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How to Increase CRM Adoption
Written by: Victoria Yu
Victoria Yu is a Business Writer with expertise in Business Organization, Marketing, and Sales, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business.
Edited by: Sallie Middlebrook
Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.
Updated on November 17, 2023
How to Increase CRM Adoption
Here’s a little riddle: a company purchases the most expensive, powerful, and multi-functional CRM software on the market and installs it onto its computers. Several months go by, but sales figures don’t increase. Why not?
The answer is CRM adoption, which describes how many of your employees are capable and willing to use your CRM to support their job functions. As you can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink, you can give your employees the best tools possible but can’t force them to utilize them properly. So how exactly can you get your employees’ buy-in and increase CRM adoption?
A business’s CRM adoption rate refers to the number of end user employees in its ranks who are capable and willing to use the CRM system to support their daily tasks.
A CRM can expedite operations and provide deep insights into a business’s customers but relies entirely on data points entered by customer-facing employees to do so. As such, it’s important for businesses to have as high of a CRM adoption rate as possible.
Five tips for improving your business’s CRM adoption rate are to include your end users in the purchasing process, explain the benefits of using a CRM, train your employees to use the platform, simplify processes at the start, and tie employee management and compensation to the CRM.
What is CRM Adoption?
A customer relationship management (CRM) system is a software tool that businesses use to track and manage customer interactions throughout the sales process. By keeping tabs on customer preferences and progress, businesses hope to tailor and expedite the customer journey, improving the speed and value of sales.
Zoho claims that owning a CRM could lead to a 300% improvement in lead conversion rates, a 41% revenue increase per salesperson, 24% shorter sales cycles, and a 27% improvement in customer retention. In other words, purchasing and implementing a CRM could substantially boost your company’s bottom line.
But of course, this software doesn’t operate itself – the company’s marketers, salespeople, and customer support agents must be the ones to enter the data into the CRM database and leverage the data within the course of their day-to-day activities.
The CRM adoption rate refers to the number of employees in the company who are capable and willing to use the business’s CRM software while completing their tasks. For business owners or managers who spent a pretty penny on a high-quality CRM, a low CRM adoption rate can be the bane of their existence, as it means a poor return on an investment and untapped business growth potential.
Unfortunately, a report from Harvard Business Review found that almost 90% of all CRM projects fail due to poor implementation. Some common CRM adoption challenges reported were improper utilization, lack of alignment between marketing and sales, and lack of training for end users.
So how can you buck the trend? To help you make the most of your CRM system, here are five actionable tips for improved CRM adoption.
1. Involve Your End Users in the Purchasing Process
Our first tip to increase CRM adoption is to ensure that you’re buying a CRM your employees agree will be useful to them in doing their job – in other words, involving your end users in the purchasing process when deciding which CRM vendor and package to choose.
Not all CRMs are built equal. CRMs can be separated by functionality (whether they improve collaboration, operations, or analyses), installation (whether installed on-premise or accessed through the cloud), and specificity (whether they’re general-use or industry-specific), just to name a few categories. As such, when choosing a CRM for your sales organization, you should thoroughly consider the end goals and processes you’re hoping to improve with your CRM.
To that extent, your CRM’s end users—your marketers, salespeople, support agents, and their managers—should be consulted for their opinions on what sort of processes and tasks they need support with. Before purchasing a CRM system, sit down with your employees and discuss what CRM features would help them the most, or what features they wouldn’t be too enthusiastic about. Doing so will give your employees a vested interest in the resulting CRM while ensuring that the final software matches their needs.
As an example of poor needs and software fit, let’s say that your sales department might display lower-than-average adoption of the company’s CRM. Upon further investigation, this could actually be because the CRM can only be accessed through a computer terminal, while your sales reps primarily operate on the floor armed with only tablets and phones. If the purchasing manager had consulted the sales reps before purchasing the CRM, they could have instead purchased a mobile cloud-based CRM, avoided the whole issue, and boosted CRM adoption from the get-go.
2. Explain the Benefits
Though involving the end users in the purchasing process might have initially drummed up some excitement for the CRM, explaining the benefits of using a CRM and how it aligns with your company goals will help convince your employees to continue using it in the long term.
As we mentioned earlier, proper CRM utilization could improve key performance indicators such as lead conversion, revenue, sales cycle length, and customer retention – all amazing things for your business. However, which benefits the company sees and the extent of these successes depends entirely on the type and quality of the data input by the end-user employees.
For example, by asking marketers to record where they found each lead, a company could derive the insight that they gained the most successful leads through their Instagram campaigns. With that information, marketing managers would then know to target their marketing efforts specifically on Instagram. But if the marketers failed to input the source for each lead, then this insight might not have been revealed at all.
As such, it would be helpful to sit down with your marketers, salespeople, and support agents on a department-by-department basis to explain precisely what sort of analysis your company hopes to derive from each data point you ask them to record. With an internalized understanding of their task’s importance, your employees are more likely to take greater care in remembering to use the CRM and input the data correctly.
