Salesforce User Adoption: 11 Actionable Strategies (that actually work)

Salesforce is arguably one of the best investments you can make for your business. That is, if its successfully implemented, customized to how you sell, and if people actually use it.

That last part is where most companies run into serious trouble. Whether it is getting your employees to enter data correctly, or getting them to enter any data at all, poor salesforce user adoption can really hold you back.

But it doesn’t have to be so hard. In this article I will give you some actionable strategies, recommended tools, and a few Salesforce tips and tricks you can use to make sure your team falls in love with Salesforce.

Let’s get started.

1. Invest in Training

While the rest of this list is in no specific order, this is the best place to start. Why? Because if you’re not going to educate your employees on where to enter data, how to enter it, and most importantly – why they’re entering data, how can you expect them to do it?

You can’t, and while people have literally written entire books on Salesforce training I’ll keep this short to spare you some time. First things first, start with Trailhead.

Trailhead is the most complete way to learn Salesforce and it’s super easy to track your employee’s progress. As a start, you can assign all of your employees to complete this trail(if you’re using classic) or this trail(if you’re using lightning) to bring them from zero to power-user in about 7.5 hours.

Salesforce training trailhead module

Salesforce Lightning training modules.

That may sound like a lot of time but with just an hour each morning you can be sure your team understands how Salesforce works in under 2 weeks.  If you’re using Marketing Cloud, there’s a trail for that. If you’re using Service Cloud, there’s a trail for that too..

When completed, you can be sure your team has an understanding of how the Salesforce CRM works. This way instead of moving leads to opportunities because that’s what they were told to do, they will do it because they understand the importance of an up-to-date pipeline and proper lead management.

Next, you need to make sure your employees have a thorough understanding of why you need them to keep Salesforce data updated and how it will help them. Here’s a tip for you sales managers: don’t show them your fancy dashboards to try and get them excited.

Instead, show them how easily they can forecast their quarterly numbers, estimate the number of calls they need to make to hit them, and actively monitor how close they are to that top-sellers vacation.

Need help with this? Call your Salesforce AE. Ask her to send you all of those cool demo videos and powerpoint slides that got you to buy into Salesforce, and use them to put on a presentation for your team. Or you can simply head to youtube to find a ton of demo videos from Salesforce.


Lastly, and what is going to be a recurring trend throughout this post, incentivize. We all know that people respond to incentives and especially so if you mix in some competition.

Knowing this, you can create a raffle where every Salesforce module completed earns you an extra ticket in the drawing. Or you can create some sort of a challenge. Something like: whoever creates the most useful dashboard for Sales reps(as voted on by peers) gets a $100 gift card.

Try and make the learning process fun and engaging. It may seem like a waste of time but there’s nothing more valuable than quality data in your Salesforce org because without data, what use is Salesforce?

2. Adopt Salesforce Chatter to Get Everyone Involved

Salesforce Chatter can be thought of as an enterprise social network for employees in your organization. With a feed-style interface you can post company-wide announcements that your team can comment on.

The first thing that you’re going to want to do is create official chatter groups where employees can ask questions, exchange ideas, and share the latest industry research. By getting people used to engaging on the Salesforce platform your employees will start to get used to doing things on Salesforce.

After the more professional boxes have been checked you can start to find ways to make chatter fun for your team. To give you some ideas, I’ll show you the informal, digital, water-cooler-style conversations that have slowly become part of our communications here at TriFin Labs.

Keep in mind, we use Slack for these purposes because the majority of our team isn’t on Salesforce. Though the same can be done in Chatter through the use of groups.  For us, the banter lives in our #random channel and some less random things live in #general. These channels have become an amazing tool to keep our team engaged even though we mostly operate remotely.

1) Sharing work related, all-to-real memes:

2) Creating custom emojis that some love while others roll their eyes at. 

3) And simply wishing teammates a happy birthday.

These things may seem silly and leave you asking “what does this have to do with adoption?” and to that I would say everything. You want your employees to be on Salesforce as often as possible to get comfortable with the platform, and you want your employees to have a healthy relationship with Salesforce.

I know that may sound weird but if Salesforce is just a pesky requirement that everybody on your team loves to hate, your adoption is going to struggle. Instead, make it a fun and inviting tool that improves their work life.

3. Customize Salesforce to Make it Easy

Salesforce’s flexibility is its greatest strength for people who know what they’re doing but can also be the biggest setback for new users. To make life easier on your team you should  a) hire a good Salesforce implementation partner, and b) take advantage of the Salesforce Appexchange.

The latter can really help if you fell short on the former.

A couple tools that deserve special mention here are X-Author, and WalkMe. Both can make Salesforce adoption easier, but approach the issue from different angles.

