What You Need to Know About CRM Change Management

If you’re considering a CRM solution for your company, you’ve probably come across some scary statistics in your research —

7 min. read

If you’re considering a CRM solution for your company, you’ve probably come across some scary statistics in your research — ones that tell you a majority of implementations fail due to low employee adoption. If that’s the case, you might be feeling hesitant about moving forward. For most businesses, a CRM requires a significant investment of both time and money. If your team isn’t even going to use it, best not to bother — right?

Thankfully, CRM success isn’t determined by random chance — it’s determined by the quality of your implementation strategy. The fact that so many initiatives fail isn’t proof of a bad product — the transformative results we’ve seen our own customers achieve make that clear — but rather that most companies aren’t prepared to do the necessary pre- and post-launch work to ensure their new platform catches on.

What kind of work? In our experience, it all comes down to communication and evaluation. You need to make sure every user has a crystal-clear understanding of how and why they should adopt the business’ CRM. You also need to make sure not to treat your chosen solution as static. As your business grows and evolves, so must your CRM — otherwise, it will quickly become obsolete.

Below, you’ll find our recommendations for what to do before and after your company’s CRM launch (plus what to do if things start to go wrong and you need to right the ship). Take the proper implementation approach, and you’ll have no need to be afraid of low adoption.

What to do before launching your CRM:

#1: Draft a comprehensive communication plan.

One of the biggest reasons companies see low CRM adoption is because their employees don’t know why they should use the platform. Take a sales rep, for instance. Over the years, they’ve probably developed a personal workflow that suits them well. They’ve got spreadsheets for tracking leads and opportunities, notes with contact info and thoughts on follow-up cadences, etc. Maybe not the perfect system, but they know it works. And now you’re asking them to log all that same information in a confusing new system just so you can keep tabs on what they’re up to? Sounds like a major inconvenience — and a bit of a “Big Brother” situation.

That’s why you have to be hyper transparent about the advantages of a CRM: Storing all sales data in one place will save huge amounts of time and clerical frustration while also delivering game-changing insights via reports, dashboards and AI-powered reminders. Put that way, the idea of using a CRM will likely seem much more enticing.

Once you’ve determined that the business will be moving forward with a particular solution, gather whatever stakeholders you need to draft a comprehensive communication plan. This plan should target all employees expected to become CRM users through whatever channels will be most effective. An all-hands meeting, announcements in the company newsletter, posters on the wall? You know your company best. Just make sure you’re thoroughly conveying the value of the new technology.

#2: Conduct internal focus groups and process mapping.

If you invite input as part of your CRM announcement plan, there’s a chance you’ll receive wish lists from employees across the company. While this could be useful information, it might also create a dangerous dynamic. If somebody asks for a feature that they don’t get — even if their request wasn’t totally realistic — that might turn them away from the platform.

That’s why it’s better to conduct some internal focus groups before your chosen implementation partner begins the discovery process. Get a few people from each functional team in a room and ask them about their key pain points. Where are they struggling, and where could a CRM most help? By seeking thoughts from just a few individuals, you’ll be able to have a more productive conversation and avoid accidentally setting unrealistic expectations.

This is also a good time to do some initial process mapping. What are the steps involved in each team’s core business operations? The right implementation partner will do a thorough mapping during their discovery, but there are some advantages to doing some pre-work as a company. In our experience, the more a business thinks about their own processes before the start of their project, the less chance a major need goes unaddressed.


What to do after launching your CRM:

#1: Make sure accountability starts at the top.

If there isn’t CRM buy-in at the very top of the org chart, there’s little chance the company will fully adopt the technology. So as CEO, how can you achieve this? By asking your leaders for data and reports. In order for them to provide what you’re looking for, they’ll have to ensure that their managers are also using the platform, who in turn must do the same for their individual contributors (sales reps, service agents, etc.). After all, good reporting depends on good data being entered at the ground level. In this way, accountability will trickle down through the entire organization.

In multiple cases, we’ve seen implementations fail because leadership at the top didn’t show any interest in their company’s CRM. Employees noticed that indifference, took it as the norm, and didn’t touch the new tool. Don’t let that happen to you.

#2: Figure out who will manage your platform.

As we mentioned above, CRMs aren’t a static technology. When you bring in an implementation partner, they’ll build out a platform to meet your current needs. But after they finish? Their job is done. What happens when your company updates a process, adds new team members, etc.? How will you ensure those changes will be reflected in your CRM?

Basically, you’ve got two options: Hire a CRM administrator, or partner with a consulting firm for managed services. The best choice for your business depends on your specific needs and what resources you have available, but in either case, the goal is the same: Hire somebody to keep your CRM up to date and running smoothly.

From an adoption perspective, this is key. Users aren’t going to touch a system that not only doesn’t support their current workflow, but actually forces them to revert to outdated processes.

What to do when adoption lags:

#1: Audit the “accountability waterfall.”

If your company isn’t adopting your company’s new CRM, double-check to make sure leaders at all levels are holding their teams accountable. Are you consistently asking your leaders for those reports? And are they doing the same for managers? Find out if there’s a break in the chain and address the problem accordingly.

If everybody seems to be doing their best to hold their teams accountable, however, there may be other issues at hand. Perhaps certain users don’t know how to use the platform, but they don’t want to admit it. If you think that might be the case, schedule some additional training sessions.

#2: Audit the platform itself.

If users aren’t taking to a new CRM, there’s also a chance that your company’s build doesn’t accurately reflect the company’s processes and workflows. If so, employees will have a hard time seeing the value in the platform. Naturally, this will lead to low adoption.

The most likely cause for such a result is that your implementation partner didn’t have the right requirements for the project. This happens from time to time for organizations with more complicated organizational structures and operations. It’s easy for some important processes to slip through the cracks.

The good news is, this problem has an easy fix. CRMs are flexible tools, and can be adjusted post-build. If you believe your platform wasn’t fully optimized for your specific business operations, your implementation partner can solve that. They’ll get the right stakeholders in a room, conduct a gap analysis, and come up with a project plan to make things right.

Follow these steps and you’ll be setting yourself up for CRM success. That said, there’s more to CRM change management than can fit in a single blog. For more strategies on boosting adoption, check out our on-demand webinar: “7 Advanced Strategies That Drive Salesforce Adoption.” And if that’s still not enough for you, drop us a line. We love to chat about this stuff.



Danielle Sutton

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