For decades, CRM implementations have had a higher failure rate than most other types of corporate software. Most analyst estimates are in the 50% range! Ironically, CRM failures are not hardware or software failures, nor are they problems with integration or system performance.
Quite the contrary, most CRM failures are the result of a single very human problem–a low adoption rate. CRM is always installed with the highest of hopes and with the full knowledge (at least on the part of sales management) that CRM will improve revenue and reduce costs.
However, if the salespeople aren’t fully on board, they’ll either refuse to use it (if they’ve got clout) or (if they don’t) passive-aggressively avoid it whenever possible. Fortunately, it’s possible to achieve a high adoption rate by following these guidelines:
1. Respect your salespeople.
Unfortunately, CRM systems have historically been implemented by, and often sold to, people who lack a fundamental respect for both the sales function and salespeople in general.
The most visible manifestation of this disrespect is when programmers and non-sales executives espouse the canard that low adoption rates are because salespeople are technologically backward.
However, far from the Luddites that programmers and non-sales executives seem to believe salespeople to be, salespeople have always been the early adopters of new technology.
Rather than technophobic, salespeople are techno-skeptic. They only adopt technology that actually helps them to sell and reject any technology or process that keeps them from selling.
Respecting salespeople means respecting the wisdom of their perceptions about what’s useful. If salespeople don’t want to use a CRM system, it’s not because there’s something wrong with the salespeople. It’s because there’s something wrong with the system.
2. Don’t steal their contact data.
Even if a CRM system DOES help salespeople to sell, they’ll resist adopting the technology if they’re forced to keep their own contact data, in addition to entering it into the CRM system.
Contacts are the lifeblood of a salesperson’s career and most salespeople expect to work for multiple companies. This is simple truth.
Thus, if a company says “we own the contact data that you accumulate while working for us and we won’t let you have a copy when you leave” any salesperson who isn’t a complete idiot will either quit immediately or (as is quite common) make and keep a personal copy of all the contact data.
If the salesperson DOES remain, he or she will now be forced enter the contact data twice–once into the CRM system and then again into his or her own phone or computer. That’s twice as much data entry, and twice as much time that the salesperson can’t spend selling.
Therefore, if you really want your salespeople to use the CRM system, you must promise them in writing that when they leave the company they’ll be supplied with all the contact data that they have entered.
Even if they leave to work for a competitor.
Anything else, and the only people who will work for you are clueless novices or idiots who can’t sell in the first place.
3. Start small then grow.
Once you’ve established respect for the basic intelligence of salespeople and established in their minds that you’re not trying to rip them off, you can address making the technology easier for them to use.
If there’s anything that’s been learned from decades of CRM implementation, it’s that if you try to make a CRM system into the end-all and be-all of sales technology, you’re going to end up with a system that nobody wants to use.
Instead, start with the smallest data set that you need to manage and close deals. Add necessary information as you go. Resist adding fields or data that sales people won’t input or which can’t be easily automated. Customize the system to do whatever salespeople want the most.
Furthermore, if you have a large sales organization, you’ll achieve a higher adoption rate if start with a pilot program, rather than trying to roll the system out to everyone at once. A successful pilot turns the sales reps who participated it into CRM evangelists.
Once the word gets out, everyone will be clamoring to use it.
4. Make it available all the time.
Finally, if your sales team includes “road warriors,” your CRM system must be available wherever and whenever those salespeople need it: on the way to a meeting, coming out of the meeting, at home, in the hotel and (of course) in the office.
If you fail to do this, you will turn the CRM system into a source of frustration. Salespeople cope with enough frustration without being forced to also deal with “sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t” technology.
Offering true availability requires more than just the simple support of mobile devices. Because you can never be 100% certain of wireless or cell phone coverage, the system should make relevant data available offline.
When an offline device comes online, it should sync immediately and automatically. Salespeople should be focusing on selling rather than futzing with data transfer protocols.
In other words, use mobility to make CRM easier to use, rather than more difficult. When your salespeople see that the CRM system helps them sell and that little or no hassle involved with using the system, the adoption rate won’t be a problem.
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