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“The sales forecast spreadsheets never match what’s in salesforce”.

That from the VP of Sales of a prospective customer last month. He was complaining about low sales adoption of salesforce.

I’m sorry? What did you say?

Why on earth are you still using spreadsheets for sales forecasting when you have salesforce?

Actually, low sales adoption of salesforce is more common that you might think. And one way this manifests is continuing to use spreadsheets for forecasting and pipeline management.

Here is the business impact that emerged when we discussed low sales adoption with this VP of Sales.

  • Lack of pipeline visibility. A single salesforce dashboard provides a perspective on the size, quality and trend in the pipeline from different angles. A spreadsheet usually gives a one dimensional picture.
  • It’s clearly more time and effort to maintain opportunity information in two places rather than one.
  • Inconsistent information. Different teams using different spreadsheet formats and structure.
  • Lack of consolidation. Rolling up multiple spreadsheets into a single company-level view is a cottage industry in its own right.
  • It’s difficult to view a spreadsheet from a mobile device or when you’re out of the office. And it can be very difficult if someone else is editing the spreadsheet at the same time!

So low sales adoption is a problem. But it’s one that can be fixed. Usually quite easily.

But of course if you want to change the situation then you need to understand why it happens in the first place.

So we asked the VP of Sales why he thought low sales adoption occurred in his business. We have listed the reasons he gave below – along with our recommended actions for improving sales adoption.

1. Fear of visibility of sales performance


Sales adoption problem described by the VP of Sales

Sales people generally don’t vote for more visibility. Or at least the lower performers don’t. Keeping the opportunity information and sales forecast in a spreadsheet minimizes this visibility.

Our sales adoption recommendation

Be careful that this isn’t a management problem. If senior managers are constantly breathing down the necks of sales people on every big deal, then there’s little incentive to use salesforce. And even if you move sales forecasting entirely to salesforce then you risk sandbagging.

If you are confident there isn’t a management problem then check the visibility levels in salesforce. Agree what people can see – and cannot see.

But other than that, tough. It’s a fact of life that sales people operate in a high visibility role. If it’s too hot then don’t come into the kitchen.

2. Managers unaware how to run a pipeline review in salesforce


Sales adoption problem described by the VP of Sales

Using reports and dashboards to conduct an effective pipeline review or create a sales forecast needs know-how. Not a lot, but some.

Salesforce reports and dashboards are a tool. In themselves, they don’t manage the sales team. But managers need to know how to use these tools.

Our sales adoption recommendation

Coach sales managers how to conduct both a short term and a long term funnel review in salesforce.

This blog post and the accompanying video explains how to use the single most useful chart on the salesforce dashboard. It’s a good place to start by learning how to conduct a funnel review in salesforce.

Awesome Pipeline and Sales Performance Visibility

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3. No pipeline reports and dashboard charts set up


Sales adoption problem described by the VP of Sales

When a salesforce sales executive pitches the system, the first thing they do is demonstrate dashboards. And yet it’s remarkable how many companies that have implemented salesforce still don’t have pipeline reports and dashboards set up.

Or at least no decent ones that give effective visibility of sales performance.

If managers can’t get the visibility they need from salesforce then they’re going to keep opportunity information in spreadsheets.

Our sales adoption recommendation

The solution is obvious. Set up opportunity management reports and dashboard charts that give managers the visibility of sales performance and the sales pipeline that they need.

We’ve written extensively to help you do this. Take a look at our most popular blog post, 12 Charts That Should Be On Your Salesforce Dashboard. You might also want to try Spot Poor Quality Deals Using Salesforce Dashboards.

4. Salesforce is too difficult to use

Sales adoption problem described by the VP of Sales

Too many fields have been created on the opportunity. Or too many validation rules. It’s just too damn difficult to create and update an opportunity on salesforce through its lifecycle.

Sales people will, not unreasonably, take the route of least resistance.

If it’s hard to manage deals and produce sales forecasts in salesforce then sales adoption will suffer. Both managers and their team members will gravitate towards spreadsheets.

Our sales adoption recommendation

Take a long hard look at the way salesforce is set up. Are all the fields really necessary? Can the number of mandatory fields be reduced? Are there too many validation rules?

Implementing salesforce so that it genuinely adds value to the sales person is fundamental to sales adoption. There’s multiple ways to do this. For starters, try our blog post 5 Compelling Ways to increase salesforce benefits or even 5 More Compelling Ways to Increase Salesforce Benefits.

5. Lack of sales management desire to use salesforce


Sales adoption problem the VP of Sales described

The Sales Manager just doesn’t get it.

They’ve always used spreadsheets. It’s a tried and tested way to manage the sales team. You don’t have to be a computer genius to use a spreadsheet.

That scenario definitely exists.

But sometimes the Sales Manager does actually get it. It’s just that they lack personal confidence in using salesforce. And don’t want to look like a complete numpty in front of their team or peers.

Our sales adoption recommendation

The first scenario is increasingly less common. Where it exists, the Sales Manager needs careful education through demonstrations and external reading. Try many of our salesforce dashboard-related blog posts for examples of the power of using the system to manage sales performance.

And not everyone is confident using a PC or laptop. We have conducted a number of private training sessions for senior executives to educate, coach and instil confidence in using the system. It’s rarely a capability issue, more a matter of knowing how to navigate the system with confidence.

Update: Salesforce adoption in our customer’s sales team

I’m pleased to say the prospective customer on which this blog post is based is now a customer of GSP.

We ran several workshops with the sales team to listen to their concerns. This enabled us to create a tailored approach to increasing adoption and improving forecasting accuracy.

To start with we streamlined their salesforce user interface. Removed many of the superfluous fields and validation rules.

Then we implemented a number of measures to streamline sales processes. This includes implementing Conga and DocuSign to automatically produce customer-ready quotes and proposals directly from salesforce. And in order to make it much easier to find Products and add them to Opportunities we implemented the Product Selection Wizard.

We have re-built their reports and salesforce dashboard charts. The sales team now has full visibility of the sales pipeline. And the ability to forecast accurately using salesforce.

We implemented new target functionality so that sales people and their managers can easily view sales performance against target. This led to a tremendous boost in the popularity of the system for sales executives.

New metrics now track user adoption across the team. Rather than focusing simply on whether sales people have logged on, the metrics measure the quality of interaction with the system. The purpose is to identify people that might benefit from further coaching and advice on how to get the best from salesforce.

One final thing. We conducted a series of one-to-one coaching sessions with each of the sales managers. We showed them how to conduct a pipeline review and sales forecast in salesforce. This gave the team the confidence and know-how to use salesforce reports and dashboards to manage the team effectively.

Needless to say, the sales forecast spreadsheets have been ditched.

So goodbye spreadsheets. Hello sales adoption, accurate forecasting and a more effective way of working.

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