As a sales leader, you likely understand the numerous ways a customer relationship management, or CRM solution can add value to your business and help transform your sales processes. Studies have shown that companies who incorporate CRM systems communicate more effectively with their customers and deliver a better overall customer experience, in turn helping to boost customer retention. So how then, do company owners, sales managers and business leaders alike, ensure that the CRM platform they choose is successfully adopted by their team? How do they ensure that their team not only want to use the system but that they are advocates of it?

7 ways to ensure your sales team are fans of your CRM

More often than not, software implementations tend to fail not because of technical difficulties, but because teams simply don’t want to use the system. And sales teams, in particular, are notorious for problems in customer relationship management (CRM) adoption.

A review from found that around one-third of all CRM projects fail. In this case, failure covered issues like the project coming in over-budget, data integrity issues, technology limitations etc.

Too often CRM’s are used for inspection, used to report on progress, improve forecast accuracy, provide visibility and provide a range of other business intelligence — rather than helping to iterate or improve sales processes.

Where to begin

Ideally, when a company decides to implement a new CRM, they would aim to remove all ambiguity in their needs and expectations before implementation, or even before settling on a CRM provider.

You may want a CRM for something as straightforward as needing to consolidate and organize your contact database, bringing it onto the cloud. Or it may be something more complex, like streamlining your sales and marketing funnels or automating tasks and workflows.

Whatever the reason, it’s vital to establish a clear business case and to be able to define specific and measurable goals against the cost of implementation. For example, by streamlining and automating parts of your workflow you can help increase productivity and save time on administrative tasks, in turn freeing up sales reps to spend more time doing what they do best – sell.

A CRM that can meet the majority of your business requirements and is not a chore for your team to use, will likely mean a greater user adoption and ultimately, a better ROI.

In terms of features & functionality for CRM’s, it’s good practice to think of or prepare a list of:

  • Must Haves – core features & functions that you’ve identified as essential.
  • Nice to Have’s – features/functions that would be a nice addition but that you can live without.
  • a Wish List – features that if you could wave a magic wand would make you and your teams’ job that much easier.

Answers to the above will enable you to select the best platform for you. But whichever platform you choose, it should be flexible enough to mould around your business processes and needs - not the other way around.

It’s also worth checking whether the CRM platform you choose can scale with you as your business grows? Or will it suddenly become that much more expensive as you add more users or features? Free options may be great to get you started but may suddenly become that much more expensive as you & your business grows – so be sure to ask.

7 ways to help turn your sales team into fans of your CRM platform

  1. Involve the whole team from the beginning

    The best place to start building your business case is with an internal review. One of the major problems in CRM implementations is that many organizations assume it to be an IT project. But you’re better off asking those who’ll be using it the most, to provide you with their feedback.

    If your employees feel like they’ve been involved in the decision-making process, they’ll be far more willing to accept and welcome change. It’s essential to gain your teams’ input right from the beginning, to help ensure you choose the best CRM option for your business. After all, they’re the people who will be using it every day.

    So take the time to explain your business case to the team(s) that will be using the software. Explain why you want a CRM (or to change CRM’s) and what value you feel it will bring to the business. And then ask for their input. What are their pain points? What features or functions would they like to have? And what’s on their wish-list?

  2. Explain the benefits

    A well selected CRM software is an asset – an essential tool for any sales team or business looking to grow and be able to differentiate themselves from their competition. A well adopted CRM allows your customers to have a personalized experience, which drives repeat business and customer retention. And those benefits should be portrayed to the sales team.

    What if you told each of your sales team that they could increase their quota by up to 29%? Or if they could increase their productivity by up to 26%? Would they be interested? Would they pay attention? Of course, they would.

    Yet it’s easy to claim that this new magical software will suddenly help you crush your quota, but the ‘devil is in the detail’ as they say. So be sure to take the time to coach your team on the how’s and why’s.

    Too often, CRM’s are used for inspection - to report on progress, improve forecast accuracy, or provide more visibility - rather than helping to coach sales teams or to iterate or improve sales processes.

    A key factor in the success of CRM implementation is not the individual salespeople. It’s sales management. Management will determine how the team uses & experiences the CRM.

    If it’s simply a fact check tool, or being used to track daily activity, the value it provides to your sales team is low and as such the data entry will be poor.

    Instead, use it as a tool to help evaluate performance throughout the sales process, not just the end result. Dissect each interaction. Ask your team what they thought was effective at each stage, and where perhaps is there room for improvement? CRM can be a powerful platform to help support coaching for your sales teams, providing not only hard data and numbers but insights into how users may further develop their abilities and meet their goals.

