Sales force automation (SFA) software is revolutionary, incredible—and ridiculously difficult to choose.
When you Google SFA you get 8,950,000 results—and that feels like about how many options there are out there. All joking aside choosing a SFA can be difficult with the hundred if not thousands of options—but never fear, we can help.
When choosing a SFA you need to break down the options, and narrow them down via their features and whether they are a hosted or on-site solution. Most SFAs are three-tier architecture systems comprised of a web-ready database, email integration, and customizable templates. The software integrates the database, server and application and is generally created via a modular design designed to provide customizable solutions that can be catered to each customer.
Within each SFA system you have a variety of features—features that vary system to system. Standard features of a SFA are:
The management of contacts is the cornerstone of any SFA as it allows your reps to easily access and track their contacts. It also ensures that even with rep turnover contacts remain engaged and accounted for. Supervisors gain visibility over their reps, ensuring that quality work is being done. This element also allows you to run detailed reports per rep, per team or per customer segment.
Properly forecasting numbers is critical within each job role, from the reps, to supervisors to high-level management. A detailed sales forecasting tool will ensure that all levels can work together to ensure that all opportunities are accounted for and companies can properly predict sales for the future—a skill that translates into better budgeting of expenditures, predicting of profit margins, and ability to better manage company needs.
Mobile access to an SFA is critical given that most companies have mobile, or partially mobile workforces. With this feature you need to ensure that your SFA solution works with your mobile hardware and software policy—and that it works with your current technology, whether it be palm pilots, iPhones, Blackberrys, Tablets, or what have you.
A critical part of sales is ensuring that orders are properly fulfilled and delivered, and that order history can be used to properly serve your customers—for example if they order 100 computers every month your SFA tool can be used to get them into a better pricing level based on quantity of purchases. Analyzing their purchase history also helps you to develop better cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.
Sales Performance Reporting and Analysis
Identifying your key performers helps you fast-track them to better opportunities—which helps ensure that they stay with your company. Identifying the poorer performing reps will help you instigate with the training and supervision needed to boost their performance. In addition this tool can identify high performing territories and product lines.
Choosing the Best Solution
You have two major decisions to make: the first is whether to go with a hosted or on-site solution and the second is which features are important for you.
Hosted solutions are chosen by smaller companies for their scalability and low cost of implementation, whereas on-site solutions are chosen for their customization options, information safeguards, and low total cost of ownership for larger companies.
Once you have decided whether to go with a hosted or on-premise solution you now need to choose your features. Overloading with features is the easiest way to go over budget—and if you do not have the time to teach all the features and skills to your staff then you are overspending.