10 February 2016

3 Principles to Increase Sales Automation Tool Adoption by your Sales Team

You’ve heard it before: “We’ll customize your sales force automation (SFA) tool, so it’s simple and easy to use.”

After dozens of successful customized implementations, we will tell you the truth: entering an opportunity the first time will never be an easy task. It’s like trying to eat an elephant – it’s too much all at once.

What you can do for your sales team is break up the process of entering an opportunity into shorter stages. These stages have stakeholder alignment and are unique to your given sales cycle. Therefore, sales reps only have to enter a small amount of information within a given stage of the selling process and aren’t left weighed down by excess work.

iStock_000070796939_MediumFor those thinking about implementing a sales force automation tool or deciding how to get better sales rep engagement, make sure you keep in mind the following three principles.

Principle 1: Establish a Process Around your SFA Tool

Establishing a process that your entire sales team – executives, managers, sales engineers, sales reps – buy into is key to increasing the use of your sales force automation tool. The process should be created as a team, workshopped as a team and implemented as a team.  Sales team members should be allowed input on what information must be entered into your SFA, given the sales stage, and management should provide input on gated activities or pieces of knowledge. Gating sales stages with requirements establishes a value trade process within the way the tool is used. Sales team members get access to additional sales support resources for knowledge and prospect information that is entered.

Each sales stage must have minimum criteria that a sales rep must enter in order to move from one stage to the next. These minimum criteria should allow reps to focus on key information points in each sales stage. If a representative wants marketing to send out an e-mail campaign or submits a request for pricing, the prospect must be in the right stage of the sales cycle with the right information entered to do so.

iStock_000075272243_MediumPrinciple 2: Create a Governance Model

Creating a governance model that sets clear roles and expectations for management and your sales reps will lead to increased collaboration, trust and transparency.

With an active governance model that has organizational wide buy in, sales managers will cut their call times in half, marketing personnel will know the collateral that prospects and customers are after and sales team members will be able to learn from one another.

To establish a successful governance model, you must understand your sales team’s challenges, so you can address them with your SFA implementation. A common challenge that many managers face is that the sales force automation tool forces sales team members to enter information that makes them look bad or is seen as negative across the organization. After all, who in their right mind would want to show a lost opportunity when it’s easier just to leave the opportunity out of the pipeline altogether.

Instead, the governance process should deemphasize elements that are seen as negative in the organization.

  • Sales managers shouldn’t get angry with a representative who loses an opportunity. The loss should only be scrutinized for the purpose of learning what to improve upon, and all reps should engage in this process so it’s seen as a growth strategy.
  • Likewise, the SFA should have an “abandon” field. Thus, when a sales rep decides that an opportunity is not a fit, the rep can simply abandon it. After all, a sale is rarely as black and white as “won” or “lost”. You need to know when to invest and chase a deal and when to abandon.

A culture that is built around governance also allows sales reps to give managers open and honest feedback through the SFA tool about resources they need and challenges they face. In tandem, it creates gated phases, so that resources are being used appropriately. Depending on your sales cycle, a sales rep may need a piece of collateral or a scoping document created. In order to make that request, the sales team member would have to fill out the qualification details in salesforce to be granted access to that material.

Principle 3: Implement a Career Development Program for your Reps

The goal should not be to only train your reps how to sell better and use the corporate tools and processes, but to give them a career development path that leads them to higher performance. Prior to implementing a program for your sales team, you should look at the behaviors and attributes of the most successful salespeople to create a hiring profile. This will help you hire the right people and lower your regrettable attrition. It will also help you develop roles that are focused on your organizational goals.

Once you understand the characteristics of what it takes to be successful within your organization, take that growth mindset and create a curriculum for your sales force that aligns to your career development program, giving your reps a clear path to career growth.

In over a decade of experience, I can tell you that you should demand 100% adoption because modern, tightly organized sales organizations can achieve it.

Development at any level – whether a rep is still learning how to conduct a meeting or facilitate a briefing or he is an expert in account management selling – is key to morale and community building. It is important that managers and sales reps alike have a deep understanding of your sales force automation tool, the processes that dictate what information belongs in the tool as well as the governance to ensure that your sales team works as a cohesive whole.

Further, a robust curriculum of sales skills and SFA training enables reps to see that the process and the tool are an extension of their memory. They can set reminders, create tasks for follow up, and type up discussion notes within the tool to help personalize and streamline communication with prospects moving forward. Reps will even be able to track key attributes to winning and losing deals, so they can leverage SFA reports to help them close more deals.

As you decide the best course of action to increase sales rep usage of your SFA tool, be determined and be persistent.

I’ve seen statistics that attempt to prove that it’s impossible to have a 100% adoption of your SFA tool by your sales force. In over a decade of experience, I can tell you that you should demand 100% adoption because modern, tightly organized sales organizations can achieve it.

If you track adoption metrics by region, user level and time period – you will be able to see what is and isn’t working with your people, process and technology. This enables you to adapt and incent sales team members to perform – by adhering to governance processes and making the sale.


Authored bY

Keith Taylor

Two decades of experience in customer relationship management (CRM) strategy and information technology transformations allows me to bring simplicity to complex CX challenges. As a certified PMP, I understand the system development life cycle and the role that upfront strategy can have on the success of a solution implementation. I value shared goals and imparting knowledge to ensure that you realize your customer goals and business revenue.


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