A new CRM system can transform the way your sales team operates. But people don't like change. Discover how to get your salespeople on board and make your CRM rollout a success.
When Toblerone revealed in 2016 that it planned to alter its product’s distinctive pyramid shape into something a little slimmer, fans of the Swiss chocolate bar weren't happy.
"Diet version???? #FeelCheated."
"Very disappointed...terrible decision."
"What's going on?"
The outcry was real. What this beautifully illustrates (besides that people really like their chocolate, and perfectly good chocolate bars should be left alone) is the broader truth that people don't like change. It's unfamiliar. It's different. We don't know what to expect. Slightly less chocolatey but no less disruptive, the launch of a new CRM system is no exception to this rule.
"Implementing a new CRM involves persuading your entire organisation to turn their back on the tools and systems they've worked with every day and take a step into the unknown", explains Chris Grant, BabelQuest's sales services consultant. "As any sales director will tell you, getting it right is tough. It requires preparation and hard work."
Most sales teams are very particular about the way things are done. It’s their area, after all. Inform them you’re rolling out a new CRM and you’re almost guaranteed to meet with some resistance.
So what steps can you take to minimise that resistance and make sure your salespeople are actually using your shiny new CRM?
"I’ve implemented HubSpot CRM for a wide range of organisations, large and small, in a diverse range of sectors", Chris reveals. "Here’s what I've learned along the way in case it helps you."
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Why a successful CRM rollout is so important
If your number-one business goal is finding and keeping customers then your CRM is your most important tool. It isn't just for your salespeople — this is as true for your marketing and service teams as it is for anyone else in a customer-facing role. Why is this?
"Business growth is driven by data-driven decisions and your CRM can provide you with all the data you need to make those decisions", Chris explains. "But don’t be fooled into thinking your CRM will take care of itself. No matter how good the system is, it will only work if your team uses it properly. This is why a successful rollout across your organisation is so important."
Aligning your CRM with people and process
No matter how good your new CRM is, you're still asking your users to change the way they work. If your teams don't have defined processes to follow in your new CRM, they won’t use it, so it’s vital to understand your internal processes before you start any sort of implementation.
"For all its capabilities, a new CRM is only part of the puzzle", Chris explains. "Modern CRMs like HubSpot are incredibly powerful and easy to use but they're not a Golden Bullet. Getting the most out of your CRM means aligning it with your people and your processes to unlock its full value."
Prior to making changes that stand to affect your team, it’s important to consider
what the specific changes include
how they will impact your salespeople
how your salespeople might react (understanding the reasons why they might resist the changes)
If you’re able to answer these questions in advance of implementing the new CRM, you’re going to make it much easier to create a plan of action for a smooth adoption of the changes.
1. What the specific changes include
Without getting too granular (we’ve already written an overview of the HubSpot CRM’s features), a new CRM promises a fundamental shift in the way your salespeople will organise their contacts and prioritise their work.
For example, the HubSpot CRM combines a customer database with information on what each lead is doing. Using it, your salespeople will be able to see what interactions their prospects have had with your website, which emails they've opened, and even what they've downloaded.
But do your salespeople know this? It’s important that you document precisely how your new CRM will differ from your existing system and how to carry out each new process or application.
2. How will the changes impact the sales team?
This new approach should complement your sales team’s existing processes but it’s important to realise that the team will likely be unfamiliar with many of the applications themselves, especially if your previous CRM was dated or your processes were lacking.
If it wasn’t already apparent, you should begin to see how this could have a disruptive impact on a sales team required to take new steps or engage in new processes.
3. How might they react?
A sales team that doesn’t understand how to implement new processes or applications is going to become frustrated and demotivated. If your salespeople can’t do their job as well as they would like, they are going to resent the new system (and the operations director who drove its implementation).
Crucially, if they don’t understand why you’ve made a change or feel like bad decisions have been made, they can feel excluded or undervalued and start losing faith in the business. This is a bad place for a sales team to be in and every step should be taken to ensure a smooth CRM adoption.
Top CRM implementation tip...
A CRM implementation needs to be run by someone that understands the technology you're implementing as well as the organisation's people and processes. If you put an IT manager in charge, the system will probably be too complex and adoption will be a problem. If you put a director with no technology experience in charge, the system will probably not work properly.
Before you start: planning your CRM implementation
Depending on your organisation's data requirements, an out-of-the-box CRM probably won’t cut it. Any CRM you choose will likely need a degree of configuration if you want your team to adopt it. Going through a scoping exercise will help you understand what people need, what they don’t like, and what else you need to consider. It also means that when you start talking to suppliers you know exactly what you need, rather than being wooed by shiny features you’ll never use.
