When it comes to Sales Force Automation software, companies have a lot to choose from. In addition, choices about sales force automation take place in a much greater context, where firms are also choosing many other kinds of enterprise software. Deciphering some of the contrasts between SFA vendors often requires quite a bit of research into how different enterprise offerings work.
What is SFA Software?
Sales Force Automation software is a particular kind of enterprise software aimed at supporting sales teams. But the market sometimes suffers from a little ambiguity.
A lot of times, Sales Force Automation gets lumped into the category of Customer Relationship Management. Buyers might get SFA tools as part of a greater CRM suite of software applications. But SFA and CRM actually do different things. Customer Relationship Management software is primarily aimed at understanding the client, and developing software for every step of the contact chain between the initial encounter, and conversion or purchase.
By contrast, Sales Force Automation software is aimed at sales management. Its primary purpose is to help sales teams to understand their processes, and to automate parts of a deal-making process. So there will also be some overlap between SFA and CRM, but they’re not the same. However, purchasers may encounter SFA in a CRM product, or as a stand-alone product. They also might see SFA applications folded into an Enterprise Resource Planning product suite.
Things That SFA Does
Sales Force Automation software analyzes sales processes in detail. An SFA tool might monitor a sales pipeline, map out a sales funnel, or manage different ‘silos’ of customers. These tools might look at call center analytics, or track other kinds of contact with customers. They may be deeply tied into the CRM tools that help tie the company to its customer base, but they’ll also be integrated back into business intelligence tools that serves the sales teams well.
So how do you evaluate Sales Force Automation software?
Match SFA Tools to a Company’s Needs
One of the big steps in choosing SFA software is to choose solutions that match the company’s model. For example, many companies are classified as “direct sell” companies. They use sales teams in the field, or call centers, or both. These companies benefit from specifically constructed SFA tools that track these contact points well, and provide excellent orienting information and metadata about these person-to-person processes.
Other companies do a lot of selling through specialized networks, e-commerce portals, shopping carts etc. Here, there is more of a focus on developing analytics for online processes and tracking sales outlooks according to the portal and process that is used.
Then there are the large companies that do all of the above. They may need more elaborate and sophisticated multi-segmented SFA solutions. One other class of buyer could be called a “small-business” SFA buyer. Many of these businesses use a central customer relationship management tool as its own kind of platform for business intelligence, and it makes sense to fold SFA into that.
Choose a Connection Model
Another big consideration is the ways in which SFA software will connect workers to information. There is a big trend towards Software as a Service or SaaS, where data is located in the cloud and gets delivered to businesses over the web. Part of the appeal of this is its scalability and flexibility, as well as the ability to easily port data streams where they need to go.
There is also a trend towards mobile-first platforms — companies that endow each salesperson with a dedicated smartphone or device may want these types of solutions so that professionals can access information primarily from mobile, rather than breaking out laptop or desktop computers. There is also the drive toward integrated social media, where more of what’s happening in sales takes place on big platforms like this.
Look for the Functionality
The bottom line is that businesses must choose SFA systems that offer them the features that will do what they want SFA to do — whether that means decreasing costs, developing robust lead platforms, or just learning more about the ways that salespeople connect with customers. In a practical sense, buyers will be comparing features like tracking metrics, secure communications channels and visual dashboards to understand what type of SFA product is best for their offices. Try to take an SFA product for a test drive, and delve into the available features to understand how they’ll help salespeople and sales managers out in the real world.