Contact Management & Sales Force Automation
- Thomas Carlyle
Man is a tool-using Animal. Nowhere do you find him without tools; without tools, he is nothing, with tools, he is all.
That’s what separates us from the rest of the creatures on this planet. Tools. The right tool for the job.
What is the right software tool for your business?
Contact management, SFA software, or true CRM?
So many factors make up the answer to that question that they simply cannot be enumerated. However, several common questions force the decision on which software is right for you such as: What type of business are you in? Is the company publicly traded? Do you have a sales team? An established marketing department? Is client service vital to the organization?
What is the difference between Contact Management and Sales Force Automation?
Contact Management is managing a list of your contacts. That can be as simple as your cell phone directory, a list of names, numbers, and email addresses. Gravitate to Outlook, and you can utilize basic calendar and note functions. Ordinarily, contact management is individualized, and without any defined business processes, whether it is a manual Rolodex (Office Depot still sells them) or Microsoft Outlook.
To get to Sales Force Automation, you generally add in a defined series of processes focused primarily on a salesperson’s efforts at advancing a sale opportunity from lead to win. Automate those processes and achieve sales objectives and you have Sales Force Automation. Processes aren’t the only differentiator between Contact Management and SFA though. Most Sales Force Automation software today contains tools designed to assist efforts for marketing to generate leads as well as selling to existing accounts and new customers. Some SFA software offers limited service or support capabilities.
Sales Force Automation systems are designed to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. That is, marketing leads actually get called, sale opportunities are followed up timely or up-selling campaigns are directed to existing customes. Different approaches to sales abound: Solution Selling, Total Quality Management Selling, Strategic Selling, Direct Selling, just to name a few. Every business finds a process that works for their particular organization eventually. Smart organizations refine those procedures constantly.
Sales Force Automation means identifying those sales processes and automating them. This works better than Contact Management, but doesn't achieve the full CRM vision as departmental silos exist and the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Returns talks to returns, sales representatives take orders, service only hears from the client if there is an issue.
Every process functions in a vacumm and generally in a reactive mode.
The tail is often wagging the dog.
Yet, most mid-size companies use only SFA software. Why? Because many organizations are sales driven and there are major benefits for the sales team, for the executives who manage them, and ultimately for the bottom line.
In order to automate your sales processes, you first have to identify and understand them. If your business is in the lighting industry and you have a series of telemarketers selling to electricians, what do you need? A script, a list, a telephone, and an order form. That may be the extent of your SFA. Accounting and the warehouse handle everything else. The right script, the right follow-up processes, and a way of tracking returns against commissions, that’s all that is necessary. As the business evolves, you refine and document the processes until they are perfected and achieving predicted results.
The first major benefit of Sales Force Automation is having sales information captured and available to every member of the sales team in one real-time data repository. This eliminates individualized Excel spreadsheet lead lists and pipelines, and errors of omitence. It organizes a sales team’s efforts as almost all SFA software on the market today interfaces with Microsoft Office. Almost all also have the capabilities of designing and utilizing templates, such as form letters for email campaigns that can be merged with individual contacts.
Automating activities such as the dialing of telephone calls, merging of template letters, and automated generation of sales quotes have two major benefits for a salesperson. First, it increases individual productivity and efficiency. Second, it makes reporting a snap. For team selling environments, the scheduling capabilities with Outlook and SFA can increase productivity as the whole team can easily spot busy and available times. For individual account management, scheduling automatic notifications for selling opportunities can improve time management and ultimately increase recurring sales.
Examples of automated repeat selling include the renewals, replenishment or supplies that clients need regularly. Internet firms, in particular, have this fulfillment down to a fine art. Petsmart.com for example markets heartworm medication. Buy a three-month supply and immediately a series of events are scheduled. Two weeks before the supply is depleted, you receive a friendly email reminding you to re-order. If there’s no response within two days, another email arrives. No response? A promotion email may entice you. Still no response? A telemarketer calls. This will continue as an infinite loop unless you specifically asked to be taken of the campaign list.
By sharing information, a salesperson can brainstorm stalled sale opportunities with peers and managers. Defining and automating the stages of a sale allows calculation of closing statistics based on previous, similar opportunities, and results in more accurate sales close rates within specific timeframes. Another benefit is the ability to spot seasonality and sales spike patterns.
Relieved of tedious repetitive tasks, a salesperson can focus more time on managing the sales process and moving it closer to a win. One of the capabilities of a Sales Force Automation system is the ability to categorize the stages of a sale from prospect to close. A salesperson can then prioritize and focus on the most winnable sale opportunities. Most SFA software will calculate lead to close ratios and average time to close. Knowing the lead-time, closing ratio and failure rates gives clear statistics on how many leads must be generated to make that 100% club trip, and the big bonus.
