Sales force automation (sfa)
“Sales Force Automation (SFA) is designed to help salespeople acquire and retain customers, reduce administrative time, provide robust account management, and, basically, make salesperson activities something that earns them and their companies money.”
Need of SFA
The main purpose is obviously improvement in bottom line. But only increase in revenue is not sufficient. If you have an increase of 100 percent in sales revenues but your cost of sales has increased, or it came strictly as a result of your increased sales force, your SFA implementation failed.
Reduction in Cost of Sales:
In this, we are talking about a reduction in the amount of time that is used by salespeople in coordination of their efforts, continuous and repetitive data entry, and often-unsuccessful attempts to extract and interpret data without the tools to do so.
Studies have been done that show that sales time to fulfill administrative functions is almost half of a salesperson’s activity. By reducing the time engaged in these administrative or other non-sales-related efforts, the cost of sales is reduced.
Customer Retention due to Company, not Product or service:
If your customers are happy, they stay with you, even if they are paying a bit more.
SFA’s benefit is to provide you with a view of the customer that allows that great salesperson or awesome company to understand the value of the individual customer through customer history and communications with the company.
Sales Force Increasing Mobility:
The work of sales force has not remained in the office anymore. They have to move from places to places like, meeting customers, moving through airports, and prospecting for leads on Broadway with their PDAs.
This is making mobility a competitive issue, requiring effective competitive mobile tools, such as the Internet and the handhelds.
Easily available Customer Information with single view:
Each salesperson wants to manage the customer accounts he owns. Each of them has the individual view that allows them to see all the data they need to-that is, have the permissions to see-but at the same time, there is a universal view of all the data available to all departments at all times.
Thus in short the customer information is available to the salesperson or anyone related.
Barriers to successful SFA
- The most important thing is “Process + Technology = Successful CRM/SFA”. Thus, process and technology must go hand in hand. Process and Technology provides organizations with best practices for selling, and the technology and training to effectively automate them.
- Salespeople have to see technology as a tool to help them. If they don’t enter the customer contact information and properly track their sales through the predetermined corporate sales process as Solutions Selling and others suggest, the data that management is using will be inaccurate and essentially useless. Therefore, usability and a short learning curve should be paramount to the software selection process.
- SFA emerged to allow individuals to not only manage their contacts, but also to allow businesses to manage their accounts. The company, not the individual, owns the relationship. Every person involved must understand the history and future plans for accounts. Online shared history of an account that includes not only all contacts, but also all promises, conversations, negotiations, and meetings are important.
- Thus the barriers are:
- The technology must be properly selected otherwise the SFA will not work properly.
- The history of every account and customer must be maintained properly and shared properly for the success of SFA. If not, it is going to endanger the SFA process.
The core features provided are:
- Lead management
- Contact management
- Account management
- Opportunity management
- Sales pipeline management
- Sales forecast tools
- Quotations and orders
- A toolkit for customizing the application
- An engine for data synchronization
The following list is a compilation of multiple SFA applications
- Contact management
It covers the basics:
- Name, address, phone numbers, company, title, personal and business information.
- Activity related to the individual; attachments related to the individuals; and level of the decision maker.
- Thus basically it manages the contacts for the organization.
- Account management
- This standard feature allows the salesperson or sales manager to handle individual corporate accounts.
- Each account has multiple links to other information, beyond the corporate name or address, including the contacts by corporation and the proposed opportunities by corporation.
- Thus it manages the accounts for the organization.
- Opportunity management
The facets that opportunity management covers:
- Specific opportunity, the company it belongs to, the salesperson or team that is working it.
- Assignment of revenue credits if there is a sales team, the potential for closing this particular opportunity, the final results of this opportunity.
- Stage of the sales process this opportunity is in, and the potential closing date.
- Lead Management
Lead Management functionality is a subset of Opportunity Management
A qualified lead becomes an opportunity.
- In this it is determined who is responsible for what part of the proposal.
- It can also control the effective completion of the proposal by guiding the stages of evolution of the parts of the proposal.
- Quote generation
It is a simple tool that generates quotes for customers.
- Order tracking
This feature tracks the status of the invoice and the product delivery.
- Sales quota management
It allows the sales manager to see how the individual sales person is doing relative to their quotas within some defined time segment.
