5 Steps to Increase Salesforce Adoption


  • Users adopt Customer Relationships Management software when the benefits exceed the effort and when the software contributes to their effectiveness, efficiency, and empowerment – in that order.
  • Slow or low user adoption is a top cited contributing factor to implementations that fail to achieve their goals or just fail outright. Many managers see the signs of slow acceptance, but naively believe that employees will ultimately come around. Experience shows the opposite is more likely. The longer it takes to achieve acceptance, the more probable the application will fail to become sustainable.
  • Fortunately, there are five proven methods to increase Salesforce adoption.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

How to Increase Salesforce Adoption

The Salesforce platform grows customer relationships, drives some of the most important company objectives and delivers an impressive ROI. That is, if users embrace the application.

Research published in the CRM Benchmark Report shows CRM ROI is 211 percent, on average. But the ROI can soar to three times that figure based on employee acceptance. The research found that CRM ROI moves in parallel with user adoption.

CRM ROI by User Adoption

This research finding is significant because it shows in clear terms that user adoption is a prerequisite to reaching financial benefits. Employees must fully use the application for its intended purpose. Sounds simple enough. Unless of course you have been through a prior CRM or Salesforce implementation and come to learn that new technology acceptance is a perennial challenge.

According to a CSO Insights study, less than 40 percent of businesses have end-user adoption rates above 80 percent. At that adoption measure is just for the bare minimum usage.

Even more telling, a report by Really Simple Systems found that 83 percent of senior executives said their biggest CRM challenge was getting their staff to use the software. The survey also found that 72 percent of the respondents would trade away functionality in exchange for better ease of use.

But before you start trading away anything, consider the following five steps to increase Salesforce adoption.

How to Increase Salesforce Adoption

Align Salesforce to what's important to users

Employees embrace Customer Relationship Management applications when the pain of same is greater than the pain of change. The app must also deliver benefits that exceed the effort. That means staff must get more value out of Salesforce (SFDC) than the effort to enter data into it.

Put a slightly different way, staff use SFDC when the application delivers what is most important to them. We call this their performance, productivity and personal goals, or what we sometimes call their WIFFMs (what's in it for me.)

User goals are usually role-based. Sales reps want software that saves them time and helps them beat quota. Marketers want technology to automate campaigns, improve digital engagement and increase conversions. Customer service representatives want automation to resolve customer cases quickly and help them achieve positive customer experiences.

It is important to identify exactly what is most important to role and design SFDC to accomplish those specific goals.

Keep in mind staff will endorse the application if it saves them time and aids their goals. Otherwise, they will perform the bare minimum effort which will lead to a slow but certain death of the system.


Design Salesforce for the user experience

A well-designed SFDC application displays information in context, delivers intuitive navigation and presents a rewarding user experience (UX). A tell tale of a good UX is an application that can be used with little or no training.

Most inexperienced SFDC implementors and even some consultants deliver this application in its generic form, sometimes called 'out of the box'. This is often the result of a minimal viable product. It also often results in information overload. It leaves screens and pages that are full of densely placed features and fields many of which are rarely if ever used.

For example, do most sales reps, marketers or contact center agents need a 360-degree customer view? No, they do not. At least not for every use case or function. They need something closer to a 30-degree customer view, with just the content relevant to each given task, and easy accessibility to more content if it is needed.

A good SFDC UX is the opposite of information overload. It begins with a minimalist view. It avoids software bloat and adding features and functions at the expense of simplicity and ease of use. Expert designers know expansive and unnecessary features and functions are the enemy of simplicity. When it comes to designing the user interface for simplicity, less is more.

CRM User Experience

Novice implementors generally apply design to software screens and not user experiences. That's another big mistake.

A good UX is less about software aesthetics and more about satisfying the user objectives of focus, simplicity and productivity. A good SFDC UX goes beyond designing simple individual pages and links those pages in ways that simplify and streamline end to end processes.

A SFDC user interface is like a joke. If you need to explain it, it doesn't work.

Proactive planning helps a lot. If your evaluating Customer Relationship Management software, consider the typical assessment factors such as capabilities, extensibility, integration, support and application cost. But do not forget to make the UX a meaningful selection criteria. Users will generally advise that the UX is the single most important factor to them. Don't ignore their input. The UX is a strong factor because it makes staff want to use the application.


Simplify, streamline and automate – in that order

Process automation is another opportunity to improve users lives, gain technology acceptance and drive some significant cost savings. Multiple studies show SFDC automation increases staff productivity by 15 to 34 percent. Those cost savings flow right to the bottom-line.

But you probably need to start with process redesign. Otherwise, the new SFDC application becomes the old application with a different user interface. Lifting and shifting suboptimal processes will deliver suboptimal performance results.

Staff productivity is enabled with technology, but not achieved with technology alone. Business process design is the #1 contributing factor to increased employee productivity. More automation empowers employees to spend less time entering and fixing data, and more time using that data to better serve customers, improve their personal performance and make better business decisions.

Agile Value Stream mapping is a great tool for process design. It goes beyond just improving your existing business processes. It measures the value of each process to eliminate non-valued-added steps and redefines processes to be directly mapped to user and company outcomes.

Agile Value Stream Mapping

For customer facing processes, this technique also measures customer value to each step and eliminates activities that do not contribute to outcomes. That's important because if your processes do not create value that customers care about or are willing to pay for, it may not matter how efficient, fast, or cheap they are.

The combination of business process improvement and software automation will ultimately provide your best offense to increase Salesforce adoption.


Ensure acceptance with change management

A SFDC implementation brings new processes, automation, information, responsibilities and control. That's a lot of change, and the challenge with change is that it creates anxiety for many users. And that anxiety negatively impacts software acceptance.

The change that comes with a SFDC deployment will be endorsed by the few imposing the change but not always so well accepted by the many receiving that change. To bridge that gap, a change management program can shift reluctant staff from a current state to a defined future state. And it can do this while mitigating productivity loss during the transition, creating an environment for sustained change, and realizing the benefits of change more rapidly.

Examples of change management activities that lower resistance to change and increase acceptance include a change readiness assessment, comm plan, technology impact analysis, learning tools, post go-live intermediation methods and value realization measurements.

Change Management Process

You can see in the above change management journey diagram how activities can be systemically rolled out to ensure resistance to change will not delay or derail SFDC objectives.

A change management program can be the single greatest tool to determine whether SFDC user adoption is enthusiastic, sluggish or challenged.


Measure and intervene

The path to SFDC acceptance is a measurable one. User adoption dashboards bring measurability to data management, application use and the realization of benefits.

CRM User Adoption Dashboards

User generated data is available to measure results and guide an evolutionary process.

But be prepared that resistance to change will be masked by staff who login to SFDC and exhibit motions without results. That's why a user adoption best practice is to measure utilization and productivity; not just access to the system. Instead of measuring utilization by logins or rote consumption, it is more meaningful to assess acceptance in terms of productivity, automation and outcomes.

You will also inevitably find capabilities not being used or fragmented process cycles not being linked together. These create opportunities for additional design, education, training, motivation or other intervention to increase Salesforce adoption.