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What Is Sales Force Automation?

Every sales cycle is a complex, multi-faceted process made up of numerous inter-related tasks. From prospecting, contact management, and sales forecasting, through order processing and tracking and performance analysis, these tasks must work seamlessly together in order to ensure smooth, efficient end-to-end sales operations. But while all these components are critical, they are often time-consuming and labor-intensive, distracting sales staff from their primary objectives – to work with potential clients, close business, and expand the customer base.

Sales force automation (SFA) is designed to streamline all facets of the sales process, replacing manual, disjointed, and redundant tasks with simplified and tightly-aligned procedures. SFA leverages advanced technologies to enhance collaboration and information-sharing and automate critical sales-related activities.

Sales force automation is a vital, must-have component of any customer relationship management (CRM) strategy. When closely aligned and integrated with marketing and customer service automation systems, SFA becomes an integral part of CRM operations, allowing your company to more effectively manage customer interactions across all touch-points, so you can enhance satisfaction and improve loyalty and retention.

Key Benefits for Your Company

Sales force automation provides dramatic productivity increases. Field reps spend less time managing contact data and trying to keep track of their sales opportunities. Territory managers have faster, more accurate insight into the activities of their staff. And, sales analysts have instant access to the information they need to generate precise forecasts and track results. With sales force automation, your company can accelerate sales cycles, close more business, boost revenues, and increase market share. SFA can also help to expand your profit margins by reducing the costs associated with customer acquisition.

Does My Company Need Sales Force Automation?

Sales force automation is ideal for any company with intricate sales processes that require coordination of activities among numerous staff members or across multiple departments. In many businesses today, the data needed to complete a sale resides in multiple locations – usually on several different desktops or in disparate front office applications. With SFA, all those involved in your sales cycle will have access to a single, centralized repository of detailed, up-to-date sales information. As a result, communication is improved, workflow is streamlined, and resources are fully optimized.

Common SFA Features

Most sales force automation solutions offer a broad range of functionality that will address the needs of many different types of users – from sales reps and managers, to analysts and administrators. Some of the standard features of pre-packaged SFA products include:

  • Contact management to enable sales reps to better manage their prospects, appointments, and activities and to more effectively track their opportunities.
  • Sales forecasting to help predict future sales based on past trends and history.
  • Mobile capabilities that provide anytime, anywhere access to account, inventory, or product data while reps are on the road.
  • Order tracking and purchase history reporting to give reps the intelligence they need to put more effective up-sell and cross-sell strategies into place.
  • Sales performance reporting and analysis, so managers and analysts can measure actual sales against forecasts and quotas and identify areas in need of improvement.

Additionally, because most companies today have limited technical resources, many sales force automation solutions are designed to minimize burden on IT staff. Most of these solutions are Web-based, so they can be implemented quickly, are easy to maintain, and require little or no additional infrastructure. Hosted SFA solutions are also available to further minimize the financial and IT commitment required.

What to Look for When Choosing a Solution

One of the key selection criteria for a sales force automation solution is flexibility. While there are numerous “off-the-shelf” SFA packages available today, many companies have discovered that the “one size fits all” approach to sales force automation simply does not work. For example:

  • Different vertical industries have different sales processes. The tasks involved in closing a software deal are not the same as the activities that take place when selling an insurance policy.
  • Different sales opportunities require different procedures. The way an inside sales or telesales rep will up-sell or cross-sell to an existing customer is not the same as the way a direct sales rep will penetrate a new account or the way a sale will be completed through a re-seller or channel partner.
  • Techniques and strategies vary greatly from one sales rep to another. Each will have their own unique way of approaching prospect and sales cycle management.

In order to be truly successful with sales force automation, you need to choose a product with robust customization capabilities so that the solution can be tailored to meet the specific requirements of your business. Additionally, individual personalization capabilities are critical, so each member of your sales staff can structure the solution in a way that will work best for them.

With the right solution and enabling technologies in place, sales force automation can empower you to optimize sales productivity and positively impact the bottom line.

Need a next step? Be sure to check out our exclusive Top 10 Sales Force Automation software report.