Look forward, as well as back. The right CRM today may not be the right one for 12 months time, and trust me, you don’t want to go through a new CRM launch every year. Include your future plans in the CRM discussion and scoping, and don’t forget to talk to potential suppliers about their development pipeline because their plans will have a big impact on your plans.
One of our co-founders and head of revenue, Eric Murphy, has been helping business owners and operations directors implement successful rollouts for over 10 years now. When I asked him how to plan for a smooth CRM adoption, he gave this advice:
1. Build out the CRM to fit your processes, not the other way around
This will instantly be more familiar to the people learning to use it. The moment you start changing processes, you’re going to unsettle the status quo. That’s not what you’re trying to do right now. The CRM should complement the way the sales team is operating, not unsettle it. Include the sales team in the decision-making process, so they are involved much earlier on and actually have a hand in shaping the system they are going to be using.
2. Create a process guide to rollout with the CRM
The process guide should clearly outline how to carry out each part of the sales process. Think of it as a manual or reference document to accompany the new CRM. Break down each step logically and present the information in a way that is accessible and clear to understand. Distribute it before launch so everyone is familiar with it and book one-to-one time with each salesperson to talk through it.
3. Frequently review use
It’s important to monitor the CRM’s ongoing use and engagement. This makes certain that it's being used by all members of the team but also that it's being used properly. Your weekly or monthly sales meetings are an ideal opportunity for this, opening a clear channel of communication between you and the sales team and giving the salespeople a voice.
In our experience, companies tend to make one of two mistakes when rolling out a new CRM across the business: they either jump in too quickly without proper planning and end up having to wing it or they under resource the whole project.
"Not planning means you are shooting yourself in the foot before you even start", said Chris Grant, our sales enablement pro and the man behind numerous successful rollouts. "Aspects like definitions, permissions and data flow need to be nailed down before you even think about making the new CRM live."
Be prepared to invest. It may be money or time or a combination of the two, but if you want your implementation to be a success, you'll need to invest in the project. It’s very common to lowball a CRM because you're trying to squeeze it into a particular department's budget, or that it’s hard to justify CapEx (capital expenditure) to your investors, or no one wants to see money go out of their budget.
"Under-resourcing is usually a sign that there is not enough buy-in internally", Chris explains, "or the CRM is viewed as an 'address book' rather than a key business asset."
Involve users from the start
One of the biggest mistakes you can make with a new CRM is not involving the rank and file from the beginning. CRMs are a huge asset to leadership and management teams, but it’s unlikely your CEO or FD is going to spend their working day using the system. They want the reports and the data — the output — but will rarely be involved in the input.
People who feel involved are significantly more likely to successfully use the CRM, so talk to them! Think back to the beginning of this article — did you find out what they like about your current system, what could be better and what is missing altogether? Create a simple view of what each team needs and call back to it throughout the process.
Don't be afraid to ask for help
Having someone external to support you throughout this process can make a big difference to the success of your CRM rollout and its long-term adoption. Professionals such as CRM specialists, sales enablement agencies and, yes, certain HubSpot Solutions Partners have done it all before. They know the framework to follow and the limitations of the technology, as well as the potential pitfalls. More importantly, they can take an objective view when it comes to scoping and problem-solving, guaranteeing you the best setup for your organisation's needs.
Once you've chosen: setting up and rolling out your new CRM
Good adoption starts with a well configured and well set up CRM that is right for you and everyone on your team. If you have gone through the steps above, you'll have everything you need to start asking the right questions of suppliers and choose the right CRM. So what's next?
Build it for the users
If you want your CRM implementation to be successful, you need to consider one thing above all others: does it help your teams to do their job better? If it doesn’t, then you've created a hindrance that people will spend their working days finding ways to circumvent.
A simple example might be marketing data on a contact record. Your marketing team needs this data to segment your contacts and create marketing campaigns but it’s unlikely they will ever look at an individual contact record. Adding reams of marketing data to a contact record makes it harder for the sales and service teams — who work in individual contact records all the time — to find what they need.
Create and share a roadmap
Your team's involvement doesn't stop at the planning stage. Let them know what's happening now and what comes next. Is there a new feature on the horizon or a new integration planned? When will the training start? When will team A have access? Keeping people informed is a huge part of successful implementation.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of choosing the cheapest option, ignoring customisation and forcing your team to change the way they do things to fit the CRM. If you have chosen the right CRM, you can customise everything to ensure a familiar experience for your team. Create fields, naming conventions, views and reports that fit with what your team already knows and does.
