What is SFA? Advantages of SFA Implementation

Categories CRM

Basic knowledge, differences from CRM, and advantages of implementation

SFA is an abbreviation of Sales Force Automation, which means sales support system

It is said to be indispensable for improving sales efficiency, and the number of companies implementing it is increasing every year. But the benefits of implementing it and how to implement it are still not widely known.

In this article, I will give you an overview of SFA, the differences between SFA and CRM, the functions of SFA tools, how to use SFA, and how to implement it efficiently.

SFA is a method and tool to support sales

SFA is an abbreviation for Sales Force Automation, which means a sales support system. It refers to a method and tool for supporting sales, visualizing the progress of the sales from the start of negotiations to the receipt of orders, and managing their activities.

In addition to preparing customer lists and making telephone appointments, salespeople also prepare proposals, quotations, and proposals, send out information to prospective customers, visit customers for business meetings, respond to complaints, and follow up with existing customers. So there are many repetitive and routine tasks.

By automating that part, salespeople can focus on core tasks such as approaching promising prospects, leading to increased sales.

Difference between SFA and CRM

CRM is often mentioned together with SFA.

CRM is called Customer Relationship Management. It is a customer-centric marketing method that records and manages customer attributes and their contact history with the company through various channels and aims to increase fans through customer-specific communication, leading to increased sales and profitability.

In a broader sense, CRM includes support and management of sales activities, so I imagine SFA as one of the parts of CRM in practice.

Difference between SFA and MA

MA (Marketing Automation) means automation of marketing. It aims to streamline marketing activities using IT tools to automate part or all marketing activities processes, leading to increased sales and profitability.

SFA aims at improving the efficiency of salespeople who are in charge of potential customers. MA aims at improving marketing efficiency to acquire and nurture potential customers, so these are side-by-side relationships.

Main functions of SFA tools

An SFA tool is an IT tool for performing SFA. You can use Excel to record sales activities, but SFA tools generally refer to sales support systems with various functions.

The main functions of SFA tools are as follows:

Customer management

Not only CRM but also SFA has the most necessary information acquisition and management of customer information, and SFA tools also have the function of centrally managing customer information. By centrally managing and sharing information such as company name, location, contact information, name of the person in charge, attributes of the person in charge, as well as inquiries and transaction history within the company, it is possible to prevent mistakes such as duplicate sales by sales staff or failure to take over when changing the person in charge.

Case management

Case management is the function of centrally managing the detailed information of each case. With the conventional sales method, only the person in charge knows the details of each case. There is a tendency for an inadequate response when the person in charge is not available. Also, sales activities tend to rely on personal experience and intuition.

By visualizing the progress of each case through case management, you accumulate sales know-how as an organization. Analyze past deal history and content to find the best approach.

Quotation creation

SFA tools are also equipped with the ability to issue quotations quickly and without spending much time. By providing price quotes at the right time when customers are eager to buy, you can increase the likelihood of closing the deal and prevent customers from flowing to your competitors.

Process management

Process management is a function for visualizing and managing the business processes of sales representatives. It quantifies and organizes actions and results such as the number of telephone appointment calls, the number of visits, the number of negotiations, and the closing rate. It can be used as a standard for personnel evaluation and also helps to find bottlenecks.

Sales forecasting and forecast management

SFA tools can visualize sales forecasts and actual results based on various criteria, such as by sales representative, by the department, by the customer, and by the product or service. It makes it easier to compare forecasts and actuals so you can measure your goal reach smoothly.

Schedule and task management

The centralized schedule management function helps managers in sales management. It also enables more efficient collaboration by sharing schedules among sales representatives.

Task management helps each salesperson focus on high-priority tasks and can also be used by managers to manage tasks.

Daily and weekly reports

Daily and weekly reports are functions that help managers keep track of and manage the actions and achievements of each sales representative.

