Automating the Sales Force
267 - 331 - 1032
Companies have spent
large amounts of time and money wrestling with the concept of sales force
automation. Overall most have made little progress in an area that most
agree is critical to survival in the new millennium. Why? Here are the 8
most typical reasons programs fail.
1. Poor or non-existent Customer Relationship Management System.
At the least, every company should have a good database system with the
basic demographics of all customers, vendors, and prospects.
2. Too busy right now.
Companies are too busy with the day-to-day realities to effectively address
Sales Force Automation without outside help. In most cases, there is no one
within the organization that has the background or experience to automate
the sales process or integrate existing systems into the sales force.
3. Not including the sales force in the process.
How would you like to be 'Automated'?
To a group of very people oriented folks like sales professionals, it has
all the charm of a root canal. We have found the phrase Technology
Implementation to be a bit more appealing. Perhaps the reason so many
Sales Force Automation programs fail is that they start by focusing on
hardware, software, and techies. They fail because they don't take the
actual sales people and their tasks into consideration.
4. Lack of SFA / CRM Knowledge
To many companies SFA / CRM means Oh yeah, some of our people
have laptops and a couple of them use OUTLOOK! This is a far cry
from a program, which applies sales technologies throughout the system to
improve efficiencies and sales effectiveness. A thorough program should
include workgroup contact management, opportunity management, document and
email automation (PC based letters, emails, forms, proposals, literature,
etc.) information and document management (a knowledge bank of the best
ideas and business information) presentation tools (interactive
presentations and value analysis spreadsheets), and communication tools
(e-mail, PC based faxing, and an integrated web site).
5. Our 'computer guy' is
The project is turned over to the IT department. You might as well put the
gun to your head and pull the trigger. This would be faster and less
painful for the results you will achieve. The IT staff is already busy
trying to keep up with technology. More importantly IT professionals
usually have no concept of what sales people need to be more effective (and
seldom care). The IT staff should be part of the process but the sales
team needs to determine program components.
6. The cost of technology.
Many companies simply refuse to accept the fact that the technology
infrastructure needs to be kept up to date. That costs money. But, it is a
continuing investment that should provide significant returns.
7. Inadequate training.
So, you make all of the investments. You have the best technology
infrastructure in your industry. But NOBODY knows how to use it. See point
number 6. Part of the cost of technology is having your staff trained to
fully use it.
8. Lack of Management
leadership and involvement.
Like any important sales initiative, any technology program must be driven
from the top. If management isnít promoting, using and developing the tools,
staff will not use it. If the boss provides staff with information written
on napkins, expect the staff to move information on napkins.
At this point, you may be depressed enough to toss this paper into the
circular file. You are not alone. Over 70% of all SFA programs fail
because of the reasons above. So what should you do? Go back and read
points 1 through 8. You now know why SFA programs fail.
Some good news awaits you in Part II.
Sales and Marketing Process
OK, so let's put "automating the sales force" to the side for a moment. How
else can you use technology to improve your sales results?
The answer lies in the red-hot
area of Sales and Marketing Process Automation. In simple terms this means
using technology to do the legwork your sales force would do if they weren't
spending so much time pushing papers, creating pipeline reports, and
attending sales meetings.
Using this affordable
technology with only two or three employees will make a major difference in
your sales and marketing process. This means more sales, more $$$, more
profits! This group will create a 'sales funnel' to turn suspects in to
prospects and prospects into customers. You will be able to 'nurture' your
existing customers by 'touching' them more often with suggestions,
information and new product solutions. You will feed a steady stream of
qualified leads to your sales force. You will increase the number of
sales contacts by at least 200% and reduce the cost of developing new
business by at least 50%.
Sound interesting? Good! To
make all of this official, we need to have a name for this department. We
call it a Business Development Center (BDC). The BDC responsibility is to
develop new business opportunities with existing customers and prospects.
A Business Development Center
utilizes a combination of a contact management database, the Internet (your
website), broadcast communication (Fax, E-mail, Postal), and telemarketing
to work its magic.
What is the role of each BDC component?
Contact Management Database.
