“We have one more shot”

7 reasons why CRM implementations fail and how to make yours a success


Published on: March 2024

Written by: Rene Groeneveld

Over the past year I have interviewed 100 leaders in sales, marketing, and customer success from across the globe in various industries about their greatest challenges. Among those, CRM and data-driven decisions consistently ranked at the top. 

Most interviews confirmed my own observations working with industry-leading clients: CRM implementations don’t fail because of technical challenges, they fail because of human challenges. Too often, organizations over rotate on technology and do not focus enough on adoption. CRM users are the critical – yet often overlooked – component of the initiative’s success or failure.  

For example, the Chief Commercial Officer of one life sciences organization shared: “We have one more shot.” After two failed CRM system implementations due to poor adoption by the organization’s people, yet another would impede any possibility of embracing a more data-driven approach to their sales and marketing efforts. As a result, not only would the organization fall behind the competition, it would also fail to realize significant growth potential given the anticipated gains in sales productivity and customer engagement driven by AI. 

While CRM implementation is costly and time consuming, its success is mission critical for organizations to get and stay ahead of the competition. So how do ensure your implementation is a success? Here are the top seven people-related reasons CRM implementations fail and how to avoid them: 

1. Problem 

Lack of buy-in and insufficient planning: Without strong buy-in and support from senior executives, the new CRM system will be met with resistance and low adoption rates. Furthermore, failure to adequately plan for implementation – the timeline, costs, resources, and communication – can quickly drain what little support you have and lead to costly delays, budget overruns, confusion, and frustration.


A well-defined plan and purpose: Do not implement a new system just because your competitors are doing so. Be strategic – are you looking to improve customer satisfaction, increase sales, enhance marketing efforts, or streamline internal processes? Having clear objectives will help you align the implementation with your organizational goals and gain critical executive buy-in. In addition, the “why” behind CRM implementation must be clearly communicated throughout the organization. The standard approach – a mandate that “you must use the CRM” – won’t work unless everyone understands the benefits for themselves, their team, and the company. 

2. Problem 

Insufficient change management: Reluctance to adopt new ways of working is a common obstacle to any change initiative and CRM implementations are no exception. This is particularly true when people have misconceptions about AI and compounding fears of becoming obsolete. Neglect to address change management and even the best system will fail.


Focus on shifting mindsets: Involve sales, marketing, and customer service leaders in the change early on to increase engagement. Authorship is ownership. Enlist these leaders as role models in using the system and encourage them to help their teams see the benefits of the new process. Successful implementation relies on shifting mindsets and adopting a more client-centric, data-driven, results-oriented, targeted approach to sales, marketing, and customer service.  

3. Problem 

Inadequate training: New CRM systems require significant changes for your client development team in both process and behavior. Without sufficient training, even the most willing employees can get discouraged and fall off track.


Lean into capability building: Employees need to be trained on skills such as data analytics, data-driven management and leadership, and marketing automation. In addition, ensure they have access to in-the-flow-of-work support that is aligned with the customer’s buying journey and the company’s selling process. 

4. Problem 

Poor vendor selection: Selecting the wrong partner means you’ll spend time building a system that isn’t fully aligned with your organization’s needs. Consider implementation, integration, and support capabilities before you contract and begin work.


True partnership: The right partner will help make your CRM implementation a seamless process and make you look great while doing it. Find a partner who takes a holistic view of your business and deeply understands both your organizational and customer needs.  

5. Problem 

Poor data quality: CRM systems rely on accurate and up-to-date data. The best CRM systems in the world will fail without complete and consistent information.


A cleanse is key: Data is the lifeblood of any CRM system. Ensure the quality and accuracy of your data by conducting a thorough data cleansing before migrating it to the new CRM. Develop a data migration plan, validate and map the data fields correctly, and test the migrated data to ensure its integrity and desired insights.  

6. Problem 

Over customization and limited integration: CRM systems must map to your customer journey nuances and reinforce your sales, marketing, and customer service processes, and methodologies. Often these platforms are sold as the silver bullet solution toyou’re your needs. That said, over-customizing can make the system unnecessarily complex, difficult to use, and challenging to maintain.  


Just right customization and integration: Tailor the CRM system to your organization’s unique needs – but strike the right balance by testing and iterating. Your CRM needs to function as part of a broader company-wide infrastructure, which includes ERP systems, sales enablement platforms, learning experience systems, and marketing automation support. If your CRM system is treated as a standalone tool, or if integration is not well executed, you’ll be at risk for errors and inefficiencies. A slow and thoughtful approach at the beginning will allow your organization to make faster and sustainable progress in the future. 

7. Problem 

Lack of flexibility or ongoing support: CRM systems need to be adaptable to changing business needs. A system that is too rigid or difficult to modify in response to evolving demands will quickly become obsolete.


Continuous improvement: CRM implementation is a journey—not a one-time event but an ongoing process. Continuous support and maintenance are critical to its long-term success. If support is inadequate, the system can become outdated, ineffective, and irrelevant. Establish a dedicated team to address user queries, resolve issues promptly, and ensure system stability. Regularly review and optimize the system to align with evolving business requirements and changing customer needs. Gather feedback and continuously seek opportunities to improve and enhance the system’s effectiveness. 

Ultimately, the success of any CRM system relies on user adoption. By communicating a compelling vision that creates alignment, involving stakeholders to drive engagement, developing the appropriate capabilities, driving the necessary mindset shifts, instituting a robust user support program, ensuring data quality, integration, and customization, and employing effective change management, businesses can experience a successful CRM implementation—and achieve their desired business results. 

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