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Sales Force Automation (SFA) Pitfalls

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There are five primary pitfalls in Sales Force Automation (SFA) systems, any of which can derail a software implementation or cause significant problems. All too common problems include lack of buy in, improper or incomplete data input, a non-responsive system due to slow network or limitations of access to the system, poor training and lack of proper customization.

Lack of sales management or sales staff buy-in are sure to doom an SFA software implementation. Sales people can be a breed apart relative to other more structured roles in the company. Their income is dependant on sales and their processes are usually the least defined in the company. Taking time to change the way they do business is generally not an easy sell. If things do not go right, or sales people decide they are not willing to change, complaining sales staff can wreak havoc. Resistance by a sales manager is even worse. Their livelihood is directly dependant upon the productivity of their salesforce. To win the user adoption battle, key sales staff must be offered early and broad involvement during both the software selection and software implementation processes. Their input must be seriously considered and the system must provide them demonstratable advantages relative to their existing environment. SFA systems implemented simply for or largely for management oversight will not win the buy-in of the sales staff. It’s important to recognize that customer relationships are touched by more than just the sales people. Support staff, while generally not under the same commission based compensation pressure as sales staff, must also facilitate customer management by contributing to the CRM application and keeping customer activities current and complete.

A slow or unresponsive CRM business system will certainly cause problems with user adoption. CRM and SFA solutions are data intense. Queries and reports sometimes join several different tables which can tax database and application servers. Newer software as a service (SAAS) CRM systems can be slow if not equipped with sufficient Internet bandwidth. Slow response time, especially in the field for a salesperson is intolerable from their perspective and will hinder sales efforts. It is also imperative that the access to the system is available in the field and not just at the office. Whether it is an offline application or wireless online, make sure managers and salespeople have ubiquitous customer information access.

Training is a frequently under-planned and under-invested effort in SFA software implementations. There must be a strong comfort level with the SFA system to support its usage. This is truly a case of garbage in, garbage out. People that are not comfortable with a system, especially if their livelihood depends on productivity, will not use the system. Many pitfalls of SFA can be avoided with proper training. It is a good idea to make sure that a self paced training program is available well after system implementation for sales staff which need a review as well as new sales staff.

Forcing sales staff to modify their business processes in order to accommodate rigid CRM or SFA software is a serious mistake which generally increases user adoption challenges and often results in complete implementation failure.

In order for a SFA system to work, you must have proper customization of the menus, forms and fields. For example, if a company that sells propane generators incorporates an SFA component with its CRM solution, there are forms and processes that accompany the sales process. One may be the need for a local city permit. If the CRM solution does not either generate the form at the proper time, or not notify the proper support staff to do so, the SFA system may hinder the process or otherwise not add value. Another example can be in seen in the ability to track success. Most SFA systems have a campaign source field. Often companies start with a few generic sources like call-ins, website, newspaper. However, as time progresses, those sources must become specific and tie into reporting modules.

The fields must be adjusted to include specifics, such as “June seminar”, “newspaper ad for July special”, “chamber of commerce networking” etc. Without these specifics, it would be impossible to input the data properly and effectively. This is a major pitfall that is only seen long after a SFA system is implemented.

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