X-author gives you the ability to update, edit, and input information into Salesforce using an excel spreadsheet.

For the excel wiz’s within your company, this could feel like a dream come true. From this angle X-author is able to promote user adoption by giving people a familiar interface and set of commands that they’re used to. Basically instead of teaching everyone all the nuances of the Salesforce user interface, they can just add their data in excel.

A shortlist of things you can do with X-author:

  • Use Salesforce workflows, rules, and permissions in Excel
  • Create and update many records at the same time
  • Eliminate double entry and data entry errors
  • Realize time savings of 90% or more
  • Connect Excel with any number of Salesforce objects in any number of worksheets
  • Keep existing Excel spreadsheets—no change management required
  • Eliminate version issues, lost data, copy-and-paste errors, and bottlenecks
  • Reduce process completion times dramatically, from weeks to hours

On the other hand we have a tool like WalkMe.

Walkme salesforce training platform.

Walk me is like an instruction manual for Salesforce that sits directly within your Org. New users will be given instructions (somewhat like the image above) and quite literally, be walked through all of the functions and tools that are available to you. This will help you:

  • Accelerate time-to-competency during training
  • Improve data integrity
  • Simplify implementation and user experience

and much more!  Couple WalkMe with the Salesforce Trail I mentioned earlier and your employees will have no excuse for not knowing their way around the Salesforce platform.

4. Make Clean Data a Priority

This is not just a strategy, but in my mind the whole reason why you’re pushing Salesforce adoption. Here’s why:

Salesforce, and quite frankly your business, runs on data. All of your reports, dashboards, and in the end strategic decisions will be a result of the data that lives within your Salesforce org.(which has to be entered by employees!)

Imagine this – your sales rep hasn’t had their morning coffee yet and just added the same opportunity twice, creating a duplicate. If that opportunity represents $10,000 in possible business and you’re getting down to the last month of the quarter this can really throw a wrench in things…

Your sales rep may be thinking that he’s about to crush his numbers this quarter and can spend less time each day prospecting. You may very well be pulling a report that shows your sales team has been on their A game with prospecting – an initiative you’ve been pushing.

Then the end of the month is coming and someone recognizes the duplicate, and this wasn’t the only one. While you thought you were crushing your numbers (and your reps did too) you were really behind.

Things like this do happen, maybe not this exact scenario but it’s not too far-fetched. And things like this can lead to frustration and a “Salesforce sucks” attitude. This is bad because as I mentioned earlier – you want your employees to love Salesforce.

So why leave it up to chance? Take the pressure off of your Sales team by installing the free Appexchange app Dupecatcher, or get on board with the full Cloudingo suite of tools. 

If nothing else, these tools will give you peace of mind that your Salesforce data isn’t playing tricks on you.

5. Gamify Your Sales Pipeline with Incentives

Again, Incentives are going to play a major role in your Salesforce adoption. Once your employees are trained on the platform you don’t want the motivation to stop.

Keep your momentum by creating a rewards system that can run for the next 3-6 months for anyone who is doing things the way they are supposed to. Fill in all the necessary opportunity information? 5 points. Correctly move someone from lead -> opportunity -> closed won throughout a deal? 5 points.

How you want to structure the points system will largely depend on how you structure your sales team. But don’t get hung up on creating the perfect points system, it doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective. In fact, the simpler it is for people to gain points, the more likely people will play along.

For this to work you need to have a juicy incentive on the other end. A couple examples are:

  1. Top points earned each month gets a $100 gift card
  2. Every 100 points earned, gets you a raffle ticket for an extra paid day off (if applicable)
  3. Redeem 500 points for a gift card (amount dependent on how liberal you are with points!)

These are just a few ways that you can ‘gamify’ your Salesforce adoption to get people using the platform the way you need them to.

6. Create Competition With A Wall of Shame

Salesforce has a pre-configured dashboard available on the Appexchange that tracks some basic Salesforce user adoption metrics. Setting up this dashboard is super simple and can be done by someone without much Salesforce Knowledge.

Salesforce adoption dashboard by Salesforce labs.

This dashboard can be made available to everyone on the team and give you a running leaderboard of who is a Salesforce champ, and who’s a Salesforce chump.

Now if you really want to get crazy you can use a tool like Geckoboard to turn any monitor around your office into a real-time adoption leaderboard. This can be used as a “wall-of-shame” where the people at the bottom of the list will be known for their lack of use, giving them an incentive to be more active.

This strategy is largely dependent on the culture of your company. If you know your team doesn’t like to be put in the public spotlight like this then it’s best to hold back. In this case you could always re-imagine it in a more positive way to showcase the people on your team who are setting an example for everyone else.

