Internal buy-in: How to sell your own team on a new CRM

Change can be difficult even in the best of circumstances.

The inertia of “the way we’ve always done things” can trip up the implementation of a new CRM, and a team’s familiarity with a software platform (even one that they all complain about!) can make them resist adopting one that better suits their needs.

It’s not enough for you to find the CRM with the right features at the right price; to implement these changes effectively, it’s crucial that your team wants the change, and that they’re right there with you on the value of learning a new way to do business.

Getting internal buy-in means selling your team on why the new CRM will help them sell better. And the steps you’ll want to follow may sound a lot like your regular sales process—with a few modifications to account for your relationship with your team and the structure of your organization.

Stage 1: Presenting

You won’t need to start with prospecting or qualifying, because you know who you need to sell to—your team!

It’s still important, however, to get a full understanding of your team’s pain points before you present your solution. You need to know what is valuable to your colleagues, and which CRM features are absolutely necessary for how they sell.

As with external clients and customers, successfully presenting to your team requires research and preparation. Get an understanding of their experiences with previous CRM solutions and be ready for the questions they will inevitably ask. Approach them less as their boss handing down a dictate from on high than as a trusted advisor, bringing them a solution for what’s keeping them up at night.

While it may creep into your mind that you can essentially “close” the sale with your own team whether you convince them about the value proposition or not, remember that the goal here is the same as any other sale—to create a satisfied customer who will drive revenue for your organization.

In short, find the message that resonates. Articulate why you are excited about the benefits this change will bring, but more importantly, focus on whatever aspect will get your team excited, too.

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Stage 2: Handling Objections

To some degree, your team is going to resist your call for change. They may even have good reasons. Price, timing, fear of change—the usual suspects.

Price may come up as an objection if the cost to replace the current CRM could affect the team’s resources in some way, particularly if things didn’t go well last time. If, for example, the budgetary impact of implementing a more expensive CRM system led to laying off a sales development representative or cutting back on other sales software resources, your team may be understandably skeptical of making a new investment.

Related: How to Beat the “No Budget” Sales Objection, With Ryan Dohrn

In cases like this, it’s important to acknowledge what’s happened before and validate your team’s concerns, while also stressing that those sunk costs can never be recovered, regardless of how you proceed moving forward.

Assure them that the change will improve the health of the organization, and reiterate the specific reasons the change is being implemented. Are you implementing a new CRM because of cost concerns, or because you need a greater capacity for contacts and data storage? Do you need better access to technical support, or a more intuitive interface? Or maybe you’re looking for specific features like sales process automation or automated email drips that your current CRM doesn’t provide. Whatever the need, communicate it clearly.

Because your sales reps are folks you see every day, and you know how busy they are, you may be especially sympathetic to the timing objection. Of course Callie is super busy trying to close a big deal, and she will be more open to adopting this change when her workload clears up. You should also know, however, that Callie’s workload will never clear up. It will never be the perfect time to significantly alter the ways that she and the rest of your team manage their leads.

There may be better times and worse times, and you can strategically time your CRM implementation to a period that will be less disruptive for as much of your staff as possible. So if you’re shopping for a CRM, you’d better find one that can be implemented quickly. A team can bear two days of chaos, not two weeks of it.

Recognize and acknowledge that there will be challenges, and be clear about the specific ways the short-term chaos will be worth it in the end—again, framed in terms of your team’s own values.

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Then there’s fear of change. Even if your current system isn’t working, it can be hard to overcome inertia. But if things have been working “just fine,” it can be even harder to convince your team that they could be working better.

You have identified this change as necessary. It may be time to come back around to why you feel that way—why the old way is insufficient, and how this new solution will improve their day-to-day lives. This stage is where data can truly be your friend. Demonstrate, in real terms, how your current CRM is costing you sales. Quantify leads that have gone cold, or the time spent on the phone with tech support instead of selling, or whatever the relevant metric may be. And if your sales reps are on commission, explain how your expected improvements will translate to actual dollars in their pockets.

