Choosing a customer relationship management (CRM) system is a complex, multifaceted process. One of the most critical aspects of implementing a CRM solution is ensuring your sales team is on board with the product. 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.
CRM solutions can positively impact businesses, bringing benefits including higher productivity, increased revenue and a better customer service experience.
According to Salesforce statistics, implementing a CRM solution can enhance sales team productivity by 34%. CRM solutions reduce the manual work involved in the sales process so that it takes less time to close sales.
Salesforce also reports that businesses using a CRM tool can boost sales by up to 29%. Using a CRM solution can boost revenue at the individual sales employee and company levels.
A CRM solution improves customer service by equipping sales teams 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 which products and services customers need and to build strong, lasting connections.
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 proper steps to get early buy-in, you can avoid future pushback and ensure widespread usage of your new CRM.
Consider the following tips to get your sales team on board in no time.
Unfortunately, some SMBs adopt technology without considering 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 acquiring a new company and finding that its CRM implementation 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.”
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 sales department members 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 the entire tech department,” Tuso said. “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 sales departments use CRM tools heavily, 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 a CRM system’s features will improve the sales process is more powerful than getting the same message from a higher-up who won’t even be using the product.
While you’ll want your entire team to be well versed in your CRM solution, you should appoint a high-performance user to serve as the CRM manager. This manager should be someone who is:
A CRM manager will serve as the liaison between your teams and the new software, so make sure they understand the technology and can explain it to others clearly.
Pushback on a CRM can occur for a few reasons. Staff members who are set in their ways or uncomfortable with technology may resist a new system because they’re concerned 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.
Preemptively combat pushback like this by “selling” the CRM internally and highlighting its specific sales staff benefits, including its CRM analytics tools. Once your team realizes a CRM tool can streamline lengthy, tedious processes and potentially increase their sales, they’ll be much more open-minded.
Byron Matthews, CEO of Talent Inc., says 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 successful 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 how a CRM can eliminate them helps get sales department buy-in.
Like Matthews, Shoukat said that getting select staff on board early is vital to selling a system’s value 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 a CRM solution’s benefits. Some 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 make their jobs easier.
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 with a short-term rewards system, and then assess its need 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:
If you follow these tips, your CRM implementation should go smoothly with enthusiastic buy-in from your sales team. Whether introducing a new CRM system or transitioning away from legacy software, be sure to include your sales team in the process to maximize your CRM rollout’s success.
After your sales team is on board with your CRM solution, it’s critical to maintain your user adoption rate and ensure everyone continues to embrace the system.
Consistently using the CRM system and refraining from falling back to old data collection and storage methods are vital to seeing the benefits of your investment. Consider the following ways to ensure your team continues to use the system.
A CRM system is meant to make your sales teams’ lives easier by automating mundane or repetitive processes. Ensure your sales and marketing teams understand precisely how the system can ease their daily workloads. When everyone is clear on how the software frees up their time and helps boost productivity, adoption will remain solid, consistent and even enthusiastic.
It’s essential that your users feel comfortable and empowered to offer suggestions about the CRM solution’s implementation and processes. When a primary CRM system user can provide feedback that management thoughtfully considers, the team will become more invested in the system’s success.
Consider setting up regular reviews where your team can openly discuss the CRM solution’s challenges and workflow issues and listen to creative suggestions on improving the implementation.
Your sales team must see managers and other company leaders adopting and using the CRM software consistently. Ensure your leadership team demonstrates the software’s usefulness to the entire company. Seeing an executive vote of confidence will assure team members that the CRM system isn’t some passing trend. Company leaders’ enthusiastic and visible CRM system engagement can motivate your team to stay engaged with the software.
Hannah Tayson and Marisa Sanfilippo contributed to the writing and research in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.