As your business grows, CRM goes from "nice to have" to "necessity." It creates better communication, productivity, and makes it less likely that important information gets lost or slips through the cracks. CRM also becomes necessary to allow leadership to run reports and get a better understanding of what is going on out in the field.

However, leadership often finds out quickly that the struggle with adopting CRM is not learning the ins and outs or converting your old system onto a CRM. It comes from field reps that aren’t willing to use your new CRM.

Sometimes their resistance comes from bad experiences with CRM in the past. Sometimes field reps are worried about a drop in their sales if they spend too much time trying to implement or maintain their CRM. Sometimes it comes from the natural resistance to change.

The worst CRM is the one no one uses. How can you motivate your field reps to embrace change and foster excitement about CRM? Here is what you need to know to get your sales team to use CRM.

The Psychology Behind Change

It’s human nature to resist change. In fact, served us well in the past. For most of human history, change happened slowly and intentionally because the familiar was always safe. Wandering into new territory or eating an unknown food could spell death to our ancestors.

Times have changed, though. In the modern era, the familiar means death for a business. Not only has the world changed at a rapid pace, but the explosion in technology will only bring an even faster change of pace. That’s why a survey of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies found that 94% believed that their companies would change more in the next five years than the previous five years.

How do you mesh the natural resistance to change with running a successful business, especially using CRM? Here are some ways to make it a smoother transition.

Choose a Mobile CRM

The most important way to get your field reps to use CRM is by getting a CRM that works for them. A major deterrent for field reps using CRM is being chained to a desk.

Each hour they have to spend at a desk is valuable selling time lost. Sales reps only spend 36.6% of their time selling on average. They don’t want to waste any more time on technology when they could be out making sales.

The right CRM will allow your field reps to stay out in the field and work from wherever they are. They can enter the information on their mobile device so that it shares across all their devices on the cloud.

Your field reps won’t be discouraged from using CRM if they can bring it with them while they work. They’ll be more likely to use it if they don’t lose valuable time in the office when they could be in the field making sales.

Start with the right CRM to get your reps to adopt it.

Have a Plan

A timeline and clear progression can help get everyone on board with the process. If your field reps suddenly have to learn and implement CRM, they may become both confused and annoyed. Instead, let them know what is coming so that it’s not a surprise.

The time that you choose to start using CRM is critical for making it easier to implement. It’s most efficient to implement CRM during a slower time. Besides the time training will take, reps will likely take longer in the beginning as they learn to navigate and input into CRM. They'll quickly grow discouraged and quit if they are distracted by their sales.

The beginning of a month or quarter is an ideal time to implement a new CRM. A low-pressure sales time allows your reps to concentrate on learning their CRM rather than worrying about missing out on valuable time selling.

Likewise, once your CRM is up and running, make sure to introduce new employees to your CRM during their training period. By the time they start selling, they should have all the training that they need and understand how to use it. This way, they can take the time they need to understand it without cutting into sales.

Make Changes Slowly

It's nearly impossible for everyone to be on board overnight. Reps can struggle to understand and adopt the technology, especially if you have sales reps that struggle with technology. It's likely to leave them feeling overwhelmed.

First, you need to put all of your sales training to good use to sell your team on a new CRM. It might be tempting for you to list off how great your CRM is for your company; this will likely have absolutely no impact on your sales team's outlook on it. Instead, concentrate on the features that will benefit them. Get specific in how CRM helps them make more sales.

Some benefits specifically for your field reps include:

·     Logs interactions for reps without needing to enter them manually.

·     Shares client information across all software, so they can access information wherever they need it.

·     Provides statistics on call activities, sales forecasts, etc. so they can get a better idea of how they’re doing.

·     Gives reminders for sales cadence right with the client information so that they can contact their clients at the right time.

Your field reps will likely be hesitant to spend their energy on something that seems like a waste of time. In fact, a good sales rep should be protective over their time to make sure they’re maximizing sales. Point out how they can sell better and maximize their time with your new CRM to get more buy-in from the team.

You can also start to implement CRM slowly. You can pick a few features that are most critical to your business to get your field reps started. Once they've adjusted, you can add more features incrementally. This way, they can avoid feeling overwhelmed and feel more comfortable with the changes.

Make the Change Final

On the other hand, it might make more sense for your business to implement the opposite tactic and adopt your CRM cold-turkey. Keep in mind: this isn't the right tactic for every business.

If your old way of tracking sales is actively hurting your business and you don't have time to lose, then it might call for an abrupt change. For example, if you have a shared document or spreadsheet that can't be phased out, then it might be better to take a more decisive approach in adopting your CRM.

If you wait until sales are actively slipping through your fingers and hurting your company, it might be necessary to eliminate the old system and leave no fallback from the start. This will force your sales team to use CRM right away.

Some companies choose to adopt the mantra "if it's not in the CRM, it doesn't exist." Sales reps don't receive a commission for sales they don't log into your CRM. This usually gets reps to comply pretty quickly.

However, this is an extreme solution for a severe problem. It has the potential to backfire and create a negative work culture that could impact your business in other serious ways.

Keep Things Positive

World-renown psychologist and researcher B.F. Skinner innovated much of what we know about behavior modification and how to change the actions of others. He spent much of his career studying exactly what motivates people to pick up better habits.

What he discovered was that positive reinforcement was the most effective way to elicit the desired behavior. Punishment, on the other hand, was not effective and didn’t work in the long run.

When it comes to CRM adoption, avoid using the stick in favor of the carrot approach. Not only will it make adoption that much easier, but it also creates a more positive company culture. Punishment could potentially isolate your team and lead to a negative work environment.

You might want to consider running contests at the beginning that directly tie into CRM use. Reward reps who logged all of their deals into CRM, for example. Make a contest to see who has the most actions taken through their CRM (such as recorded phone calls, meetings, etc.)

Although you want to avoid punishment as much as possible, it’s important that you won’t make any exceptions in adopting the new CRM. Top performers will likely be harder to convert because they already have a system that works for them. However, exceptions will likely discourage others from using their CRM as well.

After a few months, sales reps will likely see the benefits for themselves. It’ll also become second-nature to them, so contests won’t be necessary to encourage CRM use after a while.

Get Feedback

Once your CRM is off and rolling, make sure to check back in with your team to make sure that everything is running smoothly. Feedback is the perfect opportunity for you to reinforce CRM use.

No one likes feeling steamrolled and force to work with something that they struggle to use — feeling heard in a significant part of creating an inclusive culture. Collect feedback from your field reps to see both where they struggle and how your CRM is contributing to their success.

If multiple field reps are reporting the same problem or issue, it's worth investigating. Contact a representative for them to get answers on why they may be having a problem and the best way to solve it. You can then disseminate any advice or tips directly to your team. By listening and getting back to them, you let your field reps know that you care about their concerns and will find solutions for them.

Likewise, when your field rep has success with your CRM, be sure to pay attention. Tell others about the achievements of your CRM to encourage them. When they see their coworkers succeeding with CRM, it will inspire your field reps to use theirs effectively.

When it comes to encouraging change in business, experts recommend using stories to motivate workers. It provides comfort during uncertainty that things are changing for the better. It also allows them to see first-hand CRM working to improve business.

Use feedback, both constructive and positive, as a chance to get continued buy-in from your field reps. It will help them to see how useful it is for business.

Run a Better Business with CRM

It can be tricky to get field reps to use CRM. However, with the right CRM, training, positive reinforcement, and feedback, you can get the buy-in you need to make it successful.