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A recent Penn State study reveals a little something to be desired.
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America's corporations are still getting low grades in high-tech from their own salespeople when it comes to providing automation to the sales force, according to an independent study commissioned by Freedom Technology Media Group, parent company of CRM magazine.

The study on SFA acceptance and practices in the U.S. was conducted by the Institute for the study of Business Markets at Penn state University. Some 787 sales representatives who work in a variety of industries were surveyed.

Some key findings:

• Only 60 percent of the respondents felt SFA systems available were helpful for their job performance. That's a pretty lukewarm endorsement from the people who are ultimately responsible for making sales force automation a success.

• Worse, only 14 percent were clearly satisfied by the level of training received from their employers. That's a terrible report card--and maybe helps to explain why so many salespeople don't find the systems

• While 63 percent of respondents indicated that they were accessing their SFA system daily, almost 33 percent felt they were not able to use its capabilities fully, and only a third said that they had completely integrated the system tools within their total sales process.

• More than 80 percent said that using their SFA system was not a voluntary act. The study speculates that many salespeople are logging onto their SFA systems grudgingly, doing the minimum level of work they must to meet corporate requirements, then getting out.

Despite all the talk about e-business, salespeople remain the bedrock of most companies' customer contact, especially in the business-to-business arena. If your CRM system is drawing data from an SFA component that salespeople are using grudgingly and at the minimum level they think they can get away with, your whole information structure is built on sand.

"Every executive or manager involved in the sales process should be very concerned about these survey results," says Matt Purdue, director of content, destinationCRM.com, who worked with the Penn state researchers in developing the study. "They are being pressured to improve their customer relationships using the latest technologies, but these results clearly show that technology alone will not make salespeople more effective. Companies must be vigilant in servicing and supporting their salespeople, not just customers."

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