Integrate it with other data sources and tools
On the subject of helping the users do their job better, ensure that your CRM is integrated with all the other data sources and tools your teams use. Multiple systems that are not integrated usually lead to double data entry or having to switch between systems, which guarantees errors and will make it really easy for your team to ignore the new system.
Choose your champions
Select a dream team of champions to help you drive adoption, a group of people that represent all the teams that will be using the CRM. Involve these champions in the process as early as possible. Not only will their feedback be invaluable, but also you'll start to create an air of anticipation as your champions chat with their colleagues about what they've been doing.
Set up training
A long and drawn-out training session or series of sessions can cause people to switch off, especially if most of the training content is irrelevant to the job they need to do. Instead, segment your training by function and team. The sales team don’t need to know how to segment marketing data, so why waste time teaching them something they’ll never use?
Periodic callbacks to the initial training can help mitigate against problems and use decline. Short sessions with individuals can also protect against problems snowballing — an individual may stay quiet about an issue in a team session for a variety of reasons, but one-to-one, they’ll usually open up.
Test before rollout
Test the CRM before rollout. I mentioned planning at the start and testing is a big part of that. Find what doesn’t work or isn’t working as well as it could and improve it. Then test again. Treat it as an iterative process. It’s better to uncover all the places where it falls down before it goes live than afterwards. Your salespeople will thank you for it, and so will your prospects.
"Use your champions as a testbed", Chris advises. "Get them to try it all out before you finalise the build. Ask them to perform simple tasks in the new CRM, sign in, create a deal, create a contact record, find a company record etc. Gather feedback and iterate as required. If your chosen champions can’t use the system, it’s unlikely the adoption process will go well."
8 expert tips for CRM rollout success
Keep it simple
"As with most things, keep it as simple as possible", Chris states. "Unnecessary complexity will harm adoption. Taking advantage of features such as specific views for specific teams can ensure everyone sees what they need to see and no more."
Create your own guide
Don’t rely on something generic. If your users get stuck and can’t find the answers they need, they'll quickly switch off. Try recording a series of videos on how to do all the things they'll need to do, for example, rather than rely on resources provided by the CRM supplier.
Gamify the CRM
You can incentivise your team based on regular use and useful feedback. Gamification is powerful if used sparingly. Did the sale that closed pass all the way through the sales process in the CRM? Was the feedback useful? This helps the team feel involved and creates an opportunity for innovation.
Lead from the top
Leading by example is just as important as getting the whole team involved. Managers need to be just as focused on using the new system as their team. If you let your star rainmaker get away with ignoring the CRM, how can you expect anyone else to?
Keep your data clean
"I’ve never added data to a new CRM that wasn’t full of contacts who had left, missing information, or reams of free-text fields filled with spelling mistakes", Chris reveals.
"Don’t import all the old problems and then expect them to go away as if by magic. Clean your data, get rid of old contacts who haven't opened an email in five years, and bin off the 'hopeful' deals that have been gathering dust. Start your new implementation with fresh, clean data that actually helps your team."
Don’t fall into the trap of training your team and then giving them a two-week gap to forget everything before they start using the new system. Give them access and get them started as soon as the training finishes to embed the new system as early as possible.
"You'd be surprised how often this gets overlooked", Chris explains. "Gentle encouragement through communication, short meetings and updates on new features can make a world of difference in getting buy-in and promoting a smooth adoption."
Help the team to work together by sharing their success. Record videos of tips and tricks they have learned, make it easy for them to share feedback and take on teaching or coaching responsibilities.
Don't’ take the naysayers at face value
"No matter what new tool you put in front of a group of people, there will be a vocal minority that will frantically search for 10 'good' reasons to object", Chris admits. "In most cases, these reasons are a smokescreen and they just don't want to change the way they do things. I often see this happen and the knee-jerk reaction is to give credence to whatever issue they hang their hat on. As soon as you do this the problems will multiply."
Don’t take these objections at face value. Drill down with questioning to find the real issue (they don’t like change!), identify the frequent objectors and find a way to bring them on board.
Make your next CRM rollout successful
It’s easy to forget that you’re not just an operations manager or sales director in this equation. You’re also an implementer of change with the ability to make a real difference to the revenue being generated. The best way you can succeed in this role is to equip yourself with the planning and resources you need to minimise resistance.
As anyone who’s rolled out a new process or technology will tell you, implementing change is never easy, but it can be made easier. To avoid a Toblerone situation and an internal Slack storm, take a considered and understanding approach to the CRM rollout through careful analysis, planning, and strategy.