The Essential CRM Guide

Get Complete Staff Buy-In: This article is an excerpt from our free CRM Essentials ebook series.

Updated February 2024

To meet your expectations, however reasonable and conservative they might be, you will have to have the complete cooperation of your entire staff. Note that this is not just the sales and marketing people. It is everybody in the company, from senior management and executives down to junior clerks. All employees should feel that the CRM solution helps the company, makes their job easier, improves their performance and enhances their earnings potential. To achieve this level of motivation and enthusiasm among your staff is never easy, but here are some suggestio to help make it happen.

One method to ensure employee buy-in requires a highly visible adoption of the system by management. If the staff see and hear that management, from top executives to line managers, regularly and consistently sing the praises of the system, they will soon follow suit. Be aware though, that the corollary is that it is almost impossible to get staff to believe the system works, or is worth using, if management does not support it.

Another method to get staff support is to create a belief in the benefits of the CRM system – and the best way to do this is to involve the people who will use the system in the planning and selection process. This does not mean that all the staff have to be involved in the planning – that is a recipe for chaos. After all, a business is not a democracy and should not be run as if it is. What is best for this situation is a small task force, a team with a single specific goal and the authority to make decisions relating to that goal. What you need is an ad hoc task force.

One of the reasons for the early successes of both NASA and the Polaris program was the ad hoc task force. This was a small team brought together for a specific purpose and disbanded when the task was done. Unfortunately, by the 1970s the ad hoc task force had become a paper-pushing coordinating committee. It was stodgy, formal, rule-driven and institutionalized. Fortunately, the problems had been identified in the early 1970s and businesses today can reap benefits from the lessons learned.

Both Warren Bennis in The Temporary Society and Alvin Toffler in Future Shock identified the need for adhocracy as a way of corporate life. In rapidly changing times, they argued, the bureaucracy is not enough. By ‘the bureaucracy’, they mean the formal organization structure … established to deal with the routine, day-in, day-out items of business – sales, manufacturing, and so on. By ‘the adhocracy’, they mean organizational mechanisms that deal with all the new issues that either fall between bureaucratic cracks or span so many levels of the bureaucracy that it’s not clear who should do what; consequently, nobody does anything. (Peters and Waterman, 1982)

Ad hoc is a Latin term that means ‘for the purpose’. Adding the Greek suffix -cracy, which means ‘rule of, or ruling body of’ produces a word meaning ‘the ruling body for the purpose’. Robert H. Waterman, Jr. defined adhocracy as:

“Any form of organization that cuts across normal bureaucratic lines to capture opportunities, solve problems, and get results.” (Waterman, 1990)

Waterman’s definition says precisely what an effective team should do. However, to exploit opportunities, solve problems and get results, the ad hoc task force has some basic requirements.

  • It should be small – usually less than ten members.
  • The seniority of task force members, and the level at which they report, will depend on the importance of the project and the problems they encounter.
  • Whatever the reporting level and seniority of members, it is a vital requirement that the task force is empowered to enforce their recommendations and make them stick.
  • The task force is there to find solutions and solve problems, not generate lengthy reports.
  • Membership is voluntary, and is in addition to the usual responsibilities of the members.

This last aspect is a key component for the task force. The members of the task force will get involved because they want to be involved and be part of the team, or because they are not convinced that the CRM system is necessary, but are willing to investigate the possibilities. These are ideal members, because when they become converts to CRM, their word will carry extra weight for two reasons: firstly, they were not appointed – they volunteered; secondly, any misgivings or doubts they had at the beginning will give a later pro-CRM stance greater credibility.

An ad hoc task force does not require a formal mandate. A task force, by its very nature, is an informal process with a brief and informal term of reference. The life of a task force is short, measured in months rather than years.

A quick look at one extreme example shows how short-lived a task force might be. An executive at Digital Equipment Corporation tells a story about a time when he and six other executives formed a task force to reorganize the national sales force. He was leaving that night, a Thursday, for a meeting with the other members of the task force. He expected to be back on the Monday night and would announce the
changes to the sales force on the Tuesday. The first phase of the implementation, he said, would be in place about a week or so later.

While you should not rush your CRM process as fast as that, this is not something to spend a long time over, having meetings about meetings, disputing the exact wording of one paragraph for an unnecessary report. Get it started and get it done.

Ideally, the task force should include representatives from all the departments that will be affected by the CRM system. According to Robert H. Waterman, Jr. in his book Autocracy: The Power to Change:

“Teams should be big enough to represent all parts of the bureaucracy that will be affected by their work, yet small enough to get the job done efficiently.” (Waterman, 1990.)

Management Support

We touched on the importance of management support for your CRM system earlier in the book. We do it again because without the visible and tangible support of every manager, from senior executives down to junior line managers, the project is dead in the starting blocks. Support for the system must be real – lip service is not good enough – and the actions of management must be seen to support their words.

Lack of visible management support is a major stumbling block. It may not be a common mistake, but it is serious enough to draw your attention to it again and again. In their Top 10 trends in CRM for 2001, the Gartner Group noted that:

“In 32 per cent of sales technology projects, little or no use was made of the new technology 12 months after deployment.” (Gartner, 2001)

In a whitepaper called Eight CRM Essentials, says:

“There’s nothing worse than investing in CRM and having no one show up. Too many CRM projects fail due to poor user adoption.” (

The literature on CRM systems is littered with quotes like these. From white papers to research results, from books on the subject to how-to guides, these sentiments are expressed in every conceivable way. Ignore the importance of management support for the system at your peril!

User Resistance

As common a problem as lack of real management support is user resistance. This is generally stated by the sales team in terms that run along the following lines:

  •     If it doesn’t help me sell, I won’t use it.
  •     If it doesn’t help me close more deals, I won’t use it.
  •     If it doesn’t generate more qualified leads, I won’t use it.
  •     If it doesn’t cut my admin burden, I won’t use it.

The causes of user resistance, and how resistance is expressed, will vary from company to company, depending on the specific culture and management style. However, the two most common causes are:

  • The users were not consulted about their requirements. None of the primary users were involved in the selection process for the CRM system and, more often than not, their opinions about CRM systems were never asked.
  • The product or solution does not automate any existing sales process in the company. Trying to impose a set of procedures on an already established method of working will always cause conflict. If the new procedures add additional processes without providing direct and tangible benefits to the user, the system is doomed to failure. Do not expect the users to change the way they already do things – this is unlikely. More often than not, they will find reasons and ways to avoid using the new procedures.