Six Ways to Increase CRM Adoption – Part 1 – Understand Sales People

Sales people are not technophobes, nor are they averse to change. They will readily embrace any technology that helps them sell (and therefore earn) more. By way of an example, try and find a sales person that has not visited LinkedIn within the last seven days, has a mobile that is more than two years old and still uses a Filofax or Rolodex, rather than some form of software aid, in which to record all of their contacts and appointments.

Sales people are, however, sceptical about technology because technology by itself never sold a thing. It is the act of talking to a prospect that sells; everything else in life either helps or hinders that one singular process. The difference between closing a deal at 11:59 pm on the last day of the quarter versus 12:01 am on the next day could make the difference between earning that commission cheque or not. Time matters.

So, in order to persuade a sales person to adopt a CRM solution you must, first and foremost, demonstrate how it is going to help them when it comes to talking to the prospect and how it’s going to free up time from other burdensome tasks so that they can talk to more prospects.

To do that, it must tick as many of these boxes as possible:

  • Be a source of new prospect data
  • Enrich or supplement the minimal data that they have to enter
  • Prompt when follow ups are due and remind about other tasks
  • Automate reporting and reduce meetings
  • Provide access to data whilst out of the office
  • Automate laborious processes

Show the sales team how this can be achieved, and you are well on the way to full adoption.

Make the CRM the source of new prospect data

The first item to focus on must be how information ends up in the CRM. If you’re asking a sales person to type it in, you’re already at risk of failure. Why? Because, no matter what CRM solution you opt for, it still takes too long to go from an email in the inbox to a fully formed CRM record and it can be cumbersome to type whilst taking a phone call.

Trust me, no matter how well your CRM solution integrates with your email system, the only information you can reliably get out of an email automatically is the sender’s name and email address. The rest of the information – organisation name, address, phone number, mobile number, job title, and nature of enquiry is all buried within the email body. There is no standard format of email signature (assuming one is even present) and so an element of cut, paste and massage is always necessary to “fit” the data into the CRM.

If you impose a CRM solution without addressing this fundamental issue, then this is what will happen: For the first day or so, the sales person will diligently use it. After a few days, they’ll stop entering “everything” and start just entering what they perceive to be the “interesting things”. After a few weeks, they’ll have reverted to just entering details when business process dictates that they absolutely cannot progress further without entering the information. For example, if the system generates quotes, then they will only enter details at the point of producing quotes.

I’ve seen extreme cases where organisations only pay the team commission if there is a “closed won” opportunity in the system. The result was that minimal data was only ever entered in the system once the deal had actually been won. For the managers, any analysis of the sales pipeline showed a 100% close rate, and determining the sales forecast and lead conversion rate was impossible.

So how do you make the CRM the source of all prospect data?

There are a couple of very straightforward approaches:

  • Leverage Web-To-Lead features so that the prospect enters the data themselves
  • Implement auto-email import
  • Install a Mailbox Plug-in
  • Buy in rich prospecting data


Data entered on a form on your website should go straight into the CRM system. I can think of no valid reason why it should go anywhere else. If someone fills out either a “contact-us “type form, or a “download whitepaper type form”, it is remarkably easy to make that information end up as a new lead in most CRM systems.

Auto-email Import

I said above that the only information that can be reliably extracted from an email is the sender’s name and email address. But that information can be very reliably extracted. So, if you receive emails to generic accounts such as “enquiries@” or “support@” it makes sense to automatically capture those straight into the CRM. Yes, someone will still need to review the new record, supplement some of the data so that workflow rules can then assign the record. but why should the sales person or customer support representative do that?

Once the data lands in the CRM, workflow rules should be able to either automatically allocate the new enquiry to the most appropriate person to check and enrich the contact data, before it is finally assigned for action.

Install a Mailbox/Calendar Plug-in

Whilst auto-import works well for generic email accounts, other users (particularly in Sales) are more protective of their emails and the contact list held in their email client and are perhaps more selective of what should (and shouldn’t) go into the CRM. Managers often want “everything” in the CRM. But the Sales Person knows that if they have to wade through everything, they might as well stick with their inbox.

Imagine the scenario where a sales person emails the prospect asking for an initial discovery call – the email train then goes something like:

Prospect: “I am interested in products X, Y & Z but have a few questions…”
Sales Guy: “Thanks for your enquiry about X, Y & Z. It would be useful to hold an initial discovery call to go over your points – is there a good time to call?”
Prospect: “Sure, how about Friday at 10am?”
Sales Guy (clashes with sales meeting): “Sorry, I can’t do 10am but I can do 2pm or 4pm today?”
Prospect: “Let me check with my colleagues”
Prospect: “Sorry, my colleagues can’t make those times, what availability do you have tomorrow?”
Sales Guy: “10am, 1pm, 2pm, 4pm”
Prospect: “Great, let’s go for 2pm tomorrow”

Of the above eight emails, how many add value by being in the CRM? In my book, the first one and the last are the key ones (and the scheduled call record). Everything else is just clutter that’s going to get in someone’s way when they review the account in a few weeks.

