Market Watch: SFA

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The biggest thing in sales force automation isn't based on new business processes or the latest hot technology, but on good old-fashioned communication--or the lack thereof. "There is a disconnect in the marketplace," says Jim Dickie, a partner with Insight Technology Group and coauthor of The Sales and Marketing Excellence Challenge. CRM vendors claim sales are down, yet Dickie says interviews with more than 200 C-level and vice president--level executives reveal that they are kept up at night worrying about SFA-related issues. Most of these issues can be solved by CRM, according to Dickie. So, why is that basic message of CRM not getting through? "I have long been of the opinion that vendors don't do a good job communicating to customers," says George Colombo, author of Capturing Customers.com: Radical Strategies for Selling and Marketing in the Wired World. "But customers in this field have a robust skepticism of what vendors have to say. Customers are aware of the extent to which many of these implementations have not provided the promised return on investment." Indeed, Colombo finds it ironic that vendors that promise a combination of products and services to increase sales have trouble selling their own products. However, he says, the companies that are doing well now share the common denominator of being able to create value on the sales side of the house by expanding sales and improving sales processes: "It's about getting the customer where they want to go. Vendors need to stop obsessing about features [and focus] on implementation. Do fewer things, but do them more proficiently." Dickie says CRM vendors should be focusing on anything that increases the effectiveness of salespeople--not to be confused with increasing efficiencies like reducing paper work. "Making an average salesperson more efficient just gives you an efficient average salesperson," he says.
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