A Guide To CRM Adoption For Small Businesses

21 June 2022 in Sales & CRM

CRM (customer relationship management) delivers numerous benefits for businesses of all sizes. Whether it’s helping maintain accurate customer records, improving your customer service processes, informing your marketing decisions, or helping you increase your sales, CRM software has become a crucial business solution that many companies simply cannot live without. But to maximise its impact, CRM adoption within your business is a must.

Often, companies that fail to realise the benefits of CRM implementation also report low end user adoption. This demonstrates how important user buy-in is to the end-to-end performance of your CRM solution. If you’re new to customer relationship management and considering implementing a CRM system, the following guide provides some useful recommendations on how your small business can increase user adoption to facilitate business growth. The tips below will help established CRM users drive continuous improvement.

What Is CRM Adoption

CRM adoption refers to the process new users must go through to not only start working with a new CRM solution but also commit to using and benefiting from it in the long run. Successful CRM adoption means staff have moved on from another system or old way of doing things and accepted that the new solution aligns with their needs and will be more effective at helping them reach their goals.

Related: You might also benefit from our article on CRM tips to maximise the effectiveness of your solution.

CRM Adoption Metrics

CRM adoption rates measure the success of CRM adoption. This metric tells you the percentage of end users who actually use a CRM system out of the number of user licences an organisation is registered for.

So, if a small business registers for five user licences but only two people use the CRM, the CRM adoption rate for that team is two out of five, which equates to a 40% adoption rate.

For a deeper understanding of your end user adoption, you can track the following sub metrics — usage, data quality, and organisational effectiveness.


Usage is a good determinant of CRM end user adoption success. For example, you can keep an eye on how often users are logging into the CRM system, to begin with. But beyond this, consider how they’re using the CRM software upon logging in as required by their role. Are they creating new contacts? Are they updating existing records?

Your CRM allows you to monitor metrics like which users logged in over a certain period, which users didn’t log in, which users created contacts, and which users have open tasks, to name a few. It also provides visibility into aspects like sales and deals, which are key to growth. You can then use all this information to improve user adoption.

Data Quality

The quality of your CRM data is essential when measuring adoption. Inaccurate or incomplete data restricts your company’s ability to leverage the CRM solution to its full potential. Ensure there are processes in place for all CRM users to follow. This will ensure there’s consistency in the quality and accuracy of data, which will be useful for growing your business.

Examples of some CRM metrics you can monitor to track data quality include identifying the percentage of contacts with all key fields populated and the number of opportunities with a close date. You can also use this data as teaching points to help increase CRM adoption rates among users.

Business Effectiveness

Above and beyond usage and data quality, it’s important also to ensure that users are leveraging your CRM tool in a way that increases the overall effectiveness of your business. For example, instead of only tracking your number of won deals or sales, you can go a step further to understand the types of engagements or activities that led to closing those opportunities.

You can use this type of information to inform other users or even start developing a type of internal playbook with tactics that lead to winning more deals or sales. Proven strategies that show previous success are a great way to improve CRM user adoption as they can point the way to others, also improving their deal flow or conversions.

Where Do CRM Adoption Challenges Stem From?

In many cases, companies will identify an opportunity to improve certain processes and will look to implement new software to enhance performance. While it’s certainly in the best interest of the company, key decision-makers might implement such changes without ever consulting end users.

For example, you might determine that having detailed customer data at the fingertips of your customer-facing staff will help them provide a faster, more personalised, and better overall customer service. This could mean you need to hire less staff to handle the same workload while also building that all important loyalty small businesses especially rely on to drive growth.

CRM adoption challenges will often come down to your end users simply resisting change, especially if they’re not clear on how it’ll benefit them. Often, they’re so used to the current way of doing things and have concerns about starting afresh with no certainty that the new system will have a positive impact.

Whether you’re switching systems or deploying one for the first time, it’s important to get buy-in from your end users to increase the impact of a new CRM tool. User adoption across the board, with staff following the right processes consistently will help you achieve the best results.

But how do you get this buy-in to increase CRM adoption rates? Read on as we share some useful tips on how to implement an effective adoption strategy to maximise the returns on your CRM investment.

CRM Adoption Best Practices

Here are eight CRM adoption best practices to keep in mind when building your end user adoption strategy.

Involve Your CRM End Users From The Beginning

Oftentimes, end users only hear about CRM implementation when a decision has already been made on the CRM vendor or the software is about to be rolled out for use. Small businesses have the advantage of shorter chains of command, which makes it easier to involve the relevant staff earlier in the process

Keeping the end users engaged right from the start increases buy-in for the new software. Find out what functionality they think would be most helpful in improving their performance. Check whether they have system recommendations either from prior use or industry contacts. Request user feedback on the CRM solutions you’re considering.

Make it a point to understand common end user pain points. It’s an effective way to identify software that’s capable of solving their problems. Keeping the people who will actually use the software in mind reduces uncertainty about the new system, helps avoid misunderstanding and boosts end-user adoption.

