To a sales manager, the benefits of sales force automation (SFA) software are innumerable—you can better manage your contacts, leads and clients, track the sales pipeline, monitor your team and gain more insights into future opportunities and forecasts.
To sales teams, on the other hand, adopting new software can seem like a burden, taking time away from closing deals for training.
So, how can you convince your sales team to accept and adopt new SFA software that will ultimately make all of your lives easier?
Channel your inner Alec Baldwin, and remember to always be closing: In this case, you must close the deal with your own sales team and show them how SFA can help them close more deals.
This article is the first in a series that will explore specific points sales managers should focus on to persuade their teams to embrace SFA technology.
Here, we’ll focus on the types of resistance you might face from your team and some strategies for overcoming that resistance, including demonstrating how SFA software benefits them.
(Click on a link below to jump to that section.)
Common Symptoms of Resistance
Sales managers in businesses both big and small frequently find their teams resisting changes to existing methods when a new tool—such as SFA software—is introduced.
According to a report released by research firm Gartner, written by analysts Tad Travis and Matthew Hotle, titled “How to Improve SFA Adoption and Manage Program Ownership” (this content is available to Gartner clients), one of the key issues sales managers face with new SFA software is employee buy-in.
They report that, “In 2015, approximately 15 percent of the client inquiries received by Gartner’s CRM for Sales research group involved issues relating to SFA governance.” One of the recurring themes they identified is that “end-user adoption is easy to define, but difficult to obtain.”
Their report further breaks down the reasons for these types of implementation failures in the following chart:
Although Gartner’s research and analysis is focused on enterprise-level businesses, these symptoms are just as likely to be experienced by a small or midsize business (SMB).
Indeed, SMBs may even be more vulnerable to resistance because they are less likely to already be using a software system for these tasks, and may be using informal and/or manual methods to make and track sales.
The chart breaks down these symptoms into three categories. The two that are most likely to be seen in SMBs are issues with:
- Executive leadership. This includes problems that arise as a result of managers failing to articulate the purpose of the new software or failing to take the sales team’s needs into consideration.
- Change management. This refers to the overall workplace culture and the resistance that comes when that culture remains tied to older ways of doing things.
Four Tips for Smooth SFA Adoption
When it comes to helping your team get past their resistance to new software, there a few methods you can try. We’ve spoken to some managers with firsthand experience in this matter, and here are their recommendations:
1. Lead By Example
The onus for change should not be placed entirely on the sales team. Leadership must be willing to use and adapt to the new system as well.
The manager placed in charge of implementing a new system should be someone who is already involved with the sales team and familiar with their processes. And, it should be someone who will be hands-on with the system.
Oscar Macia, CEO of ForceManager, which focuses on mobile CRM solutions, notes that:
The worst thing is when the SFA is managed by people with only a financial view. You need to get someone leading the project that has real experience in sales, who won’t put on a lot of restrictions, workflows or other things that are too complex.
Oscar Macia, CEO of ForceManager
If the SFA system is implemented by somebody who doesn’t have working knowledge of a sales team’s processes and pain points, they run the risk of either leaving out crucial functionality or burdening the team with needless complexity.
2. Introduce Change Gradually
It’s best practice to roll out new SFA software slowly, rather than in one giant switch-over. By implementing the new software piece-by-piece, your team can get used to small changes to their daily tasks without becoming overwhelmed with too much, too soon.
Try immersing your team in one new functionality at a time, rather than replacing their old methods all at once.
3. Don’t Be Afraid To Take A Hard Line
You may need to take a tough stance on team members who refuse to adopt the new system. Here’s how some of the experts we spoke to drew that hard line:
- Darin Herle, co-founder and vice president of sales for Trackmeet, notes that their company “set a drop-dead date for switchover. No deals would be credited past a certain date unless they were in the CRM.”
- Katie Roper, vice president of sales at Caring.com, made a simple but clear rule: “If it wasn’t in Salesforce, you didn’t get commission for it. No exceptions.”
- Aaron Ross, the founder and chief revenue officer at consultancy firm Predictable Revenue, recommends holding staff publicly accountable for adoption, and refusing to go forward in meetings until any errors in the system are fixed.
4. Focus on the Overall Benefits to the Team
It’s important to remember that you must sell this to your own team. You have to convince them of the benefits new SFA software brings them.
The benefits and incentives (we’ll go into further detail about specific benefits in the next section) are the “carrot” that can be used alongside sterner methods to motivate your team to adopt the SFA system for their benefit, and not just because they’ve been told to do so.
As John Golden, the chief strategy officer at CRM/SFA software company Pipeliner, puts it:
“The sales manager should think, ‘Hang on a second, my job is to sell this to the salespeople.’ And would they want the salespeople selling like that, where they’re just saying, ‘Hey, Mr. Prospect, if you buy this product I’ll benefit because you pay me’? That’s not a very good sales tactic.”
John Golden, chief strategy officer at Pipeliner
For a sales team, the ultimate carrot lies in just one promise—closing more sales.
A Guide to Selling SFA Benefits to Your Team
As we saw above, when implementing new SFA software, it helps to educate your team on the benefits it will provide them. Focus on the following key benefits of SFA software:
Streamlined Processes Means Fewer Wasted Leads
By centralizing your sales team’s data, SFA software speeds up the entire process. Using leads data, an SFA system can more quickly point the team toward the strongest prospects, increasing the probability of closing sales.
When you demonstrate to your team that new SFA software means fewer wasted leads and an increase in their own sales revenues—and thus their commissions—you’re leveraging the sales tactics that are so important to your business.
Visual Dashboards Provide Actionable Information Quickly
SFA software is often visual, with accumulated data presented on dashboards your team can use for quick, easy reference.
Golden suggests focusing on this idea that the dashboards will save your team time and make them more productive:
“You can see immediately the opportunities you should be focused on and the activities and tasks that are coming up…you’re not jumping around between emails and spreadsheets; Everything is contained there for you. If it’s an intelligent system it’s actually telling you proactively: Here are things you should consider; Here are areas you should look at.”
John Golden, chief strategy officer at Pipeliner
Centralizing Data Saves Time and Money
Make sure your team realizes that entering data into the system isn’t just busy work, but rather a valuable step in the process that will pay dividends down the line.
Leads are qualified immediately upon entering the system, based on a comparison against a set of predetermined criteria. This information then becomes available organization-wide, saving time when somebody new needs to access it, and preventing multiple salespeople from reaching out to the same prospect. Your team will also save time by having easy access to information about the best time and method (phone, email or even face-to-face) of contacting a lead.
Thus, there is a greater chance for the team to successfully follow up on those qualified leads, creating a solid return on the investment of time spent entering that data.
By now you should realize that overcoming your sales team’s resistance to new SFA software is a complex task. Here are some next steps as you figure out what approach best for you:
- Sit down with your sales team to find out what software functions will be the most useful to them, and get them excited about the new system.
- Read user reviews of the top sales force automation software to help you decide on what system will work best for your team’s needs.
- Email me at email@example.com for more information. I’m happy to help you figure out what your own SFA software needs might be, and connect you to one of our expert software advisors for a free, no-obligation consultation!
Explore the rest of this series:
- 5 Ways to Optimize Your Sales Team’s SFA Training
- The Benefits of Mobile SFA Access for Your Sales Team
- Use a Sales Database to Keep Customers and Salespeople Happy
We’ve also summed up the full series in an easy-to-follow infographic:
*This figure/table was published by Gartner as part of a larger research document and should be evaluated in the context of the entire document. Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.