Why Training Alone Won’t Drive Salesforce Adoption

So, you’re rolling out Salesforce. Great! It’s an awesome tool and in today’s world of selling, having a CRM (any CRM) is an essential component for a successful business.

Let’s take a look at your Salesforce Implementation plans.

Source a trusted Salesforce implementation partner – Check!

Map out a Project Plan – Check!

Design and build a functional Salesforce system – Check!

Create a communication plan for all stakeholders – Check!

Design and deliver an engaging and hands-on Salesforce Training program for end-users – Check!


All well and good, right? Well, actually, no.


Even The Best Training Programs, On Their Own, Can’t Change User Behavior

Here’s the thing. The best, most well-designed training programs, on their own, won’t address the lingering issue of getting your sales people to use Salesforce. The scenario listed above is one we’ve encountered literally hundreds of times in our 14-year history of training sales people on how Salesforce works. We’ve worked with some tremendous implementation partners who’ve designed and installed some pretty awesome systems. We’ve worked with leading executives that pull all the right strings when it comes to getting the message out to the broader organization about the benefits of Salesforce. And from our standpoint, we’ve customized and delivered Salesforce Training programs that have received high marks from users who leave training with knowledge – and perhaps some ability – to use Salesforce.

So why isn’t that good enough? Because we’ve failed to take into account a true change management plan that addresses the people side of change.

I’ve long maintained the following – training people is easy. (Well, relatively easy, if you know what you’re doing.) Getting people to do things differently…definitely NOT EASY. No, changing people’s behaviors is hard work. And so, without a proper game plan to help sales people move from what they’re currently doing on the job, to use a fairly sophisticated tool like Salesforce, requires much more than just an awesome training program.


Users Will Resist Change – Get Used to It

A common error made by many sales and business leaders is to assume that just because they are rolling out better technology, e.g. Salesforce, that this alone will create a desire among the sales team to want to use it. A lot of organizations often make this mistake – the assumption that if they hire the right implementation firm, with the best project management team in place, to design a really good solution, and even accompany this with a great training program, then sales people will just naturally embrace that solution, and a normal path to Salesforce Adoption will just naturally occur. Sorry, but it’s just not so.

But why?

Well, it turns out that this has nothing to do with unmotivated employees or the fact that the technology might be too hard to learn. Think about your own personal experiences with something new, particularly something that was foisted upon you with little input on your end. There was more than likely some anxiety. The current state holds tremendous sway over things and the thought of losing what we are comfortable with is bound to lead to some concern.

Even though Salesforce is a highly respected brand, that most people would clearly view as a leader in the CRM field, simply introducing it as a new way to do business and ‘help’ sales people sell more, is simply not good enough.

Sales people will seek answers to the following:

  • Why are we changing to begin with?
  • What is wrong with how things are being done today?
  • Why is this change to Salesforce happening now?
  • Are the senior leaders really all that committed to this change?

So if we embrace the idea that there is bound to be some natural resistance to our change initiative, then we’re in a much better position to address it early on.

 salesforce adoption strategy

Salesforce Adoption Strategies and the ADKAR Methodology

Fortunately for us and our clients striving for greater Salesforce Adoption, the Change Management research firm Prosci has developed the most respected and widely recognized strategies for dealing with the people side of change. Change Management – as defined by Prosci – is the application of a set of tools and processes designed to manage the people side of change from a current state to the desired state in order that the desired results and expected return on investment are achieved.  One of their most well-known tools is ADKAR.

ADKAR represents the five elements of change that an individual learner must transition through in order for the change to be a success. ADKAR is an acronym that stands for;

  • Awareness of the need for a change
  • Desire to support that change
  • Knowledge of how to change
  • Ability to demonstrate skills and behaviors
  • Reinforcement to make the change stick

Think back to your Salesforce implementation, or perhaps your upgrade to Salesforce Lightning. How many of the ADKAR elements did you include in the transition?

In our experience, organizations are generally so-so, to only OK at creating the awareness, pretty horrible at ensuring that the desire is across the board with all sales users, OK to good on the Knowledge piece, and then generally lousy on the Ability and Reinforcement components.

As a Salesforce Training partner, we’re retained by our clients, obviously, to design and deliver Salesforce Training programs for the users. But that only really addresses the ‘K’ in ADKAR – the knowledge component. ADKAR theory suggests that unless the first element, Awareness, has been successfully addressed, then you can’t move on towards the Desire component. And likewise, until you can ascertain that you’ve appropriately managed the Desire piece, there is little value in moving onto dispersing Knowledge or training your users. Similarly, oftentimes all we are asked to do is provide training, with little thought or attention is given to what happens after. Despite our (almost) insistence, many firms leave the training with little thought given to ensuring that their users actually have the ability to demonstrate the newly learned Salesforce skills on the job in practice, and, if there is any reinforcement at all, it is far too little and far too late.

