John Everhard from Pegasystems examines how investing in sales force automation technology can help drive sales for your business.
Despite investment in systems that support sales force automation, organisations are still finding it difficult to achieve seamless management of all related sales and associated back-office processes that optimise sales efficiency. Studies show that sales representatives are spending 60% of their time on non-sales activities such as admin work, reporting, research and chasing-up delivery. This results in major inefficiencies that are holding back sales teams.
So there is a strong case for improving information management for sales forces and automating more of the core processes involved to help sales teams make better decisions and achieve their sales targets. In looking to improve sales force automation (SFA), many organisations may be tempted to rip out and replace existing systems but this strategy is costly, difficult to implement and can cause unnecessary complications and delays. A new smarter approach to SFA is required.
The key to implementing successful SFA systems lies in how organisations consider alternative options that offer more flexibility and reflect more closely how sales representatives interact with prospects and customers. When dealing with large enterprise customers, for example, sales representatives need to account for multiple sales roles (partners, agents, brokers), multiple products, territories, geographies, pricing structures, product combinations.
Traditional SFA solutions
Traditional SFA systems tend to be quite generic and are not able to account for all these complex relationships within and across the organisation. This creates a lot of excessive manual work for sales representatives. Furthermore these systems are not easily adaptable to changes related to products, process, sales personnel and regulations as they require customisation through coding which more often than not pollutes the SFA application to a point where it becomes unmanageable This has the effect of increasing the cost of maintenance, increasing the complexity of system upgrades and reducing the business agility to respond to changing market conditions, new product to sell releases, pricing and so on.
Another significant issue arises from the poor integration between traditional SFA solutions and back office systems. Instead of effectively leveraging the data and resources from existing IT systems, traditional SFA solutions create one more silo of data and, by doing this, introduce more manual reporting and complexity for sales staff. This approach limits the effectiveness of the SFA system and reduces the ability to capture and systematically guide sales representatives through the end-to-end sales process.
To boost sales efficiency and drive customer acquisition and retention, organisations need to be able to close these execution gaps and more effectively align sales activities with marketing, customer service and back-office processes.
To date, organisations have struggled to create a 360 degree view of potential and existing customers and their accounts within their business. Moreover, they haven’t been able to consider a ‘High Definition’ view of their customers that includes not only data but customer and business intent along with a 3600 view of the end-to-end processes. If an organisation can achieve a 3600 view of each of these three elemnts and combine them into a 10800 view, they will be in a much stronger position to increase sales, increase customer satisfaction and achieve sales operational excellence.
The BPM approach
To take this a step further, businesses need to be able to capture and automate the best sales practices and align them with marketing and customer services processes to improve sales efficiency. Such an approach will enable businesses to automatically assign leads to the right sales person and move work across systems and people including sales partners, fulfillment partners, legal finance, etc., while centrally managing all these activities. This approach, based on Business Process Management (BPM), will enable organisations to integrate activities such as product fulfillment and recommendation into the sales management process and further improve customer acquisition and product uptake for new offerings.
By providing intelligent recommendations for the best products and services that match the needs of potential customers and by guiding sales representatives through the next best action in the sales process, businesses will be able to go beyond traditional SFA activities and focus on developing more lasting and satisfying relationships with the customer. This will enable organisations to move beyond basic automation of sales processes to a new approach based on next-best-action sales decisioning that leverages data insight to guide sales people through the most appropriate actions at a given situation. Therefore automation shouldn’t be considered only in terms of workflow, it should be viewed as a way to help sales representatives to close complex deals where context is incredibly important.
This will enable organisations to manage the sales process in a customer-centric way that focuses on establishing a long-term relationship with the prospect. With this technology, businesses can go even a step further by leveraging predictive analytics to identify key trends in customers’ and prospects’ behaviour and predict their needs. By bringing together process automation and decisioning, organisations will be able to innovate in the way they interact with potential and existing customers and bring more added value to their business.
Another great advantage of the BPM approach is that it allows IT managers to easily make changes into existing processes and systems to better align sales activities with business objectives. This enables IT people to rapidly adapt to new markets, regulations, products, pricing, competition and sales content without having to execute complex, costly and time consuming system customisation and programming.
With such improved flexibility businesses can achieve better differentiation from their competitors, while improving customer experience and boosting sales. By leveraging business insight, customer data and decisioning analytics, organisations will be able to guide sales processes more effectively and optimise each interaction with prospects and customers to deliver highest ROI.
This will not only positively affect the business bottom line, but will also provide unrivalled competitive edge to help organisations stay on the forefront of business success and innovation.
John Everhard is technical director at Pegasystems.