“Even after everything, we still have adoption problems”

One of the smartest things I have done in a while was to introduce a monthly Principals call with our customers. Our customers are all very happy with our team, so why rock the boat by injecting myself? For the same reason I might tell the waiter that my food is “fine” when it isn’t.

The Owner’s Dilemma

Every single day people go into a restaurant and have a sub-par meal. It seems the wait staff everywhere has been trained to ask leading questions, like “isn’t your steak great?”, with a huge smile on their face. Like many people, it’s easier to just say “it’s fine”, rather than interfere with their smile. Instead, I just make a decision to not come back. Meanwhile, the owner asks smiley how things are going, and they reply, “Well people seem to love your food!”. Which leaves the owner wondering why sales are down. Our sales are fine, but I’m not taking any chances.

How’s it Going?

I have no interest in a “feel good” conversation with my customers. Instead, I am more like a Business Applications detective, asking hard questions, probing for the real issues. It was on one of these recent Principals calls that a customer conceded that they were having adoption problems. Ugh… the perennial bane of Business Applications. This particular customer was on Dynamics 365. In addition, they had bought basically everything that Microsoft business applications group offers, including Dynamics 365 Marketing, Customer Insights, Power B.I., oh… and a few more “Insights”. They had also built out an extensive user training library. It seems like they had done everything possible to insure adoption, yet for a particular group they were struggling.

Carrot, Stick or Both

The usual way most organizations approach adoption is, “Use it, or else”. Or else what? This seems to range from, “you’ll get a reprimand (oh no!)” to “you’re fired (oh shit!)”, with a lot of options in between. The growth in “work from home” has not helped the adoption challenge. A few other organizations try the more “touchy/feely” approach. “If you use the system, we’ll enter you in a drawing for a “NEW CAR!!!” And still other organizations use both, you either get a new car, or you get fired. (You have to say that in your best Alec Baldwin voice.)

Damn Salespeople

Most organizations have workable adoption from their administrative staff, and pretty good adoption from their support staff. It never fails, when I hear this concern, it is always related to the sales staff. For this particular customer they had an even bigger challenge in that their key sales staff is made up older “Rainmakers”.


Most businesses have a sales team. Within that team you have mostly average sales people, but often there will be a few that make most of your sales. The 80/20 rule applies. These are your “Rainmakers”. Any other salesperson could quit and you wouldn’t bat an eye, but if a Rainmaker quit… it would keep you up at night. Rainmakers are rainmakers because they are smart, and smart enough to know that they are Rainmakers… with leverage. The kind of leverage that, if they don’t use your system, they know nothing will happen. They are completely unmotivated by your pleas to track their sales activities. So your forecasts are shit. Whether you are heading for your record high month, or record low month, you won’t discover until the following month. Herein lies the challenge.

Attempts so Far

The Rainmaker challenge was not lost on this customer, and they initiated several efforts to overcome it. More training materials of course, and an ongoing effort to make their apps simpler to use. Not unimportant, but not effective either. In my experience the only way to motivate a Rainmaker is to provide them with a tool that makes them more money by using it, than not. Full Stop! Easier said than done, but all other efforts are window dressing.

Some Ideas for thought

Vlad, a Principal in our organization on the call, suggested playing to ego as one idea. If you know you are are a Rainmaker and won’t be fired, it can definitely swell your self-importance, leading to exponential ego growth. If you have been to a car dealer, you may have seen “The Board”. Usually a white board visible to all salespeople showing who is at the top in sales so far that month. While Rainmakers will always be in the top 3, being at the very top is food for their ego. Motivation and Manipulation are often the same thing. Vlad’s thought was to start tracking the leaderboard, and sending periodic notices to the sales team to login to see it. While there is no silver bullet for adoption, this could motivate a segment.

Day in the Life

Another more abstract idea of mine was more in the line of making them more money by using the system, shifting from their Ego to their Greed. Maybe you are offended by that term, but let’s be honest, the best salespeople are usually greedy egomaniacs, and most companies need them anyway. Most of them also have their “secret sauce”, their unique “process” if you will. If you understand their process, you can use your system to possibly grease their wheels for them. In many cases, getting them to share their secrets may be a challenge, so some forensic analysis on their past wins may provide some clues. The goal is to give them a self-serving reason to use the system.

Outlook and Memory

I find that many of these Rainmakers use a combination of Outlook and their memory to manage their pipeline. Ask any of them how well that is working for them and they will all say “Great! The only way I have ever done it!”. Newsflash, your memory is shit, and Outlook is a mail program that can’t keep track of anything. If they had ten deals going on, they probably could not name six of them off the top of their head. The four they would remember are the ones closest to becoming money in their pockets. These may not even be the best deals financially for them, they are just the closest. It’s Sales Human Nature.

So my goal was not to “solve” you adoption issues in this post, but spark some ideas. I would love to hear your other Rainmaker adoption ideas in the comments below.


Add your thoughts below, just don’t pimp your stuff on my blog 🙂

1 Comment

  1. Nuno Lima

    Talk about Stick is common, but sales managers seriously wanting a solid forecast need to go nuclear: your commission is weighted by the quality or the age of the forecast.
    if your opportunity was entered today and marked as won today, then it could have been anyone answering the phone/email rather than your sales effort. 90% of commission is due.

    100% of commission for that sale is due only if the opportunity has adequate probability/forecast age/qualification details as suits the rest of the “production line”.
    If an Opportunity can be filled in or updated in 20 seconds, then the Rainmaker will eventually run out of excuses.


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