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Unfortunately, CRM systems are too often conceived and implemented with little or no consideration given to how sales reps will use them, much less how they could be configured to deliver the kind of value that would encourage reps to use them.

We have identified four reasons sales reps are often slow to adopt – or even push back against adopting – CRM systems. Read carefully the points below -- are those issues you encouter in your company? How do you work to overcome these obstacles?

1. Failure to include users in the design or deployment of the system. Too often, CRM systems are designed to support sales accounting processes and make it easier to track performance, estimate revenue, etc. Therefore, from the outset, the system is configured with features and functions that make sense to accountants and managers, but have almost no practical application or relevance to what sales reps do every day. When sales reps are not consulted to determine what tools or capabilities they would like to see in an automated sales system, the message to sales reps is very clear: "This system was created to make someone else’s job easier by giving you one more task to perform that doesn’t help you make more calls or close more business." If the primary intended users – sales reps - are not consulted or involved in the creation and roll out of a solution of this magnitude, they will not be enthusiastic about using it.

2. Failure to align CRM processes with sales team processes. Once again, CRM systems are too often designed to support accounting processes rather than sales processes. People who monitor and analyze raw sales data think very differently and have different needs that sales reps. This becomes evident very quickly when a sales rep sits down to try and make sense of many CRM systems. In almost all cases, sales teams already have a process they are comfortable with that defines how they address territory management, account planning, customer research, order management, pricing and approval systems, and document management. Unless the CRM system has been deployed using great care to assure that it will be aligned with the existing sales process, the CRM roll out will precipitate a massive change in workflow. This will be accompanied by an equally massive protest from sales reps who now find the tools and processes they have relied upon being usurped by a CRM that was not designed with sales reps in mind in the first place. This will make the CRM learning curve for sales reps long and painful, and many will simply avoid the process altogether.

Here's how you can improve your rate of CRM adoption.

3. Failure to build trust with the sales team. Because of the disconnect between sales accounting needs and sales team needs during the CRM design and implementation stage, sales reps are often left to draw their own conclusions, and what they often conclude is that they are being asked to dedicate precious time and effort to logging information into the CRM which not only offers no measurable benefit to them, but which will be used to track their performance and could be used "against" them during future performance reviews. Sales reps need all the encouragement they can get, so when confronted with a CRM that is not sales rep friendly, they tend to feel mistrusted, disrespected, resentful and spied upon, and they may begin to distrust management as well.

4. Failure to get buy-in from users. This is a way to summarize all of the above. This ought to be so simple to understand. When implementing a CRM, the primary end-user - the customer, if you will – is the sales rep. Certainly, other people will benefit from the powerful benefits of a well-deployed CRM, but it is the sales rep who generates most of the data and creates most of the value. Therefore, the sales rep MUST perceive that the CRM creates value for them, or the process will collapse in a frustrating, expensive exercise in futility. If you want to create buy-in from the sales rep begin with these simple steps:

  • Ask the sales reps to identify the needs they have regarding account management, information flow, research, etc., and explain where the present system is costing them lost time and productivity. Take these concerns into account when designing and implementing the system.
  • Ask sales reps to outline what they like and dislike about the present sales team process, to assure that the things they like about the present system are not degraded by the implementation of the new system. Also take these concerns into account when designing and implementing the system.
  • Clearly and enthusiastically reinforce to sales reps the ways that the new CRM system will benefit the sales process, increase efficiency and productivity, and simplify the sales rep’s life so they can spend more time growing their business.
  • Once the sales rep clearly grasps the WIIFM, they will be ready to buy in to the solution. It is the oldest principle of selling, and will work on sales reps, too.