Members are always telling me about their struggles with sales tool adoption and I always tell them the same thing – first and foremost, when it comes to ensuring that your tools will be used, you have to build the right infrastructure for tool creation in the first place.
No matter what you’re building, who’s building it, or who’s sponsoring it, you’ve got to adhere to these seven steps if you want reps to consistently take advantage of your suite of tools:
1. Keep Your Eye on the Prize. Make absolute certain the tool is built back from actual outcomes your organization, and more specifically, your sales reps, are seeking to achieve. More often than not, simply building a tool based on stated needs can lead you to a place where a tool fails to achieve its anticipated impact and falls far short of expected adoption.
2. Prioritize Tool Requests. Put in place some sort of principled prioritization mechanism that guides tool development. Too often, we flood the tool marketplace with endless ROI calculators, collateral, etc. without making sure the most important tools land on reps’ desks first. Without a prioritization strategy in place, it’s usually the squeakiest wheel or the most senior request that automatically gets to cut to the front of the line.
3. Run to Feedback. When designing a tool, make sure you collect very early input from field-based power users around which problems are worth solving with the tool in the first place.
4. Contextualize Why Your Tool(s) Matter. Communicate/sell the value of the new tool to the sales force by communicating why things have changed (e.g., customer behaviors have shifted) not what has changed (e.g., new step in the sales process)—and make sure that that message is delivered specifically through the lens of individual rep value and is delivered primarily by the first-line sales manager.
5. Ensure the Tool is Easy to Use. Remember, no amount of training and rollout support can overcome a poor user interface. If the tool is hard to use, it’s hard to use, period; and it’s likely dead on arrival.
6. Conduct Pilots Prior to Launch. Pilot the tool in a manner that allows you to more accurately predict adoption patterns and impact when it comes time to full roll out.
7. Make Your Tool Accessible. House the tools in some manner (e.g., a portal) that is both easy to use and informative.
At the end of the day, remember that driving tool adoption does not start after the tool is built – it starts during tool design.