Useful Functions of SFA and Key Points for Successful SFA Implementation
This article will provide a comprehensive explanation of SFA, including how SFA is helpful in sales, typical useful functions of SFA, and key points for successful SFA implementation.
More and more companies are incorporating SFA into their sales activities. If you are reading this, are you thinking of implementing SFA in your company?
These are some of the questions and concerns you may have:
- Isn't the daily input work too much work?
- Isn't it a hassle to input data every day? Even if I implement SFA, it's useless if I don't use it anymore.
- I don't know what SFA can do for me, and I don't know what it has done for the companies that implemented it.
In fact, there are many companies that have implemented SFA but have not been able to use it properly and have returned to their original sales style.
Table of contents:
- The difference between SFA and CRM lies in the purpose
- Five useful functions of SFA
- Three reasons why SFA is necessary for future sales activities
- Key points for successful SFA implementation
SFA (Sales Force Automation)
In this chapter, we will explain what SFA is in an easy-to-understand manner, covering the basics.
SFA is a system to visualize sales activities
SFA is an abbreviation for Sales Force Automation and is a system that can accumulate and analyze all information used in sales activities. It is also called a sales support system. You can say that it is automated support for the sales force.
In traditional sales activities, even if customer information is collected, it is not used effectively enough. Some of the reasons for this are as follows:
- Data is scattered and not shared across internal departments
- The amount of data itself has become particularly huge nowadays
- It takes extraordinary time and effort to sort and share them by human power
The strength of SFA is that it collects this data and links it to its entire sales activities for automated analysis and forecasting.
By using SFA, you can visualize how your company relates to your customers and think about how you can streamline your sales activities so that all salespeople can provide services to customers with the same information without being biased toward individuality.
The difference between SFA and CRM lies in the purpose
SFA and CRM are often treated as a set, but in a nutshell, SFA is a visualization of sales activities, while CRM is a visualization of customer information.
Since the purpose of each is different, the functions included in each are also different.
Purpose of SFA: Visualization of sales activities
SFA has functions mainly related to the work progress of salespeople.
For example, SFA is equipped with functions that allow you to grasp the progress of your target figures and daily sales status in real-time.
Thus, the sales manager can check the figures and advise the salesperson on any problems they may be having.
In addition, since the sales status and sales forecast can be checked for each salesperson, the sales manager can strategically aim to achieve the numerical targets by changing the team organization in response to the progress of the numerical targets and changing the priority of the projects to be pursued.
Purpose of CRM: Visualization of customer information
CRM is equipped with functions to manage all kinds of information about customers.
For example, you can manage information such as when and what customers purchased, what actions you did after purchase, and so on.
Thus, it is possible to analyze what each customer is looking for and make predictions to deliver the most appropriate product and service information.
In addition, the customer information accumulated in CRM can be used not only in sales but also in management and product/service development, etc.
Five useful functions of SFA
SFA has a wide range of functions.
Here is a brief explanation of what SFA can do in an easy-to-understand manner:
Function to manage information about sales proposals
You can manage the following information for individual opportunities:
- Target customers (sales destinations)
- The salesperson in charge
- Which products (services) are you proposing?
- How far have sales activities progressed?
- What is the likelihood of receiving an order?
- What is the expected date and expected amount of the order?
The case information in SFA gives you a clear picture of the status of the case.
Function to manage details of business negotiations
A business meeting management system records the details of each business meeting itself, up to the point of receiving an order.
- Purpose of the visit
- Time spent in the meeting
- The person in charge at the customer side
- Details of previous business meetings, if any
- Proposal amount
- How to negotiate the deal
Negotiation management is the same as the other functions of SFA in the sense that it can eliminate waste by visualizing the contents of negotiations.
It also visualizes how top salespeople conduct their sales activities and how they close deals. Therefore, it is a convenient function for salesperson training.
Action management function
This function is a function to record and manage the sales process of each employee involved in sales.
You can manage the following actions that lead to orders:
- How many visits did a salesperson make to a particular product?
- What did a salesperson propose to the customer?
- What did a salesperson propose to the customer, and what was the order rate?
Since you can compare and analyze the differences between salespeople who have good sales results and those who do not, it will be easier to improve.
For salespeople whose performance was not so good, it will be easier to set future goals.
Function to manage sales forecast
This function allows you to manage the progress of sales by comparing sales with the budget. It is possible to forecast the sales of individual salespeople and sales by product.
Since it is possible to visualize the number of potential orders and sales forecast by product by month and by term, it becomes easier to take measures such as prioritizing orders for hot-selling products and increasing the number of potential customer orders.
Sales managers can take measures to increase sales, such as changing the allocation of sales staff.
Function to manage customer information
It is a function that is often associated with CRM (customer management systems).
Customer management in SFA includes basic information such as personal information of customers, of course, but especially in the case of SFA, a sales support system, the following customer-related information can be recorded for B2B business partners:
- Company name
- Business card information and title
- Contact history with in-house sales staff so far
Since it can be linked to the case management and negotiation management described above, for example, even if the person in charge is not available, it is possible to prepare the necessary documents for a business meeting or respond smoothly to urgent customer requests.
Three reasons why SFA is necessary for future sales activities
So far, I think you have understood the functions of SFA and the effects that it can have on your sales activities by using it well.
However, some of you may still think that you can get results without using SFA.
Therefore, in this chapter, I will explain why you should implement SFA to develop your sales activities in the future.
Sales activities can be streamlined and optimized
By accumulating and analyzing customer information, it is possible to increase sales and improve the success rate of business negotiations.
With SFA tools, you can manage the activity status of all sales staff, the flow of negotiations, and potential cases and check them at any time. Based on this information, it is possible to predict and decide on future actions.
