Remark is an industry-specific digital integrator. Since 2007 we have been helping companies to be as efficient as possible in the digital environment by automating the processes of marketing, sales and internal interaction between employees. Our main expertise is in real estate, but years of experience and competencies allow us to work with companies in all industries.
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How a property developer should prepare for the CRM implementation: a step-by-step guide by an integrator

  • Dmitry Sevostyanov,
    founder & CEO в Remark
    We often mistakenly assume that it is enough to implement an IT solution and the sales growth will follow. The effectiveness of solutions, CRM in particular, is affected by how implementation is performed: the correct collection of requirements, putting together the customer’s internal team, and interaction with the integrator.

The Remark team has implemented CRM systems in Mantera, Neometria, and more than 150 property developer clients in total. Based on its expertise, Remark has created its own methodology for the smooth implementation of CRM in medium and large companies. It consists in finding simple solutions to problems and using only those practices that are proven effective by other developers: business processes, purchase funnels, and life hacks.

From this expert material you will learn:
1. The basic principle of implementing a CRM system for the developer.
2. How to put together an internal implementation team.
3. How to develop terms of reference (TOR) for evaluation and how to avoid common mistakes.
4. What processes to start implementation with.
5. What needs to be changed in order for the CRM system to be implemented.
6. How to carry out integrations.
7. How to control integrators.

1. The basic principle of implementing CRM for a developer

CRM system is a universal tool for marketing and sales, but its implementation should take into account industry specifics. In property development this is a long transaction cycle, which implies systematic work with the client until the sale is made. Therefore, CRM systems in real estate sales should help to save all the data about the client’s preferences and to timely schedule showings and appointments.

CRM systems should also enable the following:
• Automatically enter leads;
• Qualify and disqualify them in a convenient manner;
• Move leads through a clear purchase funnel;
• Visualize the purchase funnel on the kanban board;
• Count conversions;
• Set up automation.

The qualifications of the lead are usually clear, while the purchase funnel is a sore spot. Sometimes it happens that companies looking for the best solution, develop their own purchase funnel’s logic from scratch, which contradicts the logic of the CRM. In practice, transactions through such a funnel move non-linearly, and can appear in two funnels at the same time. So, it is impossible to get a transparent picture of sales.

Bitrix24 and amoCRM have a funnel that often looks like a kanban board, a project management tool often used by IT professionals. Inside CRM, you can see all stages of working with a lead on one screen: from the moment the lead comes to the moment the deal is closed. You can see how the client moves from stage to stage and you can easily track at what sales stage they are.
The basic principle is to build a linear funnel according to the CRM logic. It best reflects the real sales process, it is easier to implement, maintain, and develop.

This is what a proper sales funnel looks like in CRM

2. How to put together an internal implementation team

The development of terms of reference (TOR) starts with the selection of those responsible for implementation on the company’s side. Often these are specialists who have a vision of sales and marketing processes. It’s good when the team has employees who know the features of the IT infrastructure and back office.

On occasion the customer complicates the implementation process. For example, the team is not interested in CRM, or cannot make independent decisions, and they have to wait for the boss’s authorization. It is hard to overcome such obstacles.

It is much easier for the team and the integrator to work when specialists have the time allocated for the project and are immersed in the details. The perfect scenario is when there are employees with experience in participating in such projects and familiarity with CRM. Having formed a team and selected a project leader, the development of terms of reference for evaluation can begin.

3. How to develop terms of reference (TOR) for evaluation

The detailed TOR are compiled by the integrator. It is enough for the company to draw up TOR for the contractor so that they could estimate the scope of work and the cost of implementation.

To do so, the company defines the objectives of the implementation: briefly, in a couple of phrases. For example, "CRM is slow, we want a fast CRM", "import substitution is needed", "box version is needed". The objective is needed so that the integrator could choose a solution that is simpler and more suitable for the company’s goals.

Moving from goals to requirements. Usually, they are formulated in bureaucratic language, which makes it difficult for integrators to understand what the company wants. In fact, it is enough for the customer to clearly convey their vision: how this or that process should work.

The development of common customer journey scenarios in CRM helps with this. For example, as soon as an assigned to the contact center client comes to the sales office, they become the responsibility of one of the managers.

The role and at what stage what actions need to be automated can be described by business processes. Let’s take a manager who needs a process for generating "DDU" contracts. At what stage the automation is required? The answer should be written into the script.

Each specialist in the team promotes the implementation of the processes for which they are responsible. Therefore, when stating the goals of the project, it is better to pin the internal customer to each of them. In the future, this will help to evaluate the effectiveness of CRM by analyzing the results of the implementation of the requirements, and understanding who needed them.

At the stage of collecting requirements, the first problem arises, since it will not be possible to implement everything at once. In our practice, we have had several complex projects, when the customer set the condition to launch CRM only when all requirements were met. This delays the project. And the earlier CRM is launched, the easier it is to develop. We have been able to convince the partners and eventually implement CRM gradually, but time was lost.

To avoid that, it is better to prioritize requirements when gathering them. Which processes are important to get the system up and running and delivering value, and which can be deferred to later stages? Answering this question, the customer formulates the minimum and sufficient implementation option. This allows to gradually introduce the functionality, all the while testing it and adding new tools.

List of software and services that the company is already using. In practice, developers use 5 or more services. Some are not ready to change from the old "hard" telephony, and some are willing to give up everything in order to speed up the implementation and save money. It is important to have it written in which services the company plans to change and which ones it plans to leave.

Company’s business processes. We recommend to describe in as much detail as possible the business processes of the company and how they uniquely differ from those of competitors. This helps to quickly dive into the business.

When the requirements are defined, the team is ready to search for integrators, and an active search for solutions begins. Which system to choose? Why is one better than the other? Whatever the decision, it is worth noting the key benefits of each system. This will help to formulate the critically important functionality.

