Importance of a Sales Force Automation solution in any sales organization is no longer a topic to be debated on. Be it a large team or a smaller one, companies have either already adopted an SFA solution or in the process of doing so. It’s a no brainer that if implemented rightly, it not only enhances productivity of the sales team, but also provides major input for many strategic decisions to be taken up by the company.
But the last ‘if’ is an important one and deserves some serious thinking. As per some independent researches, failure rate of such implementations is alarmingly high – anything between 50% to 70% depending on the geography. And we all know what it means if an IT initiative fails in any organization. It’s not just about the money spent for nothing or wastage of time invested by senior leadership, in most of the cases such failures trigger a blame game within the organization which probably drains more energy out of the entire team for nothing.
So, it goes without saying that it is very important for us to know why an SFA implementation may go wrong so that necessary preventive measures can be taken well in advance. Here we have listed down five most important factors based on our experience of managing numerous SFA implementations across different industries and geographies.
- Lack of long term vision and objective
While the bullet point above may sound very cliché, most of the times a decision to implement SFA is taken without having a definitive answer for the question ‘Why’. Companies are not sure about their end objective – do they want to police their sales team or they want to enable them with a tool that will make their life easier or they want to utilize the data collected from the point of sale to make important decision? There are many examples where even though sales team is capturing order from the retailer using an SFA, they are informing distributors about the order details using some other channels as well. What’s the point of asking sales team to punch in order data in an SFA app, if the same is not integrated with a DMS solution or at least if distributors are not intimated with a summarized email containing order taken from different retailers. And this is a perfect scenario for an eventual failure because when the company stakeholders will realize what they want out of the SFA, they will find they are nowhere closer to what they want.
- SFA is not a CRM solution
While a CRM system is primarily designed to help sales team sign-up more customers, an SFA is more about tracking end to end sales of your existing customers right from order placing, inventory check to fulfilment and payment. An SFA integrated with an DMS is basically transforming your business for the future. However, in pursuit of tracking sales reps with some sort of geo-tagging, many times it is decided to implement an SFA while all that was required was a CRM solution to track life cycle of deals. To fit into a workflow which is not meant for it, the SFA solution is customized and configured in a way that leads to a poor user experience and eventual failure due to lack of adoption.
- Bottom-up approach for driving adoption
To ensure sales team is using SFA mobile app, their KPI is set with the parameters related to data reporting using SFA. But these KPI parameters are not rolled up to their supervisors or higher-up and that’s a gross mistake. It’s very critical that senior leaders drive adoptions and facilitate change management. Before such a software gets implemented, it’s very important that business heads or function heads are also part of decision making team so that they are also convinced about the benefits and they also own the decision to implement SFA. With senior leaders of the sales chain getting into action to make the initiative successful will excite the entire team and give a tremendous boost for the user adoption.
- Poor Master Data Management
More than 50% of IT implementation failures are because of poor quality of master data and SFA is not an exception. An SFA solution is going to be as good as the master data going into it and the longer you ignore data issues, the more complex the clean-up can be. And it’s not just about the data, but the data structure also. Important data structures such as number of levels of product hierarchy that you want to capture, number of different store attributes on which business team may want to slice and dice the data are to be answered in the very beginning. And to minimize the chance of these answers getting changed in future, senior stakeholders from business side must be part of these discussions. And once the actual master data is getting migrated in the SFA, make sure it is clean, accurate and relevant. Data concerns and data integrity must be taken seriously, otherwise it may jeopardize the entire implementation on a later date.
- Lack of focus on Training & Support
This is one area that many companies put in a back seat and that’s a perfect recipe for a disaster. Success of an IT implementation depends on the end-user adoption which in-turn depends on how comfortable they are using the system. It’s very important to train the end users thoroughly and train them often to develop that comfort factor. As far as SFA is concerned, it makes more sense if the trainings are interactive (either classroom or through video-conferencing) with live demo of the system. It’s also very important to have an ongoing and effective support available for the end users to immediately resolve all the teething problems in the initial days and any other issue going forward.
In summary, it’s prudent to spend some more time prior to the implementation to finalize the nitigrities rather than hurrying into things which may lead to negative ROI and many other pains. It’s all about asking right set of questions and then brainstorming to find out right answers. That’s what is required to make your SFA implementation successful!!