A virtuous circle is a chain of events that reinforces itself through a feedback loop. For example, economic growth creates more jobs, which increases consumer spending, which causes economic growth, which creates even more jobs…and so on. This is the basis of the old saying “A rising tide raises all ships.”

Could we use this same principle to improve sales force automation (SFA) platform adoption and use by B2B sales organizations? Broad-scale adoption by sales reps is critical to recognizing value and return on SFA investment. The more accurately and comprehensively the reps maintain the data in the system, the more valuable the data becomes, which increases the system’s value to the reps and promotes the desired behavior.

Yet we continue to see organizations pump thousands of dollars into SFA applications, only to get pushback from sales reps who state that they find little value in what the system provides and, as a result, put minimal effort into entering and maintaining data.

Perhaps we need to change the emphasis of the conversation from “driving” SFA adoption (which implies coercion) to “promoting” SFA adoption (which implies support, leadership and value). How? At SiriusDecisions, we’ve developed an adoption framework with three key elements:

  • Process before technology. Process is what truly drives sales productivity. Whether you identify, capture and codify the best practices of your top-performing reps or adopt externally developed sales processes, first define the process, map it and validate it – and then build it into the system.
  • Lead by example. Sales executives and managers must use the SFA technology to avoid giving any impression of a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude. Sales leaders should use the platform to review forecasts, analyze pipelines, prepare for sales calls, conduct account reviews and generally manage the business. Sales reps should feel empowered to say, “I put that information into the SFA like you asked me to – did you look there first?”
  • Set expectations at the organizational level. Minimum expectations for data entry, currency and accuracy must be established, clearly communicated and implemented globally. Holding one region to a different set of standards undermines the common good and damages the integrity of the data.

Organizations invest in SFA applications for a number of reasons, but achieving their objectives starts with user adoption. By focusing on the value the SFA delivers to end users (e.g. sales reps), sales ops can jump-start a virtuous circle that reinforces and sustains SFA adoption.