Sales Force Automation solutions, initially pioneered by a few large FMCG companies, have now caught the imagination of a large number of small and medium enterprises across industries. The adoption of Sales Force Automation (SFA) solutions is now faster than ever before. Along this journey, more and more SFA solution providers have entered the market. Sales Force Automation itself has evolved and expanded into quite a wide topic – with different use cases and many different possibilities. Accordingly, now, the large number of SFA players in the market are generally equipped with some of the many different things that an SFA solution can possibly offer. Despite SFA entering this new realm of possibilities that look to maximize how it can benefit team productivity and the company in general, large number of companies are still confined to a very traditional and narrow use case of SFA – attendance and sales management.
Importance of a Sales Force Automation solution in any sales organization is no longer a topic to be debated on. It is now a part of basic hygiene of the sales process across the globe. Those who are already using some SFA solution are either driving improvements in the existing software or looking out for a more capable solution. And those, who are yet to roll-out such a solution, are surely hunting for a sophisticated software that can fulfill all their needs. Whatever may be the case, a proper and detailed due diligence must be done before you finalize any vendor. While it is understandable that in SaaS model switching cost is not too high, but we also need to consider the effort and time spent by top management in finalizing a solution and subsequently driving the adoption. Keeping in mind all these factors, it makes complete sense to do a thorough review of the capabilities of your shortlisted vendors.
If you are an FMCG company, chances are that you have already experimented with a sales force automation solution or are actively considering going down that route. After all, the FMCG sector has been a pioneer in adopting sales force automation solution, and consequently, the SFA players have also adapted their products to cater to most of the standard FMCG use cases and scenarios. You may also be aware that more than 50% SFA implementations fail. While there are several reasons that can be attributed to this failure, some of the more prominent ones are lack of clarity on why SFA is required, absence of a skilled program coordinator, poor training and support, and at times, an over-zealous management!
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.
An SFA implementation is a two way street. Its success requires the commitment of both the client and the solution provider. The right solution provider will not just sell the solution but take meaningful steps to ensure success of implementation. In a recent post, we wrote about selecting the right SFA partner. Training, on-boarding and initial hand-holding are the common norms of an SFA implementation. Beyond that, one of the things that a good SFA partner does for its partner client is regular monitoring of the health of implementation.