Clearly Communicate The Benefits

Further to involving your end users from the beginning, you’ll also benefit from communicating the various benefits that implementing a new CRM system will bring to their individual roles and the business. By understanding the benefits and how CRM can make their life a lot easier, they’ll be more open to giving the new solution a chance.

Does it help with customer service? Explain how instantaneous access to detailed customer information, including previous order history and all prior interactions with the company, will not only make life easier for them by resolving issues faster but will also result in more positive customer interactions. Is it helpful for marketing? Outline how much time email automation saves. The new CRM would handle time-consuming repetitive tasks and free up more time for your staff to focus on succeeding in their roles.

By demonstrating the benefits and why the new CRM tool is essential to your business running optimally, you can avoid low user adoption.

Create A CRM User Adoption Plan

A CRM user adoption plan should provide useful guidance on how end users should use the CRM system. In addition to the how, also be sure to include who is responsible for carrying out certain tasks.

For example, provide general guidance on creating records, updating contact information, and setting reminders for contact follow-ups that base-level end users will find helpful. You could also have guidance for a higher-level end user detailing how to use the CRM to segment customer lists or identify high-value customers for special deals.

Keep your CRM end user adoption plan up to date, factoring in new features that are introduced to the system or changes to your internal processes. In addition to this, make it easily accessible so that end users can conveniently refer to it as and when needed. It will ensure they’re using the software properly and helping to drive real business value.

Set Up Workflows & Processes

Configure the CRM system to your company’s needs as much as possible before rolling out the software. Onboarding staff to a generic solution could make adopting your new software seem like an impossible task. Create essential workflows and business processes in advance to circumvent this potential scenario.

For example, you could configure a workflow to manage sales tickets. This might entail setting up the system to notify a certain team member immediately upon receipt of a customer ticket. You could also automatically send out an email, acknowledging any customer communication and providing a time estimate for getting back in touch.

By setting everything up and optimising the system for use, your end users can pick up the processes quickly and start improving their individual performance as well as driving results for your business as a whole from the get-go.

Provide CRM Training

To increase any type of digital adoption, it’s important to provide adequate training. The same goes for a new CRM platform. In addition to the guidance you offer in your CRM user adoption plan, also provide practical training to help your end users familiarise themselves and get the most of your CRM investment.

If an end user is involved in marketing, the training could be geared towards targeting separate customer groups with different campaigns. Is their role more in line with sales reps? Personalised training could be around producing quotes or bundling opportunities to sell more products.

To avoid an information overload during your training, spread your sessions out. For more advanced systems or where CRM use is new to your team, you likely will need to look at training as an ongoing process. Consider sufficient training to help your users retain more information and build the levels of confidence they need to overcome barriers to use. As a result, they’ll be more adept at following the right processes and procedures, ensuring you’re getting maximum value from your CRM system.

Designate A CRM Champion

To maximise end user adoption, designate a CRM champion in your team. This person will act as an overseer and be generally available to help your other end users solve problems and get the most out of your CRM software.

It goes without saying that your CRM champion will follow proper protocols themselves and be an example that others can follow. They can also be involved in creating your CRM adoption strategy, incorporating examples of past successes and advising on the benefits of using the system to increase buy-in from other end users.

Ensure Your CRM Is Scalable

The ultimate objective for any business is to drive growth. You’ll also want to implement systems that can grow with your business. When you have a scalable CRM platform, you don’t need to worry about potentially outgrowing your system in the near future. There may also be certain features you don’t need at present but know you will in the future. The best CRM software will give you the flexibility to use and only pay for what you need.

Additionally, implementing a system that isn’t future-proof could mean your business has to go through the CRM search, user adoption planning, and training phases all over again. Not only is this a time-consuming and costly process, but it could also result in some resistance to the next system you deploy in your business.

Reward Users

It’s no secret that rewarding and recognising your employees leads to greater employee engagement, which boosts job satisfaction and helps to create a positive culture in the workplace. Keep tabs on how your talent is using the CRM and consider implementing a rewards system for those who are leveraging it to do a great job.

Use the rewards as an opportunity to reinforce how effective use has not only made life easier for the respective end users but is also helping the business reach its goals. Back this up with specific numbers, achievements, and activities that led to the success of improving adoption rates further within your business.

Boost CRM Adoption To Maximise Your ROI

If you want to maximise the impact of CRM on your business, increase your CRM end user adoption. Deploying new technology without buy-in from end users will often lead to a system that’s not used properly — if at all.

The CRM adoption best practices in this article will help you drive the best results. By involving your end users from the start, clearly communicating benefits, creating an effective adoption plan, providing tailored training, designating a CRM champion, implementing a scalable solution, and incorporating reward systems for the correct CRM usage, your staff will be more receptive to your new solution.

Good CRM user adoption will ultimately give your business a competitive edge by increasing operational efficiency, reducing costs, and driving sales revenue.

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