“I’ve never seen a client/sales automation tool that could sign a contract.” This was a remark made 20 years ago by a salesperson when asked his opinion about automating sales call reporting companywide.
Fast-forward to 2011—enterprise-wide sales automation implementation is still met with the same reluctance and skepticism by the sales force. Reflecting back, what that salesperson was really saying was “salespeople” are integral to closing deals, so if you expected them to welcome and use automation technology, it had better add real value to their ability to sell.
There is no disputing that the speed of acquiring new business has increased because of advancements in technology, making communication of voice and data almost instantaneous. Today, sophisticated clients are requiring more from the sales force than just knowing their service or product lines. The sales force needs automation tools to effectively engage their organization’s resources in quickly developing integrated solutions to the client’s business problems.
So why do most companies report challenges in implementing sales automation processes and still get a push-back from the sales force meant to use them? In many cases, adequately training the members of the sales force to use technology correctly—and convincing them to use it consistently—can be a serious “culture change” issue within organizations. Salespeople ask themselves “Why do I need this process automation tool and what are my benefits in using it to serve my clients?” Implementation problems can also stem from failing to properly address the following three key issues:
- Alignment of company sales and automation processes that focus on adding value and reducing time wasters for the sales force
- Selection of an automation tool that supports the core sales processes and does not drive additional processes that are not productive to the company needs analysis or sales force
- Providing adequate training for proposed users, as data quality and user acceptance are inversely proportional to the user’s perception of the friendliness/effectiveness of the software application
What truly makes a company’s automation processes successful? It depends on each company’s own definition, which essentially is driven by the organization’s “internal needs analysis” and often further supported by judicious use of implementation partners. We have examined three companies who have reported very successful implementations of sales automation software and related sales processes to see what lessons could be learned in the selection and implementation of automation tools in sales force management.
Robert Gnuse is president of Gnuse Consulting Group LLC, based in Cumming, Ga. Gnuse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Khalid Harris is an independent consultant/researcher for the Association of Test Publishers.