Providing integration between the email/calendar client and the CRM gives the Sales Person a rapid mechanism to initially create the contact, archive the important email and record that a call has been scheduled. This then provides benefit because creating the contact has taken no longer than it would have done in any other tool, and there will be less clutter to wade through in order to review the initial enquiry later. Remember, everything in a Sales Person’s life either helps or hinders the act of actually talking to the prospect.

Buy-in Rich Prospecting Data

Pre-loading the CRM with a good source of industry data is not appropriate for everyone but if you’re business is highly niche or targets a well understood sector then it may well make sense to simply buy in source data rather than manually enter it on a case-by-case basis. That way, you’re simply matching a new enquiry up against a pre-existing entity. For example, if your business involves selling to the education sector then it should be possible to pre-load the system with every school, college and university in the country. If you sell to the health sector, it would similarly be possible to load every hospital, doctor’s surgery, dental practice and so on.

Ultimately, by either making the CRM the initial source of prospect data, or where that is not possible, at least making it as simple to use as any other form, you make it the default system. Using anything else now involves a duplication of effort. Rather than copying and pasting from some other source to the CRM, people would have to copy and paste from it. This makes it far more unlikely that the user will opt to run a parallel solution of their devising. Information will no longer be locked up in a plethora of spreadsheets and outlook folders and the full benefits of adoption are available to managers and end-users alike.

Enrich or Supplement Minimal Data Entry

This may seem like an odd point. Isn’t the whole point of a CRM solution is to capture a rich set of data about the prospect and their engagement history. Why wouldn’t you want as many fields as possible set to mandatory so that everything your sales, marketing and customer service team ever require must be there? You cannot run accurate reports if no one is filling in data about the customer’s sector, turnover, number of employees, products of interest?

I totally agree. But, nothing is more infuriating than trying to enter a new contact and being prevented from doing so because you don’t have everything to hand that the system demands. Imagine coming back from a conference with a stack of business cards but being unable to enter them because they don’t list the prospect’s sector or business size? Or receiving a list of people who attended your recent event but you can’t upload them because post code wasn’t captured on the attendee spreadsheet.

If you really want to give your sales team something that will ensure their buy-in tell them that all that they must enter when capturing a new prospect’s data is customer name, organisation and either an email address or phone number. But, ensure the lead cannot be taken past a certain stage until more data is entered.

This then gives you a range of options to enrich the data:

  • Get an admin assistant or market research person to do it
  • Install an integration to retrieve it
  • Only capture data at the most appropriate time
  • Make use of scoring and analytics

Get an Admin Assistant or the Market Research Team to Do It

This can be one of the quickest ways of getting full adoption of the system. If all the sales person has to do is enter basic contact details, and then the CRM solution automatically alerts someone else (or for larger organisations, another team) that the data requires enrichment you can bet on the following results:

1. You’ll start getting a lot more data entered. Sales People will happily enter every prospect if the next time that they look at the record it is full of address details, a description of the company, other contacts at the company, sector, size of business, website address and so on.

2. Data will be entered in a consistent and (assuming the person entering it is diligent) accurate fashion.

3. You’ll have a much greater chance of keeping duplicates out of the system. Whilst CRM systems do check for duplicates, there is still an element of human intuition required – is BBC a duplicate of British Broadcasting Corporation? Is Barclays Bank and Barclays Wealth the same entity? Or is one a member of the other? By having someone responsible for this overview, again a consistent approach can be taken.

Conceivably, it is also a good idea to periodically alert that the data requires re-checking. Consider leveraging workflow to automatically request that the data is re-confirmed every 12 months.

Install an Integration to Retrieve Data

Most CRM solutions can be connected to a range of third party services to automatically enrich data. For example, by connecting the CRM to services such as D&B or Equifax, data can be automatically “pulled in” to the CRM. Of course your team may do this manually – for example, searching for new contacts on LinkedIn, checking company information or just googling to prospect. But if it is automated or semi-automated, then there is benefit in letting the CRM do it.

Capture Data at the Most Appropriate Point in Time
CRM solutions manage the business flow from initial prospect through closed deal and beyond. This means that there is tremendous scope available in terms of the stage at which certain types of data must be collected. Configure the solution such that it becomes mandatory to enter key information when it is absolutely required but consider allowing this information to be optional early in the cycle. This means that your team are not wasting time recording detailed information against records which may well never progress further. It also spreads the effort so that it does not feel as if so much data is being entered.

Make use of Scoring and Analytics

Automatically scoring leads and deals can help people organise and prioritise their workload. For example, if you have clear qualification criteria, it can become possible to implement automated rules which apply weightings. For example, if an enquiry is from a large organisation, in your ideal sector, and multiple pain points have been identified then clearly this may score more highly than an enquiry from a small player, in an unusual sector, with no clear point of pain.

