When it comes to Salesforce adoption, there are a few best practices that apply in most (if not all) cases: Communicating the value of the platform and providing employees with the right training, for example. However, certain industries face unique challenges in getting their people to use a newly implemented technology. In the manufacturing space, these challenges tend to stem from the fact that many firms have been doing things the same way for decades — same products, same processes, same mindset. When something works, why mess around with it? It’s a totally reasonable attitude, but when it permeates an entire company, it can make things difficult for leaders who want to modernize aspects of their business to drive new growth.
That’s why we put together the following suggestions — to help manufacturing leaders understand what they can do to encourage company-wide Salesforce adoption.
Suggestion #1: Don’t force your IT department to do the heavy lifting.
Every technology project needs an owner — a person or team responsible for the planning and execution of the implementation. However, owning a project shouldn’t amount to being the only stakeholder involved. Leaders from every team that will use a given platform need to be part of the conversation. This helps ensure that the full company is on the same page when it comes to strategy and expectations.
Occasionally, however, this ideal scenario doesn’t quite play out. Whether it’s due to strained resources or a lack of awareness about the importance of alignment, sometimes the project owner gets saddled with doing all the work and making all the important decisions. In the Salesforce world, we see this with manufacturing IT departments. Despite the fact that Salesforce is a solution designed to help marketing, sales and service teams, representatives from those functions don’t always know how important it is that they involve themselves in the implementation process. They understandably see CRM technology as something the technology experts should handle.
Here’s why that presents a major adoption problem: Salesforce is a process-dependent tool. In order for your company to get the most out of it, it needs to be custom-configured to support your business processes. Your IT team may be perfectly capable of leading the implementation from a technical perspective, but they aren’t the experts on your core processes. As such, the end result might not prove as valuable for end users as it could be — and that’s going to severely limit how much somebody wants to use it. To avoid this undesirable fate, make sure leaders from across the company are involved from the very start of the project.
Suggestion #2: Choose the right messaging.
Some manufacturers have seen steady success for years, and their employees no doubt take pride in that fact. Consistent wins during turbulent economic times point to more than effective leadership — they’re proof of high-functioning teams. It’s understandable, then, that these same employees might feel confused or hesitant about the introduction of a new system. It comes back to the whole “when something works, why mess around with it?” idea. Most people need to be sold on the value of change. Otherwise, they might not see the point in doing things differently. At worst, they could feel slighted.
As a leader, your job is to effectively communicate what Salesforce is — and what it isn’t. It is a tool that can automate key aspects of your front-office operations. It isn’t meant to alter any successful shop-floor processes. It is a way to make key data easily available to employees across the company. It isn’t meant to replace your ERP. If you’re clear and direct in how you speak about Salesforce, you can reduce anxieties and earn trust, both essential elements of driving adoption.
Suggestion #3: Make time to train your senior sales reps.
As you’d expect, sales reps aren’t immune to the hesitation born from unclear messaging about the purpose of Salesforce. In fact, as those who will be among the most affected by a CRM implementation, some salespeople might put up extra resistance. If their longstanding ways of doing things — offline relationship building, spreadsheets, gut instincts — suddenly seem under attack, they’ll probably go on the defensive. That’s just human nature. Again, you need to make sure you’re very deliberate in how you position Salesforce. You’re not implementing this new technology because the team has been doing a bad job; you’re doing it because it will give them new tools to help increase their numbers and gain reporting capabilities.
Beyond this kind of expectation setting, you also need to make sure your reps get as much Salesforce training as possible. Earning buy-in is the first step, but you also need to make sure your team knows how to use the platform. Even if a rep wants to include Salesforce in their daily workflow, a lack of knowledge could prevent them from doing so. And if their approach has been largely analog for years (or even decades), the digital landscape of Salesforce could prove a lot to learn.
As your implementation project moves towards its close, you should work with your Salesforce consultant to schedule multiple training sessions. You want to make sure your team has a good grasp on how they’ll use Salesforce while you still have access to your implementation team.
If you’re looking for other, more general adoption advice, check out our Salesforce adoption roundup. It features industry-agnostic advice that could prove useful for any kind of company — including manufacturers.