Sales Tool Adoption: How to Sell Your Sales Stack To Your Own Reps

October 11, 2016 Richard Bayston

Sales enablement tools are the new secret sauce for sales organizations. And there’s good reason for that: they work. Trouble is, ensuring that reps are using them is a whole different question. Notoriously resistant to reporting and complex processes, sales reps are sidestepping or misusing sales enablement tools. You can sell. But how do you sell your sales stack to the people who’ll actually be using it: your reps?

1. Reps Aren’t Buying It

Reps aren’t buying tools. While company CRM adoption is rising, sales reps actually use CRM in their daily workflows less than they did a couple of years ago.

It’s hovering around 50%, which goes some way to explaining why just 15% of sales tools purchased actually result in increased revenue.

And although companies spend more on sales tools, that’s actually producing increasing confusion: 60% of business will increase spending on sales tools over the next two years, but less than 25% say their tools work well together—and only 19% think they’re well-integrated.

And if they’re not using CRM, the most basic and useful of sales tools, what else aren’t they using?

Whatever they can get away with not using. Faced with a mess of poorly integrated tools that don’t work out of the same window, have their own proprietary controls, require extensive training, and—crucially—that don’t seem to deliver more sales…reps revert to Post-it notes.

Sales reps care about selling. Anything that obviously helps them sell will get their attention. A tool that delivers some benefits, maybe, 120 days down the line? No chance.

Yet, the benefits of sales tools are real.

Organizations with more than 90% CRM adoption see per-rep selling time increase by nearly 10%. And it’s not just CRM.

A high-growth sales dev team will have an average of 5 tools in its sales stack; Salesforce reports that high performing sales teams are 3.5X more likely to be leveraging analytics. And they’re using, on average, 3X more sales tech too.

The challenge isn’t to get sales managers or sales ops to believe that sales tools work. They already know they do. The challenge is to get reps to believe that using these tools works...for them.

Too often, sales reps experience another tool as another layer of management: another way for managers to keep tabs on them, or another way for marketing to gather data. To get reps to like sales tools enough to actually use them, we have to get them to believe in their value: we have to sell tools to reps.

2. What Sells Reps On A Stack?

When we’re figuring out how to get reps to actually believe in the value of a sales stack to them and their endeavors, one idea presents itself first: we need to sell the stack to the reps. How? The same way we’d sell tech to any other highly educated group of users.

Buyer’s Journey

Reps already know you’re going to try to persuade them to use more tech. But then, prospects already know you’re going to try to sell them something. What’s the sales rep’s buyer’s journey?


You’re telling reps that you can solve one of their problems. For instance, reps are just as frustrated as managers that they spend just a third of the average workday actually selling. So if you want to increase CRM adoption, don’t lead with revenue or data analytics: lead with “high CRM adoption businesses see selling time for reps jump 10%.” 10% more selling time is (potentially, at least) 10% more commission: that’s something reps can get behind.


When reps are considering which specific tool to opt for, they’re in a tiny minority. Most of the time managers make this choice and reps are told what they’ll use. The results speak for themselves. Time for something new?

Offer reps two or three different tools, each of which is acceptable to management, and let them choose or advise. Bring them into the decision-making process by selling them each tool. Sounds like wasted time? Imagine 100% CRM use, based on a day doing this.

Preselect a limited number of acceptable tools. An unlimited choice leads to paralysis by analysis or endless bickering, but no choice feels like an imposition. Let reps pull the trigger themselves so they own the choice to use the tool.

Psychologically, it’s a winning strategy; it’s what SaaS companies use on their purchase pages, where they’ll typically offer between 2 and 4 choices of subscription package.


When reps understand the business case for themselves—"I expect to get this benefit"—and they’ve played a part in choosing the tool, they’re much more likely to actually use it, push fellow reps towards using it and evangelize its best features. Imagine a world where reps were actually enthusiastic about the tech they use to sell. You get it the same way you get enthusiastic customers.

