Your Greatest CRM Risk


Tips for increasing the adoption of your CRM system by your sales team

By Scott Adams

Most of our clients begin working with us after they have implemented a CRM system. The usual issue: “…our sales reps are not using the system.”

This problem is not unique to any particular CRM solution or to any particular industry segment. In fact, in a survey of 800 companies that had implemented CRM, 32% said that “gaining user acceptance” was their biggest concern. Asking your sales reps to give up their time-tested methods for account record keeping, scheduling meetings, and tracking contacts with a new “company-wide CRM database system” usually generates natural opposition. Changing behavior, especially the behavior of sales reps, is always a major challenge. Most sales reps resist change their methods of selling unless the change makes them much more successful. The new CRM, therefore, must truly help them to be more effective…to help them sell more.

While management must firmly set some rules for using a new CRM system, the primary focus should be on "wins" for the sales reps. What will they get out of the CRM? Only when your reps "want" to use the system will you get strong adoption. Let's discuss some ways to make your CRM system more attractive to your sales team.

Get buy in.

Before implementing a new CRM system, ask your sales reps what cannot be done easily today with their current sales tools. What could be automated that would make selling easier for them? What tasks do they do consistently that might be a candidate for automation? What information would they like to track for each prospect or customer or deal? Make sure that your sales team "takes ownership" in the CRM system. If you have a large sales team, make sure that sales reps representing each sales role - inside sales, field reps, indirect sales, sales operations - are represented on the CRM project team.

Automate customer communications

Automate tasks that the rep does not have time to do consistently. Find out what your sales reps do each day, or several times a week, and determine if these actions can be done faster and easier using the CRM system. Do your reps send the same white paper, company profile, or product data sheet to most prospects? Do they email the same references list with the same message in the body of the email with the same attachment? Do they send the same message to schedule a customer for the next Webinar? How do they generate quotes or proposals? How do they send qualified prospects contracts? What does it take to print a mailing label? Prepare a fax cover sheet? Do you send messages to customers whose service or maintenance agreement are about expire? There are a number of automated things that your CRM system should do that could make your sales reps excited to use it. Whatever customer communication the rep does on a consistent basis is a candidate for automation.

You want your sales reps to keep their forecasts up-todate, so make it easier for them to do this.


Simplify forecasting

You want your sales reps to keep their forecasts up-todate, so make it easier for them to do this. Make it simple for reps to enter a new opportunity into the database. Don’t ask for too much information to be entered at first. The further into the sales process, the more the rep learns about the customer and the deal, the more information the rep should add.

Deploy drip marketing

Make it easy for sales reps to maintain personal "touches" with prospects who are qualified but are not ready to buy soon. Set up a series of “drip marketing” letters with white papers, case studies, or articles with valuable information that can be sent to these prospects on a defined schedule with no direct effort on the part of the sales rep.

Make your CRM mobile

If most of your reps use a Blackberry or a smart phone like the Treo, consider deploying your CRM system on these devices. The forecast then could be updated between meetings, in a taxi, or at the airport.

If a rep is out of the office a lot, consider giving him a data network card offered by your mobile phone company. The current generation of these cards can connect your CRM at high speeds from almost anywhere. I have been able to connect to using my Sprint card from remote ski resorts and rural towns with no problem. I also can connect from customer offices where visitors are not allowed to connect to their secured network.

Incorporate CRM into your sales management

Make your CRM part of your regular management of the sales team. If you do weekly pipeline reviews with your reps, then use a report that reveals the notes from completed activities associated with each deal. Then, review this report before calling the rep. Once the rep knows that you are looking at this information in the CRM database, he is more inclined to add his notes to it. Rather than asking the rep “What have you been doing?” you could instead note “…I see that you discussed our new product with ABC Corp. last Monday and they are interested in a demo.” Use this information to better coach the rep.

Start slow and evolve

While you may have a vision of what you want your CRM system to evolve into, start simple. Begin with basic contact management, but include a few automated capabilities they want. Then add a few new capabilities every other week. Sales reps will more easily learn to use the tool this way.


Set your expectations with your sales team before they start to use the new sales system. If you want them to enter notes from all telephone conversations, make sure that requirement is stated clearly—and then monitor to ensure compliance.

Set up a review team of users that meet every other week to discuss how the system is being used and where it can be improved. Listen to their ideas and implement them where feasible.

Monitor adoption

Track which reps are using the CRM tool consistently and those that are not. We usually set up a dashboard on, for example, that tracks the number of times each rep logs in, how many activities are created, how many new contacts are created, how many opportunities they create, and other metrics.

Reward those users who become strong users. For those who are not using the system regularly, find out why. Often these users just need a little coaching or additional training.

Getting sales reps to use your new CRM system is essential. Make it something they want to use, not what they have to use.