A client made a notable observation in a recent conversation…

Lowering the barrier to entry of any technology is extremely important for user adoption.  As part of a sales enablement function, customer reference programs need to mesh seamlessly with the existing processes.  Siloed applications or stand-alone operations that require new training or additional effort meet with resistance or even defiance.  Salespeople, by nature, are clever souls who will take the fastest route to a solution.  If a process is a bottleneck, Sales will circumvent it and take the path of least resistance and work around, rather than through, the function.

In fact, a sizable percentage of salespeople are unenthusiastic about CRM systems. Users often see these applications as a bureaucratic necessity that are just as likely to hinder the sales person as it is to help them.  In a recent survey by Software Advice, a company that helps businesses find CRM software, a full 34% of sales people thought their CRM was too time-consuming. Respondents also voiced concerns about ease-of-use, performance, and remote access.

As customer reference and advocacy programs are becoming top-of-mind in the C-suite, it is critical to consider how to set up and automate the function to benefit all the stakeholders: sales, marketing, and the customers.  The right customer reference app can actually neutralize objections by delivering additional advantages.  So what are the pet peeves and how can you avoid them?

  1. It’s just too time-consuming. Well, that’s a pretty broad statement and could refer to anything from setting up the data to system performance.  The point is that anything that diverts their time and energy from the direct pursuit of a deal better have a big upside. Customer reference apps that automate, streamline, and track reference requests meet that criteria.  When an account executive can pinpoint a reference and get approval to use it in minutes, the ROI is obvious.
  2. It’s difficult to learn.  Let’s face it, sales and marketing personnel aren’t likely to read the manual.  Complex and clumsy applications don’t have a chance.  Implementing a new application entails a period where end-users are learning the ins and out of the system. The key is ensuring that the process is as short and pain-free as possible and that the end-user ROI is great.  When selecting a customer reference app, consider how well the options leverage the existing look & feel of the CRM solution in which you’ve already invested so much.
  3. It doesn’t integrate well. There is always a learning curve when it comes to technology. The investment in mastering the CRM solution should not go to waste, so accessing the customer reference app should be invisible to the end-users. Inconsistent or unfamiliar UIs, or cumbersome integration will never provide the value needed to win over sales reps. The right reference app provides the reference-specific functionality from within CRM requiring little or no additional training. Just as important, the customer reference app has to leverage the messaging avenues and CRM application components (e.g., activity history) already employed by Sales.
  4. It is difficult to access remotely. Another irksome issue surrounds difficulty accessing the system and data remotely. Salespeople aren’t called road warriors for nothing.  Access via laptop, tablet and phone are essential for any application to be adopted. This doesn’t mean just one function.  With customer reference information in the same database with the rest of the customer and prospect information, sales and marketing personnel get up-to-date and comprehensive reference data from anywhere.  Mobile optimized screens and dashboard ensure the people can get the right information quickly and easily on the go. If the CRM app has a mobile interface then the customer reference app should be there too.

CRM and reference apps have many corporate benefits.  The key is to develop and deploy them with a clear appreciation for the people who will be using them on a daily basis.   Avoid or minimize these pitfalls and your well on your way.