How to Handle Low User Adoption of Salesforce

Paul Ginsberg - How to Handle Low User Adoption of Salesforce

Salesforce user adoption is a hot topic. When your company starts using Salesforce, it’s easy to get excited about the possibilities and what it can do for you. But many potential challenges come with implementing Salesforce as part of your business process. The first challenge is low user adoption- how do we address this?

In this podcast interview, Paul Ginsberg reveals the most common reasons for low user adoption of Salesforce and how Salesforce professionals can address them.

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Key Resources Mentioned in This Podcast:

What Are the Most Common Reasons Companies Experience Low User Adoption of Salesforce?

Some of the most common reasons for Salesforce user adoption issues include the following:

  1. Lack of user-centricity
  2. CRM: “Record of Truth”
  3. Poor data quality
  4. Lack of training
  5. Lack of support (leadership, technology)
  6. Lack of confidence in the technology (shiny object syndrome)

Let’s explore each of these reasons:

Lack of user-centricity

When companies plan their Salesforce implementation strategy without having a consistent priority around the workstream, common use cases, and needs of the end-users, you can pretty much guarantee that user adoption will be low.

From the onset of any Salesforce project, it’s imperative to identify the day-to-day working experience for the typical user who is expected to use the system.

Let’s face it; a successful Salesforce implementation needs to consider the needs of the Salesforce users for the CRM system. This includes the entire sales team (both the sales reps and the sales manager), and any other functional areas of the organization that are expected to use the CRM platform.

We need to consider the needs of the sales teams and how CRM implementation will help them do their job better. Improving sales performance will benefit the individual sales rep and help the entire business.

Without focusing on the intended user (let alone future users), it’s difficult to expect adoption rates to go up.

CRM: “record of truth”

For Salesforce adoption rates to increase, companies need to shift their mindset around CRMs from being a repository of data to being the “Record of Truth.”

A CRM should be considered as a system that is used for tracking all customer interactions, regardless of whether they are offline or online. If you think about it, there’s no need to use two different systems because your customers expect companies to look at their history together and respond accordingly- whether you’re having a conversation in person, on the phone, or via email.

Companies often mistakenly implement Salesforce in a way that creates internal partitions between functional business units – in a way that becomes detrimental to day-to-day business operations. Don’t get me wrong; there are many valid (and even critical) reasons why certain records should be hidden from various team members, depending on their roles and responsibility.

However, we need to be mindful that if one business user cannot see a particular record (for example, a Contact), they will likely want to create another entry for that Contact, thereby creating a duplicate (unknowingly). In addition, if that same business user is expected to be able to answer questions from that customer but is unable to see the relevant data, that user will either have to transfer the customer to another colleague who can view the relevant data or they will tell the customer to try calling someone else within the same organization.

This creates a horrible customer service experience and a frustrating experience for the employee trying to help a customer.

Imagine if you called your cellphone carrier. After providing information about your identity, the person you’re speaking with can only answer questions about your current plan but cannot even see information about your customer support tickets or your current outstanding balance. You will be placed on hold repeatedly until you can finally get transferred to someone who can view that data, and you will end the call extremely frustrated about how long it took to get the needed answers.

The implementation process needs to position the new system so that the sales pipeline shows reliable data while empowering the management support team to trust that the sales performance reports are reliable and trustworthy.

This will lead to a better adoption strategy.

Poor data quality

One of the biggest reasons for low user adoption is poor data quality. A Salesforce implementation is only as good as the data it contains. If you don’t have clean or accurate records within Salesforce, you probably have some relatively easy ways to improve Salesforce user adoption at your organization.

It doesn’t matter how intuitive your system is; if there are inaccurate records, your colleagues can’t rely on the data resulting in low Salesforce adoption rates.

Data migration from a legacy system to Salesforce is just one of many scenarios where power users and other Salesforce advocates within your organization can make a huge impact.

Sales managers and marketing teams can review the incomplete data, identify their clean data, and generate data quality reports to ensure that the Salesforce migration is successful.

While many organizations are too excited to import more spreadsheets of data into Salesforce and connect an assortment of other tools to feed data into Salesforce, each of these scenarios can introduce dirty data – at a grand scale.

Poor data quality leads to low Salesforce user adoption because Salesforce reports will be unreliable.

While people love to think of “poor data quality” as being exclusively duplicate records, poor data quality includes:

  • erroneous data,
  • misspellings,
  • ambiguous data,
  • non-compliant data (ex. we require date of birth, but the incoming data is missing this information for some records),
  • inconsistent data (ex., sometimes the country is populated, and other times it’s missing),
  • data that is out of date,
  • orphaned records,
  • unnecessary data (ex., do we need their home phone numbers and fax machine numbers?), and of course
  • duplicate data.

