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Mitigating Low User Adoption in Sales Automation

So the project went live perfectly. It was on-time, on-budget and all the success criteria were met. Except one. This is a nightmare scenario for many project managers and sponsors, when the sales automation project that they have worked so hard on for many months and executed perfectly (in their opinion) does not seem to enthuse the end users resulting in the very common problem of Low user Adoption. In this blog we are specifically talking about low user adoption related to Sales Automation projects although many aspects could be common with other endeavors as well.

Below are the major causes and mitigation for Low User adoption:

Lack of Process Adherence or "We don't work that way"

Often in the hurry to implement 'best practices' and a 'vanilla solution', short shrift is given to some core processes in the sales organization. Sometimes, in a global implementation, processes are 'standardized' without a real buy-in from regional stakeholders who may perceive that their way of doing business has not been heard sufficiently. 
Mitigation: Get explicit sign-offs and buy-in from stakeholders when processes get modified. Build in customizations where required to ensure core processes are protected.

Lack of Trust or "Is my data secure?"
Another reason that your sales reps are reticent in sharing information on the sales automation application is due to Lack of Trust. For sales reps, their contact and account information is gold. They do not want just anybody in the organization having access to their contact and account details. Sales Teams may not have a problem with their managers accessing data but may not want say, the marketing team to get the access to their contact details without their knowledge. If their misgivings in this regard are not addressed, you will find that they may not be updating their most important information. 
Mitigation: Most software today comes with configurable security parameters. You should ask your SI to implement suitable security configurations that balance both the need for sales effectiveness and address the trust issues of your sales teams. 

Lack of Business Commitment or "Even my Manager doesn't use it"
Many times Sales Automation projects focus only on the direct sales reps as the end user. This is a mistake because although direct sales reps may form the largest part of the sales force, when other sales roles like sales managers, partner managers, key account managers are not included, it is perceived by the direct sales team that they have been saddled with an unnecessary burden. This results in them not taking the implementation seriously thus resulting in low user adoption.
Mitigation: It is important that companies take a strategic view when it comes to sales automation and implement functionalities in the software that benefits their entire sales organization. Hence we recommend to implement modules like Sales Forecasting management which requires sales managers to review forecasts from their reps and in turn submit to their managers. Modules like Partner Relationship Management are used by Partner managers to manage sales processes using the partner organization. Customer Data Management and Incentive Compensation functionalities involves the sales operations teams to ensure data quality and sales incentives through the sales automation product.

Lack of Knowledge or "Not sure how it works"
Most SIs and implementation consultants work on the "Train the Trainer" model were key users from the sales organization are trained on various aspects of the application. It is then expected that these Key Users in turn will go back and ensure a quality End User training. Many companies ignore or do not pay enough attention to this phase of the project since vendors are not involved in this process. It is not surprising then that end users forget about the inadequate training they received and go back to their old way of doing things.
Mitigation: It is important that enough thought is put into the End User trainings as well. If the number of end users are large, it should be treated as a separate project and vendors can be involved in this phase of the project as well. Enough and appropriate training collateral should be developed and rollout should be planned so as individual attention can be given to each participant in these training sessions. Follow up or refresher training can also be organized on a need basis.

Lack of Productivity or "The Old way was better"
Although sales effectiveness, improved sales reporting, sales collaboration are all important reasons to implement a sales automation application, user adoption of such software will suffer if sales reps feel that all these benefits are happening at the cost of their productivity. Companies should guard against building a 'comprehensive solution' as that may mean that sales reps have to spend more time on the application when they would rather be selling and having face time with their prospects and customers.
Mitigation: Sales Productivity should be an important success criteria metric and included as part of all requirements and design conversations. Data entry requirements should be kept to the minimum mandatory fields and rest of the fields can be optional. Application performance should be tested comprehensively to ensure that improvements can be made before go-live. Mobility and Outlook Synch functionalities should be explored to improve productivities. 

Lack of Perceived Value or "What's in it for me?"
This is perhaps the most important question that needs to be answered in terms of user adoption. Unless the sales automation helps the sales reps to meet his personal career goals, he is not going to spend time on the application. It is important that he perceives the application as a tool that will improve his sales effectiveness, help him get recognition, and advance his career.
Mitigation: Sales automation software should focus on sales effectiveness improvements which could mean sales collaboration, new technology interventions like AI-ML to help the salesrep focus on the important leads and improving his win rates. Intelligent analytics that provide not just information but also insights on his key concerns and suggesting a workable plan of action. Sales Performance and Gamification solutions can work on top of the base solution to provide value in real terms to the sales users.

Keeping Track
It is important to measure the User Adoption through analytical reports to try and understand the status of user adoption even after applying many of the above mitigation measures. Reports should give an adoption breakdown by region, role etc to answer questions like which sales roles are using or not using the application. Which country's users are lagging behind? Answers to such questions will help the IT organization to take suitable interventions and corrective measures. All the best on your user adoption journey!

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