In addition to supporting customer-related sales activities, SFA can also be used to perform daily reports, travel expense calculations, and other input tasks related to sales activities, thereby providing the advantage of centralized information management.
With these efficiencies and optimizations, you can automate and streamline your operations and spend more time on other parts, such as close communication with your customers, communication that you can only do with your customers. It also increases customer satisfaction and provides more detailed information.
Allowing you to break away from dependence on individual skills
With SFA, information can be centrally managed so that it can be shared company-wide, and sales activities can be shifted from personalization to standardization.
In the past, most sales activities were based on experience, intuition, and earning by foot (i.e., hitting many customers without any evidence).
Because they were relying on their individual senses, they were not able to share information on why they sold and what sales methods were effective. This reliance on an individual's ability is called dependence.
SFA is a tool to support this. It is essential that everyone can perform sales activities in the same way.
In addition, by sharing information, knowledge, and know-how, there is no variation in sales employees who teach new employees' education, and waste is reduced, leading to a reduction in educational costs.
The use of SFA enables standardized sales activities that do not rely on the skills of individual salespeople.
Visualization of sales progress and future forecasts and goals can strengthen the entire organization
The ability to predict and plan future goals and visualize them to the entire team strengthens the organization.
The best feature of SFA is that it learns from the accumulated data, predicts future customer trends, and can propose sales activities based on the predictions.
In particular, by linking with CRM, it is possible to make predictions with fewer uncertainties, such as how far you are recently approaching a single customer, which information you have given and which is lacking, and when to make a new approach in the future.
In order to make the best use of SFA capabilities, the accumulation of data is first and foremost necessary.
Key points for successful SFA implementation
Everything can go wrong, but many people want to be as risk-free as possible when implementing SFA with a limited budget and time.
Here are some key points to help you implement SFA with as little chance of failure as possible:
Determine where the problem lies and specify how you want to improve it
There is a reason why sales performance is not improving. Identify where the problem is and what you need to do to improve the situation.
If you don't know the problem, you can't solve the problem by using only tools and systems.
For example, the following problems are possible:
- Drastic differences in the abilities and skills of individual sales teams
- Poor communication between salespeople and internal staff
- It is troublesome to fill in clerical documents, such as daily report entry, and transportation settlement documents, and the settlement mechanism
- It takes time and effort to retrieve customer information
- Information cannot be shared, such as it is difficult to see which projects are progressing and how much
- It is unpredictable from the current sales what the future sales target will be
There are many reasons why things go wrong, depending on the company and the industry.
It is important to identify the cause of the problem, specify how you want to improve it, and then implement an SFA that can address it.
Implementing a cloud-based SFA
I recommend that you implement a cloud-based SFA tool first.
Because you spend a lot of money and time to develop your own SFA tool, but it may not fit your needs.
For this reason, it is better to implement cloud-based SFA in some departments or groups first. If the salespeople in the field who actually use the SFA say, "This tool is useful," then you should consider a full-scale company-wide implementation.
It is important to implement a cloud-based SFA first to determine if salespeople are comfortable with SFA.
Choose a simple and easy-to-use UI
UI (User interface) refers to the operation screen of so-called applications and PCs.
Of course, it is important to have a full range of functions, but first and foremost, choose an SFA that is easy to read and use.
When you change to a new smartphone or home appliance, have you ever had trouble using it in a different way than before?
In the same way, it is not surprising that salespeople who are suddenly required to use a different sales tool may be confused at first.
It usually takes time to learn how to use them. Some salespeople who have been working for many years may not be good at IT. Even so, they still have to input information on a daily basis.
Information accumulation is an essential material for SFA to reach its full potential of analysis and prediction.
If the usage rate of SFA by salespeople does not increase, the meaning of implementing SFA will fade.
Even though you will get used to it as you use it, it is natural that the much easier you start using it, the better. It is stressful to continue to use a tool that is difficult to use.
Choose a UI that is easy to use, intuitive, and as simple as possible, even for salespeople who are not good at IT.
Choosing a tool that you can customize fit your company's situation
As mentioned above, when implementing SFA for the first time, it is important to choose a cloud-based system and start small. However, it is also important to choose one that is highly customizable.
If you gradually get used to SFA and all salespeople become able to use it, there is a possibility that there will be places where you feel it is not suitable for the way you work.
The items and processes you need will vary from industry to industry. In some cases, preconfigured functions may not be necessary, and in other cases, the tool you choose may not include the features you need.
It is important to choose an SFA tool that is highly customizable to meet the needs of salespeople.
Choosing a tool that has a support system to help you settle in
Choose an SFA tool that has a support service to answer questions such as how to operate SFA.
SFA is a tool that can significantly contribute to sales activities and sales if used well. The belief that "it is an SFA tool used by many companies, so I'm sure you can use it in-house" is a big mistake.
In fact, there have been many cases of people who have implemented SFA, but were unable to use it well, were unpopular with salespeople, and ended up canceling the service before they even knew what was going on.
I recommend that you choose an SFA tool that has a support system to make the SFA tool take root in the field.
Difference between CRM and SFA
I think you can now understand that SFA is an indispensable tool for sales activities.
However, tools are not a panacea. It is only human beings who conduct sales activities. SFA, as the name suggests, is designed to support them.
In order to make sales activities more efficient and accelerated, each salesperson must be aware of the need to improve sales for the entire company, and share and utilize information.
For that purpose, it is necessary to master SFA, establish sales activities using SFA, and not be bound by conventional sales activities, rather than implementing SFA and feeling at ease with it.
Whether or not we can cross the period of future social change depends on the availability of SFA for sales activities.
I hope this article will serve as a bridge to the implementation and use of SFA. I hope you will find SFA helpful in your sales activities.