Does Your Sales Force Automation Help Your Reps Actually Sell?
For all the time and money invested in sales force automation (SFA) systems, do they really add value? It depends on who you ask. Managers appreciate the tools because they track employee activities and create reports about the business. On the other hand, salespeople bemoan SFA systems, because they drive manual, time-consuming data entry and extreme process inefficiencies—without generating any insights that are useful to them. As a result, sellers resist adopting SFA technology because they view it as creating more work, not value.
And for the longest time, sales organizations have rallied around the flawed idea of the “sales funnel.” In theory, potential buyers travel down the path through distinct stages until the deal is closed. But the sales process rarely follows a straight-line path; indeed, salespeople lament that the course of a sale is often unpredictable and nonlinear. Prospects visit the website for research, perhaps download a paper or watch a video, or even solicit a Request for Information. Then they go dark, only to circle back and request a high-stakes demo.
The truth is, over the past 20 years, SFA systems have done little to help salespeople sell. Instead, they have essentially been a repository of information serving the after-the-fact reporting needs of sales managers—a dumping ground where data goes to die.
So what’s the trick to improving a flawed system and boosting sales success? Start by prioritizing the four Vs: volume, velocity, value, and visibility. Technology solutions now exist that can optimize these areas to better support seller productivity, client engagement, and the bottom line. Here’s how.
For sellers, the name of the game is increasing the volume of leads. It’s a numbers game: the more you shoot, the more you have the potential to score. There’s never-ending pressure to exceed the efforts of competitors and hit quotas.
With outdated SFA technologies, generating more leads can seem to be a daunting task. Stop spending time entering the same information manually and guessing at selling strategies.
Enter robotic process automation (RPA) and event triggering. RPA can, as its name suggests, automate and reduce repetitive tasks throughout the sales process—from lead entry and lead assignments, to on-boarding and fulfillment—increasing volume at every stage of the sales life cycle. Event triggering can also identify renewal dates, follow-up meetings, and in-the-moment sales follow-ups. Combined, these technologies are a driving force behind making sellers more efficient, saving time and energy. It’s all about handling more with less.
Volume and velocity go hand-in-hand. The more leads progressing to opportunities without manual administrative tasks to complete, the more quickly salespeople can engage and nurture prospect relationships.
Successful SFA tools offer capabilities to meet sellers where they are, whether on their mobile device, checking social media, or in the context of familiar applications such as their email or calendar. In other words, why not integrate and move sales applications as close to the rep as possible?
From there, sellers can be timely in engaging prospects on their channels of choice, with the right content at their moments of need. Remember: lack of speed kills sales deals.
Few—if any—technological advancements get more buzz today than artificial intelligence (AI), and for good reason. As Forrester states in its most recent SFA solutions report, AI is ushering in a new age of sales for forward-thinking organizations, and there is tremendous value to be derived from it.
Sales automation and CRM systems capture lots of customer data—phone calls, meetings, complaints, buying patterns, content shared, etc. But data without analysis and insights on what it means and what outcomes it has driven does not add much value.
Instead of being forced to manually sift through data to extract insights, sellers and sales operations (as well as business analysts) should be able to use AI to fuel real-time, personalized interactions based on client or prospect behavior. Sellers can industrialize actions, offers, and activities to close more deals, move opportunities to the next stage, and spot leads that are more likely to close. Sales managers can also reap the benefits of AI, by identifying customized coaching suggestions that help each seller beat their quota.
Effective salespeople and managers use science and data, not gut instincts, to simplify complex sales processes and support customer engagement.
You can’t manage what you don’t measure—and see. This is why sales operations is so hard; the data crosses multiple business units, products, team members, geographies, accounts, and channels, and it is hard to gather, combine, and analyze. This makes it next to impossible for salespeople and managers to have real-time visibility into what is really happening in and across the organization.
Enter a unified platform for lead, opportunity, and forecast management across direct and partner teams. Gone are the days of using disparate sales systems of record just to locate information. Gone are the days of separate spreadsheets and dueling business analyst reports. Sales leaders don’t have the time to spend on interpreting and sourcing the data. In high-pressure roles like these, you have to focus on the prospect.
With the decades-long stagnancy in SFA system advancement, organizations have lost touch with what problems our products are supposed to actually solve and how they should solve them. The stakes are incredibly high, and it’s time to refocus.
Optimizing volume, value, velocity, and visibility can drive more revenue, sales satisfaction, and better decision making. The brands willing and able to implement the four Vs in their SFA systems position themselves well to maximize sales and client engagement. The future of organizations’ sales operations and broader business success hangs in the balance.
Chris Benedetto is the senior director of sales effectiveness at Pegasystems. He has 20 years of software sales, marketing, and product management experience for marketing automation, SFA, e-commerce, analytics, and supply chain software.