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Salesforce Automation Learning Guide

This sales force automation (SFA) guide covers critical components of building and managing a successful and effective sales force. Learn how to get started with a sales strategy, the most important things to evaluate in sales force automation software, the latest on the mobile CRM trend and tips for effective sales management.

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Sales strategy: How to get started

In this section, learn how to begin designing a sales strategy and the most important things to consider during the planning stage. Find information about getting the sales process right, the top challenges for sales teams, tips for forecasting sales, how to define cross-selling and up-selling, and more. Once you've gathered some ideas for designing your sales strategy, move on to the next section of the Sales Force Automation Learning Guide to learn more about evaluating SFA software vendors.

Getting sales processes right

To get started with a standardized methodology and sales process, think first about what kind of product/service you're selling and what your sales culture dictates. Setting up a sales methodology will be different in every organization, but there are best practices and tools that every sales mananager should be familiar with, sales effectiveness expert Liz Roche explained.

According to Roche, translating product/service differentiation into customer value is one of the most difficult things sales reps do, so methodologies that help with this task should be at the top of any sales manager's list.

ValueVision Associates LLC, Miller Heiman Inc. and The TAS Group are a few of the consultancies that can help a sales manager get started with designing a sales methodology.

Miller-Heiman examined what drives sales effectiveness in a survey of nearly 2,300 sales organizations from around the world. The "winners" -- those who had year-over-year sales increases from 2002 to 2003 -- identified talent, process and skills as the priorities for continued success, said David Pearson, vice president of sales operations.

"The top organizations are asking, 'What are my best salespeople doing?' and, 'How do I leverage that through my mid-level performers who could be top performers?'" Pearson said.

Organizations that improved their sales revenues also focused on process, particularly "funnel management," Pearson said. A consistent process across the sales funnel, or pipeline, allows organizations to see where the best salespeople are moving quickly through the process, which helps the organization to focus its energy, Pearson said.

Top challenges for sales

When sales reps are missing their quotas, sales managers must have a clear set of goals for their sales departments. According to Barry Trailer, a partner at CSO Insights, these are the top five challenges affecting sales organizations:

  1. Increase revenue: "You would think [increasing revenue] would always be the case, but a few years ago [revenue growth] was considered a given," Trailer said in a 2004 interview. CSO Insights' survey, which gathered data from 1,300 sales executives, drove home just how big a challenge revenue growth is; nearly 70% of respondents identified it as their top priority, ahead of items such as increasing sales effectiveness and increasing market share.
  2. Add new, brighter sales reps: More than 65% of those surveyed said they intend to expand the size of their sales force during the next 12 months and focus on intensive training. Pictage Inc., a Torrance, Calif.-based firm that offers an online service for photographers, doubled its client base to more than 2,000, while only marginally increasing head count, said Scott Brogi, the company's vice president of business development in a 2004 interview.
  3. Improve lead management and sales forecasting: "It's important for us not only to get the lead to the right people, but to track the process," Brogi said. Pictage began using hosted CRM software from Boston-based Salesnet (now owned by Bozeman, Mont.-based RightNow) in 2003 to help manage its leads. It also began having reps contact people promptly, using a couple of Web-based applications to track marketing campaigns. As the CSO Insights report concluded, "To put it mildly, forecasting sucks." More than 90% of sales deals did not close as forecasted, Trailer said. He predicted a big push toward improving forecasting methods.
  4. Populate sales force automation software with accurate data: Keeping information current and persuading staff to use the current CRM system are perennial challenges, Trailer said.
  5. Working harder for the same or diminishing results: Sales executives say they increasingly expend more effort for every deal that eventually closes.

Setting up for sales effectiveness

In order to be effective with SFA, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) must pay attention to critical CRM planning steps. In fact, skipping the CRM planning process often leads to making poor software selection decisions and to costly and disruptive software implementation projects.

According to CRM expert Jim Berkowitz, a sales manager at an SMB should complete the following steps before researching CRM software:

  • Develop a CRM strategy for your enterprise
  • Figure out specifically what business problems you want to address.
  • Define several formal, measurable objectives for your CRM initiative.
  • Uncover technology issues your organization faces, like integrating your CRM solution with your accounting system and customer data capture, accuracy and maintenance.
  • Gain a solid understanding of how what you're planning will affect:
    • Your people.
    • Your current business processes (if, indeed, you have formal, structured, repeatable processes in your marketing, sales and customer service areas).
    • And, most importantly, the satisfaction and loyalty of your customers.
  • Put someone with a lot of knowledge and experience with CRM in charge of your project (and consider hiring a consultant to provide guidance to your CRM project team).

A good place to start a sales effectiveness strategy is with an assessment of the enterprise's current organizational, customer management, business process, and technology situation (as it relates to CRM), Berkowitz said. This will help sales managers uncover and begin to address risk areas that could hamper success with a CRM software initiative. In total there are about seventy specific risk factors that you should evaluate.

Tips for forecasting sales

Sales forecasting can be improved by encouraging accuracy of the SFA system. This isn't easy --- forecast accuracy is one of the top three metrics identified across industries as being extremely difficult to fix. But it is critical to managing sales.

To improve forecasting sales results, sales managers should make changes to the SFA system as often as needed to make it mirror and support the sales process and create effective training programs tailored by role. They must create an environment of criticality and extreme visibility. Sales reps must be prepared to have their pipelines interrogated on a number of levels, including all levels of sales management: field/district management, regional management and the vice president of sales. The most critical element of process/system adoption is the use of periodic phone calls from the executive team to field sales reps and managers in order to discuss accounts in the pipeline or express interest in metrics/rankings.

According to sales expert Liz Roche, sales managers who implement this strategy will see a payoff. This process should allow improved decision-making criteria for investments and expenses, as well as for enablement of more accurate financial projections.

Defining cross-selling and up-selling

Cross-selling and up-selling are two commonly used sales techniques. When sales reps up-sell, they convince customers to increase the value of their orders (both to the customer and to the business) by:

• Moving "up" to a more expensive version of what they're already considering purchasing (e.g., the eight cylinder vehicle instead of the six cylinder)
• Adding to their orders with additional vertically-related products or services (e.g., the classic, "Would you like fries with that?"; or the extended warranty). Vertically related products or services enhance or are related to the core or base product.

A cross-sell refers to sales of another product/service type horizontally related (i.e., another type of product/service usually orthogonally related if at all) to what the customer is already considering.

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