CRM for the Small Business, Part 6: How to Get Your Sales Staff to Buy In

Part 1 of this series on getting started with CRM addresses factors to consider when deciding whether the time is right to take the plunge.Part 2 offers advice on how to choose the right CRM tool.Part 3 provides some guidance on preparing for contract negotiations.Part 4 tackles the all-important step of embarking on an implementation.Part 5 considers how to rescue a project at risk of failure.

One of the greatest challenges to the successful implementation of a CRM solution is winning employee participation and cooperation.

“It’s a quandary,” Craig Klein, president and CEO of SalesNexus, told CRM Buyer. If the sales staff is reluctant to use the new system, it will be very difficult to get it off the ground.

Salespeople can be tough to convince, Sheryl Kingstone, director of the enterprise research group at the Yankee Group, told CRM Buyer.

“They look at it sometimes as big brother,” she explained.

Resistance to change also plays a role. Adoption of anything new requires a learning curve, and people need time to adjust to new things, David Ciccarelli, CEO of and a user of, told CRM Buyer.

Explain the Benefits

One way that small businesses stumble when dealing with this issue is not being firm enough with their employees, Klein said. Small businesses should not be afraid to make it a requirement for their employees to use the new system.

A small business could also use a carrot-and-stick approach to increase employee participation, but Kingstone warned against relying too heavily on such a strategy. It could lead to situations where the salesperson will only use the tool minimally, just to satisfy requirements, she cautioned.

One of the best ways to win employees over is to explain how the system is going to benefit them, Klein stated.

Show employees the value of having better customer data, greater mobility, and more efficient expense management, concurred Kingstone. Convince them that it will support their activities and concerns.

“Then you’ll start seeing user adoption,” she pointed out. “For salespeople, it’s all about mobility.”

Sell the Sales Staff

The small business can also make the CRM tool attractive to its employees by including information about customers in the system — such as third-party data — that is not available elsewhere, Kingstone noted.

Some of his team members embraced the new system more quickly than others, recalled Ciccarelli. However, even his most reluctant employees soon realized how powerful the solution was and how it could make their jobs easier.

“That makes a big difference,” he said. “People always want to know what is in it for them.”

When introducing a CRM tool to staff members, companies should identify the immediate benefits of the tool and explain how it will highlight the employees’ strengths, Ciccarelli recommended.

“You have to basically sell them on it,” Matthew Arndt, president and founder of Turbo Social Media, and a user of Infusionsoft, told CRM Buyer.

Focus on the benefits the new system will offer employees rather than try to sell them on the process, he advised.

Forward Thinkers

The level of resistance a CRM implementation meets also has something to do with the type of employees a company recruits. Successful adoption depends as much on the attitude of the staff toward change as it does on the company’s ability to sell them on the change, noted Arndt.

“We look for a lot of forward thinkers,” he said.

Employees understand the need for such tools much better today then they did 10 years ago, so small businesses can expect to encounter less resistance moving forward, noted SalesNexus’ Klein. Still, some employees accustomed to more traditional CRM methods may dig in their heels, and if they are strong producers for the company, that could pose a problem.

Having a sales assistant on hand to enter data for them may be an option if a company is in a position to provide that resource, Klein suggested.

However, such situations will be rare, he added, because many salespeople now understand the value of good CRM practices.

Empower the End-Users

Another way to achieve employee adoption is to empower end-users, Sean Whitely, vice president of product marketing for, told CRM Buyer.

Make sure the system is intuitive and easy for them to use. If employees do not know how to use the system or find it too difficult, they will complain about entering data or avoid using it as much as possible, Whitely warned.

Small businesses should avoid trying to teach people how to do their jobs, he added. Instead, they should listen to the feedback their employees give and show them how to utilize the system to perform their jobs more efficiently.

“Teach them to be self-sufficient,” Whitely advised.

Salespeople may not have a great deal of technical expertise, Klein pointed out. They do not like to spend much time with technical training.

“They’d rather be in front of a customer or on the phone with a customer,” he said.

To help overcome that challenge, vendors and small businesses can offer options to help make the process more meaningful for salespeople. Sales-related webinars on such topics as cold calling, user communities that allow salespeople to ask questions, and training programs that explain how the CRM tool can support the sales process will get the attention of salespeople more than technology, Klein explained.

The types of training sessions offered by CRM vendors vary. For example, SalesNexus offers basic new user sessions, power user sessions, and administrative user sessions with open enrollment to all their clients, Klein said.

“We call them ‘public training sessions,'” Klein explained. “It’s real popular.”

In addition, they offer instructor lead training tailored to the client’s needs and open only to that company.

“We can get into the company’s workflow,” he said.

Keep Them Involved

Small businesses should keep their employees involved in the process from early on, even when they are still evaluating potential systems, Whitely recommended.

If their input is not considered, salespeople “kind of feel like it’s forced on them,” he noted.

Be collaborative with employees to keep them actively involved in the adoption of a CRM tool, and the process will be much smoother, he said.

CRM for the Small Business, Part 7.

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