Again, all of the above gives the user something back with no additional effort on their part. Particularly for the sales team, not only are you making the CRM easy to get information into, but you are now providing valuable information back in return – information which can assist in their conversation with the prospect and actually help them close the deal.

Prompt When Follow Ups Are Due and Remind About Other Tasks
All CRM solutions provide a mechanism that allows for tasks and reminders to be set. However, they do often rely on the user setting up the reminder or task. Calendars are often the easiest entities to set reminders for. When scheduling a call or meeting, the system will often ask if a reminder should be set.

However, there are other subtle reminders that can be set up using workflow rules without too much trouble. For example, workflow reminders can provide useful nudges if an opportunity does not appear to have been touched for a while. Similarly, if there are process tasks that should be performed at certain stages in the business process then these can be captured within workflow logic. For example, you may consider automatically scheduling a task to follow up on a Quote which has been set to a status of “Delivered” or automatically scheduling a call to request a reference x months after deal closure.

Using such techniques to turn the CRM into a personal assistant can add value to the sales person.

Automate Reporting and Reduce Meetings

When used to its full potential, there should be not be much need for those lengthy sales meetings to discuss pipeline and there certainly should not be need for staff to spend ages trying to pull together information into a sales forecasting worksheet in preparation for the meeting. So, the promise of reducing the time spent preparing for and attending sales meetings may be a good incentive to use the system.

If your pipeline meetings consist of stepping through every opportunity challenging the stage it is at, when it’s going to close, what are the objections to closure, what should the next steps be and so on then you really should be thinking about capturing this information live on the opportunity and using the CRM solution’s collaboration features more thoroughly so that there is constant traction and visibility. The need for actual meetings can then be reviewed.

By way of example, I once implemented a CRM solution for a company which specialised in replacement windows to the trade sector. The sales team were all ex-joiners and related tradespeople who were perhaps more “down to earth” than the typical sales people that I tend to come across. The MD was very keen on introducing a CRM but I had some reservations about adoption. I asked the MD how he intended to get adoption from the team, as, with respect, most of his sales team looked like they were more familiar with a hammer than a keyboard. His response was a simple one:

Currently my guys spend four days on the road. On Friday, they make sure all of the spreadsheets are up to date, so that we can conduct our Friday afternoon sales meeting. I’ve told the team that as long as the system is up-to-date by mid-morning on Friday and that I can extract an accurate pipeline report, they can take the rest of the day off.

This may be an extreme example, but when I turned up to conduct the user training, I was met with the most enthusiastic sales team I’ve ever faced. I’m sure half of them already had the golf-clubs in the back of the car!

Provide Access to Data Whilst out of The Office

When the mobile phone was first introduced, the first people to whole heartedly adopt it were sales people. When Blackberry first cracked how to reliably make email available on the phone, again you’d have been hard pressed to find a sales person who didn’t carry one everywhere they went. Proof once again that the sale person is not a technophobe. The ability to stay in contact with prospects whilst on-the-road is an obvious benefit.

Most CRM solutions these days provide a mobile offering and if you don’t make your team aware that it’s there and that they can use it, then they’ll just install another app in its place to manage their contacts. The ability to access customer information live or to write up meeting notes, collaborate with the team and schedule the next call whilst on-the-road saves time which can be put to better use selling.

Automate Laborious Processes

Most of the above steps are fairly easy to implement. They don’t require much system customisation and should be relatively quick to implement. However, there may be other elements of the business that could benefit from a level of integration or automation.

Common examples may include:

  • Providing a greater level of website integration than simple web-to-lead type forms
  • Tracking the pages that prospects view on the website
  • Linking the system to a separate customer service system
  • Integration with the finance solution
  • Connecting the CRM to the ERP to reduce double entry
  • Integration with an electronic signature solution such as DocuSign or EchoSign to speed deal closure
  • Post code lookup integration to ensure accurate address capture
  • Payment gateway integration
  • Social Media tool integration

There are many more examples.


Thinking about ways in which the CRM can “give back” to the team will help gain adoption. By ensuring the system is a source of new prospect data, by automating laborious processes, and by reducing the need for so many meetings you can save people time that can be better spent on other tasks; if you can provide a mechanism which enriches or supplements the minimal data that they have to enter then you can provide them helpful insight; if you can prompt when follow ups are due and remind about other tasks then you can ensure that things don’t fall through the cracks; and if you provide all of that regardless of where the person is, in the office, on-the-road, even if working at home, then you ensure that they always have access to the information they need whenever they need it.


Other Posts In This Topic:

Part 1 – Understand Sales People
Part 2 – Nominate Owners and Champions
Part 3 – Train and Support the Team
Part 4 – Employ Positive Motivators
Part 5 -“Rules of Engagement” & Lead by Example
Part 6 – Measure, Review and Improve

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