Lack of training

Salesforce is a compelling system that can transform sales organizations. However, it’s also highly complex and requires ongoing training for your team members to get up-to-speed with how Salesforce works.

If you haven’t provided adequate time or resources towards crafting a proper onboarding plan (or even if this was done in the past), you’re likely seeing low user adoption metrics among sales reps.

In addition, it’s essential to provide ongoing training and support, as the Salesforce platform is constantly benefiting from new features introduced through seasonal releases.

If you’re not providing your team with the necessary resources to keep up-to-date, they will quickly fall behind, and adoption rates will continue to drop. You can typically see an immediate impact on Salesforce usage and Salesforce adoption through adequate support of the sales team that is expected to use Salesforce.

Lack of leadership support

It’s important to consider whether or not senior leadership supports Salesforce and this new method of working.

Many organizations see quick wins with Salesforce by improving their CRM strategy but fail to recognize long-term potential until it’s too late. Executive buy-in is critical to ensure that your team has the resources they need (such as adequate training, time, and budget) to be successful with Salesforce.

Business leaders can’t expect that their Salesforce dashboards are reliable if the sales team and other Salesforce users haven’t been provided Salesforce training (due to lack of budget or priority), and the business processes haven’t been reviewed from a Salesforce perspective. The Salesforce Administrator feels like an army of one – attempting to convince the sales team to use Salesforce.

Lack of technology support

If your company is like most, then you are likely using various software applications and tools to get the job done. Chances are good that at least one of these applications relies on Salesforce data to do its job. Anytime we sync data between multiple systems, we must ensure that the data is compatible and consistently handled across all systems.

If users aren’t adopting Salesforce or not entering data correctly into Salesforce, this can have a ripple effect on other applications. To ensure that your team is successful with Salesforce (and to increase user adoption), you need to ensure that your technical support team can help users troubleshoot any issues they’re having with Salesforce integrations and identify issues that might have been introduced through data migration initiatives.

Lack of confidence in the technology (Shiny object syndrome)

Even if your CEO is on board with Salesforce and pushing people to use it, you may still experience poor user adoption rates. This is because users are often easily distracted by new technology that comes out when they haven’t adopted or aren’t using Salesforce in a way that works well with their routine tasks.

Even if you have an intimidatingly extensive and comprehensive list of reports, dashboards, custom objects, and other bells and whistles available in Salesforce that could help your users be more successful with the system, it won’t matter unless they’re confident using this technology. Implementing Salesforce involves more than just “turning it on” and adding new features. It’s far more critical to ensure that Salesforce can handle your sales team’s many routine tasks, and any initiatives to customize Salesforce contribute to the digital adoption of the platform.

If people don’t trust a new system to get their work done, they won’t use it. Period. This is why you need to ensure that your Salesforce implementation is successful by focusing on your sales team’s ultimate Salesforce usage, including a clean data strategy, a user adoption process, properly migrating their data, and sharing internal success stories.

These elements are critical before moving on to the next shiny thing. This often involves cleaning technical debt or revisiting end-user training so that you can give people exactly what they need to succeed with Salesforce (and not just push them forward into a learning curve they’ll never be able to get past).

For users to have confidence in the Salesforce platform, you must ensure a properly thought-out integration strategy. This includes building and maintaining an evergreen list of integrations and having a strategy for how users can best leverage Salesforce within their current workflows.

Suppose you haven’t yet built an integration list and don’t know what your team’s workflow looks like. In that case, it will be challenging to help them adopt Salesforce more quickly (and they’ll continue using other applications that rely on Salesforce data).

What Are the Best Ways to Tackle Low User Adoption in Salesforce?

Many low-user adoption scenarios can be resolved with a little bit of basic know-how that does not require you to buy additional apps:

  1. Demonstrate the value
  2. Breaking the cycle with good data
  3. End-user support – training, guidance, best practices
  4. Respond to user feedback
  5. Establish an evergreen communication plan
  6. Engage in periodical follow-up with your end-users
  7. Provide proper training to new team members and ongoing training for current users.

Let’s explore each of these options in more detail:

Demonstrate the value

The best way for your users to adopt Salesforce is by showing them how it will make their job easier. You can do this by reviewing the “day in the life” of a typical user and identifying the common pain points and time-consuming steps in their process that can be accomplished faster, more accessible (or maybe even in an automated way), by using existing Salesforce functionality.

If you can show people how they can get their work done more efficiently in Sales Cloud, they’re more likely to adopt it into their workflow. You may also consider creating a short video demonstrating how Salesforce can help users be more successful.

