Sales force management system

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Sales force management systems are information systems used in CRM marketing and management that help automate some sales and sales force management functions. They are often combined with a marketing information system, in which case they are often called customer relationship management (CRM) systems.

Sales force management systems are essentially the same thing as sales force automation system (SFA).

A SFA, typically a part of a company’s customer relationship management system, is a system that automatically records all the stages in a sales process. SFA includes a contact management system which tracks all contact that has been made with a given customer, the purpose of the contact, and any follow up that may be needed. This ensures that sales efforts are not duplicated, reducing the risk of irritating customers. SFA also includes a sales lead tracking system, which lists potential customers through paid phone lists, or customers of related products. Other elements of an SFA system can include sales forecasting, order management and product knowledge. More developed SFA systems have features where customers can actually model the product to meet their needs through online product building systems. This is becoming more and more popular in the automobile industry, where patrons can customize various features such as color and interior features such as leather vs. upholstered seats.

An integral part of any SFA system is company wide integration among different departments. If SFA systems aren’t adopted and properly integrated to all departments, there might be a lack of communication which could result in different departments contacting the same customer for the same purpose. In order to mitigate this risk, SFA must be fully integrated in all departments that deal with customer service management.

Making a dynamic sales force links strategy and operational actions that can take place within a department. the SFA relies on objectives, plans, budget, and control indicators under specific conditions. In order to perform the objectives correctly, specific procedures must be implemented:

Identifiable sales force management processes[edit]

  • Setting targets and objectives based on inputs (usually via a command center)
  • Assigning factors responsible for achieving objectives
  • Control processes for ensuring objectives are being achieved within
    • a given time frame
    • a given constrained context (customers and/or markets)
  • System management to handle uncertain environments

The process usually starts from specific sales targets. The command center analyzes the inputs and outputs established from a modeled control process and the sales force. The control process enables the sales force to establish performance standards, measuring actual performance, comparing measured performance against established standards and taking corrective action. The sales managers adjust their actions based on the overall process.

Aside from the control process, the following metrics are implemented:

  • Time management— Accurately measures the tasks and the fraction of time needed for each task.
  • Call management— Plan for customer interaction accounts for the fraction of command center reps that comply with the process and have successful calls.
  • Opportunity management— If the process is followed correctly then a sales opportunity exists. The fraction of command center reps that use the tools, comply with the objective are all measured.
  • Account management— For multiple opportunities with a customer the account is measured by the tools, process, and objectives.
  • Territory management— For monitoring the account, the territory is measured by the number of account reps and prospective versus active customers.
  • Sales force management— Process includes training, IT systems, control, coaching, and is shared across several people and departments.

Five major activities are involved in staffing a sales force. They must be divided into related steps. The first step is plan the recruiting and selection process. The responsibilities associated with this step are generally assigned to top sales executives, the field sales manager or the human resources manager (pg. 131-132 Spiro/Rich/Stanton). The company wants to determine the number and type of people needed, which involves analyzing the market and the job and preparing a written job description (pg. 132). The qualifications of the job must be established to fill the job. Second, the recruiting phase includes identifying sources of recruits that are consistent with the type of person desired, selecting the source to be used and contacting the recruits (pg. 132). You need to weigh out the options and evaluate its potential effectiveness versus its costs. Third, select the most qualified applicants. The selection phase has three steps, in the planning phase there may be qualifications specified and in the first step it is necessary to design a system for measuring the recruits against the standards from the planning phase. Then the system must be put into effect with the new applicants and then making the actual selection is the final step. The fourth activity is to hire those people who have been selected. Just because one makes an offer doesn’t mean that the job is done (pg. 132). One must convince a recruit that the job offers everything that they need and want to get them to join a company or at least highly consider it. The fifth activity is to assimilate the new hires into the company. This is done by placing them under direction of an employee in the firm and possibly giving them a mentor to help them feel comfortable working in the firm and going through the training programs.[citation needed]

Components of sales force automation system[edit]

When considering sales force automation systems not all are created equal. They are like selecting a new car. The systems can vary depending on what information the organization needs. The application also has implications based on their size, organization rollup, demand of new system, sales processes, and number of users.

Depending on what is needed, services can fall into 2 categories: on-premise software and on-demand (hosted) software. With on premise software, the customer manages and purchases the application. On-premise software has some advantages and disadvantages depending on what customers need. The disadvantage of on-premise to some is the higher cost of the software along with maintenance. Customization is also needed for some who use additional processes outside of the normal out of the box solution. Time is also a factor. Many on-premise software takes longer implementation times along with numerous testing and training sessions. The overall advantage of on-premise software is looking at the overall return on investment. Using the application for three to five years becomes more cost effective. Another advantage can be the based on the amount of data. With on-demand you are held to a certain volume restriction, but with on-premise your data restrictions are based on the storage size of your local hardware.[citation needed] The on-demand solution on the other hand takes shorter implementation time, less cost, and tailored to meet the customers need.[citation needed]

There are several tools that can be utilized when automating sales activities, example the following SaaS systems;WebCRM and LeadDesk.

