Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It’s Not Like Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks: Automating Your Existing Sales Force

By: Jace Modavi

Sales force automation is not your father’s sales technique, that’s for sure.  However, it’s not all that different.  Yes, it uses computers and automation techniques that are new, it makes life easier on sales reps in the field, it connects sales team members and uses marketing information in ways that we never could have before.  But even Willy Loman would recognize that sales deals aren’t closed by computers, they’re closed by sales reps.  And so, while sales force automation is new and different, it doesn’t change the sales game that your reps have been playing; it makes them better at it.

Look at it this way: in sports, better equipment doesn’t change the game.  No matter how big the padding you’re wearing, you still have to carry the football over the goal line.  That much stays the same.  So updating the tools your sales team uses will only help in the long run.  Employees who are hesitant of this change might be encouraged by this.  Here’s how it works:

Contact management
To begin, sales force automation – much as you’d suspect from the name – automates the sales process.  It records information about every contact made with a potential customer, and it does it for all of the potential customers you have.  This helps reps build relationships because they can create profiles of all of their prospects, taking note of personal details, product preferences, and other details that are helpful in establishing trust and closing the deal.  You also get up to the minute product information, inventory figures, and other data that can impact a deal, so you’re not blindsided by something that’s out of your control.

Lead tracking

With lead tracking software, you can channel all of your prospective customers’ information into one database, where it can be evaluated and directed to the right rep.  This allows you to prioritize your efforts, putting resources where they’ll do the most.  Define the spread of leads on a geographic basis or on any number of other factors, and the system will automatically send the information to the rep that is right for the job.

With some SFA systems – ones that use cloud computing – reps can also update their profiles from their mobile devices, so they can keep you in the loop even when they’re on the road.  You can monitor deal progress at any time with tools that allow you to see what stage the deal has reached.  You can tell when prospects are still considering your product, when there’s been an actual proposal or deal put on the table, or when the deal is closed.

Collaboration tools
With all of your deal information in the same system, collaboration between reps is easy.  New team members can be brought up to speed quickly, training is possible even when the reps are apart, and best practice tips and advice can be spread based on real case studies and examples.  Not only do your reps get a clear picture of what their customers habits and needs are, so does your marketing team, making advertising and promotional efforts more efficient.

So while sales force automation is a revolutionary new tool that makes sales teams more efficient, it’s not changing the way salespeople do their jobs. It’s just making them better at it.