In my five years at Salesforce, I’ve worked with hundreds of small business and mid-market customers. I’ve seen a lot of customers doing really well with customer relationship management (CRM), and I’ve seen my fair share of companies struggling to get the most out of their investment.

When things aren’t going well, it typically comes down to a lack of adoption. Fortunately, this can be remedied with a few best practices we’ve learned from helping customers implement CRM.

Below is a run-down of six guiding principles to driving CRM adoption in your organization. These guideposts have proven effective with the customers I’ve worked with over the years.


1. Demonstrate Executive Buy-In

Leaders need to see the value of Salesforce for the organization, and they need to be able to demonstrate that to the rest of the team. If you’re in a leadership role, set an example for your team and use your CRM every day. For example, have it up on your screen when you’re talking about accounts with your team or reviewing pipeline.

Another way you can implement Salesforce, in particular, into your daily work is to use chatter to collaborate with your team and celebrate your success. Use it instead of email to announce deals, promotions, and opportunities for team members to work together. People don’t realize how powerful Chatter really is until it becomes a part of their culture.


2. Give Your Users a Voice

Your end users need a seat at the table when it comes to implementation and change management, in general. So, don’t leave implementation in the hands of folks who don’t know the end users’ day-to-day jobs.

Use surveys, too. I’ve got one longtime customer who routinely gives a one-question survey to his teams that asks: “In regards to Salesforce, what is keeping you from closing more deals?” Feedback from that one question has proven invaluable.


3. Commit to Ease and Simplicity

I once walked into a customer meeting and was stunned by what I saw in their Salesforce instance. They had 100 custom fields on screen, most of which had never had a single thing entered into them. It was a total nightmare. So, of course, I knew that adoption was a challenge for them.

When customizing your install, remember that most customers add more than they need right out of the gate. Fewer custom fields are oftentimes the right amount.

Another way to make your CRM work for each end user is to use customization features (like profiles and page layouts in Salesforce) to create a different look and feel for each user based on their role. That way, when they look at an account page, they’ll see what’s relevant for them, and none of what doesn’t matter to their work.

Pro Tip: Run the Salesforce Optimizer. The optimizer gives you a report of what’s being used and what isn’t. Most people find they have fields that nobody’s ever touched. Ever.


4. Be Needed

Ask yourself if your team can do their jobs without Salesforce. If they can, then why have them use it?

That said, most reps probably use somewhere between six and eight tools to do their jobs each day. Let’s knock that down to two or three. It doesn’t have to all be in Salesforce, but you can roll a bunch of what those other tools do into your install.

Two easy examples:

  • Quoting and price proposals: Instead of jumping into Excel for quoting, you can stay in Salesforce and use the quotes and proposals feature.

  • Host marketing materials in Chatter groups: Why jump into Dropbox or Sharepoint when you can upload assets to Chatter and easily share them across teams?

5. Provide Value

Does CRM help your sales team solve more deals? Does it help your service team close more cases? Find out what will help them do their jobs, and implement it.

Salesforce is not only an executive analytics tool; it has to drive value for end users. I have one customer whose business revolves around clients placing monthly re-orders. They use a no-touch dashboard that reminds sales reps to call any Tier 1 customer who they haven’t talked to in thirty days. That’s a simple analytic that helps reps sell.

Lead scoring and grading is another great example. Automated scoring and grading looks for the hottest leads — prospects who’ve already visited your company website, viewed pricing information, or opened your emails — and nudges your sales reps to call them first. These are analytics that drive value, saving your reps them time by having them call the right people, not cold or outdated leads.


6. Training, Training, Training

Provide training on your CRM, and do it in your lingo with your process in mind. If you’re using Salesforce, send your team to Trailhead. Have them complete the modules already there, or allow your enablement team to create curated Trailmixes specific to your team’s roles and needs.

You can also rethink trainings as bitesize videos — Three minutes on how to create a quote, two minutes on how to log an activity, and so on. Make the videos in your language so they speak authentically to your culture and focus. And put them on Chatter so they’re easy to reference.

For more tips on achieving implementation success, watch the full video of my Dreamforce session and Q&A. And check out Trailhead for more ways to drive end user adoption.

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