Aggregation and analysis reports

Some SFA tools even can analyze data and create aggregate reports using AI (artificial intelligence). These reports can be analyzed from various angles, such as by-product or area, and can also be used to create meeting materials.

Advantages of using SFA tools

The advantage of implementing SFA tools is that it will ultimately lead to increased sales and profitability by streamlining sales activities.

More specifically, the advantages are as follows:

Enables salespeople to focus on their core business

The SFA tool provides functions to help you streamline your on-the-go tasks, including opportunity lists, quotation creation, and scheduling management. Also, by sharing information, it is possible to obtain know-how from past cases and actions.

By visualizing the sales process, it is easier to get accurate advice from supervisors and managers, which leads to improved work efficiency. Salespeople can spend more time on their core tasks, such as approaching promising customers and communicating carefully with them.

Help identify and eliminate bottlenecks by identifying sales processes

Recording the actions of each salesperson makes it easier to check business processes and help you find bottlenecks. By eliminating bottlenecks, you can expect sales to increase.

Increasing the reproducibility of sales

By analyzing accumulated deal information and opportunity information, you can extract approaches with a high probability of success, which improves sales reproducibility. 

By sharing know-how within the company, it is possible to reduce personal strengths and weaknesses. And it is also possible to conduct sales without relying solely on the intuition and experience of individuals.

Easier to manage customer lists, tasks, etc.

Centralizing the information management with an SFA tool can reduce the burden on salespeople by eliminating the need to enter information and create documents for different purposes.

Points to consider when using SFA tools

SFA tools have many advantages of implementation. But to gain these advantages, you need to make effective use of SFA tools.

There are three main points for utilizing SFA tools as follows:

Follow-up with sales staff

Even if the implementation of SFA tools will lead to more efficient sales and increased sales in the medium to long term, it is expected that there will be opposition and backlash against the changes in the familiar system.

So when implementing SFA tools, it is necessary to share the purpose of the implementation with the sales force to gain understandings and provide training to help all staff members adjust to the new system smoothly. 

Until they get used to the system, it may be necessary to encourage them to perform daily input tasks. It is also more effective to show managers take the lead in using SFA tools.

Of course, it is also necessary to have a user-friendly system that salespeople themselves find useful and well-thought-out as they use it. Be sure to consider whether the product has a better user interface when choosing an SFA tool.

Set and measure KPIs

To effectively utilize SFA, it is necessary to set KPIs that serve as indicators for visualization.

A KPI is an indicator used to evaluate the degree of achievement of a goal. KPIs of sales include the number of visits, the closing rate, the number of sales deals, and the amount of money spent per customer.

When setting KPIs, the first step is to get the current figures, such as the monthly sales target, the product price to be sold, the percentage of appointments made through telephone calls, the number of sales contracts made through visits, and then calculate back from there.

By setting KPIs, you can clarify the actions you need to take, visualize the process to achieve your goals. Also, you can increase the motivation and capabilities of your entire organization by sharing goals.

It is necessary to check the progress accurately to achieve the KPIs you set. With the SFA tool, you can check the contract amount on the dashboard and also whether the opportunities listed in the forecast have increased or decreased.

Also, during the one-on-one meeting with the manager, it is better to use the SFA tool to check the status of achievement or expected achievement against the goals.

PDCA cycle

The effects of implementing SFA do not appear immediately. It is necessary to implement the PDCA cycle while measuring the effectiveness through KPI to improve sales efficiency and increase sales through the data accumulation, visualization of the sales process, detection of problems, and improvement.

Regarding how to use SFA tools, SFA tool providers also provide consulting services and training courses to assist.

How to efficiently implement SFA

Let's take a look at the main functions of MA tools, the benefits of linking with SFA, and the points to keep in mind when linking.

Linking SFA tools and MA tools

By linking SFA tools and MA tools, it is possible to automate everything from the acquisition of prospective customers, which is the stage before the sales team comes into play, to the customer nurturing process and follow-up.

