How to Convince Reps to Use the System

By Geoffrey James
You may be confident that CRM is right for your sales group, but there still may be one question keeping you awake at night: What if the sales reps don’t like the system?
 
The key to making sales reps enthusiastic about a CRM system is to use carrots rather than sticks to get them onboard. In the past, many sales managers tried to get their employees to embrace CRM by threatening to take away commissions. Putting the screws on reps to force them to use a system only creates anger and resistance, however. 
 
Rather than trying to punish reps for not using the system, find ways to reward them for using it. Give early adopters and enthusiastic users additional perks and bonuses. Establish a special prize for the rep that uses the CRM system most frequently and effectively. Publicly praise reps that embrace CRM and give enthusiastic CRM users extra credit in their employee reviews.
 
While compensation and recognition can be effective carrots, the CRM system’s features should create enthusiasm among users. Talk up the benefits of the system, such as the amount of busywork your reps can avoid by using the CRM system. For example, many companies manage their forecasts by compiling data from various spreadsheets, a process that’s frustrating, time-consuming and extremely prone to error. Because most CRM systems collect forecasting data automatically, they eliminate many hours of busywork. Similarly, at some companies the paper mechanics of moving a sale from opportunity to product shipment is so burdensome that sales reps can only handle a limited number of deals in the pipeline. The CRM system can reduce these mechanics, however, allowing them to work more deals simultaneously.
 
The ultimate carrot is increased sales and, consequently, increased commissions. This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many sales managers don’t explain to the reps that the real purpose of CRM is to help them close more business. Instead, these misguided managers keep talking about how the system will reduce costs – an aspect of CRM that’s about as exciting as warm milk. Reps are more likely to get enthusiastic about a CRM system if they see that it’s going to help them sell, so whenever you talk about the CRM system to your sales reps emphasize how it will put money in their pockets.
 
This shouldn’t be too difficult, because if you’ve thought the implementation through there will be multiple ways for you to demonstrate how the system increases sales. For example, if the CRM system has group calendaring, show how it will be easier to schedule the resources required to help close a sale. If the CRM system has a library of downloadable sales tools, show how easy it will be to get sales materials into the hands of prospects. If all else fails, trot out the following statistic: According to independent research, implementing a CRM system, on average, results in a 20% boost in sales. 
 

The above is based on a conversation with Dan Star, chief marketing officer at Salesnet, a CRM vendor headquartered in Boston, MA.