3. Train Your Employees
After explaining the benefits of a CRM system, your employees might be convinced to use it in their tasks. But if your employees have never used a CRM system before, they may have their work cut out for them.
In a study by Forrester on CRM problems faced by organizations, almost a full quarter (23%) of issues were caused by “a lack of appropriate technical skills in user organizations.” Though CRM vendors may tout their platforms as simple to implement and use, not all features and utilizations will be inherently evident to all users, especially if multiple departments are using the CRM platform.
As such, it would be wise to write out a user guide for each different role and user type for your CRM, such as marketing rep, marketing manager, sales rep, sales manager, customer service agent, and customer service manager. These guides should give step-by-step instructions for how each employee should navigate and utilize the CRM for their day-to-day operations, such as how to enter data, view dashboards, or generate reports. Creating these guides will ensure that all employees will have guidelines they can refer to should they forget how to perform an uncommon task.
As the company grows, integrates new applications into its CRM, and uses the CRM for more purposes, be sure to continuously update these guides to support your changing operations.
Depending on how complex your CRM is and the tasks you demand of your end users, you may also consider offering a CRM course or certification program for your employees. Though these courses will assuredly teach your employees everything they need to know about using the CRM, they usually cost money and focus extensively on platform-specific knowledge that won’t transfer to other CRM systems. As such, it may be better to simply pay for one employee to take training and designate them as the CRM ambassador for your company.
4. Simplify Initial Processes
A word of caution: if you decide to prepare a how-to guide for each of your CRM procedures, it’d be unwise to fill the guidebook with the most complex procedures from day one. Instead, as part of your CRM adoption strategy, draw up a learning timeline of gradual development that delineates the increasing responsibilities you expect of your end users as they become more familiar with the CRM.
For example, as you first implement your CRM, you could simply ask your marketers and salespeople to create new data entries for inbound leads and move them along the sales funnel. After acclimating to the platform for a week, you could then ask them to fill in more data fields and details for each inbound lead. Finally, after a month, you could train employees to fully utilize your CRM’s reports, analyses, and dashboards.
A step-by-step learning plan for the CRM will keep employees from becoming overwhelmed by the new technology. Though it might take some time and a bit of awkwardness in each transition phase, this gradual progress will give each employee more time to adapt to each new step, improving your overall adoption rate at the end.
5. Tie Performance and Compensation to the CRM
Finally, if you’ve been using your CRM for quite a while but still notice a low adoption rate, you could take the nuclear no-holds-barred option and force your employees to adapt by tying their performance management and compensation plans to CRM activity.
According to HubSpot, CRM usage is the most prevalent productivity metric utilized by sales leaders to monitor perfrmance, used by about half (47%) of sales organizations. The next most popular tracked metrics, such as calls made (41%) and emails sent (37%), are also things that can be tracked using a CRM platform that’s been integrated with your phone and email application systems. Not only will this increase CRM adoption rates, but measuring employee performance through an objective software system will help increase employee accountability.
Once CRM-based performance and compensation metrics have been set, managers could then also provide monetary incentives for using the CRM. An extreme example of this would be an absolute commission sales compensation plan, which would give employees lump sum payments for hitting activity targets, such as entering 100 leads into the CRM database or moving 50 leads through the sales funnel.
Now, we’re not saying that your entire performance and compensation plans should be based around your CRM. But adding a small $100 bonus for CRM activity, or a quick mention of CRM usage in monthly performance reviews, can go a long way in encouraging the most reticent of employees to use your CRM on a more consistent basis.
Change is always difficult, and CRM adoption is no exception for the company and its employees. Though increasing your company’s CRM adoption rate might be an uphill climb, a CRM platform can greatly improve a company’s operations, communications, and analyses. That’s why it would be wise to follow these five tips and get your employees on board with the CRM, leveraging it to its fullest capacity to elevate your business operations to new heights.
Some common challenges to CRM adoption are lack of relevant features, poor user interface, lack of buy-in, and lack of knowledge. The first two should be considered and solved before purchasing your CRM by involving your end users in the decision-making process. The latter two can be addressed during the implementation phase by explaining the benefits of using the CRM and teaching your employees exactly how to use the platform.
A business owner or manager (i.e. someone with administrative access to the CRM system) can measure their company’s CRM adoption rate through the number of logins to the system and how long each user session lasts. Most CRM platforms can also track performance metrics, such as how many leads each employee entered.
Managers should also measure the adoption rate through data entry quality – after all, it doesn’t matter how often an employee uses the CRM system if they’re not filling in the forms correctly. As per our second and third tips, you can increase CRM adoption by ensuring that employees know how to use the CRM, and are convinced that inputting data correctly is worth their time.
As the marketing, sales, and service teams input and access customer data through the same central hub, proper CRM adoption and implementation removes data silos between your different business departments. Armed with the most accurate and up-to-date information, each customer-facing employee will have the tools needed to personalize communications and match each customer’s changing preferences and needs. This will hopefully improve the customer experience at every step of the sales journey, as well as your sales velocity and average sales value.
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