Ask the Expert

Encouraging sales reps to use a new CRM system

I oversee a group of sales representatives; many of the reps have been selling for many years and the company has been using a homegrown system. We are now moving to a streamlined salesforce automation (SFA) system with mobile capabilities. Can you give me some suggestions for incentives to get my sales team to warm up to our new CRM/SFA system before implementation? I'm worried about resistance to new technology and I really want to get this resolved quickly and start off strong with the new system.

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For starters, let me applaud you for even thinking about this before implementation! All too often, sales managers are surprised to see the system that sales reps had perhaps been clamoring for sitting idle. Why? Because there was little or no thought put into how the new system would enhance the sales reps' ability to sell.

Unfortunately, the answer does not lie in usage incentives. Certainly, incentives could be part of the solution, but at the end of the day, sales reps are motivated by only one thing: closing more deals. So here's how to go about this:

  • Talk to your team and ask how THEY want to be motivated. Don't ask just the good reps, but a sampling of reps of all abilities. Be very sure the system gives them something back (e.g., content about customers, content about other people, content about what to do in a specific situation).
  • Create an environment of criticality and extreme visibility. Sales reps must be prepared to have their pipelines interrogated on a number of levels, including all levels of sales management: field/district management, regional management and VP sales. The most critical element of system adoption is the use of periodic phone calls from the executive team to field sales reps and managers in order to discuss accounts in the pipeline or express interest in metrics/rankings.
  • Train sales reps to use system-enabled processes, not systems alone. Pure systems training (e.g., learning features and keystrokes in a classroom) is fairly useless. Organizations must approach training from a process point of view -- where the technology is "baked" directly into the DNA of the sales process -- and this is just one of several process enablers.
  • Recognize achievement. Sales reps are generally motivated by accomplishment. Specifically, it is the (public) recognition of accomplishment that drives action. Look beyond commissions to a variety of ways to recognize various achievements, instead of simply praising the highest performance against quota. For instance, introducing different contests (with cool prizes -- iPod anyone?) at various times will help keep things fresh and interesting.
Finally, do me a favor, visit our site, and take our sales effectiveness survey. When we're done with the survey in mid-October 2006, you'll be able to benchmark how your approach and success rate compares with others. This will give you a starting point for success measurement, which is perhaps the most important incentive you can give your team.

This was first published in September 2006

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