The Top 3 Sales Technology Challenges – and the Methods to Beat Them


  • Research finds the top 3 challenges with sales technology solutions are poor user adoption, minimal software utilization and disappointing ROI.
  • The three challenges are interrelated. Low user adoption will lead to low software usage and low or no ROI. That connection creates an opportunity to mitigate all three obstacles with a holistic effort.
  • This post shares the specific actions to mitigate or prevent the most persistent challenges with Sales Force Automation (SFA), sales cloud and similar sales software applications.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Research performed for the Sales Excellence Report sought to uncover the top challenges related to sales software applications. We wanted to know what stands in the way of using sales technology to improve revenue results.

The data found three barriers stood above all others. Survey respondents advised the top challenges with sales software applications are poor user adoption, minimal software utilization and disappointing ROI.

This post drills into the top 3 obstacles and advises solutions for each.


Poor User Adoption

User adoption is a perennial challenge with most sales applications.

The simple but often ignored truth is that most salespeople will not embrace any software unless and until it helps them do their jobs better. For many companies that means a shift in focus from data input to information output. From feeding the system to getting value out of the system.

There are 3 factors that will most accelerate user adoption.

  1. First, configure the application for specific salesperson outcomes. Sales software should improve salesperson productivity, professional goals and personal goals. That means improving productivity with process automation to save time. It means directly aiding professional goals such as improving the sale win rate and quota attainment. And it means aiding personal goals such as improved selling and career advancement. The fastest method to identify the most important and highest impact salesperson outcomes is a Design Thinking workshop.
  2. Second, design or configure software to be amazingly simple with little to no training required. This is often done with user centered design that simplifies the user interface (UI) to deliver an appealing user experience (UX). You will gain more users when you remove complexity.
  3. Third, implement a change management program in parallel to a new software roll out. It's important to recognize that a new system brings new processes, automation, information, roles, responsibilities and control (or oftentimes an actual or perceived loss of control). That's a lot of change, and the problem with change is that it causes anxiety for many people. And while it is endorsed by the few imposing the change it is not as well accepted or is even contested by the majority receiving the change. To facilitate that difference, a change management program will systemically shift individuals, teams, or organizations from a current state to a defined future state while mitigating productivity loss during the transition, creating an environment for sustained change and realizing the benefits of change more quickly.
Salesforce User Adoption Dashboard

A user adoption dashboard is a common change management tool.

One more thing.

Data integrity is a prerequisite to user adoption so any data quality issues must be solved.

Customer data is a perishable asset. Companies get acquired, employees change jobs, staff get new titles, telephone numbers and email addresses. That's why customer data decays about 2 percent per month.

What's needed to remedy this challenge is a customer data policy with rules for data standardization and tools for data deduplication and enrichment.


Minimal Software Utilization

The first two challenges are directly related. When the salesforce believes that the software isn't going to improve their lives, user adoption will wane, and software utilization will fall to the bare minimum.

That bared out in the most recent sales software research which found that sellers use less than 25 percent of their Sales Cloud capabilities.

A few other utilization data points surfaced.

  • Only 26 percent of salesforces built custom workflow processes in their sales force automation system or sales cloud. That's a lost opportunity to tailor processes to save time. It's unrealistic to think that process automation improvements cannot be made to highly repetitive processes such as lead to opportunity conversions, opportunity to sale conversions, multi-step selling process execution and proposal approval processing to name only a few.
  • Only 31 percent personalized their dashboards. The data show that sales dashboards achieve 30 percent utilization following an implementation go-live, but within 3 weeks that utilization falls to 9 percent. Over time it falls further. The decline is due to dashboards providing generic reporting and not providing real help to sellers.
  • Only 15 percent use predictive analytics. This is the primary tool to shift from hindsight to foresight. Without predictive analytics all information is backward looking.
  • Only 19 percent use the Artificial Intelligence That's another missed opportunity for process automation and contextual information delivery.

When staff use less of their primary systems, they also end up using more shadow systems and that increases manual labor and siloed data.

The solution here is to use more of the application you have. But simply trying to deploy more software capabilities because they exist is destined to fail. Instead, you need to identify salesforce goals and challenges and then figure out how the application can help.


Disappointing ROI

ROI is heavily dependent upon user adoption and software utilization. The more people that leverage the software, and the more of the software they leverage, the higher the ROI.

The research found three factors that most influenced ROI.

The first was using a sales technology strategy. And that delivered big for the top producers. The Best-in-Class leaders were 4.5X more likely than their lower performing peers to plan, procure and implement applications pursuant to a tech strategy and roadmap.

And their strategy paid off. They achieved 30 percent higher user adoption and 6 percent lower total cost of ownership (TCO), on average, when compared to respondents without tech strategies.

Research shows sales leaders who managed their application portfolio with a technology strategy achieved 30% higher user adoption and 6% lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

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The second factor was managing a sales tech stack. A tech stack replaces ad hoc and piecemeal systems with a holistic portfolio that creates synergy, drives the most important revenue goals, lowers total cost of ownership and future-proofs investment decisions.

And the third factor was calculating software ROI. This last item may seem like a no brainer, but the research found that only 19 percent of respondents consistently calculate ROI.

Sales Software ROI

And again, the results were heavily skewed by performance archetype. While only 19 percent of total respondents consistently measured ROI, 68 percent of that cohort were the Best-in-Class cohort. That's a 4.6X difference between the top performers and their lower performing peers. The significance of this disparity should not go unnoticed by managers seeking to improve ROI.


The most influential action to eliminate the most pervasive challenges is to align sales technology with revenue outcomes.

That means identifying solutions that facilitate selling strategies, tactics and productivity so that sellers win more deals.

That may include things like process automation and push-based information to reduce manual activities and reallocate more time to selling. If the technologies don't do these types of things, the effort is futile, and user adoption, software utilization and ROI will disappoint.