The majority of Sales Force Automation systems today allow for some personalization of the user interface to suit each salesperson. In particular, dashboards and summaries of each salesperson’s important information, such as current quota versus current sales closed, increase personal productivity and facilitate different individuals work-styles.
Web-hosted Sales Force Automation has another major benefit in today’s response time driven environment; access anywhere, anytime. That can be an enormous factor in winning an opportunity. Knowledge really is king, and the ability to respond in real-time to a request for a quotation can narrow that lead to close ratio substantially, and edge out the competition.
The simple major benefit of a Sales Force Automation system for a salesperson is to win more sales.
Getting the most sales out of the team is the purpose of Sales Force Automation for the Sales Manager.
Sandbagging. Most salespeople do it, and all their managers hate it. SFA software can identify the patterns of each individual salesperson. A Sales Manager can track these and factor them into his forecast. Sales Force Automation software can also help a sales manager identify those individuals not performing at the top of their game.
By having real-time visibility to a complete sale opportunity pipeline, the Sales Manager can focus team members on those deals on those deals that can be won or those deals that can close immediately. That executive can also ensure there are enough leads in the pipeline and apply resources to move the opportunities through the process faster. Slowed opportunities are easily identifiable, and decisions can be made to change strategy, qualifying them out or assign the opportunities to a nurture campaign, and market to them on a less aggressive schedule until they eventually mature or go away.
We all know the tales of the salesperson on the golf course, or at the Casino, and if you’re pulling in the big numbers, management won’t harass you. However, with common scheduling software and better reporting, a Sales Manager is more apt to notice who takes the shortcuts, avoids the tough sales, and therefore can focus on resolving these issues. Sales Force Automation software pinpoints neglected accounts, stalled opportunities and the team members who need coaching. True pipeline management and accurate forecasting forces improved inventory management. Sales Managers can work with procurement to ensure that when sales spike, orders can be fulfilled timely. What used to take hours to track now takes minutes. Freed of tedious tasks, managers can focus meeting on revenue goals and coaching the sales team members to become more successful sales people.
Staff turnover, the bane of every sales managers existence. SFA software minimizes the risks involved when your best salesperson is lured away by your fiercest competitor. Face it, if the salesperson is good, then everyone in the industry knows it. Excellent, professional salespeople are a rare breed, and your competition is constantly on the hunt for them, as are you. Because data is captured centrally, at least your salesperson doesn’t walk out with the only Rolodex of your current leads and existing clients. Most Sales Force Automation software systems have the functionality to re-assign existing accounts and leads from one salesperson to another en masse in minutes minimizing the risks of stalling or losing sales in the pipeline.
Any turnover creates security issues. Many sales people will approach their former clients - as they believe the relationship is between those clients and him or her, not the sales manager or the company. Most web-hosted Sales Force Automation systems have inherent functionality to prevent downloading of data critical to an organization. The majority of purchased software also has this functionality. A central repository for customer and sales-related information and the security functions of SFA software are major benefits to the sales manager. He can take proactive steps to prevent lead and existing customer loss when a salesperson departs.
Because data is captured in one repository, and many sales forces are deployed out of the office, on-premise Sales Force Automation systems generally allow synchronization of data at regular times. The sales manager can see new leads, events, and activities as regularly as synchronization occurs. With many web-hosted systems, synchronization is not required as everybody is using the same real-time system. Real time data can prevent losses, increases win rates, reduce lead to close periods, and ultimately meet that sales manager’s revenue quota.
SFA systems have built-in functionality to import data, whether it is your current contact information, or rented or purchased lists. This allows for mass email or snail mail campaigns. Some Sales Force Automation systems provide metrics for measuring basic factors, such as email status, read, delivered, opened, and of course response to an email campaign. The benefit of this, of course, is generation of leads for new sales and measurement of campaign effectiveness for marketing. Mass emails also allow for nurturing of prospects until they can be turned into a lead. Other marketing activities such as generating sales from existing customers through email abound from company newsletters to discount coupons.
Ever buy from Office Depot online? From your first purchase, unless you specifically request not to be contacted, you will receive a weekly coupon to take advantage of their Sunday printed newspaper advertised specials, which can be used either in store or online. They generally offer a couple of discounts and, of course, the bigger one only applies in store. Office Depot wants you in the store where you’ll spend more. It’s like going to the grocery; you never buy just what’s on your list.
Another functionality of Sales Force Automation systems, which benefits both sales mangers and their team, is the ability to import data captured at a business’s website. This reduces double entry and speeds response time for information requests. This extends the value chain for the sales teams.