In today’s competitive environment, sales reps are required to keep track of customer’s business priorities and changing market conditions. Added to this, routine and administrative tasks that need to be carried out as part of the sales process simply do not allow sales reps enough time to focus on the ‘selling’. Enter Sales Force Automation! Sales Force Automation (SFA) has taken on a new precedence in the sales world, with reps wanting to close more deals faster and do less admin work in the process. While CRM helps sales teams focus on tracking and measuring, SFA supports the operational aspects of selling and the paramount challenge of relationship building. Automation helps sales reps operate in a more efficient manner by minimizing the time spent on manual activities, web browsing, and administrative and repetitive tasks. Regular sales functions such as preparing quarterly sales report, sending emails, setting appointments and reminders, among others, are a few well-documented advantages of SFA. But more importantly, SFA has newfound applications in enabling a sales rep with creating and delivering a professional, engaging sales experience. SFA empowers sales reps with reliable and quick flow of information, which allows them to be more precise in their sales presentations. Every aspect of the sales strategy – communications, presentations, reporting – can be better optimized with SFA. Companies that have implemented sales force automation software have found success in various ways:
- IBM IBM implemented a sales force automation system which strengthened and encouraged automation activities within their sales processes and proved valuable to other related departments as well. Resistance to change being a constant issue within the organization, IBM over the years found an effective way to develop a sales automation system which engaged a number of sales reps and other experts to help ensure future business growth. IBM incorporated advanced functionalities within its sales automation software design to supplement its existing processes. As IBM’s CRM system was updated with new sales information, the automated system created “what if” and “next steps” scenarios. These advanced automation capabilities within the sales workflow essentially helped IBM achieve higher operational efficiencies while fulfulling their strategic objectives.
- Maersk Maersk, a leading import-export shipping company, achieved better results with SFA. Maersk initially conducted a thorough “needs analysis” along with interactive workshops for all its sales department sub-groups and managers. This resulted in a consensus within the sales force teams that “change” was essential to promote their sales and growth plans. With increased buy-in from sales teams, Maersk was able to achieve the desired outcomes from their sales automation system.
- Client of Accenture Accenture helped with the implementation of a mobile pan-European sales force automation and retail execution solution for a major bottling company. The automation included a cloud-based solution for call planning and preparation tasks, and a mobile solution for field sales support and in-store execution. Real-time reporting capabilities were also incorporated, which gave sales managers a better idea on how sales reps were doing on the field. The insights provided by the daily sales reports allowed managers to adjust their business decision-making accordingly. Reduction in a sales rep’s daily admin activities and increased selling time, directly led to an increase of 20% in sales rep visit coverage. Overall, the company improved the sales experience through improved communication, data insights and information-sharing.
Clearly, large organizations and enterprises stand to gain tremendously from implementing sales force automation. The key lies in addressing the barriers to change within the sales department and in implementing a software solution that enhances the existing sales workflow. The improvements in operational efficiencies and increased sales productivity definitely outweigh the efforts taken to implement such a system. Apart from tactical advantages, sales force automation will in the long run improve strategic outcomes.