Remember: reps are experienced sellers and usually experienced buyers. Best practice applies!

3: Onboard Or Wipeout

There’s a radical disconnect between business and consumer onboarding.

Consumer Onboarding

"We just got this guy to download this app, but if he doesn’t use it we’ll lose him as a long-term user and never make a profit on him. Let’s offer him an easy, intuitive way to learn how to get the value out of our app. It should be immersive, fun and speak directly to his interests. Hey, how about using a blend of interactive tutorials, tool tips, coaching screens and other tools to support new users every step of the way to full adoption and power user status?"

Business User Onboarding

"Here’s how to perform this complex, thankless function. Now go do it."

Business onboarding is getting better. Apps like Basecamp have pretty solid onboarding flows. They’re taking their cue from the idea of P2P—that selling is always between people whether the purchaser is a business person or consumer—and from consumer-facing technology.

In a way, sales tech suffers from consumer technology’s success. Consumer apps are usually so intuitive, you can all but just shake them until they do what you want. You could use Facebook with boxing gloves on (as long as you didn’t want to change your privacy settings).

So that’s the expectation reps bring along with them to the sales stack.

It’s not just ease of use, though: it’s accessibility of value. Just using new tools is simple. But reps need to experience their value to really agree, in their hearts, that it exists.

4. Attack The Stack

The average sales company has 5 tools in the stack and is in process of getting more. Reps have new tool fatigue. When training is insufficient or is oriented toward the tool or the organization and not the rep, they see each new tool as an additional layer of complexity on top of the work they had to do already. At the same time, poor tool selection can lead to significant areas of overlap.

So think: what can we cut? Remember you’re looking for functionality. Can the functionality of two tools you already have, plus the new one you need, be covered by two new tools? If yes, that’s often a plus because it cuts the overall size of the stack.

Even better, cut the perceived size of the stack. For example, if you’ve ever opened Process Manager or the equivalent on your computer or phone, you’ve seen how much is running in the background. But we don’t normally care, because we don’t experience that complexity.

So however many tools you have, can’t they all just get along—in one Salesforce window? If they can, you can ‘soft pedal’ rep tool adoption because they’ll experience the new tool as an extension of a set of functions they already use every day.

5. Incentivize Process Adoption

If reps don’t buy the tool, is it because they don’t buy the process? How can we encourage reps to believe that the process works? Again, we can take a tip from consumer-facing tech and incentivize experiential learning with experiential rewards.

The traditional way of teaching people to use a tool was the instruction manual. But no-one ever read these. Now, consumer-facing tech like mobile apps uses onboarding that lets new users feel their way into the tool in a guided way while emphasizing doing over reading or watching. That’s experiential learning. And it pays off for consumer-facing tech in experiential value—you get what you wanted from the app, and you’re pleased. For sales reps, what they want is to make more commission. That’s tough because it’s fundamentally not experiential: it arrives as a check in the distant future, too far away to feel connected to specific actions in the here and now.

One solution is experiential rewards for process adoption.

Driest sentence ever? Yes. Bear with me.

Don’t nag reps to use the tool: pay them. Doesn’t have to be in cash: in-team competitions can be very effective. Consider offering “most sales,” “biggest deal” prizes and smaller incentives for process adherence. Remember, process adherence requires tool adoption. Offer on the spot incentives for hitting process goals and reps will use the tools they have to hit those goals. It’s the consumer-facing onboarding process, scaled up. And it lets you emphasize value of process and rub in the lesson that "it works if you work it." When reps see it working for them, they’ll buy it.


Sales reps will buy if they can see the benefit and you can overcome their objections - just like everybody else. So if you want them working with the stack you believe in, you have to get them to believe in it too. That means giving them ownership, identifying and overcoming objections and offering a rewarding onboarding process. All the things you’d do with your offering, in fact!

Featured Image Source: Working Woman Technology Computer by Startup Stock Photos CC0 Pexels

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