Peer Feedback: 5 Tips to Get Sales Cowboys on Board with New Tech

How to overcome the resistance to new processes and technology.

How do you get cowboys on board with new sales technology? Each month during my Industrial Sales Management Peer Group meetings, I ask one distributor/rep member to throw out a question to the group for feedback. One member threw out this question: “What methods can get the cowboys to put away their gun and Stetson hat and put on a suit?”

This distributor is working to professionalize his growing team’s approach to sales. As a result, his outside salespeople are being asked to share their activities in a CRM system with far more oversight by management than they previously had faced. While some have bought in, others are resisting.

Those salespeople who have been with the company the longest are acting more like boat anchors than as leaders. “They’re out of their comfort zone,” he says.

Another distributor is experiencing the same challenges after doubling annual sales, which has increased the company’s need to better manage the sales process. One tactic he has used is focusing on the value that the salespeople themselves get: data on the fly that can help the salespeople work more effectively and efficiently. Unfortunately, he says, there is no “magical answer.” But the company has been clear with its team that this is the direction the company is moving in and that using the system is no longer optional.

One leader pointed out that younger talent seems to take to newer technology more quickly. In fact, they’ve incorporated a mobile app to encourage use so that salespeople can use the time between appointments for quick and easy data entry. This distributor reminded our group that getting the full team on board is a process and that buy-in will grow over time.

Here are some ideas that may be helpful in getting sales cowboys on board:

Have your team’s peers share their successes using the system. Ask someone who has had positive results with the system present that success to the team. That peer pressure – presented in a positive light – should help push those who are resisting in the right direction.

Tie part of the team’s compensation to the data they enter into the CRM. One of the distributors in the group said they’ve started to compensate based on sales activities, in part due to the company’s longer sales cycles. That distributor is considering whether the salesperson is calling on the right customers and whether the opportunities are reactive or proactive. In other words, is the salesperson just taking repeat or MRO orders or uncovering new business? If that activity isn’t documented in the CRM, the salesperson won’t be compensated for that work.

Position CRM as a team-selling solution instead of an outside sales solution. Your inside sales team, as well as other departments in the company, touch your customers far more frequently than your outside salespeople do. Show how data input into the system by other departments can help the outside sales team. Make sure your inside sales or service teams are documenting expediting or service calls, for example, information that can help the outside salesperson when he next visits the customer.

Help your team see value in the system. In the same vein, find and showcase examples of how the CRM system helps the team in its day-to-day interactions with customers. For example, one of the distributors pointed out the value of project-scope documentation to one of his salespeople. If the customer then changes that scope down the road, you have written documentation to keep the project on-track.

Start slow and grow. Step back and think about just two or three things you want to accomplish as a team with CRM. Focus on only those items, and when you’re happy with the progress, broaden the use of the CRM. This ensures you don’t overwhelm your veteran team members with too much, too soon. If you’re already deep into CRM, you can always scale back.

This blog series from Brian Gardner, founder of SalesProcess360, is based on monthly meetings with members of his Industrial Sales Management Peer Groups, which discuss issues important to distribution and manufacturing sales managers and executives. If you are interested in joining a Peer Group, visit or contact Brian Gardner at

Gardner is the founder of SalesProcess360 and has spent more than 25 years in sales and sales management in the industrial market. He served as a sales manager for a major regional rep/distribution company for 15 years before founding Selltis LLC, the only industrial-focused sales team CRM solution. He contributed to the MDM book The Distributor’s Guide to Analytics and his new book, ROI from CRM, will be published by MDM this spring. Get notified when it is available to order.

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