There is hardly any other IT introduction which fails as often as the implementation of a CRM system. In many consulting projects, we have experienced the implementation of (new) CRM systems in sales. In the majority of cases we see that success with regard to sales performance and sales efficiency is not reached at all – or not to the desired extent.

According to an international study among 1.337 companies only 25 percent have noticed an improvement of the sales performance after the introduction of a CRM system. [i]

Why is that?

Too much focus on technology – and not enough on the user in sales

In CRM projects, the major share of financial resources and management attention goes into the selection and implementation of the “right” IT solution. Companies often forget that an IT implementation doe not only have a technical dimension. By far the greatest challenge is the required cultural change, which starts in the head of every single sales person.

The implementation of a CRM system leads to a change in processes and structures. This has an impact on the working habits of the sales team, which consequently have to be adapted. Also, sales organisations have to learn how to use the CRM system.

Furthermore, a CRM system increases transparency about customers and the sales agent’s work, which many perceive as negative. These factors create considerable resistance in sales, because of anxiety, which is in turn a result of insecurity. Accordingly, a sales agent is in the “shock” or “denial” stage. [ii]

In this stage we often hear the following from sales agents:

  • “I should rather spend my effective sales time with selling instead of data administration activities.”
  • „Those are MY customers. Why should I share my know-how through a CRM system?”
  • „The CRM system is too complex, no one can actually use it“

One of the key features of a successful CRM implementation is the acceptance by the sales teams. In order to effectively introduce a CRM system focused change management is required at an early stage to identify and remove resistors. Therefore, the stages “shock” and “denial” can be overcome.

How is it possible?

Understanding a CRM integration not only as an IT project

A CRM system introduction should be integrated into an overall sales improvement program, which focuses on auditing and improving sales strategies and working methods. Such a project has many dimensions – ranging from the definition of strategic sales goals, the implementation of a new sales reporting us KPI to the development of a consistent sales guideline.

With regard to this, a CRM system plays a significant role. It can and it should serve as an instrument of a sales optimization. An example would be the generation and easy-to-digest presentation of customer data through a CRM system to ensure an effective preparation of sales visits.

In addition, it is relevant to develop acceptance at an early stage by communicating the main advantages of the CRM tool. In the course of this, the sales management is also fundamental as it has to promote the CRM system internally.

Furthermore, a consistent and mandatory training has to be provided to the users, which focuses on the general functioning, the effective use and the key advantages of the CRM System.

CRM software companies and integrators have to redefine their role

As know-how carriers CRM software companies and integrators have to provide their customers with the experiences they have gained in terms of adoption barriers in previous projects and therefore, support them in maximizing acceptance and effective usage of the system. For example, this could happen through a mutual development of a training program or action plans to ensure acceptance by sales organizations.

CRM software companies and integrators have to position themselves as a result – oriented and holistic partner that is committed to the ROI of the CRM implementation – and not only to the technical implementation of the promised features!

We have developed a specific “CRM adoption program”, which supports companies in increasing user adoption. If you need to get more information, please feel free to call or write us.


by Daniel Meidl & Nikolaus Bremerich



[i] Raman, P., Wittmann, C. M. & Rauseo, N. A. (2006). Leveraging CRM for sales: The role of organizational capabilities in successful CRM implementation, in: Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, Vol. 26, Nr. 1.

[ii] Kotter, J. P. (2012). Leading change. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

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