CRM Adoption: How to improve dealmaker, SDR, & AE adoption rates

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What is CRM adoption?

CRM adoption is the percentage of companies or end-users that actually use a CRM platform compared to the total number of seats purchased.

Traditional CRM software often suffers from low adoption rates due to a variety of factors, including unnecessary complexity, poor user experience, lack of training, and challenging onboarding processes. 

The challenge facing deal team leads and sales managers is encouraging end-user adoption. At the end of the day, the dealmakers who work directly with their CRM tool are the key to successful user adoption rates. Unless they wholeheartedly embrace the CRM platform, deployment will be a wasted exercise. 

Why does CRM adoption matter?

Low end-user CRM adoption makes your business less efficient and can lead to a decline in revenue. A large part of the reason that so many teams consider a CRM in the first place is that there are clear benefits to data consolidation and data hygiene.

High CRM adoption rates are linked to higher productivity, faster decision-making, and shorter sales cycles. But actually getting your team to use a traditional CRM often feels like pulling teeth. Below, we’ve highlighted the top reasons dealmakers and salespeople dislike using their CRM and the best strategies for driving adoption.

Whether you’re trying to move your entire company to new software, or you’re trying to get your team to standardize how they use their existing platform, understanding why CRM adoption is a challenge is the first step to solving the problem. 

Key CRM adoption statistics

  1. Up to 70% of CRM deployments fail (source: SKUId)
  2. Some companies report 2-3 deployment failures (source: C5 Insight)
  3. CRMs can increase customer retention by as much as 27% (source: Trackvia)
  4. 64% of companies consider CRM technology to be either impactful or very impactful (source: LinkedIn)
  5. 72% of companies report their CRM gives them better access to data (source:
  6. 47% of companies note improved customer satisfaction and retention with a CRM (source: Capterra)

How do you reconcile the difficult cons of adoption failure with the pros of a properly leveraged CRM platform? Let’s explore the challenges (and solutions) more in-depth.


CRM adoption challenges: Why dealmakers and sales teams don't like traditional CRMs

The market for customer relationship management software has skyrocketed in recent years. It’s now the biggest software market in the world.

Even though CRMs are everywhere, there’s mounting evidence that CRM systems aren’t being used to their full potential. Low CRM adoption rates frequently lead to a low-value system with incomplete records, and a low-value system leads to even lower CRM adoption rates. This spiral is a contributing factor to the large volume of CRM deployment failures.

Here are a few of the other biggest CRM adoption challenges and ways your deal team can overcome them.

1. The CRM isn't designed with the end user in mind

Most CRM platforms are tailor-made for sales managers and leaders. Managers and leaders are the key decision makers in terms of CRM purchase decisions, so many suppliers focus on optimizing the CRM features that are most applicable to decision-makers—those that pertain to reporting, pipeline visibility, and forecasting. 

The result is that ease of use for those team members who will depend on the platform for routine work falls lower on the priority list. Many CRMs aren’t intuitive; some are cumbersome, making them time-consuming for salespeople and deal teams to use.

Dive deeper into how good UX design can improve the CRM experience.

Manual entry of customer data is a frequent pain point for these teams. 71% of deal-focused CRM users feel that they spend too much time on data entry. This wasted time drives these same users to avoid using their CRM altogether. The same study also showed that 79% of opportunity-related data collected by sales reps is never entered in their CRM, and this lack of data leads to an empty system. 

Another common pitfall of CRMs is the fact that they tend to monitor accounts, not relationships. Customers in traditional sales CRM ecosystems are managed the same way as transactions. 

The need for an improved, more intelligent CRM is especially pronounced among professional and financial services including venture capital, private equity, and investment banking. In these industries, relationships have become increasingly complex with the increased cadence of communication and are inaccurately assessed by many standard CRM platforms


2. A select few CRM platforms dominate the marketplace

Many market segments are highly concentrated—a single company or a handful of companies own much of the market for a given product or service. Google is the behemoth of the search engine world. Coca-Cola and Pepsi are the world beverage leaders.

The CRM software industry is no exception to this rule. Salesforce is the clear leader. One-third of CRM system users use Salesforce, and a handful of other giants (Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP) combine with Salesforce to make up 75% of the market share.

Because these big brands dominate the market, it’s easy to choose an industry leader before realizing it isn’t right for your needs. There’s a perception that the market leader is always the best solution in every situation. As the old adage goes: “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” With many larger platforms being so feature-dense, it’s also hard to fully understand its scope during a trial period, so the unknowns remain unknown.  

3. A belief that legacy solutions are “good enough”

In his book "The Hard Thing About Hard Things,” Ben Horowitz explains that innovations that only offer an improvement of 2 to 3 times over existing solutions are unlikely to motivate high levels of adoption. He argues that a new solution must offer a 10x improvement in order for customers to be motivated to adopt it.

Despite the low adoption rates of CRMs, it’s estimated that approximately 70% to 80% of businesses intend to continue using their existing CRM systems. Most businesses are satisfied with the status quo—even teams stuck in spreadsheets—because it’s “good enough.”

