Selling Starts at Home: Enticing Salespeople to Use CRM


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Does the idea of using CRM make you want to run and hide?

Does the idea of using CRM make you want to run and hide?

After spending a significant amount of money on a new sales force automation (SFA) system, you’d think that a large manufacturing company would review all leads, pipelines and forecasts from within the SFA software, right? But every week, sales managers at all levels walked print-outs and Excel documents into conference rooms to discuss sales activities.

No wonder, then, that SFA utilization hovered at a pitiful 20%. On top of that, was the information in the SFA system even reliable — were salespeople actively entering opportunities, and was the data clean? Sales managers didn’t know.

Many companies, like this one, contact Cloud Sherpas after rolling out SFA or customer relationship management (CRM) software because their utilization is at best 20–30%. That’s not surprising. Too often, SFA launches with a burst of hype, and no plan for the long haul, or a program to ensure that sales managers themselves become SFA proponents.

“We’ll just make them use it, or else.” That’s how the head of one investment firm in Silicon Valley once referred to his company’s approach to pushing employees to use SFA or any other software. In fact, it’s how many sales VPs approach SFA utilization. And it’s completely wrong. Give salespeople something they want to use, and adoption, not to mention productivity, will largely fall in line.

How can companies turn stalled SFA projects into success stories? Based on Cloud Sherpas’ numerous engagements over the past 10 years — with 2,500 projects spanning 400 customers — these five rules stand out:

1. Make SFA the Only Reality

At the aforementioned manufacturing company, SFA utilization has now reached 80% — an excellent improvement. How did this company end up at this point? Using a number of process changes, Cloud Sherpas helped the company foster a culture in which sales managers live in the SFA system.

When a sales manager meets with a salesperson on Monday morning to review previous activity, new leads and expectations, the conversation is conducted with the SFA application open. This SFA-driven discussion now happens at every level. When the regional sales manager reviews the pipeline with local sales managers, they let the information in the SFA application guide the discussion. Same again up the ladder when regional managers review pipelines with the VP and so on. All sales activity should live in the SFA system — from number of calls to meeting notes, all the way through to incentive plans and bonuses — so that the value of the system is seen day in and day out.

2. Balance the Carrot and the Stick

You can beat your sales team into submission. That’s the approach taken in probably nine out of 10 CRM projects. But while that may result in 50% utilization, it will never lead to 80% or better.

For SFA projects, we recommend striking a balance between helping to increase the sales team’s productivity, and giving management what they want. This has to be an explicit bargain with salespeople because they are keeping score. Let’s be real: If you build a new SFA system, all it’s really doing is tracking what the salespeople are doing. Are they supposed to be excited about that?

What do salespeople want? Perhaps for you to enter all leads into the system for them automatically. Or if they must cull prospects from a large volume of leads, give them sharper segmentation tools. The best approach? Ask them.

3. Buy Them Off

Tie part of your sales compensation to SFA utilization. In short, alter their behavior through incentives which don’t have to be large to have an effect. As everyone knows, even slight monetary incentives influence human behavior. I recommend giving them a small boost for doing a good job using the SFA system, and a negative for not applying themselves or complying with SFA requirements.

4. Train For Real Life

Too often, training programs focus on helping users simply navigate the new system. I find that approach to be completely ineffective.

What’s better: training salespeople in the scenarios they actually require. Show the “what’s in it for them” — namely, the ability to more quickly, easily and successfully do their jobs. And if your CRM system isn’t doing that in the first place, then you shouldn’t be rolling it out.

5. Speak “SFA” From Above

Perhaps the single greatest incentive for salespeople to use SFA is to have someone in power actively flog the SFA software. For example, at one of our clients, the head of sales regularly fires off an email to one of his salespeople based on information in the SFA system. “What’s going on with this deal at 20% probability? I thought we had it signed.” Now, he may only do this four times per month, picking deals at random. Even so, that goes a long way toward keeping salespeople hyped about using the system and reminding them that senior executives are watching, while also reinforcing that their SFA efforts are not going unnoticed.


Cloud Sherpas is one of the world’s leading cloud services brokerages and helps businesses adopt, manage and enhance their CRM investment by identifying desired business goals, finding the right tools and technology for the job, and delivering rapid implementations that remain focused on achieving the desired business capabilities.

For more on user adoption of CRM, see how we helped Associated Newspapers go from 14% to 86% adoption of

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Ed Yourdon.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Honig
Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a recognized thought-leader in sales process and effectiveness, and has previously co-founded three successful technology companies: Innoveer Solutions, C-Bridge, and Open Environment. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the 'No Jerks' hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.


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