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SFA alone won't increase sales, survey finds

When you think of sales force automation, think process not just revenue, a new report suggests.

Sales force automation (SFA) technology implementations are valuable in many ways, but they shouldn't overshadow good old-fashioned salesmanship, a new Yankee Group survey suggests.

The survey of 500 marketing and sales executives found that even though most companies are pleased that SFA technology can cut administration costs, many acknowledge that the software on its own does not increase sales revenue.

"A lot of people look to SFA to increase sales effectiveness and, in the end, it's really only potentially reducing your cost of sales," said Sheryl Kingstone, program manager for CRM strategies at the Boston-based analyst firm. "There is still a huge need for increasing sales effectiveness."

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SFA software, which helps salespeople track contacts from the time they first enter as leads until they become customers, saves time and money by giving users a consolidated view of the sales pipeline, the study found. It also helps them to manage the lead process and sales opportunities more efficiently.

"Now the manager doesn't have to worry about manually consolidating up all the forecasts," Kingstone said of SFA. "It's helping companies make better decisions."

While SFA lowered costs, Kingstone said survey respondents generally felt that they weren't getting the same "bang for their buck," when it came to increasing the size of a deal or improving the performance of sales associates.

The analyst said these results are significant because they show that the primary reason for investing in SFA should be to optimize the processes that occur before and after an actual sale is made.

In addition, the survey respondents overwhelmingly indicated that having a strong sales methodology and deploying a sales and marketing portal are the keys to increasing sales revenue per salesperson.

Bronson Tang, one of the founders of EtomicMail, an e-mail security software vendor in San Diego, believes that his company's SFA software has helped make sales associates more productive. He said this will ultimately translate to increased sales.

Tang said his company deployed EB Suite's SFA module about two months ago because it provides sales associates, many of whom work at home, with a centralized virtual office. The managed SFA service allows the sales associates to share information such as calendar appointments and address books.

The module has also reduced administration costs significantly because EtomicMail no longer has to manage its own CRM system in-house. Another plus is that EB Suite trains new users, Tang said.

EtomicMail pays $20 per user each month for EB Suite's SFA module.

"A CRM tool is really the best way to leverage a person's time," Tang said.

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