Getting Employee Buy-in for New Technology: 5 Steps

Sarah Leung
December 8, 2014

Change is part of life––a truism we’ve all heard spoken countless times. Indeed, change is a necessary ingredient for growth and inherent to the health of any organization. But for all the change agents out there, there are those who push back, whether out of a sense of uncertainty or a feeling of lost control. In the professional world, this kind of resistance is common, often manifesting as slow productivity, internal disagreement, or mildly passive-aggressive chatter around the water cooler. In the wholesale world, we often hear from IT professionals and sales managers who are unsure whether their veteran sales reps will be willing to adopt new technology and alter the routines and procedures they’ve been employing over the past few years (or even decades). People are creatures of habit, and getting employee buy-in for any kind of new technology can be a challenge. Resistance, however, is often the result of change that was not implemented effectively, rather than resistance to the value of the tool itself. If the tool is simple to use and provides tangible benefits to your reps in terms of time saved and/or efficiencies gained, employee buy-in and a smooth transition is within your reach. It’s all about how you prepare.

Getting Employee Buy-in in 5 Steps:

1. Plant seeds early on.

Often, resistance to change is born out of sudden, seemingly out-of-the blue decisions that are “imposed” upon a group. To prevent a negative reaction from your reps, don’t keep the planning process under wraps. Provide updates and hints as to possible changes that are in development, and seek input from your reps in the process. This also lets your sales team know that you value their opinions. Involving them early on in the process--even in a moderate capacity--will give them some ownership over the eventual decision to start using new technology in their sales process.

2. Tell them what’s in it for them.

What pain points are this new technology addressing? Talk about them. Explain to your reps why you feel the company needs this software/tool, and how it will positively impact their daily lives. If, for instance, you’re trying to reduce order submission delays, talk to your reps about how this tool will not only allow them to send sales order faster, but also eliminate the time they have to spend on data entry every night.

3. Give your team a chance to pilot the technology, pressure-free.

By alerting your team to the fact that they’ll be able to try out the technology without any pressure, you’ll get much less pushback while also gaining the opportunity to learn about what’s working and what’s not. Be sure to ask your team for feedback. Keeping the whole experience on their terms will prevent anyone from feeling threatened by change. If the product that you’re introducing is clearly adding value, they will be able to come to that conclusion on their own. You can also try testing out the technology with a smaller group before sharing it with your entire rep force. You will then have a group of internal advocates for the rest of your team. A positive endorsement coming from a trusted peer can be much more effective than a “top-down” approach. What’s more, this small team of early adopters can also help train the rest of your team as they begin using the technology. All that said, you do have to take some steps to make sure your team really is making an effort to try any tool you want to test out, which brings us to...

4. Remove uncertainty from the process.

Uncertainty is the enemy of change. Once you’ve explained what your reps have to gain from this new technology and have told them they’ll be able to test it out, provide clear steps and timelines so they know exactly how the process will work. Explain how long the pilot period will to be, how they will provide feedback, how you will address feedback, etc. Instituting a timeline for feedback will also help keep your reps accountable in terms of making sure they put their best foot forward in trying out any new tools.

5. Have everything set up and totally ready to go before launching the pilot.

You don’t want to give your sales team any reason to resist the technology you’re trying to implement. Have someone within the company take ownership of the onboarding to make sure that it’s done well and running smoothly. Any issues visible at this time should be worked out before the piloting process begins. This designated point person can also set up sales rep trainings to make your reps feel more comfortable with getting started and allow them to practice using the technology in a no-pressure environment. Change doesn’t have to be scary, as long as it’s handled with sensitivity and plenty of planning. Another important thing to keep in mind is that if a new tool affects not just your sales reps, but also your back office teams in customer service, etc., it’s just as important to get their buy-in. These steps should be taken across the organization in order to make sure everyone is ready to step forward. Do you have other ideas about technology adoption and getting employee buy-in from your internal teams? Share them in the comments below!