Six ways to get your employees to use CRM software

CRM is a valuable and effective tool that can optimize the sales process and help strengthen customer relationships. The challenge is getting employees to accept new applications and processes.

A guaranteed way to increase your company's sales is to have a system in place to manage your sales activities. Having a custom relationship management (CRM) system that is easy and gets used by the sales team is a great step towards that goal.

Businesses are constantly facing the challenge of convincing sales teams to adopt CRM as the daily vitamin for their sales routine. The sales force is likely already aware that CRM is a valuable and effective tool that can optimize the sales process and help strengthen customer relationships. The challenge is getting employees to accept new applications and processes in spite of feeling uncomfortable with the prospect of having to change their habits and conform to an unfamiliar system.

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This, in essence, is the user adoption conundrum -- employees consistently cling to old routines and habits out of comfort, despite the risk that they may fall behind their competitors. Here are six proven tips to help employees overcome the user adoption challenge.

Keep it simple
If a CRM solution takes too much effort to learn and use, sales people will resist incorporating the extra work into their already busy lives. A CRM solution that easily integrates into existing daily routines is key. Whether this happens by purchasing a product that incorporates into an already familiar application, or integrates into an existing system in some other way will make the implementation of a new CRM package less painful for all involved.

Answer the "What's in it for me?" question
Demonstrate clearly to those involved that the new system being proposed will benefit them. The main resistance to adoption is that end users (i.e. sales people) see CRM as a tool for management to "spy" on them versus being a tool to actually help them sell more. Spend some time explaining how CRM will benefit them directly and not just the company as a whole.

Work the way they work
Most sales people use Outlook throughout the day. Discover what sales processes they are already doing within Outlook and then see what can be leveraged into the CRM package. If the product doesn't actually work within Outlook, make sure it at least syncs seamlessly with that program.

Give them one piece of the pie at a time
Rollout the software implementation gradually to avoid overwhelming the sales force. Begin by entering sales contacts. Once they are familiar with this part of the software, start tracking sales with the new system. Continue the process by having them use the software to generate reports. Do this until they have gradually begun using every function of the new solution in their daily routine.

Make part of their pay dependent on activities within the CRM solution
Once the CRM application is implemented and the sales force is trained, issue a simple declaration that they will only be paid commission for sales if the contact is in the CRM program. Be sure that the declaration is simple and clear to understand.

Conduct frequent audits
Once the sales team is working effectively within the CRM application, it is important to consistently assess their results against expectations that have been set. Invite the sales team to review weekly or monthly reports and share feedback. Doing so will not only build a healthy relationship between the product and the employees, but also between the manager and the employees. CRM user adoption rates will rapidly improve as the sales team begins seeing and reaping the benefits of this innovative technology.

It is remarkably easy for businesses to fall into a rut, neglecting to change practices and habits that will provide tangible benefits. With so many aspects to consider when running a successful business, innovation can sometimes take a back seat to more pressing issues. However, implementing a quality CRM product is one of the simplest ways to induce dynamic change in an organization. Understanding and utilizing these tips will also help this transition develop as smoothly as possible.

James Wong is the co-founder and CEO of Avidian Technologies, the makers of Prophet, the easy CRM software for Outlook. James is a seasoned entrepreneur and founder of three successful companies, and an active investor and supporter of entrepreneurship.

This story, "Six ways to get your employees to use CRM software" was originally published by PCWorld.

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