Sales Force Automation Technology

Sales Force Automation Technolgy Business Building Tools

WHAT IS SALES FORCE AUTOMATION?

This is a common question asked by family business owners. It isn’t as if these family business entrepreneurs don’t have a basic or manual system for planning and managing their sales, but the concept of "using automation to manage your sale force" can be so broad that many people are left scratching their head wondering “what IS sales force automation really?”

Sales force technology, also called CRM or Customer relationship management, is a broad term for the technologies that facilitate the role of a sales person. Sales force automation is actually a misnomer in many ways. The technology doesn’t actually automate much of anything. Don’t expect the software to start closing deals - we are few years away from that!

Just as Outlook could be called E-Mail automation, a growing list of software and web based systems, facilitate and automate some of the processes that are required of a sales person. These range from huge CRM systems like Siebel to small distinct Applications like Account Plan. I will discuss several aspects of the functionality and systems that are available for small and mid-sized businesses.

Why Use These Types of Tools?

The reason sales force automation programs are critical to family-owned businesses? Simple - the process and infrastructure that that they help put in place. These programs provide a methodology that can be used by the family business owner to build a more effective sales force.

With only 30% of family businesses successfully transitioning to the second generation and only 12% making it to the third, having infrastructure and process is critical to long term success. Since sales are the life blood of any business, having the infrastructure and processes in place is critical for the long term viability and growth of your business.

The three main reasons to find and use the right tools for your business are; time, focus, and management.

• TIME – all of the tools that I will discuss are designed to save time and make the sales process easier and faster. Contact managers can make tracking people and opportunities faster and easier. Territory Plan and Account Plan make the strategy process much faster and easier. The estimates for wasted time and productivity in the workplace are staggering. Simple tools to save time and manage time and activities can have huge benefits.

• FOCUS – Clearly the Territory and Account planning tools help in this area. Without a clear focus, you waste time. These tools allow both you as a manager, and your sales people to focus efforts on important opportunities and the important people in the opportunities. Building a strategy is just as important as tracking the deals, and in many cases more important.

• MANAGEMENT – What and how should your sales people be spending their time? What are the most important customer and prospect? How should they be approaching each sale? These tools can help you both understand this and create the infrastructure and process that will scale with the business and make it easier and better to transition to the next generation of owner / manager. Managing sales people is tough – in that same category of herding cats! Helping them be successful is the most important part of the process. These sales management tools can help as the business grows in size and profitability.

Contact, Opportunity, and Task Managers

The biggest functional use of sales force automation or CRM is contact and task management. In fact this is sometimes the only functionality that is used by sales people. If you only need the ability to keep track of people, activities, and opportunities in a way that is best suited for sales and sales people then you can look at several low cost options.

• ACT! – This is the best selling and most used sales force automation tool. There are several versions to choose from including some that are industry specific. There are about 1.4 million users of Act!

• GOLDMINE – This is the second most popular contact management and sales force automation tool on the market place. There are about 1.3 million users of Goldmine.

• SALESFORCE.COM – This is an online version accessed through your web browser. This is a SaaS model of CRM / SFA, and has a monthly cost instead of a one time purchase. However, there is more capability, and no fears of hard drive crashes.

While both Act! and Goldmine have been around a long time, they have both been acquired in recent years and much of the development focus has been on moving to an online or SaaS (Software as a Service) model such as Salesforce.com.

These two tools automate the strategic planning process for sales. If you are happy with the Contact management system you have, these may be enough to get the sales team on track. No matter what you have, creating a strategy is important for both the Territory as a whole and certainly for those large accounts that can make or break a quarter.

• Quotation tools – There are several out there, SalesBoom and Quosal work within Salesforce.com, while Big Machines is better if you have proposals with numerous products or SKUs.

• Email and Marketing tools – Marketing Plan Pro is great for building the marketing program (not really sales force automation but it helps), and Constant Contact works well for sending bulk email and newsletters.

Sales Force Automation Technology Tips

Buy something that does what you need, and not everything else! Too often family businesses invest in sales force automation and buy a tool that does everything but bring in the sale.

Buy just what will be used by the sales team daily

Buy technology that provides “functions” that will enable you to better manage your sales and business development strategies. Security - If each sales person maintains their sales and business contacts in their personal database - when they leave their database goes too.

Make sure you have the sales people try each one first. According to Aberdeen, 70% of sales force automation implementations tend to fail mainly from user adoption (or lack thereof).

Decide what you are trying to accomplish, and then decide what functionality you need. Then look at the prices. With today’s new (and easy to use) sales automation technology, a family business owner does not need to spend a lot of money to get what works!

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