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The ultimate guide to CRM onboarding

CRM onboarding
What is CRM onboarding (and how long does it take)?
Why is a CRM onboarding process important?
5 key steps to onboard your teams to a new CRM
4 best practices for the most efficient onboarding
Final thoughts

CRMs are a crucial part of managing customer relationships, but they can be complicated to get up and running. To get the most out of a CRM, your team needs effective training, guidance and support.

CRM onboarding can help with this. It provides a detailed roadmap so that teams don’t feel bogged down trying to learn the tool, reducing its effectiveness and stalling productivity.

In this article, we discuss what CRM onboarding is and why it’s so important. We then explain how you can create a powerful CRM onboarding strategy with examples and best practices.

What is CRM onboarding (and how long does it take)?

CRM onboarding is the process of setting up a new customer relationship management (CRM) system. It involves configuring the system, importing user data and training employees on how to use it.

The goal of CRM onboarding is to streamline marketing and sales efforts. It does this with a smooth adoption of the CRM throughout an organization.

The duration of CRM onboarding can vary depending on a few things, including:

  • The complexity of the CRM system

  • The size of your organization

  • The amount of customer data you need to import

  • How much customization your organization needs

On average, CRM onboarding might take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks for a small to medium-sized business (SMB). For larger organizations, it might take multiple months to complete the setup when you include customized workflows and user training.

A streamlined CRM system like Pipedrive is designed to be intuitive and easy to set up. However, new users with larger teams may still benefit from a Pipedrive plan that offers onboarding support.

Get the most out of Pipedrive right from the start with our personalized onboarding and strategic services, which will help you to streamline your business processes and unlock sales success. For more information, visit our onboarding product page.

Why is a CRM onboarding process important?

Onboarding your sales, marketing and customer service teams to a new CRM can be beneficial but you also need to make sure it doesn’t take up too much time.

Ultimately, the more efficient your onboarding process, the less downtime you’ll need and the quicker your teams can get back to value-adding activities.

Here are four main benefits of a CRM onboarding process:

  • Quick adoption and reduced learning curve. The better your onboarding process, the quicker your employees will be able to understand and use the new CRM system. Adopting your new CRM quickly means employees can benefit from its capabilities, like workflow automation, sooner.

  • Increased productivity and enhanced collaboration. A well-executed onboarding plan gives employees the training and resources they need to use the CRM effectively. They can then optimize their workflows and improve collaboration across the organization.

  • Customized training for different departments. Once you have a proper CRM onboarding process in place, you can provide team training programs based on specific employee roles. For example, the sales team may need to know how to use features that the marketing team doesn’t require.

  • Reduced errors and better data quality. Effective CRM onboarding lets you provide the best practices for data entry and management. Properly trained employees can help to reduce errors and get more out of your data.

Benefits of a CRM onboarding process
  • Quick adoption and reduced learning curve

  • Increased productivity and enhanced collaboration

  • Customized training for different departments

  • Reduced errors and better data quality

Note: CRM onboarding is different from the customer onboarding process. Customer onboarding is when you help new clients get set up with your digital product. Having a customer onboarding process improves customer retention rates for your company. CRM onboarding is how you train and encourage your employees to use a new internal CRM.

Having a well-prepared onboarding process makes it easier to switch to a new CRM. To streamline the process even more, choose a CRM provider that provides extra resources and support.

Some offer personalized onboarding, knowledge bases full of product information and community support to help you get the most out of your new system.

Pipedrive Knowledge base automations screenshot

When a CRM provider gives ongoing, personalized support during the process, you can significantly cut down the time to adoption. So it’s worth researching which one suits your needs.

5 key steps to onboard your teams to a new CRM

The onboarding process requires planning and company-wide buy-in to make it work, whether this is your first time implementing a CRM system or you’re switching providers.

Here are the main steps to onboard your teams to a new CRM:

1. Analyze your needs and plan the onboarding process

Every organization has different needs and goals that they hope to address with a new CRM system. Achieving these goals takes planning and preparation. The bigger and more complex your organization, the more preparation you’ll need.

For example, a freelancer or small business with three salespeople and a couple of hundred contacts can get set up in a short amount of time.

A large company with multiple departments and tons of customer data will require a lot more preparation.

Here are some things to consider while getting ready for the transition to a new CRM:

  • Define your needs and objectives. Clearly define your organization’s objectives and what you aim to achieve when you implement the CRM. For instance, you may find it hard to track your sales process with your current system and want a new CRM to provide the tools you need to increase conversion rates.

  • Choose the best CRM for you. Your new CRM should have all the features you need for your company’s size and industry. Once you’ve narrowed down the list to a few contenders, compare things like the CRM’s customizability, ease of use and add-on products that could give your team more useful features.

  • Set a project timeline and understand the process. Read the CRM vendor’s documentation to get a good idea of the onboarding process for your new CRM. Check out any knowledge bases or support pages and contact their customer service department for advice. Next, set a deadline for when you want to be fully set up with the new CRM.

  • Create a detailed project plan. Start planning how you’ll implement your new CRM system. Think about which teams or employees will use it and how. Assess your current processes and consider how these will work in the new CRM system.

