Ask the Expert

Secrets to salesforce automation software adoption

We recently implemented salesforce automation (SFA) software, but we have only seen about 50% compliance from our sales reps. The reps tell us they find the technology difficult to understand and they just don't see the benefits.

Could there be other reasons could there be for sales reps not adopting the technology? How can we get them to make the transition from the old pen and paper method to the new SFA software?

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Ah yes. The SFA adoption conundrum is the number one reason that SFA implementations don't meet expectations. I'm going to guess that the reason your sales reps are not embracing the new technology really isn't because they're SFA luddites, it's because the technology doesn't mirror their sales process and hasn't been baked into the DNA of how they sell. I'll also go out on a limb and assume they haven't been trained to use the system in the context of their daily processes; they've just been trained to use the system. If this is the case, I'm not gonna use SFA technology either and I'm a true believer!

So without belaboring all the reasons for this, let's just cut to the chase and let me tell you what to do about it:

1. Get the SVP/sales to tap a very successful sales rep ("super rep") to work with IT on the project. Best case, the sales rep is pulled out of the field for a month or two. I know, I know. But you've just got to stand firm that if the sales team truly wants this thing to work, that's the kind of investment it's going to take.
2. Examine your sales team's sales methodology/selling process and document it if it's not already documented. As part of this, collect all selling artifacts (e.g., proposal templates, quote documents) to be centrally stored.
3. Examine all interfaces and automate as many as possible. Integration (e.g., not having to manually enter a contract in the contracts database) is a key benefit to sales reps.
4. Have your super rep do 1:1 or very small group training IN PERSON, with coaching available via phone after the fact. The training shouldn't be how to use the system, but rather how to sell more efficiently and effectively, with the system one tool that's used. All training must be process, not system-oriented.
5. Get your SVP and sales managers to interrogate pipelines and forecast exclusively out of the system. He should routinely call sales reps directly, by-passing management, to ask questions about deals in the system. This way, sales reps know that someone is using the information that's entered. By the way, a phone call from the SVP is the best and fastest way to get all sales reps using the tool.
6. Restructure compensation to include utilization or some other type of bonus attached to timely use of the system.
7. Market, communicate and sell the system's value to the sales reps, according to their definitions of value. The super rep can help define this.

As you can see, very little here is about the salesforce automation technology itself.

This was first published in January 2007

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