|By Alison Diana
Increased Sales, Improved Productivity and Abbreviated Sales Cycle Top the List
Sales force automation software is a powerful tool that increases sales win rates, reduces the sales cycle duration, enhances your sales representatives' productivity and improves revenue.
In fact, research firm Aberdeen Group determined best-in-class adopters of sales force automation (SFA) systems saw their deals increase in size by an average of 27%. In addition, these top SFA adopters decreased the sales cycle by 16% and cut the time-to-quota by 15%, the report found. Using SFA systems, these organizations' customers' revenue - and, therefore, buying power - grew 26%, while their sales administrative time was slashed by 14%, Aberdeen Group reported.
Whether you're a small services business or an enterprise offering hundreds of global products, SFA software is designed to eliminate many of the necessary - but time-consuming - tasks associated with selling. Today, many small and midsize enterprise sales organizations combat fragmented customer data, an expanding customer base, more complex products, increased competition, higher customer expectations, longer sales cycles and an expanding sales force. A centralized, automated business software solution designed specifically for sales professionals can eliminate much of the tedious, repetitive behind-the-scenes work, freeing up salespeople to do what they do best - sell your company's offerings.
With many SFA solutions available, ranging from software as a service to in-house systems, from complex solutions to out-of-the box applications, it's important to find the right software solution for your business model. But regardless of the technology you ultimately select, SFA should deliver most, if not all, of the following benefits:
1. Save Time
SFA systems automate time-consuming, but important, tasks such as scheduling sales appointments, sending follow-up letters and emails, tracking contacts and updating sale opportunities. Sales automation applications also enable salespeople to quickly generate estimates - and speedily turn these estimates into proposals, quotes and then orders when a deal is signed.
In addition, the sales team has immediate access to order information, and can proactively alert customers to an order's arrival or delay. And, if a customer calls with a question about their order, this information is at the salesperson's fingertips, a step that saves time, improves the entire customer experience and increases the value of the sales professional in the eyes of the customer.
2. Improve Customer Service
Who hasn't been forced to repeat a complaint or question about an order? SFA systems are an integral component of customer relationship management software and collectively eliminate this common source of customer dissatisfaction by creating a centralized repository of each client's information. CRM systems integrate marketing, sales and customer support activities for a holistic view of the customer relationship.
If a salesperson is out of the office or no longer with the company, there is also a much lower ramp-up time for the new rep. Your customer - and your sales employee - are off the phone faster, allowing your sales team to spend more time up-selling or reaching out to prospects, and improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.
3. Increase Revenue
Freeing salespeople up from mundane support chores empowers them to make more sales calls, be they in-person or over the phone. Of course, enabling sales reps to reach more prospects generates more income for the company and the individual, increasing employee satisfaction as well as profits. Management and sales staff also can monitor accounts to determine which customers deliver the most profits or buy the widest breadth of products. Equipped with this information, a sales department can create a targeted effort based on matching the most relevant products or services based on a customer's accurate purchasing history.
In addition, giving more employees - such as those in service and support - the ability to see customers' order history can create the opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell during communication with a client. Sales automation software also empower executives to create more accurate sales forecasts based on real-time figures, thereby preventing unexpected surprises at the end of a quarter or fiscal year.
4. Opportunity Management
During these extremely competitive times, businesses are keeping a close eye on their sales rivals. SFA systems routinely include competitive intelligence functions which let companies monitor their competitors' activities in order to spot - and act on – competitive threats and opportunities. Information from online queries or web site visits are funneled into the SFA solution for speedy follow-up and an increased chance of conversion.
SFA applications also include tools that allow salespeople to track potential customers, their executives and activities, as well as any meetings and possible matches between your offerings and prospects' needs. Unlike clunky spreadsheets or databases, SFA software eliminates the need for duplicated data entry, out-of-date files and time-consuming file-sharing. And the application lets salespeople and managers analyze the productivity of each phone call or visit.
Sales managers also can integrate marketing materials, research reports or data from other disparate sources into the SFA technology to better-equip salespeople. The software also can include information on upcoming products or new services.
5. Manage Sales Teams
Instead of tallying sales-call sheets each day or week, sales managers have immediate access to each salesperson's activities, opportunities, sales figures, customer complaints and other metrics used for measuring success and sales revenue. As a result, management can act quickly when necessary, based on real-time information.
SFA software equips the sales manager with the tools necessary to develop sales reps' territories, without running the risk of too much - or too little - coverage in a given area. Often, SFA applications integrate easily with mapping applications or web sites, giving pin-point accuracy all over the globe. As the customer base evolves, managers easily can realign or redesign territories to fully use the software’s capabilities in the most meaningful and profitable manner.
These business software solutions also allow managers to select the optimal individual to follow-up on a particular lead, based on geography, expertise or availability. By immediately connecting prospect and salesperson, a lead is more likely to become engaged, and ultimately result in a sale. And salespeople know there is a lead-allocation method for in-bound calls or emails. SFA software also helps managers stay abreast of problematic areas, such as an under-performing representative, and make proactive adjustments early in the process – while such adjustments can still be influential in fixing the problem.
With a direct and measurable impact on revenue and commissions, SFA software could be just as important to your company's ongoing success as hiring a team made up of knowledgeable, personable salespeople.
Categories: SFA Software
Author: Alison Diana
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||It surprises me that the big CRM software vendors like Oracle, SAP and Infor, and even the popular midrange vendors such as Sage and CDC Software continue to push on-premises CRM and SFA software. SaaS SFA has been around 11 years now and has been validated by all sizes of companies. Gartner says that SaaS SFA is used by more than 3 million sales people, and as of 2010 SaaS SFA is outselling on premises SFA - a trend that will certainly become even more lopsided. The advantages in terms of time to value, user experience and cost are compelling. The old arguments of security and uptime have been disproved and are little more than FUD. I'm not suggesting on-premises applications will disappear entirely, but they will clearly become the minority.