10 Ways to Avoid the Dreaded “Shelfware”
Does your company suffer from shelfware acquisition? (What’s “shelfware”? It’s the latest term for software that a company purchases and then never utilizes.)
If you’re not seeing high adoption rates on your sales tech licenses, it can cost your company a lot of money. (We’ll get into just how much below.) To see a better return on your sales tech investment, here are ten key practices to drive higher adoption.
Why Is Sales Tech Adoption So Important?
Before we jump into how to drive better adoption rates, let’s take a moment to realize just how important getting this strategy right is for a business.
Lots of companies pay for sales technology solutions that are either being underutilized or not used at all. That might not seem like a critical issue…until you look at the actual data. A multiyear report released in 2016 found that every computer in every office had an average of $259 worth of unnecessary software on it. All told, that amounted to $34 billion that US and UK companies alone wasted every year. The report also found 30 percent of software solutions were outright unused, and another 8 percent were rarely used. (Interested in the numbers? See a more detailed breakdown of all that waste.)
Think about all the software solutions you currently pay for. Chances are, you’re contributing to at least some of that $34 billion hole. Especially if you’re a smaller company with thinner margins, if you don’t find ways to consistently and effectively up your adoption rates, your organization is at a greater financial risk.
10 Ways to Increase Your Sales Tech Solution Adoption
Across verticals, companies, and brands, it’s clear adoption is a prevalent problem. Here are ten ways to help alleviate the issue:
1. Understand Your Stakeholders
One of your first steps needs to be understanding all the stakeholders who will be affected by this new tech solution. Know who they are, what they want, and what their challenges are. Then identify their willingness to support the kind of growth you’re proposing.
You can’t expect positive adoption if you don’t take into consideration the people who are actually going to be using this solution.
One of the best ways to get your finger on the pulse of your stakeholders is with a thorough stakeholder audit. (This constitutes part of step one in the sales tech buyer road map.) After that information has been gathered, make sure you’ve aligned those stakeholders to ensure you’re all working toward a common goal.
2. Keep the Lines of Communication Open with Your Stakeholders
After you know your stakeholders well, make sure you’re communicating honestly and consistently with them throughout the process (before, during, and after a solution is implemented).
One of the most common problems with sales tech is that some department in a company determines a new solution is necessary, and then the end users are left with a tool they never asked for and have never had exposure to.
Your stakeholders are not going to be willing to adopt if the objectives, efforts, and goals aren’t shared with them from the inception, and they’re going to be equally unwilling if they don’t have a voice in that discussion.
To improve your adoption, your overall strategic plan should also include hiring the right people—those who understand and will implement the company’s vision effectively.
3. Identify Technology Gaps
After you’re confident you understand your stakeholders, it’s time to identify any gaps that exist in your current technology stack. Driving adoption (and ROI, for that matter) depends on you fixing those gaps.
Gaps can be identified as part of a broader sales technology audit process.
4. Know Your Company’s Capabilities
The right solution is the one your company can effectively implement. If your infrastructure and capabilities aren’t compatible with a solution, then the functionality of that tool is irrelevant.
Just as you audited your stakeholders, audit your capabilities. Adoption is definitely going to be low if the rep or other end user doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to implement that solution. Knowing those capabilities before licensing or purchasing a solution can save you a lot of wasted time, energy, and funds.
5. Know What Good Looks Like for Your Company
Before you ever talk to any potential sales tech vendors, make sure you’ve identified your goals and objectives. What are you trying to accomplish? If you don’t know that, you’ll never know what solutions will help get you where you want to go, and you’ll never be able to accurately assess if the tools are doing what you want.
After you’re confident about your objectives, know what questions to ask a vendor to verify that solution is right for you.
Doing this level of due diligence before selecting a solution can help ensure it’s right for your company, which will drive adoption up.
6. Be Strategic—and Adaptable
To avoid poor adoption and wasted resources, it’s crucial to be process driven with your tech stack. Know the “why” behind every piece of technology. If you don’t know the why, neither will your end users, and you can expect unused or underused solutions.
You also can’t think of your stack as something static. Best practices change, and so should your solutions. For example, while the sales process used to be a funnel, it’s more accurate to think of it today as an hourglass, and your sales tech solutions should reflect and support that change in process.
7. Be Conscious of Time
Time is the biggest enemy to salespeople. For your adoption rates to improve, the tech solution must simplify the sales process.
Honestly, most technology is a time water. It’s a great idea in concept, but in reality, it just takes the rep out of his or her workflow. Maybe the solution takes the rep to a third-party resource to do research or to leverage a sequencing strategy. Whatever the specifics, the best sales tech strategy keeps reps in that workflow.
If it doesn’t, the rep is simply going to stop using that solution—but your company will keep paying for the license.
8. Integrate Solutions Over Time
Focusing on all problems and all potential solutions at once is a waste of time and money. It’s also a recipe for low adoption. When you bring in multiple new tech solutions simultaneously, you’re going to see poor adoption rates. Sales reps and others within the organization have no interest in learning all those new solutions at the same time.
To increase adoption, integrate solutions slowly. The initial integration should be very foundational—solutions that facilitate determining who to sell to and why. These kinds of solutions help you make money today. Once that solution is working and everyone has bought in, then you can introduce other solutions.
Remember that ongoing communication with your stakeholders is key. Getting their insight about what’s working and not working throughout this process will ensure everyone is satisfied and comfortable with the solutions at every step.
9. Keep Profits in the Forefront
Every tech solution should be assessed against ROI. If a piece of tech doesn’t move the needle for your bottom line, it’s not worth it. Period.
ROI, of course, is a complicated and often difficult metric to pin down. A lot of factors need to be taken into consideration, including costs related to adoption, such as training. (Remember, backing up financial gains with actual data is ideal.)
If, however, everyone in the company sees and understands the tangible dollars-and-cents value of the tech solution, you’re definitely going to see a jump in your adoption rates!
10. Be Realistic about Your Adoption Strategy Timeframe
Given everything that has to go into successful adoption, it’s clear that getting your company ready to invest in a new tech solution is not an overnight process. This is a long-term plan that often involves a shift in organizational mentality, processes, and procedures. Allow yourself the time to implement those changes, or you’re going to jump into tech solutions before you’re ready—and your bottom line will suffer for it.It’s important to keep in mind this is not beyond your capability. It’s a process, but it absolutely can be done. If you need to speed things up considerably, work with a company like Vendor Neutral. We have a landscape of vetted tech vendors, their success rates, how they integrate with other solutions, and more. By partnering with a company who’s already done that research and has that framework, you can see results considerably faster.
Getting the most out of your sales tech stack is about a lot more than seeing some functionality you like and jumping at that solution. To get proper adoption and significant return on investment, it’s a process—one that often involves a shift in mentality regarding how the company is run overall. If you feel as if you need a partner on this journey, check out our consultative services.
We’re not a vendor ourselves, and that neutrality is one of our biggest assets. We’re not pushing the most expensive solutions; we’re finding the tech stack that aligns best to your priorities and capabilities. If you have in-house expertise to make these assessments, make sure to check out our DIY sales tech selector tool to get you started. If you don’t, consider a third-party service to take you through the process.