Overcoming Your Sales Team’s ‘Evolutionary’ Resistance to CRM

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CRM systems can be a boon to sales teams, increasing conversion rates by as much as 300 percent. What’s more, over 90 percent of businesses say CRM software plays an important role in achieving their revenue goals. However, the challenge often lies in getting your salespeople to buy in and use the full features of the CRM system in the first place. Ironically, the very same characteristics that tend to make these individuals so good at their jobs—tenacity; resourcefulness; and an unwavering desire to get through any challenge or roadblock that may stand in their way—are the same ones that can make adoption of a new CRM system onerous and frustrating.

We all know that change management for salespeople can be incredibly hard, even under the best circumstances. This is because their income is often heavily based on performance, which is why they tend to resist and resent new technologies that they fear will interfere with their established routines. While your sales team is often aware of the great benefits that CRM systems can bring, they unfortunately often get mired in “the way we’ve always done it” purgatory. They lean into precedent (what was) versus potential (what could be), which may generate friction with those spearheading learning and development.

That is why a new approach to change management is desperately needed to foster CRM adoption and empowerment among often intransigent salespeople, paving the way to rich CRM benefits. What does this approach look like?

Overcoming the “Forgetting Curve”: Research shows that most people forget the majority of what they learned during one-time training after only a day or two. This means you cannot provide your salespeople with one or two stand-alone trainings on a new technology and possibly expect them to want to use it, or remember how to use it, a few weeks (let alone months) later. Rather, training needs to be treated as an interactive, ongoing process, as opposed to a finite exercise. 

So if you think a mandatory, one-day training session is a silver bullet that paves the way to meaningful CRM adoption and engagement among your salespeople, think again. The training needs to be supplemented with real-time, bite-size, easily digestible learning content delivered precisely at the point that it’s needed—for example, reminders, alerts, announcements, and information bubbles with supporting learning and development-related links or videos. In this way, learning and development teams can offer buried or underutilized materials in-app at the point of need. The good news is that new advances in the market are allowing learning content creators (these can be learning and development, human resources, software admins, change management, or digital center of excellence professionals) to quickly and intuitively build learning content directly into applications, and with little to no programming skills.

Reducing the Cognitive Load: Research also shows that switching or toggling between two applications equates to context switching, which can be very taxing on the brain; this is the so-called “toggling tax.” Excessive toggling is known to increase the brain’s production of cortisol (the primary stress hormone), slow us down, and make it harder to focus and concentrate. Many of us have experienced our computers, and hence our brains, having “too many tabs open”; the last thing we want to do is open a new one. For this reason, online learning content must be available within the application itself, not requiring users to switch back and forth between systems and screens.

Another way to reduce your users’ cognitive load (including stress and fatigue) is to proactively preempt users’ questions. We all enjoy the experience of being in a restaurant with an attentive waiter who offers us what we need, versus having to flag them down and ask. Learning content should be the same way. Users should not only not have to interrupt what they’re doing, but they shouldn’t even have to make the mental effort to ponder questions. Rather, the information they seek should be intuitively presented, or pushed, to them. The application use, training, and learning should all be happening at once and in one place, making things so easy that it increases engagement (via a phenomenon known as ‘task completion preference,’ or a preference for easy tasks) while encouraging proper use and reducing the likelihood of errors.

Staying One Step Ahead of Potholes: Fortunately, advances in AI make it possible for organizations to analyze CRM application usage data to proactively identify common problem areas, such as where users may be running into difficulty and dropping off. AI-derived insights also allow businesses to see which teams, regions, departments, or users within an organization are having the most or least difficulty adopting certain workflows. Armed with this information, content creators can prioritize the development of educational content to address these areas. Going a step further, organizations can identify evolving trends and patterns in user behavior to make informed decisions regarding future CRM software implementations and more efficient processes.

Aversion to change is an ingrained tendency for all humans, which has to do with the lingering survival instincts humans have adopted through the millennia. When our Stone Age ancestors lived in harsh environments, one misstep could spell disaster. Fast-forward several thousands of years, and your salespeople are likely clinging to the same evolutionary tendencies. That is why a new approach to change management is vital to ensuring that your new CRM software is not relegated to shelfware and will work to catapult your sales team to new heights.

Krishna Dunthoori is founder and CEO of Apty, a digital adoption plaform provider.

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