Sales Best Practices

How to improve CRM user adoption with a sales execution platform

Serena Miller's Avatar

Serena Miller

Editor, Sales Best Practices

CRM adoption is often a vital part of maintaining a high-functioning business in sales, as it helps teams to organize contact management, optimize sales management, improve rep productivity, and more.

But the reality of adopting a CRM is all too often a painful, manual process. Sales team members quickly grow frustrated with the transformation initiative, especially as the significant, unpaid time required for manual data entry eats into precious face-to-face time with customers. Plus, CRM data is often isolated from other critical data that a seller needs to inform their sales process. As a result, sellers who solely use the CRM are likely missing out on valuable information that could help them close their sales execution gap.

These realities, in addition to poor system usability and lack of user training, are large reasons why sellers do not use the software in a consistent or accurate way. From a leadership perspective, erroneous data inputs lead to imprecise forecasting and poor decision-making — which, in turn, negatively influences productivity and profitability.

Here, we’ll analyze the common challenges of CRM adoption, share some key strategies for success, and discuss how a sales execution platform can help.

Why CRM adoption matters

Traditionally, CRM-like solutions have been critical in sales organizations for nurturing client relationships and driving the collection, management, and tracking of vital customer information. A team’s CRM is usually its lifeline for relevant data around clients, prospects, and leads; so a strong, strategic adoption can become a foundational pillar for understanding and improving customer relationships.

The challenges of CRM adoption

We know that a successful CRM adoption can enhance sales management, productivity, and even the customer experience. So why do so many organizations still struggle to get it right?

Effective implementation isn’t as simple as making an investment in a platform and flipping the “on” switch: It requires a strategic approach that makes the transition as seamless as possible for users.

But rollout is often a rocky process for businesses, and employees are thus hesitant to get on board. Low levels of adoption are a typically direct result of these common challenges:

Complicated or non-existent integration with other tools

If a team’s CRM doesn’t talk to their other vital, existing systems, then using the CRM becomes a time-consuming, frustrating task. To better empower managers and reps to complete their daily work, many leaders have invested in myriad SalesTech tools. But a lack of seamless integration between these tools makes day-to-day work sticky, inefficient, and error-prone. If a sales rep has to toggle between several systems and apps to capture, modify, and access relevant data, they’re wasting valuable time that could be better spent focusing on actually selling. What’s more, the data on which they rely is rarely up-to-date if it’s being passed from one tool to the next by way of manual, human entry — or not input at all. Simply put, the time it takes employees to use a disconnected CRM likely isn’t worth it to them if it just feels like an added step in their already-busy schedules.

Limited CRM training for reps and team

It’s no secret that sales team members are both smart and savvy, but that doesn’t mean they’re already well-versed in how to best use their CRM. Unfortunately, companies often neglect to provide the proper training and support required to get their teams fully ramped up within their CRM tools. They may offer some basic system onboarding and a list of FAQs, but leave reps and other users to their own devices beyond that. The reality is that some users may not have any prior experience using that particular tool (or any CRM at all, for that matter), and will thus struggle to get the most out of the investment. Without robust training processes, documentation, and ongoing support, they may choose to stop using the CRM altogether.

Software is not user-centered

Some software doesn’t take into account the daily time constraints of manual data entry on sales team members. According to one study, 43% of sellers feel like they’re spending more time than they like on manual data entry — and 69% say they’d be much more productive at work if they didn’t have to manually enter data into their CRM. Even worse, 81% have said that faulty data (an almost inevitable result of manual data entry and disparate point solutions) has led to an embarrassing mistake with customers. Salespeople really want tools that make their jobs easier, and when software isn’t purposefully built with those desires in mind, it’ll likely go unused over time.

Low user and stakeholder buy-in across the organization

Getting buy-in for new technology is a ubiquitous obstacle across nearly every business of every size in every industry. If those leading the charge fail to adequately communicate the value of a CRM rollout to appropriate stakeholders and users, then they effectively set themselves up for low adoption levels in the future. After all, why should these individuals care to participate in and help optimize tool usage if they’re not convinced the juice is worth the squeeze?

    The impact of low CRM adoption

    Taking the time to ensure high rates of CRM adoption is essential to both ROI and broader business outcomes. If employees aren’t compelled to use the software, several areas of the operation suffer, including:

    Data and compliance issues

    The data captured within and generated by your CRM and other sales tech is invaluable — but only if that data is correct and up-to-date enough to accurately reflect what’s really happening. If only a handful of your intended CRM users have actually adopted and consistently use the software, then your team likely lacks the data required to make strong business decisions. Leaders and managers cannot gauge sellers’ progress and performance (or coach them on personal areas of improvement) without in-depth, real-time data. Plus, stale, incorrect data can put the business at risk for compliance and security issues.