If you had a meeting but did not make a deal, or if your customer canceled his or her orders, you can automate the follow-up so that you can maintain the relationship and approach again.

For example, the system can detect when potential customers who did not make a deal have requested information on the website again so you can approach them at the right time and with the right content.

The main functions of MA tools are as follows:

Core functions of MA tools

Lead (potential customer) management function

MA tools have a function to centrally manage lead attribute data, behavioral data, and communication history.

Scoring function

The scoring function is a function that predicts the level of interest and consideration based on the lead's behavior and response and determines the priority of each lead.

When SFA and MA are linked, sales representatives can check the scoring information by MA on SFA and work more efficiently when developing new leads or re-approaching lost order lists.

Mail distribution function

MA tools also have an email delivery function that sends out information according to the lead's purchasing intent and area.

There are many different types of email delivery tools, and there are also low-cost tools that specialize in email delivery only. There are two main advantages to using the email delivery function of MA tools.

The first is that you can use the SFA tool for segmentation; by synchronizing all the information registered in the SFA tool with the purchase intent based on the scoring mentioned above, you can directly use it for mail delivery segments.

In addition to relatively simple segments, such as by area, you can segment only those who the salespeople checked as potential with the SFA tool.

The second is triggered mails. Triggered mail refers to a system that automatically sends emails to potential customers based on their behavior.

You can send an email with the content that suits the customer's behavior at the right time by referring to the registered contents of the SFA tool, such as when the customer downloads the material on the website, when you lose the order as a result of business negotiation, or when you receive a call.

Internal alert function

You can send out email alerts to salespeople when prospects or existing customers open emails or engage in web activities. You can then set various conditions to make the emails what your salespeople want to receive.

For example, if you are using a service with an annual contract from another company. You have entered the renewal month information and the name of the service you are using in SFA, and you will be able to receive a very accurate alert such as "A customer will be renewing the XX service in X month."

Collaboration between SFA tools and MA tools is beneficial for both sales and marketing

In conventional sales and marketing methods, the sales and marketing departments do not work well together. The sales department complains to the marketing department that the quality of prospective customers is not good. But the marketing department feels frustrated that the sales department does not respond well to customers except for those on the verge of closing the deal. 

Linking SFA tools and MA tools can help resolve such conflicts between the two.

Specifically, the integration of both tools allows salespeople to find out where their customers interact with the company, how many times they view which pages of the website, and what channels during the marketing phase. You can also check the probability of closing a contract numerically and take the most effective approach tailored to each customer.

On the other hand, marketing staff can also check the status of business negotiations at any time after introducing them to the sales department and develop follow-up measures using MA triggered by the activity history in SFA.

I explained earlier that setting KPIs is necessary to utilize SFA, but it is also more effective for collaboration between departments.

By making it easier to see each other's business processes and results through KPIs, you can expect to eliminate complaints such as marketing is not contributing to the company's sales or sales is wasting the potential customers that marketing delivered.

The collaboration between SFA and MA will bring benefits to both sales and marketing.

Points to consider when linking SFA tools and MA tools

Some SFA tools and MA tools cannot be linked with each other.

If you are thinking of linking, be sure that you check the specifications before implementing and choose a tool that can be linked.

Use SFA to improve sales efficiency

SFA refers to the use of IT tools to automate part or all of sales activities process, with the ultimate goal of increasing sales and improving profitability. SFA tools are a generic term for services and software that are useful for SFA.

SFA tools are only meaningful when sales staff enter data daily, so when deciding on a product to implement, it is of utmost importance that it is user-friendly for sales staff in the field. Generous support for successful use, such as implementation support and consulting services, is also essential. Also, to use it efficiently, it is necessary to match it with MA tools that support marketing automation.

See also:
Reasons for Failure in Implementing CRM Tools
Open Source CRM Software and Tools
Customer Relationship Management Tools / CRM Software
CRM System
Advantages and Disadvantages of CRM

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