Setting the Right CRM Expectations


CRM adoption only happens when executives set expectations

By Scott Adams

W hy invest in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) if your sales team does not embrace it? A recent study completed by CSO Insights discovered that, while 39% of the firms surveyed had user adoption of greater than 90%, a disturbing 23% had fewer than half of the users consistently using the CRM. To not achieve a high adoption rate of your CRM system is missing out on the opportunity to make your sales team more effective that can lead to improving your bottom line with increased sales and higher customer retention.

Over the 16 years of implementing CRM systems, I believe that the most common cause of low user adoption is the failure of the executive team to set clear expectations about how users should adopt the CRM.”


Carrots and Sticks

With each new CRM implementation, we focus strongly on ensuring that there is a high user adoption. Adoption usually requires a “carrot and stick” approach. In other articles, I discuss the carrots - how to entice users to want to use the new CRM by incorporating a “sales toolkit”. Often management ask what the “sticks” should be…what they should require CRM users to do.

Over the 16 years of implementing CRM systems, I believe that the most common cause of low user adoption is the failure of the executive team to set clear expectations about how users should adopt the CRM. I cringe when I hear an executive remark to the sales team that “…I only hope you will keep your forecast updated in the CRM. Other than that, you can use it however you wish.” I know then that the CRM project is doomed. Sales reps are reluctant to change their behavior. Without clear expectations defined by your executive team, CRM user adoption will never be high.

So what expectations should the executive set?


Setting Clear CRM Expectations

At the start of CRM user training we suggest that the CEO or the chief sales officer address the class to make it clear what their expectations are. So what expectations should the executive set?

New Contacts: The most common reason for implementing a CRM system is management’s concern that when sales reps leave your organization all of their critical contacts go with them. This contact information is too critical to be hoarded by the sales rep. Make it very clear that each new client or prospect contact must be entered into the CRM upon first communication. Most CRM systems, such as, have a utility for copying new contact records from the CRM into Microsoft Outlook Contact folders. The contact, once entered into the CRM, can be synchronized to Outlook and then into smart phones such as Blackberry or iPhone. By creating the contact first in the CRM they ensure that the contact is associated with the right company record. The contact is then shared with others throughout your organization. You should require that each new contact be entered into the CRM even when there is very little information about the contact. If a new contact leaves a voice mail message with only their name and telephone number, require that it be entered into your CRM. The rep can always add more information about the contact as they get it. Limit the number of “required fields” for creating a new contact if it means that some contacts will not be entered immediately. even has a User Adoption dashboard that tracks the number of new contacts entered by each rep. Monitor this dashboard and make sure that every user is contributing consistently.

Phone Calls: Field sales reps come into an office regularly to make phone calls to schedule appointments. Many call center sales reps spend all day making calls. You must make it a requirement that notes from each call be recorded as a “call activity” in the CRM system. Do not let these notes be left on a notepad on the desk. Some reps will complain, claiming that they cannot type fast enough. For a sales rep in the 21st century, however, typing is a mandatory skill. Get each of your reps a headset so that they can type while on the phone as much as possible. Also, let the reps know that they do not need to compose lengthy call notes. They only need to enter enough information to later recall what was discussed. Company-wide shortcuts, such as “lvm” for “left voicemail message” can help to speed up the typing. Any rep who claims that they do not need these notes recorded is not being very truthful. With hundreds of phone conversations being made each month, no sales rep is able to remember every detail. Such notes are critical when verbal commitments, such as a promised delivery date or project start date, have been discussed.

Activity Scheduling: Each CRM user must schedule their phone calls in the CRM system. They also should schedule “to do” tasks, such as “Create Proposal”. The tasks should be associated with the respective CRM Contact record. Meeting notes: Most sales reps will jot down a few notes during a face-to-face meeting with a client or prospect. These notes should be transferred to the meeting notes in the CRM. Getting compliance to this requirement is challenging because most field reps will view this effort as unnecessary a “repeated” effort. But it is important for management to understand how these conversations went. You might make the typing of meeting notes a suggestion initially; but, tell the reps that within two months it will be required. I use a tool called Voice2Insight. It allows me to call a toll free number after a customer meeting and dictate my meeting notes. Voice2Insight then transcribes these notes for me into the respective meeting event notes. Most reps can easily dictate their notes this way while sitting in their car in the parking lot between calls or when they return to the office later that day.

Meeting Scheduling: Many field reps resist scheduling meetings in the CRM system, preferring instead to use their Microsoft Outlook Calendar. They claim that non-CRM users in the company will schedule meetings for them and need to see their schedule. They also note that some customers send them Microsoft Outlook meeting invitations. While these are valid concerns, CRM systems such as can synchronize meetings between the CRM calendar and the Outlook calendar. It is best to schedule the meeting in the CRM Setting the Right CRM Expectations calendar and have it synch to Outlook when the user is scheduling meetings with customers. Outlook appointments scheduled by others will move into the CRM calendar as well. If you get a lot of resistance, you may make using the CRM calendar a requirement after a few months of CRM usage. But insist that meeting notes still be entered into

Forecast: The sales executive should insist that all sales forecasting be done within the CRM system and not use separate Microsoft Excel sheets. With CRM systems such as, it takes most sales reps 10 minutes or fewer to update their forecast. Changes are reflected immediately in pipeline reports. We suggest that the pipeline be updated weekly rather than monthly, as updating the forecast forces the rep to review each opportunity. This frequency encourages “top of mind” awareness about opportunities that may not otherwise get attention.

Activity Reporting: Before regularly scheduled calls with a sales rep, the sales manager should first review an “Activity Report”. This report should be scheduled to be emailed to the manager and should include all of the call and meeting notes that the rep has had with clients and prospects. If the rep knows that you are reviewing this report each week to stay on top of his activities then he is more likely to record notes. An effective use of both carrots and sticks is necessary to get high CRM adoption. Do not be afraid to communicate clearly your expectations to the sales team as you start to use the CRM. Monitor compliance to these expectations. If possible, give reps incentives for complying. Changing the behavior of your sales reps is not easy, but you need to make it clear your expectations clear if you want a successful adoption rate.

About Scott Adams

Scott Adams is the president and founder of SalesPath Corporation, a leading Pacific Northwest CRM consulting company. SalesPath is a Salesforce Certified Consulting Partner. For over 16 years SalesPath has implemented CRM systems for small to mid-sized companies.