When we talk about Sales Force Automation, almost all of us relate it to what is being predominantly used in FMCG or Beverage industry over last 6-7 years. The general perception that has been built is that an SFA solution is used to manage a geographically dispersed field force in terms of regular outlet visits and activities that they perform in each outlet. Typically, those activities are order capture, sales return, payment collection, POSM deployment, planogram compliance etc. While the conventional SFA has evolved a lot to meet ever changing business dynamics of its client base and to adopt to latest technology innovations, even till date there is not enough traction for an SFA solution from the industries that sell their product/ services in B2B model by deploying sales representatives (or at times called account managers) who are responsible for visiting corporates, institutions, government offices etc. Healthcare, Telecom, Education, Heavy Electrical etc. are few examples of such industries.
Let us first try to understand why such a trend is prevalent. There could be two possible reasons:
- Is there actually a need for such a solution?
- Are there standard solutions available in market to fulfill this need?
Answer to the first question is a big ‘YES’. A mobility based SFA solution for corporate sales team can not only bring much needed discipline and enforce adherence to defined processes, it will also enable the sales team to perform their regular activity in much more streamlined manner resulting in overall improvement of their productivity. Here is a quick list of value additions that you can get by deploying an SFA solution:
- Tracking daily visits – Surely you would like to know whether your B2B sales team is actually visiting number of corporates they are supposed to visit on a daily basis. May be at a more advanced stage when you can plan their visits, you can also track whether they are adhering to the plans and if not, reason for the same.
- Tracking lead status – As your account managers are responsible for adding new corporate clients, it is important to track number of new leads they are adding and to track status of all such leads on a regular basis along with deal closures.
- Keeping a track of meeting notes – If the SFA app allows your sales team to enter meeting notes immediately after the visit, it will reduce the chances of any important point being missed. It will not only provide full visibility of every meeting to the senior management but will also help the sales team during their next visit as they can quickly refer to discussions that had happened in all previous meetings.
- Tracking employee productivity – Not just deal closure, productivity of a B2B sales person can be measured through various parameters such as total visits per day, time spent in a visit (an indicator of relationship building), adding new contact in an existing account etc. An SFA solution will enable you to measure all such KPIs effortlessly.
- Enabling the sales team – As we mentioned earlier, it’s not just about tracking your revenue earners, it’s also about making them more resourceful when they meet a client. They will have quick access to important sales/marketing collateral which they present to client without opening their laptops, they can be trained on any new launch remotely using the mobile app and many more.
Let us now try to answer the second question that whether there is an off the shelf solution available for this (while there are few big companies who have developed their own in-house SFA for the corporate sales team, this is something that doesn’t really justify the investment in terms of time and money). Well, you really don’t need to search for a specific solution for B2B sales. All you need is a conventional and widely used SFA solution which is quite flexible and customizable to meet your requirement. You may raise a few questions that how is that possible? In your business there is no outlet, rather you have clients/corporates etc.; there is no product master, rather you have wide variety of activity list; KPIs that you want to measure are vastly different from the KPIs a conventional SFA usually measures. Yes, you are very right in raising those flags, but at the same time let us reassure you that a conventional SFA can fulfill all your needs provided it has following features:
- Dynamic nomenclature – Fundamentals of any sales process is largely similar be it B2B sales or otherwise. Among the changes, an important one is terminologies being used especially for master data. For example, here also visits are important, but where the sales team visits is not called an Outlet, rather it’s called client or company. So, the SFA solution must have flexibility to adopt dynamic nomenclature for all its master data as well as for other important parameters.
- Flexible backend – List of activities to be performed by B2B sales team are quite different from what a field force employee of FMCG company would do. Not only that, the type of activities may vary from person to person, region to region and client to client. So, the solution must have a completely flexible backend framework to configure all such varieties of activities without any customized development work.
- Dynamic mobile app workflow – It’s not just about configuring activities as per different needs, it’s also important to ensure that the SFA mobile app has been developed in a way which can handle such variations (and any future changes) without creating any hassle for the app user. As the corporate sales people are usually quite senior, any convenience caused to them might severely impact the adoption of the solution.
- Enablement features for sales team – Availability of certain features in the app can work as enablers for the sales team and help them in having a much more productive meeting with clients. Some examples could be viewing sales / marketing documents in the app, quick reference to previous interactions with the client, ability to undergo online training in the SFA app itself.
Ability to generate customized reports – We already know that KPIs to be measured are quite different in case of a B2B sales team. While points mentioned above can help you to capture the data in a way you want, your SFA solution should also have a powerful data processing and data visualization solution to create any report and dashboard as per the business requirement.