Open source sales force automation[edit]

There are many SFA systems in the market. Small to medium size business and individual users have the choice of using the Open Source SFA solutions, online or cloud SFA solutions, and licensed SFA software solution. Open Source solutions regardless of application have become extremely popular over years.[citation needed]

Mobile sales force automation application[edit]

A huge number of sales managers are always on the go. The growth of smartphones has reignited the creation of mobile sales force automation systems. Most companies IT departments are aware that adopting new abilities requires extensive testing. Despite the time needed to test such a new product, it will pay off in the future for the sales department. Smartphones appeal to salespeople, a part of a company's department that is extremely resistant to new technologies. Smartphones are easy to carry and easy to use, great interface design, touchscreens and fast wireless network abilities like 4G and 3G phones.more than 55% of global 2000 organization will deploy mobile SFA project by 2011 and newer Smartphone platforms, such as Apple's iOS and Google's Android, point to a future of increasing diversity in device selecting and support for sales force. When implementing the mobile sales force automation application or during the first stage of systems development life cycle, project teams will need to evaluate how prospective solutions comprising mobile devices, software and support infrastructure and carrier services are packaged to deliver optimal system usability, manageability and integrative abilities, as well as high scalability, reliability and performance. It’s always good to put in mind that just like any new technology, success comes with usability.

Advantages to the marketing manager[edit]

  • Understanding the economic structure of an industry
  • Identifying segments within a market
  • Identifying a target market
  • Identifying the best customers in place
  • Doing marketing research to develop profiles (demographic, psychographic, and behavioral) of core customers
  • Understanding competitors and their products
  • Developing new products
  • Establishing environmental scanning mechanisms to detect opportunities and threats
  • Understanding one's company's strengths and weaknesses
  • Auditing customers' experience of a brand in
  • Developing marketing strategies for each of one's products using the marketing mix variables of price, product, distribution, and promotion
  • Coordinating the sales function with other parts of the promotional mix, such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, and publicity
  • Creating a sustainable competitive advantage
  • Understanding where brands should be in the future, and providing an empirical basis to write marketing plans regularly to help get there
  • Providing input into feedback systems to help monitor and adjust the process

Strategic advantages[edit]

Sales force automation systems can also create competitive advantage:

  • As mentioned above, productivity can increase. Sales staff can use their time more efficiently and effectively. The sales manager can become more efficient and effective (see above). This increased productivity can create a competitive advantage in three ways: it can reduce costs, it can increase sales revenue, and it can increase market share.
  • Field sales staff can send their information more often. Typically information can be sent to management after each sales call, rather than daily or weekly. This provides management with current information, which they can use while it is more valuable. Management response time can be greatly reduced. The company can become more alert and agile.
  • These systems could increase customer satisfaction if they are used with wisdom. If the information obtained and analyzed with the system is used to create a product that matches or exceeds customer expectations, and the sales staff use the system to service customers more expertly and diligently, then customers should be more satisfied with the company. This can provide a competitive advantage because customer satisfaction leads to increased customer loyalty, reduced customer acquisition costs, reduced price elasticity of demand, and increased profit margins.

Disadvantages[edit]

The major disadvantages in Sales Force Management Systems are:

  • Difficulty in adopting the system
  • Too much time spent on Data Entry
  • Losing personal touch in the process of automation
  • Laborious process of continuous maintenance, information updating, information cleansing and system upgrades
  • Cost involved in Sales Force Automation Systems and Maintenance
  • Difficulty in integration with other management information systems

Encouraging use[edit]

For all the reasons stated above many organisations have found it difficult to persuade sales people to enter data into the system. For this reason many have questioned the value of the investment. Recent developments have embedded sales process systems that give something back to the seller within the CRM screens. Because these systems help the sales person plan and structure their selling in the most effective way they give a reason to use the CRM.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Jordan, Jason (2009). Sales Management Best Practices: Six Essential Processes. Manage Smart. 
  • A Framework for Evaluating Sales Force Automation Functionality. Gartner. 2008. G00158560. 
  • Commonly Deployed CRM Applications by Large Consultants and System Integrators in 2009. Gartner. 2010. G00206045. 
  • Darmon, René Y. (2007). Introduction to the Dynamic Sales Force Management Process. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-84834-3. 
  • Haag, Stephen; Maeve Cummings; Donald J. McCubbrey; Alain Pinsonneault; Richard Donovan (2006). Management Information Systems for the Information Age (Third Canadian Edition ed.). Canada: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. pp. 50 & 176–177. ISBN 0-07-095569-7.