If you are contemplating buying an SFA solution to automate your sales operations, sooner or later you’ll face the dilemma of ‘Whom should I go with?’. With the wave of digitization picking up globally, more and more players are entering the SFA space. How then, do you arrive at the right provider?
The first and foremost thing for you to do is a ‘needs analysis’? Have an understanding of why you need an SFA solution, what is it that you would like to achieve. It is okay to not have the perfect answers, but it is important to have a broad picture keeping long term business objectives in mind.
With your needs established, you move on to the most important and often, most confusing phase – evaluating the SFA providers. Let us start with a word of advice – when considering an SFA solution, think of an SFA partner, and not an SFA vendor. What is the difference, you might ask? The difference is one of mind-set – a vendor is one you buy goods or services from, there is little strategic value expected beyond the act of buying and selling, a partner is one you team up with to realize a strategic vision, one whom you can rely on to guide you towards your goals.
Every provider will try to woo you through lofty credentials such as impressive clientele and numerous success stories. How do you cut through this clutter and settle on one? The key is in asking the right questions. Here are a few that we recommend you consider:
1. How is the solution different?
In essence, you are giving an opportunity to your prospective partner to tell you how they are different from their competition. This will help you understand their unique value proposition and whether that matches your needs. It is also a great way to identify what the provider claims to be their areas of strength.
2. Walk us through the implementation lifecycle?
Use this question to gauge the expertise of your prospective partner. An experienced provider will have developed clear implementation practices through their many implementations. It helps you get a good understanding of the type and level of support you would receive (without explicitly asking that question!).
An SFA implementation is a two way street and the providers who make the implementation sound overly simple or one sided should not be your preferred choice.
3. Do you provide a field visit?
While every provider will be ready with a client reference list and some with a free trial access, a unique way to assess your SFA provider is to do a market visit with them. This is a simple yet important aspect that often gets overlooked. At the end of the day, the success of the SFA initiative rests largely on the last mile rep. If the provider is willing to offer you a market visit, use this opportunity to evaluate the tool under market conditions and ask the sales rep how it has benefited him.
4. How will you ensure product adoption?
Most SFA implementations fail due to lack of adoption in the last mile and that is why this question is so important. The answer to this question will establish the maturity and expertise of your prospective partner. An experienced provider can often outline a plan and specific steps to be taken to achieve user adoption. Try to gauge what is realistic and what is not.
5. What kind of reports and analytics do you provide? Do you support customized reports/dashboards?
After all, one of the key reasons to invest in an SFA solution is to automate the reporting process and get meaningful data out of it. Unfortunately, post implementation, many businesses get stuck with a rigid reporting mechanism that eventually pushes them towards manual intervention. Use this question to understand your provider’s reporting strategy, their flexibility in providing customized reports (process, turn-around times, costs involved) and their expertise in data analytics
6. How do you handle new product feature/functionality requests?
The reality is that it is not possible to encompass everything in a standardized product. And yet, no two businesses are exactly the same. Your needs are unique and it is important to understand whether your prospective partner will consider a new feature request from you. What is their product approach? How flexible are they with new functionality requests?
7. How do you ensure data security?
Needless to say, some very key sales and organizational data are going to be with your SFA partner. It is possible that your partner is also catering to one of your competitors. How then do they ensure that your data remains safe and confidential? Get an understanding of the measures in place to prevent data theft and data leakage. Are there adequate provisions of data backup? How do they ensure there is a Chinese wall between competing client interests?
These are some well-rounded questions through which you can get a deeper understanding of your prospective SFA partner. Use this understanding to map your needs to their offerings. If done right, your business will be on its way towards a transformative digital experience.