    Impacted employee engagement and satisfaction 

    If only half of your sales team is actually utilizing your CRM, frustrations are bound to rise. Think about this from the sellers’ perspective: Let’s say I’m a sales rep who has fully adopted and consistently uses the CRM to track and manage information around my prospects, leads, and customers. I’m highly diligent about ensuring this information is up-to-date, sharing key details with my team members, and tracking my pipeline within the platform. But some of my coworkers have chosen not to use the CRM. Now I must reach out through other means (like email, Slack, text messages, phone calls, etc.) to access updated information that’s relevant to my clients and accounts. Over time, I may begin to resent my colleagues and the leadership at my organization, who have failed to get everyone on the same page — and have inadvertently created more work for me. Remember: Happy, engaged employees are 14% more productive than their disengaged counterparts, and a highly-engaged workforce results in 21% greater profitability. If not addressed, employee disengagement and dissatisfaction can become a costly outcome of poor adoption, as they can negatively impact the quality of service and product delivery.

    Critical time and revenue lost

    CRM centralizes, analyzes, and updates all the information your team needs about its leads, prospects, and clients. But if only some of your team members are actually using it properly, then inefficiencies across workflows can quickly mount. Sellers waste time digging for up-to-date information, which means they spend less time on pipeline generation and higher-value sales activities. Leaders and managers don’t have the data they need for an accurate picture of rep performance or progress, so they can’t accurately course-correct before it’s too late. This means more lost deals and missed revenue targets.

    Poor customer experience 

    If your team isn’t using their CRM to document everything about their prospects and accounts, how will they know what to do next? In the age of rising customer expectations, it’s fairly risky to allow your sellers to operate without in-depth, real-time knowledge around every account and opportunity. If a rep has already reached out to and established a relationship with a prospect, for example, but doesn’t capture that information in the CRM, another seller may unknowingly contact that same lead. On the prospect’s end, this appears extremely unprofessional, and may impact their willingness to do business with your team. This is particularly troublesome when it comes to the transfer of knowledge to other roles or new reps on certain accounts. If a seller tracks and manages their customers’ information in their personal tools or files, how can their colleagues provide the best experience possible to that account, as needed?

    CRM-related investments not paying off

    Without proper adoption, it can be difficult to understand or prove whether or not your related investments (like your CPQ and BI/reporting tools) are paying off. These tools require specific, clean, and up-to-date data to properly perform their respective tasks. So if your team isn’t using one (or any) of them effectively, you’re probably not getting what you’re paying for. 

    Larger rift between sales and marketing 

    Sales and marketing alignment can result in a 32% increase in year-over-year revenue growth, but that alignment is difficult (if not impossible) to achieve if the two departments are working from different sources of truth. Low CRM adoption usually leads to a wider gap between sales and marketing, and thus ineffective ABM campaigns, lost opportunities for planning and upselling, and a general distrust between the two functions.

    How teams typically address CRM user adoption challenges

    Because the barriers to CRM adoption are quite common, organizations have started leveraging these best practices to better navigate implementation:

    • Involving end-users/stakeholders in the transformation process - To avoid lackadaisical end-users and stakeholders and generate some enthusiasm around adoption, many teams get everyone involved from day one. They request feedback, questions, and suggestions at the onset of the transformation, so everyone knows that their participation is valued.
    • Integrating with software to automate and improve data collection - Instead of requiring time-consuming, burdensome data collection within their CRM, modern businesses are prioritizing automation and integration with their other existing systems. In a recent Seller Motivation Online Study conducted by Dynata on behalf of Outreach, 93% of customers found automation and administrative tasks like entering data into CRM valuable or extremely valuable; so deep integrations across your SalesTech stack might be the ticket to higher rates of adoption.
    • Appointing a CRM ambassador - Rather than assuming that their high-level employees will carry out the CRM roll-out and onboarding processes, companies ensure effective adoption by selecting a CRM ambassador — and empowering them to lead the way. The ambassador should have in-depth knowledge about the software, excellent communication skills, and enough bandwidth to push and monitor adoption progress.
    • Strategize for the onboarding process - It’s essential that everyone using the CRM has everything they need to succeed, so teams should start planning the onboarding and training process early. They should create detailed documentation, offer resources for support, and provide continuous training sessions well after implementation has taken place.

