Driving CRM user adoption – the carrots and the sticks by Devinder Chauhan

Once a CRM tool is implemented, the adoption of the tool quickly becomes a priority and a concern – and rightly so. The correct implementation and adoption can really help deliver great sales results. We asked our Salesforce consultant Devinder Chauhan to talk us through the things sales managers need to do in order to drive user adoption. Here’s what he had to say…

Let’s cut straight to the chase – to get your sales people to adopt CRM, you need a big bag of juicy carrots AND a bunch of fairly large sticks. Now let’s go back to basics for a second:

What is user adoption?

Making sure that end users actually use a CRM tool like Salesforce.

Why is it important?

The short answer – what’s the point investing in a system that nobody uses? The slightly longer answer – think for a second of all the reasons you spent a ton of time and money in implementing Salesforce or any CRM system

  • You want better visibility into pipeline and revenue forecasting
  • You want clearer insight into the activities your sales people are doing every day
  • You want to make it easier for your sales people to manage accounts.
  • Your sales people need an easier way to report their forecasts upwards.
  • You want to connect marketing and sales so that leads flow seamlessly through to closed deals.

Sales people don’t actually have to use CRM. It’s not like email – which we all need to use if we want to communicate electronically with the outside world. Or it’s not like ERP which finance need to use, or else the books don’t add up. Or it’s not like a customer service system – which has to be used or else call centre agents cannot log customer’s problems.

CRM is a different beast altogether. It’s one of those systems we want sales people to use – but if they don’t want to, they don’t have to. With all the best intentions, if sales people refuse to put their accounts, contacts, meetings and opportunities into Salesforce, would you get any of the things you originally wanted? Every sales manager has heard all the excuses:

  • I know my customers – I don’t need to use CRM to manage my accounts
  • My business is built on relationships – I don’t need CRM.
  • My contact list is my life line – it’s all in my little black book – why would I give it away?

We’ve all heard the old adage – rubbish in / rubbish out. Never truer with CRM – if sales people do not put data into CRM, you as a business will get none of the benefits originally sought – and ultimately you end up with a failed CRM project and a wasted investment. The simple fact is, without a big bag of juicy carrots and a heavy stick – you will face issues getting sales people to adopt CRM as a part of their daily routine.

So, what are the carrots?

Carrots are the things you dangle in front of your sales people – this is the “what’s in it for me?” Believe it or not – there is a lot in it for the sales person. The exact carrots will differ from one organisation to another, but experience tells us there are a few tried and tested winners:

Productivity – Make it easier for me to do my job and make it faster to find information. Show me a quick and simple view of my open deals; cut by date, value and pipeline stage. This immediately shows me what I should be spending my time on. Show me a single view of my customer – all the past emails, call notes, news feeds, social profiles, information from other systems – everything in one place so that I don’t need to go searching. If Salesforce.com is my one stop shop, then why would I go looking elsewhere?

Mobile – I need all that info wherever and whenever I am. When I come out of a meeting, I want to type some quick notes before I get to my next meeting and forget everything. Your CRM needs to offer sale people the ability to see and update deals on whichever mobile device they choose (or you choose for them)

Insights – I want to see, in real time, how I am doing against my quota, and how I am doing compared with my team. Give your sales people a dashboard which shows them exactly how they are performing against their team mates and watch the competitive behaviour go through the roof. We all know sales people are competitive, and never more so than when it comes to performing better than team mates. Show them all on a dashboard who the winners and losers are and you’ll soon notice that no one likes to be a loser.

Collaboration – Competition might be fierce, but collaboration is king in enterprise solution selling. Every sales person needs a technical specialist / pre-sales / product expert to step into a deal at some point. Making it easy to share information with my team will speed up the sales cycle – but only if I use the right collaboration tool that is tied into my accounts and opportunities in salesforce.com

What about the Stick?

At the end of the day, you can give every sales person a “what’s in it for me” – a reason to put their deals and contacts into CRM. Unless every sales manager enforces adoption with a big stick, you run the risk of CRM failure. The problem is that every sales person will see right through it – “my managers only want me to put info into Salesforce so they can report on what I am doing”. Without the carrots, the sticks are useless – but you still need the stick!


This is the single biggest stick any sales manager can leverage. Every sales manager should have a dashboard showing exactly what their team is doing (meetings, calls, emails); and what deals they have in the pipeline (by stage, close date, amount and forecast category). In fact, every weekly sales meeting should be run from a dashboard. As a sales guy at Salesforce, all my team meetings started with a look at the pipeline dashboard – by default, I would get Salesforce updated before the meeting so that my nose was clean and I wouldn’t get called up on anything. What does that mean – I am adopting CRM otherwise I get hit with a “big stick”. Every sales one-to-one should be run from a dashboard. The exact metrics are semi important. The most important thing is that sales people know “my manager is looking at a dashboard – if I don’t put it into CRM it won’t show on the dashboard”. You name me a sales person who likes the question – “why is that deal not up to date in the system?”

In fact, Salesforce have a dashboard called “CLEAN YOUR ROOM”. If the room isn’t clean, the sales person will get quizzed:

  • Why does the value of that deal keep dropping?
  • Why has that deal been pushed out another month?
  • This deal is closing this month – but you’ve had no meetings with the client for over 30 days!

Executive alignment

The number one most important thing to drive CRM adoption – get your CEO to tell the company that he / she is looking at the sales dashboard. Get him / her to send out messages on the collaboration forum (i.e. – Chatter). Let every sales person know that the reports you use in sales meetings go straight up to the exec board. In fact, have an exec dashboard and show it to your team. After all, no one wants to be the last team on the leader board. If your company has a regular executive announcement such as an all hands meeting, use CRM to engage the company – get questions and answers posted on collaboration boards such as Chatter.

If it’s not in Salesforce, it didn’t happen: If all else fails – use CRM to pay commissions (in fact – you should do this anyway, but it certainly is a great stick to hit people with if not). If you don’t put the deal in Salesforce, it didn’t happen. More importantly, if I scrutinise that deal, can you – Mr Sales Person – show me the work you did? “Where are your meeting notes, deal updates, emails and calls? If I cannot see them and  if it looks like you haven’t put the effort in – you are not getting paid.” Trust me – if all else fails – this will get your sales people putting their deals and activity into the CRM system.

I’ve been working with sales people and CRM systems for a few years now and these are just some of the things I’ve seen and learned. The more carrots and sticks – the better chance of people ‘adopting’ CRM as part of their daily routine. The more CRM becomes part of people’s daily routine, the more data they will put in. The more data they put in, the better reports and Management Information you get out. The more accurate and up to date MI you get out of CRM, the more successful your CRM project has been. Well, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

As a technical consultant, having worked for Salesforce for many years, I have worked with hundreds of companies. makepositive really is one of the best Salesforce consultancy companies to work for as I knew this was one of the few Salesforce partners that could guarantee a successful CRM project.

If you would like to learn more about how to guarantee a successful CRM project and more importantly, how to guarantee CRM user adoption – get in touch with us here.

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