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Adopting a CRM? How to Get Buy-in From Your Sales Department

Mona Bushnell
Mona Bushnell

A CRM is a great tool for marketing and sales teams, but only if you can get your sales department's buy-in.

  • Choosing CRM software requires input from your sales team, as they will be the primary users of whatever program you choose.
  • Determine whether a particular CRM program will align with your sales team's existing workflow before buying.
  • The right CRM software can increase productivity, generate more leads and drive new sales; the wrong one can hinder operations.
  • This article is for small business owners preparing to buy and implement CRM software.

Choosing a customer relationship management (CRM) system like Salesforce is complicated enough as is, but without buy-in from your sales team, you could end up investing in a product no one wants to use. Plan ahead to avoid this pitfall, and involve your sales team in the decision. After all, they will be the ones who rely on the CRM software you use every day.

Why focus on CRM user adoption?

CRMs have been proven to make a positive impact on businesses, offering a plethora of benefits. These are some of those benefits:

Higher productivity

One study found that CRM software can enhance sales team productivity by 34%. CRMs can improve productivity by reducing the manual work involved in the sales process and, therefore, the time it takes to close sales.

Increased revenue

Businesses that use a CRM can boost sales up to 30%. Studies have also shown revenue boosts at the individual sales employee level and company level, seeing a boost of up to 41% per sales rep. 

Better customer service experience

A CRM improves the customer service experience by equipping users with the tools they need to have easy, ongoing and meaningful relationships with prospects and customers. CRM software can improve a sales team's ability to identify what products and services customers need and build strong, lasting connections.

Key takeaway: CRM software can improve productivity, generate revenue and improve customer satisfaction once it's part of your team's workflow.

How to drive CRM adoption in your sales team

Employee pushback to CRM adoption is usually the result of poor implementation rather than unusable systems. If you build your adoption process with your sales department in mind and follow the right steps to get buy-in early on, you can avoid future pushback and ensure widespread usage of your new CRM. Try following these tips to get your sales team on board in no time.

1. Choose a CRM that aligns with the sales department's current processes.

Unfortunately, some SMBs adopt technology without much thought about how new software will affect daily routines and processes. Without a comprehensive understanding of your sales department's current process, who does what, and how job roles will change with a new CRM, you run a high risk of user pushback. It might be easier to make the final CRM purchase decision within a small group, but failure to consult senior managers in the sales department can have long-term consequences.

Zach Hendrix, co-founder of GreenPal, experienced this type of pushback after the acquisition of a new company, when implementation of a CRM didn't go as planned. After a costly implementation process, he found that the sales department wasn't using the system at all, opting to maintain their own records across a combination of legal pads, Post-its, emails and spreadsheets. In short, it was a mess.

"We basically purchased the software and paid an IT professional to install it, and [the] result after six months was that nobody used it," Hendrix told Business News Daily. "In retrospect, what I didn't realize was that I was just adding one more task to our salespeople's list of things to do. It was like … 'OK, on top of everything else that you're already doing, put all of the information into the software so we can track it later at some point if we want to.'"

Hendrix didn't give up, of course. He analyzed his first approach and tried a different angle.

"Ultimately, after trying several different solutions, we went with a cloud-based CRM," he said. "To ensure a successful implementation this time around, I broke down the existing tasks and workflows that our salespeople [were] already conducting and replaced [those] tasks with new software-related tasks … we ended up getting the needed buy-in because we replaced one by one the analog tasks with digital tasks." 


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2. Involve your sales department early in the adoption process.  

All the experts we consulted agreed on one thing: Failure to involve the sales department in the implementation process will cause problems in the future. Of course, high-level purchasing decisions aren't typically made democratically, nor should they be, but choosing a few tech-savvy members of the sales department to sit in on demos can help you get buy-in from other associates. Additionally, having senior sales staff and managers on board early creates a great built-in support system for associates who are more resistant to change.

Michael Tuso, director of revenue performance at Chili Piper, said he'd experienced both good and bad CRM implementations, and that a positive outcome is closely linked to early involvement from the sales department. He told Business News Daily that, in addition to having a small group of tech-savvy sales staff pilot the project, he utilized those involved early in the process to get other staff on board.

"Because I had looped some of the most tech-savvy reps in early in the process, I had five salespeople saying this was a good idea – plus our VP of sales, other sales managers and entire tech department," he explained. "This made selling [the other sales staff] easy and enabled me to focus on delivering the very best training and implementation plan possible."