    How sales engagement improves CRM adoption

    Every revenue organization needs a powerful CRM to thrive. But investing in a CRM alone is not enough to boost your team’s efficiency and performance. That’s why modern organizations have started integrating sales engagement platforms (SEPs) with their CRM systems.

    An SEP is a technology solution that centralizes all of your sales engagements in a single place and helps you make the most of your data. When fused with your CRM, the right SEP can enable your team in several key ways.

    Automatically track the sales pipeline

    Rather than having to manually track the sales pipeline in their CRM, sellers can use their SEP to automatically log all the calls they make and receive, including all relevant notes. This extends to incoming and outgoing emails, too, so nothing ever falls through the cracks.

    Because the SEP is deeply integrated with their CRM, they don’t need to waste time re-entering data into each platform. Everything is instantly updated bi-directionally in real-time, and is easily accessible by all relevant team members. That means a more effective sales pipeline that drives efficiency and revenue.

    Automatically organize information across platforms

    Using the data from your CRM and keeping it clean is usually a time-consuming, laborious task that requires several dedicated team members. The right SEP can scrape information from emails, calendar invitations, and more, and organize that data into your CRM.

    Instead of toggling between countless apps to capture, share, and receive information, the SEP takes data from across multiple applications to ensure everything is up-to-date and uniform across every system and department.

    Keep track of key insights and analytics

    Sophisticated SEPs use artificial intelligence (AI) to help you analyze your data. You can easily spot trends and patterns in activity to present risks in prospecting, opportunity management, and forecasting. Some tools can even automatically read email responses, categorize customer intent, and suggest next steps for optimal outcomes.

    Free up time sales team members for greater efficiency

    While a CRM requires hours of manual data entry to keep information up to date, SEPs automatically log information and tasks, which increases the time reps spend on revenue-generating activities. Plus, they ensure your sequences, playbooks, and sales cycles are fully optimized, so reps can easily prioritize and execute the tasks that align with your organization’s broader goals and strategies.

    Benefits of integrating CRM with a sales execution platform

    To efficiently and effectively complete their daily tasks, sellers need data from (and must share data with) others across the business. Each team then uses that data to provide context, derive insight, generate knowledge, and enable the necessary actions to optimize performance. 

    A robust sales execution platform offers deep integrations with your existing tools so users can truly leverage their full tech stack. By integrating their CRM with an intelligent SEP, teams gain several benefits, including:

    • Increased sales team efficiency - With fewer manual CRM-related tasks and a central location for communications and data, sales teams can get more done throughout the day. They no longer need to waste time logging into and shuffling between several programs, tracking their work, or searching for crucial, up-to-date customer information. They’re empowered to make smarter, data-backed decisions and focus on what really matters: their customers.
    • Hit sales targets with less effort - An SEP that’s backed by sales intelligence can track and monitor all the calls sellers make, every email they send, and the prospects they follow on LinkedIn. Using ML-generated insights, the right platform helps them sell smarter by enabling them to make informed choices based on what actually works (and what doesn’t).
    • Increased satisfaction of customer base - When companies successfully engage their customers, they’re met with 63% lower customer attrition, 55% higher wallet share, and an over 23% better performance than their competitors. A powerful SEP helps salespeople streamline the engagement process by centralizing all activities throughout the customer lifecycle to create a seamless client experience across every channel.
    • Reduced sales cycle time - With an SEP, sellers can easily organize all of their sales activities to better convert and retain leads. With AI-driven technology and data, they can automate interactions and repetitive tasks and spend that time creating a personalized experience that encourages the prospect to close the deal faster.
    • Increased visibility with reporting and dashboards - A sales execution platform also provides managers and leadership with actionable reports that give managers better insight into the outcomes that the team is driving, not only the number of activities.

    Let Outreach be your system of action

    Your CRM is a vital part of your sales operation; but poor adoption can render the data in your CRM inaccurate, incomplete, and virtually useless. Improving adoption hinges on your ability to prove to your teams exactly how using their CRM benefits their daily workflows. To resolve the disconnect between sellers who don’t see the value in using their CRM and empowering them with other tools for support, competitive organizations have begun to prioritize integration.

    The Outreach Sales Execution Platform helps them do just that: With powerful engagement tools that fully integrate with your CRM and other existing systems, Outreach enables teams to get the most out of their tech stacks. It’s purposefully designed to enhance your CRM while providing everything sellers need to improve efficiency and performance in a single, centralized place.

    Learn more about how to drive sales efficiency with unified data and technology, or request a demo today.