  • Engage key stakeholders. Hold a kickoff meeting with key stakeholders to discuss the project objectives, expectations and timeline. For example, you may need to coordinate an IT department and delegate tasks to department heads. Get your onboarding team involved early to make sure the onboarding process goes smoothly.

As the saying goes: Failing to plan is planning to fail. However, if you understand the process in and out, you can more easily handle any speed bumps that arise.

2. Clean up your data and prepare the relevant stakeholders

Before integrating the new CRM system, you need to ensure that your data is ready to go. You should consider contact information, sales data, marketing data and anything else you need.

All of these should be audited, cleaned and put in a standard format before migration. Doing this will help ensure that your new CRM works as smoothly as possible.

Keep in mind that for large organizations, this will take longer because of the volume of data and number of users. For this reason, there’s a bigger need for thorough auditing, cleansing and standardization.

For smaller organizations, the process can be more straightforward. However, preparation is still vital to save time, reduce stress and ensure a successful migration.

Free CRM checklist template

Procure the right CRM for your company with our checklist

Here’s what to do:

Perform a data audit

Look through your current data and take note of what’s valuable, what you need to clean or update and what you can discard.

For example, contact details and customer interaction histories are critical data that should be maintained and transferred to your new CRM.

Standardize and clean your data

Next, format your data correctly for migration according to your CRM provider’s instructions or templates.

To clean your data, remove duplicates, fix incorrect entries and update outdated information.

During this process, you should also validate email addresses, phone numbers and other contact details.

Create a backup and prepare for migration

Create a backup on a physical drive or in the cloud, as there’s always a small risk of data loss during migration.

Finally, it’s time to prepare for data migration. The migration process will happen after you’ve implemented the new CRM. It will be more successful if you’re prepared.

Work out which data fields, entries and records you need to transfer, then consider how you’ll map these between your old and new systems. Many CRM solutions have data migration tools that help you transfer data seamlessly.

Like with Pipedrive, you can import data from other systems using Import2. You can also seamlessly import data from spreadsheets.

Pipedrive import data screenshot

3. Implement the CRM software

The next step is to install the CRM platform and configure it to your organization’s needs. How you do this will depend on your chosen CRM and whether it’s cloud-based or on-premises.

Cloud-based CRMs like Pipedrive are generally quicker to set up and easier to use. You can customize them without needing to learn how to code, and they enable you to access data remotely and integrate new tools quickly.

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Install the CRM software. Cloud-based CRM systems usually have a CRM app that you can install, or they’re accessible via your web browser. It’s usually more complicated to install on-premises CRM software. You’ll likely need a dedicated IT team and support from the CRM provider to create and maintain the CRM infrastructure.

  • Set up user roles and permissions. Teams from different departments may need different access levels, sales dashboards and so on. Define user roles and assign permissions for each team member based on their responsibilities in-app.

  • Customize the CRM system. Organize the dashboard to reflect the stages of your sales cycle, then customize fields, workflows and automations based on your business processes. For instance, you could add a custom field for a lead source or set up an automated lead nurturing workflow.

  • Migrate your data. Import the cleaned and standardized data from your original system into the new CRM. If possible, use the CRM vendor’s data migration tool to ensure data integrity and privacy during the process.

  • Integrate with other business software. Add any third-party tools or integrations that you need, like financial software, sales collaboration tools or other specific apps that help unify operations across your organization.

  • Test the system before roll-out. Perform system testing to identify potential bugs and improvements. Make sure that integrations work smoothly and that all data displays correctly in the dashboard.

  • Launch your new CRM. If testing is successful, officially launch the CRM and invite your employees to use the system. Depending on the size of your organization, it might be useful to do this in stages or with a small test group before you roll it out company-wide.

Note: If this is your first time using a CRM system, this process may need to happen in smaller steps. Thorough planning should help you avoid most of the common obstacles. However, you should also expect opportunities for improvement as you move forward.

4. Provide training and encourage adoption of the new CRM

Once your new CRM is live and ready to go, it’s time to get everyone on board. Each team member will need to know how to use the CRM software to its maximum potential, so you’ll need to provide detailed training and encourage familiarization with the new system.

Organize key stakeholders

First, organize the department heads who will play critical roles during adoption. You should have identified these in the planning stage and they should be ready to assist in the training process.

Conduct training sessions

Next, train your teams and show them how to use the new system most effectively. Provide hands-on workshops on CRM applications, data entry, reporting and customizable features that are relevant to each team.

For example, you could organize a sales team workshop focusing on lead management and opportunity tracking or a marketing team workshop covering email campaign management and segmentation.

Develop more training material as you go

It’s a good idea to create training materials as you implement the new CRM. These might include documentation, guides and tutorials that explain how to use different features of the CRM according to how you set it up. Incorporate screenshots, videos and step-by-step instructions where appropriate.

When you hire new employees, they can refer to these materials to streamline their onboarding process.

