Sorry, there is no easy answer here. One of the bigger challenges to a successful CRM implementation is getting adoption from the sales team. One of the key advantages of Salesforce is the ability to track sales activities so that you can institute and track scalable sales processes, get better visibility into your pipeline and grow your sales in an organized and predictable way. For many sales people, good use of salesforce.com is a productivity enhancer rather than a time sink.

Is Resistance Futile?
However, many sales people would also disagree — or more accurately, they understand fully the benefit of instituting CRM but they resist participation, sometimes vehemently. They often cite the following reasons:

  • This is just a tool for management to micro-manage
  • I’m busy closing deals, not filling out forms
  • I get paid the big bucks and data entry is beneath me
  • I can’t get convenient access as I’m constantly on the road
  • Documenting slows me down and doesn’t help me get to my number

No matter what management says, no matter how much a sales person knows that it’s good for them in the long run — changing the behavior of people is hard.  And in an aggressive sales organization where making the number means everything, taking time out to do something you aren’t directly compensated for is tough.  And why work on something with a  long term benefit if quota isn’t reached in the short term?

Salespeople have a reputation for being resistant to this type of change — particularly change they doesn’t impact their bottom line — immediately.  Nothing really gets around this point.  There has to be an incentive or a consequence to create any change. In other words, there needs to be a carrot and a stick approach.


Motley Crew
The reports from Salesforce are only going to be as good as the data going in, so 100% participation is required. Each sales person has different motivations and styles and so a multi-faceted approach is required to change everyone’s behavior. Some sales people are super-organized team players. They get that they will have better visibility into their accounts and increase their ability to juggle a multitude of opportunities. They get that their more organized and methodical approach will result in better relationships with the customer and a higher win rate. They get that this is a tool that helps them “be on top of things” and helps them hit their number.  They also know that with a stronger, better managed sales organization behind it, that everyone, including him or herself will benefit.

Others take a more seat-of-the-pants style to closing deals. They don’t see the value and frankly speaking, must be forced into using Salesforce. They need management to run the sales and forecasting meeting directly from Salesforce reports (if it’s not in Salesforce it doesn’t exist). They need to be embarrassed in front of their peers that they haven’t followed up with a lead in several weeks. They need to be low on the leaderboard report because their forecast isn’t accurate. They need to be nagged and baby sat and given artificial “incentive” metrics like having a quota for calls/emails each day.  Others need to be tested and certified as part of their MBO.  It’s never perfect though.  If you are exceeding your quota, it often becomes your “get out of jail free” card.

Whether a sales person is on either end of the spectrum, an important facet to improving adoption is to lower the cost of “entry”.   If it’s easy, then resistance will be less. That can mean several things:

  • Increase automation as much as possible. This can mean having quick and convenient pull-down and lookup fields, simplified workflows and more. This can mean an integration with several other applications in the workflow to make it as seamless as possible and to remove double entry of the same data.
  • More points of accessibility, such as smart-phone and Outlook integration so that the steps required to enter and access data are minimized.  Some organizations give their sales team Ipads – a small investment compared to the data they receive from it.
  • Use lots of alerts.  People find it easier to react to an alert than to proactively search for information.
  • Accurate reports for each sales person so they know at every point where they stand during their quarter.
  • Prototype your solution with a friendly audience.  Work out the kinks on a small subset of influential sales people before rolling it out to the larger team.  Use your prototype team as your evangelists 
  • Training and easy-to-follow documentation so that they can get past most issues without needing someone to handhold them.  Making your training customized — the more generic it is the more the sales people have to interpolate to their specific situation
  • Set clear guidelines on what is expected.  Maybe you don’t need to track every “called, no answer” detail nor put in every attendee of every meeting.  Consider the value of the information and the cost to put it in.

and much more. Optimizations are a quick way to lower the cost of using salesforce.com prior to rollout. These types of improvements, coupled with the “stick” approach, help most organizations achieve adoption. The road to value is never an easy path.  You need a plan to get there and to maintain it as the organization grows.  The payoff can be great once the process becomes institutionalized.