The final approval of the requirements can be a difficult task: there are a lot of requirements, and the realization of the project can go on for years. To simplify the task when interacting with an integrator, it is easier to divide the requirements into stages: from the highest priority to the least. It is not necessary to disclose the budget for software, implementation and support to integrators, but understanding it within the company will help determine the CRM’s category.

4. What processes to start implementation with

If you start with complex processes, there is a risk of making CRM complex as well. For instance, analytics of the effectiveness of marketing channels will not bear results until the funnel is set up and all leads come to CRM automatically. Booking is another example. It can be implemented, but there will be the need to manually enter leads into the system, because the funnel has not yet been properly set up.

Simple processes are common and linear. In the case of CRM, those are the contact center processes and the correct operation of the sales department. The larger part of the work happens there. And the simpler and more correct the processing will be, the more use the CRM will bring: more data on leads, more understanding of sales conversion. But if there are problems at these stages (leads are not entered automatically, or the funnel is non-linear), the next stages will not work correctly.

Key stages of CRM implementation

Implementing something from scratch (end-to-end analytics, pricing system, report builder) despite the fact that the market offers ready-made solutions, is difficult, expensive, and not always justified. Even vendors don't go as far. For example, amoCRM started developing a report builder, but abandoned the idea after a while. If even large vendors fail to design such a complex solution in a new way, it makes no sense to order it from integrators.

5. What needs to be changed in order for the CRM system to be implemented

Let’s make a small digression here. Digitalization is a tool that aims to make business processes more efficient. But in order to digitize business processes, they need to be adapted and simplified. With linear processes it is easier to do so, since one employee performs one role in the system, and each action has a fixed start and a fixed end.

A common example of how companies increase sales efficiency: at the first stages, a remote contact center works with a client, after which a dedicated manager conducts a showing of an object for them and a sales manager leads the client until the sale is made. Each of the stages moves the lead along the funnel, each has a beginning and an end.
Therefore, in order to increase the efficiency of a CRM, it is also necessary to adapt the processes in such a way that would make them convenient to digitize.

6. What systems to make integration with

For some systems there are ready-made solutions: websites’ widgets, instant messengers, typical end-to-end analytics, cloud telephony, and some industry products. For others there are no ready-made solutions (outdated telephony, BI analytics, internal ERP).

This way, integration is best carried out by trusted experts whose experience helps to choose the best paths. Experts will advise for which systems there are ready-made solutions, in which cases it is best to drop unnecessary functionality, and how to implement the necessary integration.
Integrating CRM requires complex development and well-built ecosystem architecture. An example of a working architecture is shown in the diagram. End-to-end analytics integrates with CRM, and fresh leads come into analytics. What cannot be connected (pedestrians, real estate agencies, sometimes telephony) can be entered manually. Such system will work reliably.

This is what an exemplary IT architecture looks like

And here is an example of a bad architecture. The developer may have 5−15 services, and the company wants to implement end-to-end analytics. 5 other services are already integrated with CRM, but illogically. New end-to-end analytics is being built into this system, and a problem with data calculations occurs, because information about the lead comes with errors.
Another example of an unreliable pattern is when non-standard BI reports are integrated separately to CRM, end-to-end analytics, and Yandex. Direct services. On the contrary, a reliable option is when CRM is enriched with data from the end-to-end analytics service, and the BI service is unloaded from CRM.

Poor setup of integrations is often the reason why a company decides to change CRM. In fact, the reason lies not in the CRM, but in the integrations' risks. Solutions are often integrated through the API, which does not guarantee 100% reliability. The technical principle is that the API makes a request to the CRM. But if at that moment CRM is not available, the data will not arrive.
In a small industry-specific CRM, there may not be a well-developed API, and in that case the integration issue is resolved directly with the vendor. Atypical integration requires support, because even large banks change APIs without warning. You won’t know about an integration error if you rarely use it. For example, a lead generator channel in which a lead comes once a month.

All that means that the architecture guarantees 100% reliability: the correctness of data transfer will depend on how correctly it is developed.

Services of ready-made integrations of SaaS services with each other are becoming more and more widespread. This is a great solution for simple tasks. They provide ready-made simple scenarios with a large number of popular cloud solutions and the ability to easily set up integration without software engineers.

But these services have their limitations. They are not suitable for typical tasks, integration with industry services, transfer of large amounts of data, and do not guarantee fault tolerance. The only thing that can give guarantees: well-built architecture.

7. How to control integrators

Only regular meetings, at least once a week, help to control the status of the project and to quickly solve problems. This way, we recommend discussing the regularity of meetings with the integrator during the first introductory session. Designate goals, team composition, contract format, project’s transfer and acceptance, and stages. For especially complex blocks it is best to allocate a separate group consisting of technical experts from both sides.

In our experience, most issues can be resolved through regular communication. Different interpretation of the importance and criticality of functions leads to problems. Do not shift the focus from key features to less important details, such as font.

Preparation and constant communication are the key to a successful implementation. But we are well aware that not everyone has the time, resources and competencies to set up the implementation themselves. Ever since the pandemic we have been helping companies prepare for the implementation of CRM: we conduct audits and provide consulting services. As part of this work, we undertake not only the implementation of CRM, but also the refinement of already implemented products, either on our own or in cooperation with the internal team of the company.

If the company seeks to take into account past mistakes on its own, it still relies only on its own experience. The expertise of integrators lies in the fact that they implement CRM to hundreds of companies and know all the traps and pitfalls.

Therefore, if you need to get consulted on the implementation of CRM, or if you still have questions about preparing for implementation, you can contact me personally at the link. I will answer your question, and if it is relevant for other companies, we will prepare a piece on this topic.