This is the control center for your BDC. Your BDC team will share a database
of contact information. They will schedule follow up calls and build a
history of all activities. They will access a library of literature,
letters, quotes, and proposals, which can be e-mailed directly, from their
Your BDC will process, handle
and track all leads. Suspects will be imported into your database from
sources like trade show leads, D&B's, iMarket or Manufacturers Guides on
disk. Prospects will visit your web site and submit information requests via
e-mail. Dormant or untapped customers will be fed into the BDC funnel for
How can just a few people
handle thousands of contacts? Your BDC will have help in the form of
Automated Processes. In an automated process, a prospect is put on a
'track' where the completion of one step in the sales process automatically
triggers the next step to happen or be scheduled. For example, a prospect
inquires about a product on your web site. The prospect emails you or calls
you. You now have a new prospect and their information. You respond
immediately with a customized / personal email with the information that
best meets the prospectís needs. A follow up phone call is scheduled. If
the customer expresses interest during the call an appointment is scheduled
for a sales rep. If more work will be required the prospect stays on the
'track' and another follow up call is scheduled automatically.
You create this automated
process and determine what you want to happen at each step. During the
process BDC members and management have complete access to the status of
every prospect and program. Management reports can be generated to track new
business, suspects, prospects, forecasted or completed sales or a even a
complete history of events.
Think about a new product
introduction. What is your process today? Sales meeting, literature, target
account lists, contests, nagging? Using your contact manager, your BDC will
be able to qualify your customers and prospects by market, products used,
size, etc. Your BDC team will be able to apply a 'filter' to pick out all
the contacts that meet a profile for the new product. Within minutes
they are ready to call, e-mail, fax or create a mailing. You will be giving
qualified leads to sales reps before they would have normally made their
first cold call.
The Internet / www.yourcompany.com.
Your website will serve as your 24/7 storefront. If your site is
interesting, and is perceived to offer some real solutions your customers
will feel quite comfortable stopping by for the latest info.
Your site will tell visitors,
who you are, why you are unique, and why they should do business with you.
It should feature products or services that provide a solution to customer
problems. Your site should give visitors a chance to call you, request more
information and submit a request for information. These requests will be
drawn directly into your contact management database.
Your marketing efforts will
regularly point your customers and prospects to your web site for new
information or specials. You will utilize on-line PowerPoint presentations
to serve as the cold call sales rep for your offerings. Visitors can click
on a 'View Presentation Button' and get the basics without having to see a
sales rep. They save time, you save valuable sales rep time. You will send
your sales reps in to close prospects that request more info and are ready
Broadcast communications refers to using technology to send the same message
to a targeted group of contacts. After selecting the target group of
contacts, your BDC team will have an arsenal of communication options. They
may use any or a combination of the following.
Phone: Schedule phone calls, over a period of several days to each BDC
Postal mailing: Create and send personalized letters and flyers. The contact
manager will create labels in minutes. Printing and postage are expensive,
folding and stuffing are very labor intensive tasks.
Without doubt, the most efficient and cost effective method is e-mail: You
can send a broadcast e-mail with hyperlinks directly to areas of your web
site. Typically you can send thousands of personalized e-mails in minutes!
Using broadcast e-mail, your unattended 'broadcast' can happen at night or
on the weekend. Compare this to the time spent on mailings today.
The BDC Team will provide
amazingly fast response to customer requests for information. They will have
an electronic library of letters, literature, and forms available. Requested
information will be faxed or e-mailed while the prospect is on the phone.
What will you need to start
Commitment - The
BDC should have a leader with good database experience as well as some sales
and marketing background. This person will serve as guide and resource to
other BDC members. Because all information is captured and shared in the
database, the BDC can be a great training ground for future outside reps.
They will have quick access to customer and product information from the
database and the practical experience of the leader to draw from.
Software: The basic software
needed to accomplish all this is readily available off the shelf. For
contact management, a program like GoldMine will serve you well.
Typically, software will cost about $800.00 per seat.
As someone who has walked on
all sides of the street, business owner, sales manager and SFA
consultant, the amazing success that can be accomplished through
computer-aided sales and marketing constantly amazes me. Though the journey
into the technology jungle can be frightening, with some dedication and
patience you can become one those cutting edge sales organizations. You will
wonder how you ever did it the old fashioned way. Technology in sales
and marketing is here to stay, and companies that fail to embrace it might
not. The key is to build a plan of action and do something. All
successful journeys begin with the first step. Sales Automation is no
331 - 1032