Is it any wonder why Salesforce Adoption rates at so many firms are dismal?


WIIFM – What’s In It For Me? A Sad, But True, Tale

 Countless times, when we are brought into an organization to deliver a training program, one of the senior stakeholders will ask, almost as an afterthought, “Oh, and please, at the beginning of the training session, make sure to tell the sales teams why this is going to benefit them.” In theory, this makes sense. The participants in training certainly need to understand why what they’re about to invest time learning about, is actually going to be good for them.

The problem is, the message is both far too late, and from the wrong source.

The WIIFM, or What’s In It For Me, is really part of the Desire phase of ADKAR and must be addressed well before training, and also after we ensure that the A-phase of ADKAR, or the Awareness piece, has also been managed properly prior to focusing on the Desire, the WIIFM. Research also points to the fact that the message of WIIFM needs to come from both senior management and mid-management at the organization. In other words, the sales person needs to hear it directly from their Sales Leaders, and not from a sales trainer from an outside firm that they just met.

Research further suggests that organizational messages – those outlining the why we’re all moving to Salesforce and the reasoning behind it – is best received when it comes directly from senior leadership. The “how is this going to impact me and what I do every day?” is best received when it comes directly from that sales person’s direct sales manager.

And finally, these are not one-time messages only. They typically need to be told many times over, 5 to 7 in most cases. And as for the individual messages from sales managers – they need to be crafted specifically for each individual on the team, based on their own unique circumstances, and our best gauge of how keen, or not, they are about the upcoming Salesforce transformation.

 salesforce user adoption

After Salesforce Training – Now What?

 So, assuming that you masterfully tackled the A and the D of ADKAR. And you potentially brought in a reputable training firm like Salesforce Training to handle the K. Now, you’ve got to focus on the A and the R, Ability, and Reinforcement.

Ability is an interesting one. Generally, we like to think that we’ve hired some pretty bright people to work for us. And, we probably have. Particularly if your solutions fall into the technical realm, it takes some pretty savvy people to learn how to effectively sell.

But far too often, I see the mistake that companies make, in assuming that after a training class, sales people will just automatically figure out Salesforce on their own and apply it immediately to their day to day routines, forgoing everything they’ve learned and used before that day.

And would it come as a surprise, that this just isn’t the case? No. Even street-savvy sales people need more help.

Picture this. I’m a salesperson emerges from training – often held at the company’s annual retreat along with all sorts of other events – and then I return back to my territory the following week. I’m in the field, making sales calls. I leave a prospect’s office and go to the car. Remembering that there was an hour of training – near the end of a very long day – that showed me how to log my sales call into Salesforce, from my iPhone, using my voice to dictate the call notes, that seemed like a good thing to do now. But…where did the trainer go to log a call? I don’t see such a button. I think I recall something about Accounts or Contacts, or something called an Opportunity. The trainer said something interesting about putting notes everywhere. Agghhh…the phone app doesn’t look like the laptop version of Salesforce I practiced on, only once mind you. How do I do this again? Oh, never mind, I’ll do it back at the office.

I’m the office. The traffic was terrible. It’s 4:30. I’ve got a few more calls to make. I’ll enter this into Salesforce later. I wish I had paid more attention to training then this would have been done by now. Perhaps I’ll just put this into Excel for now, as a placeholder, and update Salesforce later. Hmmm, it seems like a lot of work. Oh well. We’ll tackle this tomorrow.

Get the picture?

Learning Salesforce is one thing. Getting adept at it to make it useful? Entirely another. It takes time to get efficient using Salesforce. Not months and months. But certainly, a week or so of continual usage to really start to get the feel of it and ensure that it becomes a productive tool and not a time drain.

And organizations, over and over, are complicit in not providing enough coaching and reinforcement for their teams as they go through the often tedious and difficult learning transfer process of applying their new-found knowledge into actionable skills.


So, What Can You Do?

We’ll say it again. Training is (relatively) easy. Changing people’s behaviors – not so much. BUT – there is a proven formula to get people to adapt to change and ensure that your projects have a much higher probability of success. Prosci’s Change Management strategies and ADKAR tool provide an excellent framework for organizations wanting to implement Salesforce, maximize adoption rates, and get the most from their Salesforce ROI.

At Salesforce Training, we’ve worked with dozens of firms, like yours that face the Salesforce Adoption problem. We’ve seen what works and what doesn’t and can provide you with the guidance you need to get you where you want to go.