Consider a variety of communication channels with your end-users. Your communication strategy can include Salesforce Chatter, Slack, or email. You can also recruit some internal Salesforce Champions to help with your overall adoption strategy.

Breaking the cycle with good data

If you’ve been having trouble getting people on board with using Salesforce, it may be because your team is not currently seeing its value. One way to break this cycle is by ensuring that all users have access to good data. This means taking the time to clean up and consolidate your data before importing it into Salesforce and identifying various subject matter experts within your organization who can help review the records they’re most familiar with to ensure that the data is accurate, updated, and clean.

With good data, users will be more likely to trust and leverage the system in their day-to-day workflow.

End-user support – training, guidance, best practices

One of the most important things you can do as a Salesforce Admin is to provide ongoing end-user support. This includes providing training (both initial and ongoing), as well as guidance on how to use Salesforce within their current workflows best. You can also establish a set of best practices that users can follow to ensure they get the most out of the system.

If people feel lost or unsupported, they’ll continue to use spreadsheets, paper notepads, or whichever old apps they’re familiar with.

Respond to user feedback.

If your users aren’t using Salesforce, they may not be happy with it (for whatever reason). You should take the time to listen closely to what people are saying about how the system is working for them currently and address any concerns or issues you can resolve.

If users are unhappy with Salesforce, then this will undoubtedly play a significant role in how they respond to the platform; if you can make them feel heard and work together towards improving their experience (even by providing quick solutions), then it’s more likely that they’ll continue using the system.

Establish an evergreen communication plan.

One of the best ways to ensure that your users continue using Salesforce is by establishing an ongoing communication plan with them. Think about what information they might need to stay up-to-date and informed, such as upcoming releases or changes, tips for getting more out of existing features (or workarounds when certain features aren’t working as expected), and so on.

You can also think about how you might want to engage with users in terms of the frequency, format (e.g., emails, newsletters, office hours, Slack channels, Chatter groups), etc. This will vary depending on the size of your organization and how you typically like to communicate with people; no “one-size-fits-all” approach works for every business.

If users feel informed about Salesforce, they’re more likely to adopt it into their workflow (or continue using it if they already have). The more engaged they feel with the platform, the more likely it is that Salesforce will continue to be a part of their workflow.

Provide training to new Team members and ongoing training for current users.

Companies often don’t dedicate enough resources (or any resources) to onboarding new users to teach them how to use Salesforce. This will inevitably lead to people not having the best experience and potentially result in them leaving (or deciding to use other systems, like spreadsheets).

Salesforce Admins need to take a proactive role here by providing ongoing training throughout someone new hire’s first few weeks/months on the job. It also helps if you can show people how they might be able to leverage their existing experience (in other job roles or previous companies) in Salesforce.

Now, you don’t want to overwhelm users by trying to get them up-to-speed on every feature; this will only make the learning curve steeper and likely cause people to feel frustrated that they’re not “getting it.” Instead, focus on the basics and gradually introduce people to new features.

If you can get users up and running quickly and make them feel comfortable using Salesforce in their day-to-day work, they’re more likely to stick with it in the long run. Adopting a “training as needed” approach versus a “training for everything” approach is the best way to do this.

Let’s not forget the importance of ongoing training for existing users.

Most companies excitedly introduce new customizations, update page layouts, and add apps, and new fields into Salesforce on an ongoing basis. How much time is allocated to teaching the existing users about these new components, and how do these enhancements relate to their jobs?

Salesforce Admins must ensure that their team is adequately trained on these changes and enhancements; otherwise, users will be resistant to change and may feel overwhelmed.

It’s also important to remember how people like to learn (or don’t like to learn). Some users might prefer more visual aids, such as videos or step-by-step tutorials. Others may want to read written instructions or play around with the system by trying things out independently.

You should also consider whether you need to create different types of training for users across your organization, depending on how they work and what systems/skillsets they have already mastered (or not). For example, if users are familiar with Excel, you might not need to spend as much time teaching them how to use Salesforce’s reporting capabilities.

If people feel they can’t do their job effectively without using Salesforce, they’re more likely to want to adopt it into their workflow. But if users feel like the system is too difficult (or don’t have enough training), then adoption rates are likely to be lower.

Providing the proper training is vital if you want users to adopt Salesforce into their workflows, but this means different things for everyone depending on how comfortable these people are with new technology and what systems/skillsets they already use in their day-to-day work.


If your company has low user adoption of Salesforce, then you can take steps to address it and improve people’s experiences with the platform. Address users’ concerns by listening closely to what they’re saying about their experience using Salesforce today; work together as a team to find out what’s causing people to be resistant to change, and provide training so users can get up-to-speed quickly on Salesforce basics.

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