Again, it’s time to come back to the question: what is important to your team? If you’re implementing a CRM for the first time, you might talk about its ability to natively integrate with Mailchimp, Gmail, and other software they use every day, or how it can reduce manual entry of contacts and the need for managing multiple spreadsheets to build lists.

If you’re switching from one CRM to another, your team may want to know that their previous contacts and activity data can be easily imported, or that a more intuitive interface will make their time in the CRM more pleasant. They might need some tough love, just a straight-up statement the previous platform just wasn’t working, and any time, resources, and money sunk into it is gone—it’s time to cut bait and move on.

Explain point by point how the new CRM will alleviate their problems or improve their results, using whatever resources are available. If you’ve already seen a good result working in a CRM’s free trial, share your numbers.

You might not fully overcome your team’s discomfort with the unknown, particularly since the change may affect their job performance (in your view, for the better, but in their fears, for the worse). So appealing to cold, impersonal data may actually be the most effective approach: showing that you’re not taking this decision lightly, and that the “way we’ve always done things” is in some real way unsustainable. Once they’ve come to accept that change is necessary, they are more likely to be open to the changes you are proposing.

Remember that storytelling can be invaluable in batting back objections. Is there a recent business case that effectively demonstrates why a new CRM or process is essential? Your team will better recognize their own challenges when framed in terms of a real-world use case.

TL;DR: Do what you do. Demonstrate the value of your solution, and demonstrate the cost or risk that comes from staying the course.

Stage 3: Closing and Nurturing

We’ve already touched on how, if you have the decision-making power, you could close whenever you like—install that software, distribute that SOP, and hold your team’s feet to the fire. But you don’t want to do that. It’s not productive for your team or your business, and makes your well-considered investment much more likely to fail. So let’s not.

Instead, you’ve worked to build buy-in with your team and perhaps even the larger organization. (We’ll get to that in a bit.) Now you want to ensure a smooth rollout. Let your sellers know what to expect: what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, and how long they should expect the change to take. Give them the documentation and resources they need to succeed.

In the early days of implementation, it will be essential to check in on your team. What’s working, what concerns do they have? Are they struggling to understand the new CRM, or is there functionality they would expect to see but can’t seem to locate in the software? Addressing problems early can allow you to fine-tune the new process to ensure success and demonstrate that you care about your staff’s concerns.

We know that low user adoption is reported as a major factor in failed CRM initiatives, and the same principle applies to any significant process change that you may roll out for your sales team. Ensuring that all major stakeholders are on board for the journey—including your own team and any other colleagues the change will touch—is crucial to a successful rollout. You are investing time, resources, and expertise in changing the way your business is done. Winning internal buy-in will make sure that your investment pays off.

One More Thing: Achieving Buy-in Beyond the Sales Team

You’ve got your team revved and ready, but how does your change in CRM affect other departments or units at your organization? Maybe the impact is limited to your immediate reports; maybe your CRM could offer benefits to other departments if they join your crew on its journey. Or maybe the change is so systemic that, without significant buy-in from other units or from the executive team, your plan cannot be put into action.

Related: How CRM helps departments outside the sales team

When it comes to implementing a new CRM, the advantages to your marketing crew should be clear, and depending on your organization’s structure, maybe you’ve already secured their buy-in while pitching to the sales crew. But what about your accounting department? Or your support team? Or the product team?

Your financial managers may be interested in Quickbooks integration and the ability to trigger invoices and bills through your CRM and keep customer records synced. HR and senior managers may value a central hub for communications and guidance to facilitate things like new hire onboarding. And if leads and other vital contacts are touched by colleagues from throughout your organization, the birds-eye view provided by a good, intuitive CRM can give extraordinary insight into how your business is communicating with the world. All of this can help you “sell” the change you want to see for inter-departmental success.

Sometimes, we can all feel “siloed” in our responsibilities. But introducing a new CRM is an opportunity to talk to cross-departmental colleagues about their needs and how you can work together to the benefit of the entire organization.

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