  3. Explore your options

    Even if you’re convinced that you’ve chosen the right CRM system and it ticks all the boxes for you, your team may not agree. And as we mentioned above, your team’s opinion is vital.

    Of course, you can’t, and won’t, be able to please everyone, but if 6 people of your team of 10 aren’t convinced, perhaps it’s worth exploring other options.

    Practically every CRM software will provide a trial period for new users, so use this opportunity to test what fits best for you & your business needs.

    Also important to consider; is your business B2B or B2C? Do you perhaps target specific industries or verticals? Some CRM’s are ideally suited for specific industries, so this may help in narrowing your choices. Rather than spending time trying to mould the system - there may be an ideal fit already available. This will also allow you to test or check for any available integrations with your existing software(s).

  4. Choose your champion

    So now that you have an established business case and your team is excited at the prospect of a new tool to help them in their day-to-day, someone’s gotta test the selected options…

    Your in-house CRM advocate should have strong planning skills and be able to put the data they receive into actionable items. If a team member is overwhelmed by planning and coordinating, then they are not going to excel at being your CRM champion.

    To truly embrace the role of CRM Champion, they need both a passion to succeed as well as the curiosity to learn more about the system itself. And while your appointed team member doesn’t need to know how to code, they do need to have a solid understanding of basic tech & data principles.

    For example, understanding what data the CRM collects, how the system finds and sorts that data, and how (and why) it restricts access to certain parts of the system. So if your nominee struggles with scanning a document on the photocopier, perhaps don’t ask them to test and implement a CRM.

    And of course, be sure to allocate time for your nominee to properly test and asses the system. If you’re tasking an already busy team member with a whole new project, they need to have dedicated time set aside to be able to deliver.

  5. Phase the rollout

    The likelihood is your new CRM platform does all sorts of wonderful things that will help in your daily workflow but dumping every feature onto your team at once is akin to drinking from a fire hose – it’ll be too much to handle.

    It’s best to roll out your CRM implementation in phases. Give your team some time to get to grips with the core features and functions first, otherwise, you risk scaring them off completely. A phased rollout will allow you to slowly introduce key pieces of the CRM while also allowing for any adjustments or tweaks that need to be made.

    By staggering the rollout, you prevent your staff from feeling overwhelmed by the new system, and in turn, reduce the odds of CRM failure through low user adoption rates.

  6. Train your team

    Studies have shown that it takes on average 66 days to form a habit. Your CRM training should be an ongoing process and long-term investment, so setting a plan, staying organized, and following it all the way through is vital.

    Whether you choose to set up a one day training in a certain areas of the software, or break it up into smaller sessions, or better yet, customize the training for each team - proper CRM training ensures that all users not only know how to use the CRM software but also understand how certain features and functions will benefit their everyday workflow.

    The way you train your manager should be different than the way that you train your users. And the way you train someone who works in customer success should be different than the way you train someone that works on sales. There are of course overlaps, but there should be some specificity to what you’re going to roll out to each team. What problems will it help solve for them and their role and what value can it add for them.

  7. Measure the results

Now that you’ve implemented your CRM and the team have received training, you can begin measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of the CRM across your organization?

This is the period of observation and monitoring to allow you to truly learn how the system works in your actual work environment.

Typically, the first results measured are performance-related, including metrics such as the volume of sales calls, closing rate, or the average length of a sales cycle.

But in order to cement a longer-lasting relationship between your team and your newfound software, look as well to the broader impacts. How are the employee satisfaction levels? Has productivity increased? Have your customer satisfaction or NPS score increased?

Once you are clear on what you are looking to achieve (as defined in your business case at the beginning), then it’s simply a case of defining the metrics.

A successful CRM implementation requires preparation, commitment and cooperation across the entire organization. And for a successful implementation, your team should be involved throughout the process.

As the approach to business continues to evolve, more and more, the customer is being put at the heart of the business. And with CRM’s providing a 360-degree data view in one centralized database, a customer-led and human-centric approach will help bring your business to the forefront – driving positive client feedback, better sales results and ultimately, sustained scalable growth.

Surely that will make your team fans of your new CRM.

If you’re unsure where to begin, these 4 questions may help steer you in the right direction:

  1. Why are you implementing a CRM platform?
  2. What are your pain points?
  3. What problems would you like your CRM to solve?
  4. What value do you want it to add? (monetary, timesaving, client engagement, all?)

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