If you’re a small and steadily growing business and thinking of putting a CRM solution in place, the concepts of CRM and sales force automation to the uninitiated can sound technical and daunting. Yet, at some point, the savvy business owner recognises the need to take their business to the next level. To do this, systems/ software/ solutions are needed. Systems that track sales, customer trends, keep track of stock levels and so on.
It makes sense to have business intelligence software that gives the business owner the accurate and useful information he needs to help grow his business by identifying top customers, new social trends, bottlenecks, popular products, successful campaigns, etc.
What is Sales Force Automation: an outline
Sales force automation (SFA) forms part of the overall Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system which can also include marketing automation, workflow automation and email automation.
In a nutshell, Sales Force Automation or Sales Force Management are information systems that efficiently automate the sales process and management of the sales force. SFA manages all stages of the sales process from initial customer contact to closing the deal.
Effective SFA ensures full integration among all departments. The sales person is not the only person dealing with the customer, various other departments such as marketing, customer service, accounts and technical experts are also involved. If all these different departments are communicating with the customer at the same time or worse still, sending duplicate information to the customer, you’ll end up with one frustrated customer. Excessive communication is a sure-fire way to irritate the customer. SFA ensures that the right hand knows what the left hand is doing – all departments have easy access to see what interaction the other has had with the customer.
Ultimately, a successful CRM implementation's sales force automation tools should maximise the sales team’s efficiency, productivity and lead to increased sales.
How does SFA enhance performance?
|Effective sales management|
Some of the key benefits for growing businesses from sales force automation:
- Contact management and diary management - clear visibility for accounts' contacts through a centralized repositoryion. The customer’s contact information and details (name, address, telephone, email, etc.) are stored in a compact way and scheduling appointments and follow-ups can happen easily with the calendar and diary application.
- Account management - holistic view of accounts with their related contacts, contracts, cases, opportunities and much more. Keep track of customer interaction, track the status of opportunities, view past sales history and get a good idea of the likelihood of closing the next deal.
- Driving leads and managing opportunities - automated lead conversions to accounts, contacts and opportunities with related mapping for fields to reduce non-core activities. SFA systems pull possible leads from various sources such as marketing communication, email campaigns, website visits or outbound calls. Once first contact has been made with a prospect this translates into a sales lead. The system prompts the sales rep when new leads become available and the rep can quickly and easily view all leads on a daily basis and schedule a time to contact prospects.
- Generating quotes and managing orders - streamlined quote conversion to lead and sharing with others. The sales rep is now enthusiastically making contact with all prospects and giving the sales pitch. Once the customer bites and expresses an interest, the rep is now ready to provide a quote. Remember the faster he acts, the faster he can close the deal. Unlike in the old days when the rep had to wait until he got back to the office to type up a quote, today thanks to CRM, he can produce a quote instantly while out on the road. Efficient and impressive to the customer! The customer looks over the quote and decides to order. Again, the rep quickly with the touch of a few buttons converts his quote into an order. Smooth, seamless quote-to-order conversion! In next to no time the new customer will have his product in hand and is impressed at how quick and efficient the company is. And a happy customer is likely to become a loyal and regular customer.
- Sales forecasting - effectively predict future sales with the tools provided by SFA. The best predictor of future sales is past sales. SFA measures past sales history, current trends, number of orders and opportunities in the pipeline to provide an intelligent projection of future sales.
- Tracking competitors - gaining an advantage over your competitors to avoid churn and encourage customer advocacy. SFA helps monitor trends and the reasons why a deal has been won or lost, and if lost – to whom and why. To make effective use of this tool, the sales rep has to be diligent in updating the records with the reasons deals were lost or won and input relevant competitor information. Reports pulled from this type of information will highlight certain trends and problem areas and the business can take steps to remedy the situation. Marketing campaigns can be adjusted or products can be improved.
- Reports and analytics - view system reports with real-time information or create ad hoc reports. Generate accurate reports ranging from a birds-eye view of across the board sales to drilling down into specific sales territories, per sales rep, geographical regions or demographics. Easily create charts and graphics and export reports to MS Excel or PDF. Sales reps can even schedule the date and time they want reports to be emailed to their sales managers or executives, so that even if he is out of the office, the report will still get sent on time. Valuable information is gleaned from the data in reports. Information that will either tell executives that the business is doing well - so don’t fix it, if it’s not broken, or, result in a re-evaluation of business principles and change of direction, if it is not doing well.
- Mobile applications - ensure customer information is available through web enabled phones from any location. Sales people spend most of their time out in the field. In today’s world of smartphones, CRM solutions have also become mobile. Field staff can now have instant access to information and leads while being on the road, rather than waiting until they are back in the office to access vital information about customer interaction. This has changed the game quite significantly for businesses.
To summarize, sales force automation streamlines the sales team’s job, making the end-to-end process faster. With the increased efficiency in conversions and closing deals plus the reduced effort on non-core activities, sales professionals can build better rapport with leads and contacts, request referrals and cross sell - increasing your bottom line in the short term through quicker sales and in the long term through customer retention!