Unfortunately, this mentality leads companies to miss out on other solutions that may offer a significant advantage over those offered by Salesforce and the handful of other dominant CRM providers. 

4. A lack of support for innovative or disruptive technologies

Once a CRM is implemented, organizations can lose focus and fail to support their team members in learning how to use their new platform. Lack of training leads to frustrated employees and lower support for the new tools, which discourages employees from adopting the new CRM.

All customer relationship management software requires post-implementation support, and teams will need ways to ask questions and work out issues as they are learning how to use the CRM’s features. Failing to provide users with sufficient support leads to a profound lack of enthusiasm and underutilization of the product. Users that have moved away from the market-dominant platforms regularly tout a poor support experience and a feeling that they are “just another user.” 


CRM adoption metrics and KPIs to monitor

To increase CRM adoption, your adoption strategy should track CRM usage as well as encourage it. Your CRM adoption rate, the percentage of new users relative to all users of your CRM, is a KPI that is impacted by a number of features.

Metrics to measure CRM adoption rates:

  1. Usage
  2. User behavior
  3. Goals
  4. User feedback
  5. Data quality
  6. Organizational effectiveness

1. Usage

The simplest—and most direct—measure of your CRM adoption rate is login rate. While this may not fully address the usage of every feature or the depth of use, login rates indicate exactly who is accessing your CRM. The next step is a step deeper into how your team is using the platform.

2. User behavior

User behavior metrics help you quantify how often and to what depth your team is using the CRM. These data points include:

  • Contact or opportunity record creation
  • Task completion
  • Emails sent (if your CRM includes an email feature)
  • Deal status updates

3. Goals

Set up goals for each individual and team that will be using the CRM, and measure, track, and evaluate their progress toward goals regularly. Intelligent CRM platforms are equipped with built-in business intelligence solutions which monitor and visualize your goals, making it easier than ever to review whether you’re on track to meet them and plan ways to improve your dealmaking process. 

4. User feedback

Encourage your team to give feedback on their experience with the CRM, and share suggestions for improvements. Letting them know their opinion matters gives them ownership over the outcome—and it will help you keep your finger on the pulse of the user experience.

5. Data quality

Even if your users are entering data, if it’s not being entered consistently, the quality and usefulness of your CRM will degrade. Measuring data quality involves regularly checking on your most essential data points. Evaluate the ratio of contacts that have all of their key fields completed or how consistently deals are being accurately moved to relevant deal stages. Taking stock of these monthly provides consistent time points to check on quality over time.

6. Organizational effectiveness

Measuring how well your CRM has improved your team’s effectiveness can help you understand whether or not CRM use is growing over time. Combined with usage rates, user behavior, and data quality, you can analyze trends in CRM use alongside deals won over time to understand a direct, financial impact to use of your CRM and organizational growth.

Strategies and best practices for increasing CRM adoption

In order to improve CRM adoption, you have to make sure your team understands the benefits of using your customer relationship management platform and how it makes their business workflows easier. The following strategies can help improve your CRM user adoption, and give you an opportunity to help your team best optimize your workflows with a new platform. 

Automating contact data entry

Intelligent CRM platforms supported by relationship intelligence eliminate manual contact data entry by automatically capturing data and interactions from email, calendar events, call logging, and contact information. 

With automated data capture, data entry and contact management are seamless, boosting CRM user adoption rates while freeing up deal teams to focus on strengthening relationships. 

Here's everything you need to know about good CRM data hygiene best practices

Achieving high CRM adoption rates doesn’t happen overnight—it requires ongoing time and energy. One of the fastest routes to a successful CRM project that provides the best possible user experience is choosing the right CRM platform. 

Affinity streamlines all your business processes into a single source of truth with automated data capture and data enrichment that can save your team hundreds of hours of time. 

Choosing a lightweight platform with more efficient onboarding 

Live demos enable you to test more user-oriented relationship intelligence CRM platforms with your team’s data, so when you’re ready to make the switch, all of your information is already in your new CRM—saving time on deployment and training.

Additionally, many of today’s leading CRM systems are designed with the end-user in mind to make the deployment, onboarding, and training process fast, smooth, and easy, so you will get less resistance from your team members and get them more excited about using the new CRM.

Striving for purpose-built CRM platforms

Instead of trying to customize clunky old systems, or accepting that the CRM status quo is as good as it’s going to get, leading deal teams are embracing and adopting technologies that are focused on the end-user experience and fit into their specific business workflows.

Providing an easy-to-use solution and ensuring ongoing support

The best path to high adoption rates is choosing a CRM solution that’s easy to use, intuitive, and involves little to no manual data entry. 

Choose your CRM implementation wisely, then provide your team with support including:

  • Customized training content, based on specific user needs
  • Easily accessible support in the form of FAQs to representatives from the CRM vendor’s team for platform-related issues.

Drive CRM adoption through automation

With Affinity, teams can focus on nurturing relationships and finding the next quality deal. By choosing a relationship intelligence platform, you gain insights into your team's collective network that help you find, manage, and close more deals. Affinity can be up and running quickly, and its intuitive design ensures your team members won’t require hours of training to use the platform.


Dyllan Thweatt
Content Marketing Manager
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