Ken Cross is SPI’s Director of Sales Enablement, focusing on advancing sales technology and process automation. Ken is a frequent contributor to this blog and to industry publications and forums. This blog was orginally published on the SPI web site here.

KenCrossCRM systems have come a long way since the early, nightmarish days when project failure rates were between 50 and 80 percent. According to a recent study by Capterra, now over 70 percent of users of CRM systems are satisfied with their software.

However, organizations still face some significant challenges to get implementation right. Some of the most common reasons for failure include:

  • The CRM system is not aligned with how your business runs
    You have a sales process and nomenclature that is tailored to your business, but your CRM system uses a different process and language. This causes confusion, frustration, and workarounds.
  • The CRM system is cumbersome to useCRM companies have greatly improved usability, but there are always opportunities to improve. Some concerns can be handled through user training, but some are more difficult to fix.
  • Leadership and sales management haven’t embraced the system
    If your leadership doesn’t see value in the CRM, neither will your salespeople and sales managers and therefore, won’t use the system.


  1. Determine alignment with company goals
    If your CRM is not supporting the business objectives of your company, your first task is to determine how to regain or achieve alignment.  CRM can be modified in ways to drive behavior that aligns with your organizational strategies, whether that is increasing market share, maximizing certain types of revenue, raising profitability, or similar goals. Download this CRM Alignment Checklist to determine how susceptible your current system is to business misalignment.
  2. Survey your stakeholders
    If your CRM initiative isn’t getting sufficient traction with your sales team, figure out why. Start by asking a sample of salespeople, sales managers, and sales leaders what they like about the system and what they would like to see improved. Also, ask open-ended questions about the value they see in CRM (if any), and to describe any benefits they’ve received from the system. Leverage insight from your interviews to develop a survey that can be distributed to a wider user group, so you can then prioritize changes to improve adoption and value.
  3. Synthesize your findings and prioritize your recommendations 
    Based on the stakeholder survey, prioritize the improvement opportunities that are most critical for getting the CRM system back on track. Categorize each opportunity as a either a design, functionality, feature, training, integration, or other issue. Also, figure out the potential fix and associated costs and efforts. Then, synthesize the value and benefits that people are realizing from the system so far.At this point, you should be able to determine if your current CRM system can be saved or if you should start over. Use the insight from your survey to make an objective decision.
  4. Regain leadership and management commitment
    Present your findings and recommendations to your leadership team. Revisit the objectives that they set when they originally implemented the system, and make sure that they are still valid. Then, ask for the resources you need in order to ensure a successful initiative. If you don’t get the commitment you need, inform them of the risks of complete failure and ask again – without leadership commitment, the project is doomed.
  5. Get some quick wins, communicate success, and follow through
    Once you have commitment and resources to move forward, don’t feel like you need to make a big announcement and draw a lot of attention to you and the initiative.  Document your plan and start executing. Develop a regular communication cadence to announce new improvements and wins – both big and small. When possible, use quotes and data from your survey to demonstrate that you listened and acted on stakeholder input. Develop a regular training cadence as well, recording and archiving sessions when possible. Finally, hold your leadership team accountable for their commitments.

Recognizing and rescuing a failing CRM implementation takes a lot of will, some finesse, and maybe even a bit of pain. However, it isn’t nearly as painful as blowing up an entire CRM initiative and either starting over or shelving it entirely.

If you need assistance making your CRM more relevant to your business, the IES can help.  Start by downloading this handy CRM Alignment Checklist to validate how well your system supports your sales team and your business. Then contact the IES for more information.