October 16, 2014

How to Encourage CRM Adoption Among Your Sales Force

The strength of a company’s sales force automation often depends on their ability to successfully train their employees in customer relationship management (CRM).

CRM programs have transformed the way companies retain, evaluate, and interact with customers, helping salespeople “capitalize on improved customer relations.”  And that’s a good thing. Robert Shaw, in his book, “Computer-Aided Marketing and Selling,” defines a CRM as “a system for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers . . . using technology to organize, automate, and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support.” In 2008, Gartner reported that the worldwide CRM software market was worth $9.15 billion, and still growing.

The catch is that getting your employees to embrace a new system is about as easy as convincing a five-year-old that the dentist is his friend. At some companies (such as call-centers) employees are known to complain about their CRM on a daily basis. It crashed again. It doesn’t have the features they need. They have to open 17 different windows just to field one service request or sales call.

A CSO Insights study of over 1,000 companies showed that less than 40 percent of the companies achieved CRM adoption rates over 90 percent. A separate study by Really Simple Systems showed that for 80 percent of senior executives their biggest challenge is convincing employees to use new CRM technology.

Compendium of failures

There are many reasons for the discrepancy between company investment in CRM software and low user adopton rates. Here are some of the most common:

Excessive features: Sometimes complexity can be overwhelming, even frivolous, to a user. If you choose software that offers too many features and no ability to disable or conceal the extra ones, you lose functionality. Butler Group reports that, of the CRM features paid for by businesses, only about 50 percent are actually used.

Lack of Integration: Conversely, a shortage of features reduces the utility of a system, leading to workflow redundancy (having to use the old programs or methods). If you have to open a separate back office program to perform a function that’s still in testing with the new CRM, you’re working inefficiently.

No end-user input: You can’t choose software for salespeople without getting input from salespeople. You can’t choose software for salespeople without getting input from salespeople. The selection process should incorporate both vertical and horizontal knowledge from within the company.

Unquantifiable Results: It’s hard to know how successfully your employees are adopting the new CRM software if you don’t have a specific way of measuring it. You’ll also need to strategize ways of tracking the business ROI for the particular product you’ve chosen.

In addition to avoiding these common pitfalls, you’ll also want to be familiar with best practices. Here are five tips for ensuring smooth adoption.

Five ways to increase adoption

1)  Pick the right CRM

Select a software that’s designed with adoption in mind and has a successful history. Make sure it has the right amount of integrated features for your company’s needs, and try to find a product that aligns with your team’s existing workflows so the transfer isn’t too jarring.

2)  Equip employees to operate it

This means training them before the drop date, and continuing to train them after. Jim Dickie, CSO Insights partner, says “When you implement CRM, you are asking users to change how they do their jobs.” With that in mind, try implementing in stages instead of all at once, or give a grace period for your sales force to get acclimated. Most importantly, make sure they have resources to turn to for help, whether this is built-in tech support or an easy way for them to communicate with your IT department.

3)  Make your end-user your customer

Before you start projecting profits from boosted sales, retention, and efficiency, you need to sell the CRM to your sales force. Think of the end-user as a “customer” or “client,” and focus on getting them to buy in on the change. You can do this by incorporating their input into the purchasing decision, asking them what features they would find most helpful, and setting up team meetings to discuss how the software will streamline their workflow.

4)  Don’t let it go on auto-pilot

Don’t ever sit down and breathe a sigh of relief and think, “It’s done.” Because it isn’t. You’ll need to maintain a scaffolding of control even after you’ve gotten your team to adopt the program. Soffront Software, in their white paper on CRM adoption, recommends “elect[ing] a ‘champion’ from the department who will own CRM . . . and evangelize CRM within the organization.” Or you could take a broader approach and choose a department to be responsible for CRM project management.

5)  Incentivize Adoption

If you want to encourage new behavior, you don’t just command that it has to be done, right? You offer an incentive, or some form of positive motivation. Likewise, you can encourage CRM usage by rewarding top performers with payouts for inputting the most data or making sales using specific features of the program. Spotlight these reps so that others will be motivated to match their efforts. This will, of course, require that you establish a few tangible KPIs for user adoption (time spent, data entered, frequency of log-ins, etc.).

CRM programs can be a powerful tool if you take a thorough, strategic approach. Remember, the goal here isn’t sales force automation; it’s equipping every single one of your employees to offer the best quality service to each customer with whom they interact.

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