Our team was stuck. We had a CRM (customer relationship management) system that was making our lives painful instead of making it easier to talk to clients and prospects. It was slowing us all down - every team from Sales & Marketing to Finance to Client Services. Nobody was happy with our tool, and everyone needed to use it for something.
As our company grew and we hired more people and got more clients and more sales leads in the pipeline, the problem only got worse. We didn’t need an expert to tell us that we had to make a change!
But, how do you successfully change a system that impacts the day-to-day operating processes of multiple departments across the company? Of course, we used a Think Plan Do rhythm to attack this massive cross-departmental project.
Here’s what we did:
- We formed a cross-departmental team with representatives from each department who would be impacted by this change.
- The team got in a think rhythm. We met weekly to discuss and document what requirements we were all looking for in a new system. For us, it was important not just to look at what our different departments currently needed, but we also wanted to think about the future of our departments. As we grow, what additional requirements would we need to have? (and want to have? and what would be nice to have?)
- Once we were clear on our objectives, we shared them with the executive team for feedback. Ready to begin with the end in mind, we began researching our options. We narrowed the search based on the requirements we came up with during our think rhythm. We did free trials and had many sales calls with different companies.
- We came across a great opportunity and began beta testing a brand new platform that had or promised to have pretty much everything we were hoping for. We put a detailed plan together to test functionality for our different internal user scenarios, come up with solutions for roadblocks like how to migrate our existing data to the new platform, and continue our rhythm of meeting weekly to share learnings and ideas.
- After testing and documenting best practices for our different teams to use the new CRM most effectively, we rolled out the training in small pieces. We started with the Sales and Marketing team since they were feeling the most pain. During the quarter that they were using it, we continued fine-tuning our processes for the other teams, and we documented all of our learnings with training this team so that we could have a smooth roll out to the rest of the company.
- Finally, after nearly a year of thinking strategically about what we needed for this system to do, planning for how we were going to implement the new system, and doing the work of training the teams and using the new system daily, we are loving our new CRM and no longer feeling pain around this important part of how we run our business.
Here are some tips based on what we learned:
- Put together the right team. Our team had a core group of three that met every single week to work on this for an hour. But, we made a point to involve the right people when we needed their expertise. Rather than assuming we knew what Finance would need in the CRM, we invited our financial controller to join us for several meetings so that we could understand her needs better. We brought in our marketing expert to help us figure out the best way for our CRM and marketing platform to work together.
- Keep lines of communication open. Recording quarterly priorities for the CRM project allowed us all to update our respective departments on our progress on a regular basis. If we had said, “We are going to get a new CRM!” and then the team didn’t hear from us for a year, there probably would have been some TDC (or Thinly Disguised Contempt) from our teams, who would be wondering, “What’s taking so long!” We were able to let them know what we were up to and get their help to adjust when we felt stuck in the process.
- Be willing to compromise. Ideally, we would have all switched to the new platform at the same time. However, working closely with representatives from the sales team helped our cross-functional CRM team to understand that this department just could not wait for the new tool. Instead of holding onto our initial plan to roll out all at once, we were able to make an important adjustment to bring the sales team on first. In the end that allowed us to move faster and provide better training to all of the other departments.
Working effectively across departments can be a challenge, but it can also be a huge opportunity. Through the course of our CRM search, we were able to uncover several of what Patrick calls “diamonds in our own backyard.” We were able to improve our process for seamlessly transitioning new clients from the sales team to the service team. We learned from each other better ways to organize our internal processes and better ways to provide a great experience to our customers. Without cross-departmental collaboration on this project, we wouldn’t have made those other important process improvements as well.
Hopefully, you can learn something from our experience. (And, in case you are curious, we settled on the Hubspot CRM.)