Collecting this type of qualitative data will supplement the quantitative data found in your CRM reports. Although there’s no one-size-fits all formula for quantifying return on investment, you can reflect on your goals and KPIs to see how you are measuring up. Circle back to your CRM goals (which you set during the needs assessment stage of the switchover) to track progress. Get specific. Consider open door office hours (in-person or virtual) to be available during the first crucial days.

16. Iterate and improve your CRM migration

No CRM is perfect. Your new CRM will evolve over time as the needs of your business and your people change. Keep your feedback loops open and make use of people’s feedback and recommendations to improve their experience. Remember that their use of the CRM will ultimately help them be more efficient in their work. Your CRM implementation team should continue to meet regularly for the first few months post-implementation to assess needs and follow-up on requests. Meeting frequency can slowly reduce over time, but quarterly check-ins should remain in place for a year at a minimum.

Measure your CRM migration success

Now the migration is done, it’s time to track and measure the KPIs and goals set before the migration. Your plan comes in handy here because you have pre-determined your success metrics. Meet as a team and look at how your implementation measured up. This will give you a quantifiable answer. In terms of qualitative answers, that may be more difficult. In reality, there is no off-the-shelf formula to determine if switching CRMs is a good idea. Rather, you must do the work, ask questions, gather data points, and synthesize the data through a lens of your organization and its needs. 

Your finance team should be able to provide a report of costs associated with the change and any forecasted expenses/savings.

Join the thousands of companies that successfully switched to Insightly

Switching CRMs is a big project – but one that’s well worth the effort. With today’s limitless options for CRM technology, “settling” on your current platform just isn’t a viable path forward. 

With the right team, migration doesn’t have to be difficult. Insightly has migrated thousands of companies from other CRMs (including Salesforce) and can help you too. The Insightly Professional Services Team is ready to assist you and wants to be part of your success. 

Ready to switch CRMs? Get in touch for a free needs assessment and personalized product demo to see if Insightly CRM is the right match for you.