4 Got-Yas in Switching CRM Systems


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So, you’re thinking about switching your CRM system for another one.  Maybe you’ve outgrown your current CRM system.  Maybe you’re looking to lower recurring payments.  Maybe your users don’t use your current system and blame it on the software.

Whatever the reason you are considering switching, CRM switches can be a very successful boost to your company or huge flop.  Considering the following will help with the transition and hopefully tip the scale to the success side:

The most difficult CRM system to learn is the second one

Whether your users love or hate your current CRM system, switching will be a big change.  They are used to how the current CRM functions, the menu and toolbar structure, and the clicks that it takes to complete a task.  So, even if you eliminate clicks, make simple tasks easier, and eliminate clutter in the new CRM system, your users will have an expectation that it should function like your existing system.

To overcome this, don’t simply train them on the new system.  Here’s a short list of ways to augment your training with additional culture modifications:

  • Create cheat sheets on the major functions.  Walk users through what they used to do, and what they need to do now to accomplish the same task.   
  • Send out short videos on how to accomplish major tasks as reminders to follow-up on trainings.
  • Ensure your users have a chance to use the new system within hours of training by giving them an assessment that causes them to use all of the major areas of the new CRM system.
  • Hold one-on-one sessions with users as they are getting used to the new system. 

Data conversion can make or break the switch

Deciding what data to import into the new system can be an overwhelming task.  While most CRM systems have similar areas (accounts, contacts, deals, notes, etc.) they all treat them a bit differently.  Be sure to consider the following when converting CRM systems:

  • Deals/Opportunities: this is the section that varies the most among CRM systems.  If you import the deals, make sure you take the time to convert the existing opportunities to the new format, populating as many of the fields and process as possible.  
  • Notes/History:  this can be a lot of data.  Do you need to import all of the historic data, or just the last couple of years?   Some CRM systems have a running list for notes, while others treat each note as a separate database entry.  Be sure to plan properly for converting this critical data.
  • Accounts/Contacts:  you most likely have a lot of duplication in your current system.  It happens, even in the best maintained system.  Create a plan for removing the duplicates.  You probably have some bad/outdated contacts and accounts as well.  Take the time to remove this prior to importing the data into your new system.

Ultimately, anything you can do to make the data available, and eliminate re-keying of data by your users is the best.  But be sure the data you are bringing in is worthy of import.

Don’t repeat the mistakes of the past

Albert Einstein said it best, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

The first thing to do is ask yourself why you have to change CRM systems.  Did you choose your current system based on how it looked in a demo?  You may have learned that demos can be misleading.  Did you let your IT department choose your CRM for you?  While IT understands software, they may not understand your sales process and user’s needs.  

Whatever you do, don’t try to find a CRM system that will function and feel the same as your old one.  You are switching for a reason.  List those reasons; more importantly, list your CRM business needs and look for the best match.  Consider the following in the needs list:

  • Access to CRM data: how simple is it, and do your users need access when not connected to the internet?
  • Devices: will your users need a laptop, or can they use a tablet device or phone?
  • Security: what is reasonable and prudent?  Remember the more secure the access the more hoops that your users have to jump through to use it. The more hoops, the less usage.
  • Extendibility: what you are doing now will probably change.  Do you want to switch again in a few years, or find a CRM system that will grow and change with you.

CRM is your process, not an extension of it

Finally, as you move to a new CRM system, it is time to make CRM the central point of “all things customer.”  That means that you don’t jam CRM into your current processes; you remap them with CRM being the core.  Everything a user could ask about a customer should be answered by CRM:

  • Did their last order ship on time?
  • What is their average order size?
  • What product lines do they carry?
  • What is our quote to order ratio with each customer?
  • How many service issues did they have last month?


Many companies have successfully switched CRM systems.  However, when they switched they spent a lot of time on the four areas above.  They also remembered anther quote from Einstein, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  

Are you thinking about switching to a new CRM system?  Do you have concerns that you will repeat the mistakes of the past?  Let’s collaborate on what you can do differently to assure success.

Luke Russell
Luke Russell has been CRM consultant since 1998. He has personally consulted with hundreds of organizations, and has a strong success record for CRM implementation and results. During this time, he has worked with customers to achieve such lofty goals as higher quote win ratios, larger average order size, more effective follow-up, reduced cost of administration, increased customer retention, and expanded cross-sales into existing customers; to name a few. Luke is the founder of Resolv, Inc.


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