"Adoption" is almost a dirty word in the CRM world. While CRM softwares provide visibility into deals and the customer lifecycle, sales reps often regard them as hurdles to active selling time. And this makes CRM adoption on par with pulling teeth. Many a sales leader has uttered this word accompanied with a woeful sigh.
But it doesn't have to be this way. With the right strategies, sales leaders can motivate their reps to embrace the technology quickly and fully.
1) Make CRM useful to reps.
"The biggest challenge when it comes to implementing CRM for the sales team is getting reps to see what’s in it for them," said Brent Leary, partner at CRM Essentials. "Sometimes companies roll out a solution like this primarily to benefit the management team so they can have better access to information. But if you want the sales folks to provide the kind of information you’re looking for, you have to give them why it's important for them."
So before you roll out the technology, think: what will sales reps get out of this? Hammer down benefits specific to reps such as better analytics and time savings, and emphasize these during training.
2) Set up the system to align with the sales process.
While they should be useful for reps, CRM systems aren't only used by salespeople -- they're also valuable to Marketing and Finance. But because reps are the people who will be inputting the raw data, it should be set up in a way that reflects their sales process, and not how other departments work. Ensure that the initial design of the CRM system lines up with the sales team's established process, or risk them bypassing it entirely.
3) Allow mobile access.
Sales reps are constantly on the go -- working from clients' offices, airports, coffee shops, and really everywhere and anywhere with a reliable internet connection. So deploying a CRM that forces them to get out their PCs every time they'd like to access it or enter data is a recipe for disaster.
"A lot of [salespeople] live and die by using their phones -- either sending emails out or doing phone calls," Leary said. "So a mobile app makes it easy for them to log phone calls or emails." And convenience is an extremely effective driver of adoption.
4) Get them involved early on.
Often times, companies roll out new systems with only minimal end user training and virtually no internal marketing. But drumming up support and excitement before a launch has concrete benefits when it comes to adoption.
"Turning people's minds around when they have no connection to a new system is very hard," said Robert Peledie, CRM consultant. "Get them involved from the beginning of the CRM journey."
And bringing in users sooner rather than later allows them to provide feedback, which can also boost the potential that they will use the system to its full potential. "Let them tell you how they would like to see it work," Peledie said. Sticking points will often be more readily identified by reps than the people implementing the system, so make sure to test it with end users before the go-live date.
5) Use data to build the case.
Heaven knows there is no shortage of CRM data on the internet that can help bolster your case for a CRM system to reps. Find a handful of statistics that show the advantages of implementing and using CRM systems regarding metrics that will resonate with reps. Here are two to get you started:
A study by Nucleus Research found that salespeople experienced a 15% increase in productivity when using mobile CRM applications.
When a company engages a customer through a CRM, that customer will spend 20-40% more in their next interaction, according to an infographic from Cloudswave.
So using CRM means more productivity and sales? I think salespeople can get on board with that.
6) Don't overwhelm reps.
Enterprise systems often have a lot of bells and whistles, and deploying them all at once might induce sensory overload. Pick the handful of features that are absolutely critical for salespeople, and roll those out first. As reps get more comfortable with the system, you can release new features incrementally and deepen their adoption.
7) Issue an incentive.
Much of sales motivation revolves around contests and incentives. So why not use these tactics to encourage CRM adoption?
"Give them some sort of a bonus for inputting information," Leary suggested. "Something so they’ll see a direct benefit."
The most difficult part of any new technology implementation is the first few months. Once users get used to the system, it becomes embedded into their day-to-day routine. With that in mind, sales leaders won't have to incentivize use of the CRM system forever -- just for the initial roll-out.
8) Integrate the CRM system with other sales tools.
Recent years have seen a proliferation in the amount of systems salespeople use to do their jobs -- web conferencing software, prospecting tools, social media platforms, etc. And nothing is more frustrating than being told you have to add another disconnected platform to the mix.
But sales leaders can encourage CRM adoption by seeking ways to link all these tools together, thus minimizing dual data entry or the potential for outdated or inaccurate data between systems. Simpler is better in most things, but especially in regard to technology.
9) Make it pretty.
You know what will turn sales reps off to a new CRM system fast? A clunky, complicated design. How do I update an opportunity? Do I click here? Do I click there? Oh, forget it.
When choosing a new platform, look for a clean and intuitive user interface. After all, if you're going to pull reps away from their beloved spreadsheets, you owe it to them to replace with something equally as simple to use.
Note: this tactic isn't for everyone. However, let's say the old method of tracking deals -- whether in a spreadsheet, shared document, or homegrown system -- is actively hurting the business. Maybe a high number of opportunities are slipping through the cracks each month due to organizational flaws. And that's why you decided to adopt a CRM system in the first place.
In this scenario, you might consider pulling the plug on the old method entirely, thus forcing reps to use the new system. Another popular adoption tactic is to implement the rule "If it's not in the CRM, it doesn't exist." Closed a deal that you were tracking on pen and paper? No commission check until it's logged in the system. Sometimes a little tough love is just what the doctor ordered.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in December 2014, and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jul 23, 2015 7:30:00 AM, updated July 28 2017