Skip to main content

CRM Software Adoption: What You Need to Know to Get It

By September 1, 2013December 31st, 2013No Comments


We know one business leader who became so frustrated by the challenge of having his sales team use a CRM system that he began referring to them as “sales pukes” and announced that the way to solve his problem with people not using the CRM was to put his “sales pukes’” pay checks in a drawer, and when they filled out the CRM, he would let them have their money.

You’re probably nicer than him, but chances are that within your organization CRM adoption has likely set you on a path to frustration and high blood pressure.  About half of CRM projects fail to meet expectations.

That’s odd, because when you think about it, most companies these days are focused on getting a CRM running in their business. Last year the CRM market grew by 12% to $14 billion.

The good news is that the promise of CRM is real. In our post, What Is CRM?, we highlighted how it can dramatically help both you and your customer.

But without strong adoption, you won’t realize the promise of CRM. Fortunately, adoption doesn’t have to be as challenging and elusive as you might think. Emphasis on a few simple techniques can set you on a path to strong success.

Focus on the Critical Few

We were once exposed to a health survey product that asked employees to answer 125 questions. Adoption rates were very low, and people who did complete it complained about the length of the questionnaire. Only about 20% of the total number of questions were used in analysis in order to create value for the customer. The remainder of the questions were asked simply because the responses might be used in additional analysis at some unspecified point in the future…maybe.

Think about this for a second. This company was willing to accept lower customer satisfaction and less revenue in order to keep its options open.

But won’t they have fewer options in the long run if no one will actually use the product in the first place?

Many CRM initiatives suffer from the same tendency. The leadership wants to keep options open. If you have asked your sales people to complete 55 fields of data, the probability that you are frustrating them is close to 100%.

The probability that you are not using many of the fields is also close to 100%.  Everyone loses when your focus is on building what you might need instead of what you know you need.

Feel free to brainstorm your list of 55 items to capture. But then, choose 5. Remember, you need adoption, and you need to restrict your collection process. What are the 5 things you absolutely must measure with CRM?

Involve Sales People in the Design Process

We continually see a reluctance to include sales people in the design process. This tendency is understandable: Involving multiple stakeholders can bog down a CRM implementation in endless debates and meetings that waste everyone’s time.

Ultimately, it feels like including them would be like a real life episode of Hell’s Kitchen: Chaotic, dirty, and full of unpleasant surprises by people who just don’t understand how to cook, and it’s up to you to channel Gordon Ramsey in unpleasant f-bomb laden tirades to get anything decent out of the process.

Hell’s Kitchen is Not What We Want CRM Design to Look Like

The mess in this case is the risk of endless meetings and debates that result in delays and a CRM that is built by committee.  But inviting sales people into the kitchen doesn’t mean you have to turn them loose with a really sharp knife. To successfully control the design process, apply structure.

A simple example would be:

  1. Select two “typical” users that will need to use the tool. Explain to them you want their feedback in the design process.
  2. Set up 3 1-hour meetings with them where you ask them, in today’s process, what do you need to get done? What is most frustrating about it? What works best about it? Your goal is to understand the “job” they are “hiring” the CRM to do for them.
  3. Based on their meetings, draw a data model. Map out your understanding of where your metrics fit within this process.

The risk of a CRM that no one will use is even higher when the people who must ultimately use it aren’t involved.

Accountability Is Key

Once the design and training is over, how will they know it is important to use the CRM system? It may sound silly, but this question must be answered. You must have and enforce accountability.

Your sales people have a lot of information to contend with, have varying levels of competence at managing administrative data, and as a result, will feel highly distracted from the task of CRM management. We previously outlined how visibly posting the metrics that matter to us, and consistently and publicly revisiting how individuals perform on those metrics, tend to cut through the noise that competes for people’s time.


Keep Your Team Focused on CRM Data in a Vivid Way to Keep Their Attention

Data pulled directly from your CRM must be the central part of your sales meetings. For example, if you want to emphasize follow ups with prospects as important in your sales process, set a target for the number of follow ups, and pull the data directly from the system.

If a sales person is recording follow ups in her notebook and not in your CRM, her numbers will not make it to the dashboard your team discusses every week. No competitive sales person wants to under perform. And if she does, do you want her on your team?

By approaching your CRM with a focus on what is most important to capture, including sales people in the design of the tool and holding people accountable, you will dramatically improve CRM adoption. Your CRM system will not be just (another) digital tool to collect info, but the optimal tool your sales executive would hire to complete their objectives.

No sales pukes. No paychecks in a drawer. Just a team focused on collecting and reviewing the important data to grow your business.

Dennis Jackson

Author Dennis Jackson

More posts by Dennis Jackson

Leave a Reply