Three SFA Design Principles to Optimize Adoption

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Ed. We’re introducing a new and very welcome contributor to The HUB today – Mr. Gerry Murray of the International Data Corporation. Gerry is an expert in high-tech marketing, including working with some of the world’s largest software and services companies. In addition to IDC, Gerry was Managing Editor at, a Softrax initiative, and built the marketing infrastructure at Panviva. His article on SFA implementation is simply good stuff for our readers.

According to IDC’s Best Practices in SFA Deployment study, understanding the life of your sales reps and first-line sales managers is key to the adoption of your CRM. Weaving it into their daily routine and motivating them to fill out tedious forms with crucial information is where the rubber really hits the road.  IDC’s recent research into automation systems for marketing and sales shows that you need to cross the 75% adoption line as quickly as possible then reach and maintain 90%+ in order to get the most out of your IT investments in these areas. Companies that achieve these rates have much better datasets available for optimizing the customer creation process across marketing and sales. As shown below CRM adoption rate is a key differentiator between data driven leaders and laggards.

Actual users as a percentage of desired users. Data Driven Leaders vs. All Others

Source: IDC 2012

Source: IDC 2012

There are several design principles that can greatly influence the success of your roll out and your adoption rate:

  1. Simplified UI: Key fields need to be “above the fold” on a single tab, as easy to view and fill out on a smart phone as on a laptop. Do your salespeople really still use laptops? That’s a design format that is sunsetting quickly in many high tech sales organizations and UI design must follow suit. (See IDC’s Sales Advisory case study on SAP’sadoption of iPads.)
  2. Progressive reporting: The data entry process should be broken into very small chunks, much like the progressive profiling model marketing uses to collect customer data. Each form asks very few questions (3), but sequentially gets the whole story. Design CRM data entry around the mobile life of the sales rep. How much information can they enter via their phone or tablet between the time they leave the building and get in their car? (OK not literally, we don’t want to be advocating texting and walking.)
  3. Reward good behavior: It’s not always obvious to sales reps how valuable every piece of customer data can be. In order to make it more immediate, gamification can be applied to key behaviors. Tools (such as Badgeville and LevelEleven) are now available to modify activity based metrics within the CRM – from how many customer email addresses have been collected to the number of appointments being set for a specific product. You have to be careful what you reward of course, we don’t want to move a number 6 priority item all the way up to number 2. But making good data entry all about the sales rep is critical to getting them to care and behave accordingly.

You’ve designed your new CRM to be simpatico with your new enterprise customer creation process. But fundamental to your success is the data needs to continually monitor and improve all your customer facing activities. Field Sales is typically the weakest link in the customer data management chain. With a little more attention to detail even the most tedious data entry tasks in your CRM can become a source of connection and community that will drive adoption and good behavior at the same time.

Ed. Again, thanks to Gerry for letting us re-publish this article. His emphasis on simplified user interface is exactly what we thought in designing the ASPEC app. And we’ve gone a step further on the progressive reporting data entry entry by simplifying and visualizing the process in an entirely new and elegant way.

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