- Commission management
This tool calculates the commission for salespeople.
- Territory management
Here in short it means a new person takes over an existing territory or a territory can be redistricted and redivided among existing salespeople geographically.
- Pipeline Management
- The “sales pipeline” is a peculiar term for the execution of the established sales process.
- Each company has its criteria for what constitutes its sales process.
- If company successfully embeds sales process into SFA application then the company can properly use that application.
- Sales Forecasting
- SFA programs have adequate sales forecasting tools as sophisticated spreadsheet like tools for forecast fundamentals.
- Sales forecasts are good guesses in spite there are algorithms of the program
Other SFA Applications
- Incentive compensation system
This particular feature allows vice-presidents of sales to design compensation plans and to track them.
- Competitive information system
This is often tied into multiple sources so that the salesperson could do the research online and internally to find what is needed.
- Telesales campaign management
This feature helps inside sales manager design tele-marketing campaigns.
- Sales assistant
This feature helps the beginners to learn the sales process of the company they work for.
- Expense reporting
This feature ties expense reporting into both accounting and CRM systems. It integrates back and front office functionality.
- Learning management system/content delivery tool
It provides a means for newer employees to understand the sales process and experienced employees to request and receives appropriate sales information and tools ranging from brochures to competitive information.
- Marketing encyclopedia
It is a centralized repository for all the marketing materials so all salespeople have access to appropriate materials for their customers.
- Partner management capabilities
It helps to manage the partners and track the sales brought by them.
- Integration with service, marketing, and Internet applications
Little pieces of code called Application programming interfaces are used to integrate with either third party systems or their own back office systems.
- Custom sales process and methodologies
Some methodologies are developed for the organization for the sales purpose.
Other SFA features/functions
- Software distribution to mobile users
This is more of an infrastructural feature that makes simplified distribution of code to multiple users inn multiple locations much easier for system administrators.
- Quote pricing engine
This is the feature that draws from customer records, product catalogues, need assessment, and customized product configurations and generates a quote to customer.
These are customizable scripts for telesales to maintain some sort of monolithic sales organization “integrity”.
It allows the creation and deployment of specific discussions according to defined workflow.
- Voice recognition
Right now it means not much more than making calendar entries of varying sorts and getting your current customer data via interactive voice recognition (IVR).
Sales Force Automation: The Technology
- SFA becomes powerful not only with the functionality aspect but with the combination of the functionality and the flexibility of the technology.
- Two aspects of SFA functionality and technology make SFA useful to both the professional and mangers.
- It allows them to analyze data, embed best practices for future sales people and do it with a desktop
- Data synchronization is the process of updating information among unconnected computers such as laptop, mobile, or desktop.
- Salespeople in the field maintain a subset of master database and update their local data while others work on same data simultaneously.
- Synchronization allows corporate managers and sales teams to share information created by field salespeople.
Data Synchronization Process
- Data synchronization takes network infrastructure bandwidth.
- Data synchronization process involves following steps
Step 1. Remote databases are created for mobile salespeople and
- Each database is a relevant subset of the corporate database.
Step 2. The synchronization system tracks changes pertinent to the
particular salesperson to both the remote databases and the
Step 3. Remote salespeople can connect to the home office using low
bandwidth modems or wide area network(WAN) connections.
- Salespeople who are at desk can connect via their local area network(LAN).
Step 4. During the connections, log files are exchanged that contain
new information to be updated in the respective databases.
Step 5. After the connection is completed, new data is applied to each
database so that each database has up-to-date information.
- Flexibility and Performance
- A synchronization system should support large-scale field implementation with hundreds of users; even remote sales force is currently small.
- Some synchronization systems perform fine in small test environments
- Some systems are impractical in real-world situations for large groups.
- High-performance synchronization requires powerful database capabilities and performance currently available only in databases such as Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle.
- Reporting Tools
- Lack of or poor reporting can lead to bad strategic or tactical decisions, redundant work efforts, and missed opportunities.
- Good reporting tools as part of the technology of SFA (and CRM) are essential.
- Many of the reporting tools embedded in SFA applications are third party tools.
- The most popular is Seagate’s Crystal Reports.
- Reporting is the creation of customized onscreen or printed views that provide the viewer/reader with information specifically in the form they want and with the content they want.