Note: Most CRM vendors provide extensive training materials and documentation on their websites. At Pipedrive, we have Pipedrive Learn, an online academy with webinars, courses and walkthroughs that help Pipedrive users get the most out of the platform. We also have an extensive knowledge base full of learning material for new users.

5. Track CRM usage and continually improve your processes

Monitoring CRM adoption during and after onboarding is crucial. Tracking how your employees use the system allows you to assess its effectiveness and overcome potential roadblocks.

Here’s how to keep track of user adoption and boost efficiency:

  • Set key performance indicators (KPIs). Choose metrics that help you determine the success of your CRM. Your CRM should have built-in analytics that can help you track daily active users, feature usage and more. If you notice areas of low adoption, find out why and offer additional training and resources.

  • Monitor data entry and quality. One of the risks of a new CRM tool is teams entering data incorrectly and negatively affecting your sales pipelines. Make sure employees enter data correctly (and consistently). If this doesn’t happen, it indicates a lack of understanding or engagement that you need to address.

  • Provide ongoing support and training. Set up a point of contact or CRM support team so that users can ask questions, solve problems and offer feedback related to the CRM system.

  • Gather feedback. Encourage employees to provide feedback on their experience with the new CRM system. Use this feedback to make adjustments, address concerns and continuously improve the CRM onboarding process.

  • Track business impact. Keep track of how your new CRM impacts your business goals. Like if you note an increase in key metrics (such as conversions or response times), it might indicate your new system is successful. The information you collect will help you measure how much value your CRM brings to the organization.

Following these steps will ensure your onboarding process is successful and drive improved productivity and a better customer experience.

4 best practices for the most efficient onboarding

Onboarding to a new CRM can be a complex process and not everything will go to plan. Your new CRM will take a while to get used to. You might uncover obstacles and require new approaches to perform key sales activities.

Here are the best practices to ensure an efficient and successful CRM onboarding process:

1. Establish clear communication channels

Clear communication channels are essential during the CRM onboarding process. It will:

  • Make sure everyone is informed, knows where to go for information and can receive important notifications in real time

  • Help train staff, letting users get access to materials, schedules and updates during the process

  • Enable timely solutions to problems, requests and feedback

It’s a good idea to designate a project lead or manager that acts as the main point of communication during the onboarding process. They’ll be responsible for delegating tasks, handing out materials and addressing concerns.

Depending on the size of your organization, you might want to use efficient communication tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams.

Integrating these into your CRM means you have the chance to provide regular progress updates and help manage user expectations.

Note: It’s also important to establish a clear communication channel with your CRM provider. If possible, have them assign you a dedicated onboarding officer who can provide personalized customer support when you need it.

2. Document the onboarding process

Documenting the CRM implementation process involves recording, in detail, what steps you and your team took and why.

Your documentation can serve as training material – like a roadmap – that helps provide a more consistent onboarding experience. It also lets you see who did what and when.

If problems occur, you can see who’s accountable and find out how to fix the issue.

To ensure effective documentation:

  • Break down each process into individual steps with clear, descriptive language. Where possible, add visual aids like screenshots to explain critical steps and problem areas.

  • Where necessary, explain why employees need to take certain steps or use certain settings to give them a better understanding of the decision-making rationale

  • Store the document in a shared location and make sure all team members can easily find it

  • Keep the document up-to-date as you change protocols over time

3. Adjust your approach if needed

Refining your onboarding process and making it more user-friendly means you can maximize the value you get from your CRM.

It doesn’t matter how well you plan, something unexpected will always pop up, which might not be a bad thing.

You could discover an unknown feature in your new CRM system that lets you perform a task more efficiently. In this case, it’s crucial to adjust your plan to incorporate that feature and get the most out of your platform.

Likewise, it will become clear with time which parts of the onboarding process work and which need improvement.

Set aside time at regular intervals (maybe once a quarter) to review the onboarding process and make adjustments as needed. Also consider assessing and integrating employee feedback at this point.

Think of onboarding as an evolving process. The ultimate aim is to reduce friction, improve the user experience and optimize the CRM system’s value for your company.

4. Establish a data quality policy

Your CRM is only as useful as the data it contains. If you add inaccurate or outdated data, you’ll limit how effective the system will be. Having a robust data quality policy ensures that information remains accurate, complete and functional.

The goal of a data quality policy is to establish guidelines and best practices for data entry. It might include:

  • Standardizing formats for certain types of data, like MM/DD/YYYY for dates

  • Setting up mandatory and optional fields or naming conventions to keep data consistent

  • Choosing a data quality steward to maintain accountability over CRM data

  • Setting a regular time to review and clean up CRM data to ensure it stays effective

  • Providing training specific to data entry so users know why data quality is important

Note: Depending on your industry, you may need to maintain a certain quality of data by law (e.g., GDPR). In this case, a strict data quality policy is essential as it will help keep you compliant with key regulations. You may need to seek additional information from the regulatory body to know what to include in your policy.

Final thoughts

Adapting to a new CRM is an exciting process that can result in greater productivity, better customer relationships and ongoing company growth.

To get it right, you should prepare an effective onboarding plan, implement the new CRM and continually improve your processes as you get to know the new platform.

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