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Dear Wiz: How Do I Get My Sales Reps To Use a CRM?

Do you have questions about sales ops and how to get sales reps to adopt your customer relationship management platform? Dear Wiz has answers.

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Welcome to Dear Wiz, an advice column by sales operations folks for sales operations folks. Each month, we select a “Wiz” to answer your burning questions about the best ways to work, learn, and grow in this quickly expanding field. Have a question? Ask it below.

For February’s column, Trailblazers from our online communities wanted to know how to get sales reps invested in new workflows and tools. And more specifically: “How do we get them to use the customer relationship management (CRM) software?” Fields get unfilled. Data is not up to date. All of this lowers the return on investment on a tool we’re using the valuable budget for! Ashley Mattis, senior director of sales operations and strategy at Groupon, shares her take on this common problem and the broader issue of change management.

Why do you need buy-in from sales reps?

You could have the most beautifully baked-out processes and tools in your customer relationship management platform (CRM), but if reps aren’t using them, you’ve invested in something with zero return. Building trust is crucial, especially at the beginning, because no rollout of any new tool or process is ever perfect. You’ll hit snags or unanticipated bugs. These early challenges require lots and lots of patience from your team while they get resolved.

If your teams aren’t bought in on the bigger picture, they’ll have zero tolerance for when things inevitably go wrong – big or small. You’ll miss whatever goal you were originally working toward. And the sales operations team would have spent weeks and months rolling out a new process for a CRM that’s ultimately rejected. Buy-in helps you avoid all of that tension and makes sure reps adopt new processes as you introduce new tools into their workflow.

You have to start at the top to be effective at the bottom, and nothing beats finding the right person to deliver a message.

Ashley Mattis, senior director of sales operations and strategy at Groupon

How do you get sales reps to use new tools and processes, like a CRM?

Recruit a pit crew. They’re a mix of sales reps from across different levels and verticals, a representation of people with more tenure and those who are quick to adopt technology. This group should be the first to know about upcoming changes and act as your litmus test.

Then recruit people outside of sales operations to lead the pit crew. Bring in product management, engineering, and sales leaders to explain the data behind the decision. This opens you up to feedback early on in the process, which is extremely helpful when choosing between vendors. At Groupon, I used this process to successfully implement everything from contact cadence software to an upgraded user interface (UI) like Salesforce Lightning.

And when you’re ready to roll out the new process or tool widely? Make sure it comes from the top. Sales ops has little credibility with sales reps because they don’t always understand the scope of your responsibilities. While sales leaders may trust you, the average rep probably won’t. They look to their sales leaders for guidance. Consider bringing in a sales leader to do the initial overview, so that it’s coming from someone to whom reps are accountable. Then, when it’s time for the nuts and bolts, swoop in with data, demos, and visualizations. You have to start at the top to be effective at the bottom. Nothing beats finding the right person to deliver the right message.

When I first started in this field, there was often a feeling of sales operations versus sales – even though at the end of the day we all had the same goals.

Ashley Mattis, senior director of sales operations and strategy at Groupon

How do we ensure adoption is successful?

Once you have buy-in, focus on developing training. I structure my sessions similar to a college course. We start off at the 100 level, a light introduction that gives them enough knowledge to complete what they need to do. Then we build up to the 200 and 300 level, sharing more detailed content and training materials to support each stage.

Also, don’t underestimate the benefit of a reward system! You’d be surprised how much participation will rise when you offer something as simple as a certification process. If I give certification saying a rep has mastered a new prospecting cadence, for example, reps feel empowered to engage with the tool more and even train others.

Lastly, don’t forget about the human element of change management. When I first started in this field, there was often a feeling of sales operations versus sales. The sales ops team would try to get the reps to do something, and reps would resist, even though at the end of the day we all had the same goals. To avoid this adversarial dynamic, pull the empathy lever. Spend time getting to know your reps, find out what their pain points are. I instituted a shadowing program with my sales operations team for this very purpose.

Change can be daunting, and many of our businesses had to change over and over again in the past year. With communication, empathy. and data, you can keep your reps invested in adoption and your sales organization functioning as one machine.

Read previous installments of Dear Wiz, including how to hire a sales ops superstar and how to compensate your sales ops pro.

Have a question about sales ops you want answered? Submit it to Anita.


Anita Little is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in Los Angeles. She has spent 10 years working with traditional media outlets from Playboy to Ms. to Elle. She graduated from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism with degrees in digital journalism and political science.

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