When you pay thousands of euros or dollars for a Salesforce license and spend twice as much on implementation services, it's acceptable to want to see results from your investment. But when you're still trying to convince your staff to use the system after implementation is complete, then you're probably looking at a big problem.
Adoption issues rarely come from a single source but instead are typically a combination of the usual suspects listed below:
  • Poor system design

  • Poor end-user training

  • Poor data quality

  • No Buy-in From Leadership

  • No Integrations

  • An alternative exists

But before you start to remedy the problem let's understand the environment in which you work. You will need time, people, and strategy.
We know that the adoption will not happen in a blink of an eye and you need to accept it. It is like a marriage that requires constant work and goes through stages. The only open issue is how quickly you would move through each of them and where you are now. In most cases, they get stuck at the second stage.
Consultants and developers are about to finish the implementation and roll out the system. Everyone, especially management, expects that current problems will be solved. You are convinced that time and money spent were worth it and you cannot wait to get all the glory. The company will work like a well-oiled machine.

Timeline: last month before roll-out

Recommended Actions: Introduce New Software, Enable Experimentation, Identify Innovators
This is the self-awareness stage. Users are sharing their first feedback and opinions with you to renew processes and procedures, especially those that change the way things have been done so far. Already at this stage executives should stand tall and promote the benefits of using the tool. Proactive and positive communication coming from the top is necessary. At the same time, the project team members should document users’ feedback and take action if possible. They need to see that it matters what they say, and they will be more likely to embrace the change versus fight it.

Timeline: 1-3 months after roll-out

Recommended Actions: Train Users, Share Stories & Tips, Engage and Reward Power User
You see that you can already do something with your CRM, but it is not what you really think should be. That is fine and do not worry about things that haven’t been done yet. Now executives must focus on the positives and evangelize the successes realized from the new CRM system. Those positives will be in a certain department or in the form of a solution to a once challenging business function. Little successes will start spreading to other groups of users so celebrate them. It will keep people engaged.

Timeline: 4-12 months after roll-out

Recommended Actions: Introduce Gamification, Create Newsletter, Implement Users’ Feedback
Your organization has now become that well-oiled machine and your new CRM system is the very core of your CRM operations. People, processes, and technology are unified, and no one questions the value of the CRM system. To get to this stage you need sometimes even years, but it is worth making an effort to get there.

Timeline: years after roll-out

Recommended Actions: Roll-Out More Features
Salesforce is a powerful platform. Hence for successful adoption, you need the commitment of the entire team. It does not matter if you are an executive, marketing director, team lead, sales representative, or customer service agent. Each of you contributes to the success and each of you is responsible for a potential failure.
The level of their involvement and leadership will directly impact system adoption. High CRM user adoption has a lot to do with good executive leadership.

Committed leadership is engaged in the project throughout the CRM selection, implementation, and training process. They collect feedback from a cross-section of employees and make a strong effort to get buy-in throughout the organization. After the implementation, they use the system themselves for admin function and "big picture" analysis and encourage system use among teams they oversee.

Committed leadership participates in ongoing CRM training and supports their employees directly. They assign a dedicated product owner.

On the contrary, fractured leadership would not engage in the implementation process providing minimal-to-zero input and support. Managers do not use the system regularly but are insisting that their teams use it exclusively. After the initial round of training, no ongoing training program is implemented, and no one takes clear ownership of the system. If you belong to this group consider if you could have engaged more.
They are those who close deals and make sales numbers. A well-implemented CRM system will help them sell and a badly-implemented CRM can even slow them down.

If you are a leader involve your salespeople as early as possible and keep this involvement high at all stages after the roll-out. Ensure that their needs are addressed. What processes need streamlining? What automation will save you time or improve the quality or consistency of your customer communications? What information do you need to have access to or track more efficiently? What reports do you need? Listen to their feedback constantly and make sure action has been taken. If CRM data entry is too difficult or time-consuming, it can get in the way of your sales rather than enabling them.

On the other hand, if you are a salesperson do not wait for management to involve you. Show interest early. Ask for input into the adoption and implementation processes. Make your needs known. Ensure the system will work for you. With early input and buy-in from you and the rest of the sales team, your CRM system is more likely to boost your sales.
Do you know who that is and is there such a person on your team? If not, then you better find one. A CRM champion is a member of your executive or management team who takes personal ownership of your CRM implementation. Your CRM champion sets expectations and timelines. He ensures users are training on and using your new system, coordinates tech and troubleshooting issues with IT, and acts as a liaison between users, managers, executives, and/or partners throughout the project. Your CRM champion will communicate the processes that your team will use in CRM.

If you are a Salesforce champion reading this blog post, you know how much responsibility and work you have. Ask your executives to hire a Salesforce administrator or developer to support you in day-to-day operations. Another option is to contract an external service provider to do that for you while you focus on coordination, setting expectations, and keeping timelines. They know the solution inside-out and will ensure you receive the right technical support.
Now that we said you need time and the right people the question is how to execute on that. Well, start with the development of a proper adoption strategy. It is never too late to take steps to improve levels of CRM user adoption.
This will require most of your efforts and abilities to understand where the problem is. Try to think like an end-user. Do not be tempted to think of systems aesthetics or user interface. By asking these questions you might be able to build an initial plan:
  • What users or groups of users are resisting the system the most?

  • Or are the issues common across everyone in specific roles?

  • What are the values of Salesforce from the perspective of a reluctant user?

  • What are the costs from his perspective?

  • What would resistant users like to see?

Try to spend more time with those resisting. Workshop and training session that enables feedback sharing might be a way to get them to talk and give ideas for improvements. Create an environment in which they will be happy to talk freely and feel important. Once you collected the feedback move to the next point.
A well-run discovery session with your resisters and others who wanted to contribute will help you to create a road map grouped into releases with timelines. Such a plan would include new system requirements and requests for changes. The next step is to determine technical feasibility and prioritize them. Bear in mind that there is a lot of well-built systems but with poor adoption. Great technical solutions do not mean they meet business objectives.

Ideally, create two lists of changes. One containing "quick wins" which are easy to accomplish but with high business impact. The other one would include some "strategic" developments that are hard to accomplish and also with high business value.
Once you have that plan you need to sell it to both executives and recipients of changes. Proper communication is the key to the successful improvement of user adoption. You should start at the discovery stage before you met with your stakeholders and announced plans to improve adoption. After you have spoken to them announce to the wider company audience what changes you are planning in more detail and what feedback you collected.

Apart from communicating what you have done and plan to do soon develop a newsletter promoting the value of Salesforce, why companies use it, what are key benefits? Use examples from other companies and re-use materials released by Salesforce on best practices and interesting tips and tricks.
A few first successful releases will give you a credit of trust and will grab everybody’s attention that the problem is being taken care of. But it will take four or even more releases before the adoption will start working. Simply because those who resist hope that they can outlive recent changes and it will die naturally. Do not give up and keep releasing regularly until those laggards give up as they will see they are the last ones who do not use it.

Organize quarterly meetings with your stakeholders to evaluate how current needs are being received and to align on new developments. Ask your executive to step in from time to time and announce significant changes. Let everyone know that it is important what you do.
Try above and if you still struggle, hire a professional who will help you to handle the problem.

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