Pilot groups are considered a best practice in adopting any new software system, and since CRMs are heavily used by sales departments, it only makes sense to include sales staff in the process.

Additionally, the tech-savvy early adopters of the CRM are likely to feel ownership over the implementation process, which can be helpful when other sales staff members express frustration or distrust of the new system. Hearing a colleague say the system will be an improvement is much more powerful than getting the same message from a higher-up who won't even be using the product. 

3. Appoint a CRM manager.

While you'll want your entire team to be well versed in your CRM, you should appoint a high-performance user to serve as the CRM manager. This manager should be someone who is:

  • Tech savvy
  • Resourceful
  • A strong communicator
  • Organized and able to set up employee trainings

A CRM manager will serve as the liaison between your teams and the new software, so be sure they will not only understand the technology but also be able to explain it simply to others.

4. Publicize value early and often.

Pushback on a CRM can occur for a few reasons. Staff members who are set in their ways, and uncomfortable with technology in general, may resist a new system simply because they are afraid it will be hard to learn. Additionally, if your salespeople believe that a new system will add to their workload and make their jobs more difficult, they are likely to be uncooperative during the implementation process.

You can preemptively combat pushback like this by "selling" the CRM internally and highlighting the specific benefits it will have for the sales staff. Once your team realizes a CRM can streamline otherwise long-winded processes and potentially increase their sales, they'll be much more open-minded.

Byron Matthews, CEO of Talent Inc., said that supporting data is key to selling a product in-house. "Most sales reps view tools like a CRM as a mandate, distraction and administrative burden. For sales technology to be embraced, it must be backed by proven sales methodology that guides the actions of sellers on the ground and helps sales reps improve their win rates."

Fahad Shoukat, COO of Skiplist and an expert in CRM implementation (having been involved in dozens of implementations throughout his career), told us that communicating value early and often is key.

"There is no perfect CRM out there," he said. "… The best strategy I have found is to start the discussion early and highlight the shortcomings of the current system." Indeed, several of the experts we spoke to mentioned that outlining current inefficiencies, and the way they could be eliminated by a CRM, helps get sales department buy-in.

Like Matthews, Shoukat said that getting select staff on board early is vital to selling the value of a system internally. "[Before an implementation] I strategically task a few salespeople (old-timers and new ones) to evaluate new options and help them understand the benefits … prepping sales way in advance and highlighting the need for a new system before implementation has proven successful every time. The questions that come after launch are more about training and learning the new CRM than opposing it. The experience becomes a team-building exercise."

As part of communicating value early and often, get your team excited about the benefits of a CRM. Some of them may see the software as an extra tool they need to learn or another project to add to their already-cramped work schedules, but they need to understand that a CRM is meant to help them and can make their jobs easier.

5. Use a rewards system to encourage adoption.

When you make CRM user adoption fun and filled with perks, you're bound to get less employee pushback. To encourage employees to get on board right away, introduce a CRM rewards system upon the software's launch. Start off with a short-term rewards system, and then assess the need for it as time goes on. Offering rewards even just for the first month may be enough to get your employees' enthusiastic participation. For example, you could offer cash bonuses or gift cards to employees who:

  • Generate the most new leads in the CRM
  • Send 20 or more quotes to prospects
  • Earn 10 or more electronically signed proposals through the CRM
  • Send 50 text follow-ups to prospects
  • Are most active on the CRM chat feature
  • Use the automated email templates to send 50 or more prospect emails

If you follow these tips, your CRM implementation should go smoothly, with enthusiastic buy-in from your sales team. Whether you are introducing a CRM for the first time or transitioning away from legacy software, be sure to include your sales team in the process to maximize the success of your CRM rollout. [Ready to choose a solution? Start with our reviews of the best CRM software.]

Key takeaway: Consider your sales team's existing workflow, offer training on the new CRM, and appoint a go-to CRM manager. To incentivize participation, consider rolling out a reward system for user adoption.

Marisa Sanfilippo contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of an article.

Image Credit: shironosov / Getty Images
Mona Bushnell
Mona Bushnell
Business News Daily Staff
Mona Bushnell is a Philadelphia-based staff writer for business.com and Business News Daily. She has a B.A. in writing, literature, and publishing from Emerson College and has previously worked as an IT technician, a copywriter, a software administrator, a scheduling manager, and an editorial writer. Mona began freelance writing full time in 2014 and joined the Business News Daily/business.com team in 2017. She covers business and technology.