7. Create Documentation and Assign Salesforce Heros

When people are learning Salesforce you want to make it very easy for them to get answers to the questions they have. Things like “When does a lead become an opportunity?” and “Should I add this company as a contact or a lead?” are a couple basic things that will come up regularly.

To minimize the strain on your team, start your Salesforce adoption off by meeting with each department for a complete walk-through of the platform. During this meeting you should let everyone know where they can find answers to their questions. For this purpose there should be easily-accessible documentation in a google wiki, Quip document, or even just google docs.

If you want to take this to the next level you can choose someone who you see as a power-user and make them your “Salesforce Hero.” You can use a much less corny name but I think it gets the point across.

This person is going to be the source of answers for anything that isn’t in your documentation. After they answer a question they should record it in your documentation so they don’t need to be asked again.

Your users will now have a single point of truth for all of their Salesforce related questions. Over time this will help people from becoming frustrated, and take pressure off of your Salesforce admin. Which brings me to my next suggestion…

8. Hire a Salesforce Admin

This isn’t even a question. Sometimes people on your team are going to need help with small things like recovering their passwords. Other times you are going to need someone to pull a report, add new users, install an appexchange package, and more.

No matter the size of your organization you’re going to need someone who is a Salesforce expert on your team. Whether you choose to hire a Salesforce admin full time, or work with a freelancer is going to depend on your unique situation.

Note: We have had great success with some of our clients who chose to augment their team with one of our Salesforce experts for 10-30 hours per week. If that’s something you may be interested in, you can contact us.

Even if you have a small sales team I recommend retaining a Salesforce consultant for at least 10 hours a week. The cost will be minimal in relation to the amount of time and frustration they will save you and your sales team.

9. Get Senior Management Involved

You already know this is important but I couldn’t leave it off the list. Whether you want to call it “executive sponsorship” or “management Buy-in” doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that you have someone that is directly responsible for the success of your Salesforce implementation.

This person should be able to provide incentives to people making progress on the platform, and disincentives for those who are not (more on this later).

When it comes to choosing an executive sponsor, here are some guidelines from Salesforce:

Your executive sponsor should:

  • Have a vested interest in the program’s success.
  • Champion the platform across the enterprise.
  • Have a vision to use Salesforce innovation in order to achieve their company’s business objectives.
  • Influence others to effect change throughout the organization.
  • Prioritize Salesforce projects based on strategic business objectives.

Here’s a hint: Once you choose one, send them this article!

10. Don’t let people off the hook

This is your business. You just spent thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars implementing Salesforce. Sometimes you need to make this very clear with your team and be very stern with people that are not doing things the way you want them to.

BUT, and this is a major but – if you don’t implement any of the above strategies to get people excited about using Salesforce, you should NOT expect people to be entering data.  In the end, it’s your responsibility as a leader to motivate your team and get them excited to be on Salesforce. Heck they should be, it’s going to make their lives better too!

So if you have put some of the mentioned strategies in place, you shouldn’t let people off the hook. You’ve done everything you can to teach them, incentivize them, and give them the tools they need to be successful.

So what’s one way to do this?

11. Hit em’ where it hurts

So your sales rep doesn’t really care about winning a $50 gift card this month, or being recognized as a ‘worst of the pack’ when it comes to adoption numbers. So what can you do?

Well you’re the boss, and – “If it’s not in Salesforce, it didn’t happen.” At the end of the month when your rep doesn’t see a couple hundred, or a couple thousand dollars accounted for in her commission check, that HURTS.

If you’re using some of the strategies mentioned in this post then you’ve most likely done everything you can to hold their hand into the wonderful world of Salesforce. If in reality it feels like your pushing a boulder up a hill – take this approach and enforce it – I guarantee you will feel like that boulder is rolling downhill from now on.

Create Your Official Salesforce User Adoption Plan

Now you have some ideas that can have your team off to the races with Salesforce. So what’s next? Take the ones you like, adjust them to your needs, and create a user adoption plan.

This should be a document that can answer the following questions:

  1. How are we going to train new users?
  2. What incentives are we going to use to drive adoption?
  3. What disincentives are going to use to drive adoption?
  4. Who is going to be responsible for the success of our implementation?
  5. How are we going to work with a Salesforce admin?
  6. What tools are we going to use?

This is a good place to start. If you want me to write about how you can create this adoption plan, the tools you can use, and maybe an example of one we have worked in the past – let me know in the comments below!

Have you had any success with these strategies in the past? Do you have any ideas that deserve should be mentioned in this post?

About Shane Rostad

Shane Rostad is a marketing manager for TriFin Labs that loves to share his knowledge and learnings about tech through writing. When he's not reading you can find him exploring Florida's parks or loitering in a local coffee shop.

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