Make your sales force automation project increase productivity

Make your sales force automation project increase productivity

Yesterday, I explained that your sales force automation project was probably not increasing the productivity of your sales force. Today, let’s discuss ways to improve your project so that your SFA system is not an albatross around the neck of your salespeople.

Obviously, we are not going to go back to the age of administrative assistants for each group of salespeople. Also, there are some things that SFA systems excel at such as capturing contacts at accounts, running analytics on opportunity information, documenting opportunities, assisting in communication in group-selling scenarios and much more.

I challenge you to question every added field in your account, contact, and opportunity screens. If the empty field is there, then it is demanding an answer which takes time to fill out and it is affecting the productivity of your salespeople. Is the time to find the answer to a question important enough to skip a sales call? That is the question that you must answer: is the answer so crucial that a salesperson with a “billable rate” of $1,000 per hour is inputting the answer? Worse yet, is the answer so important that it would be okay for a salesperson to skip a sales call to find the information? If “no” is the answer to either question, then delete the field.

We can all probably agree that one of the benefits of salesforce automation is the production of reports and analytics about your customers and their opportunities. I suggest that you run a report looking for empty fields. If there are blank fields across your 40% of your data set, your salespeople are telling you that the information is affecting their productivity and is a waste of time in their opinion. They have said that they don’t think it is valuable for them to find that answer and are making sales calls rather than find the information.

Assume that you have 100 salespeople each with a $2 million quota. Assume each salesperson is tracking 50 opportunities in a year. If that empty field that needs more research takes 5 minutes per opportunity, then it costs that salesperson 250 minutes for that information. That is over 4 hours of time which means it is “costing” the company $4,000 to find that information over the course of the year – for each salesperson. If you extend that math across your entire sales force, that field costs you $4,000,000 in lost productivity. Is that information worth $4M to you?

Obviously, your company will not be $4M more profitable for each mandatory field that you cut in your sales force automation system. Many factors affect a salesperson’s productivity, and one of the keys to success in sales is to overcome time drags. Usually, we do this by driving a bit faster between appointments, getting to work a bit earlier, or working late into the evening. Sometimes, we overcome these time-drags by skipping an event with the kids though. Or maybe we don’t help out with homework as much. You probably get the picture; when you start to ask your employees for information that isn’t critical, you begin to create an environment where they may not be as happy to be your employee.

How to move forward

The first thing to do is to make sure you are truly getting value out of every piece of data that every rep is typing into your sales force automation system. Once you think you are attaining value from that information, use it to help them drive more revenue. If you show your salespeople that the information is helping them not just helping you, the manager, then they will be more willing to be on the program.

If you have fields that are regularly blank, challenge the team that says they need the information to justify the cost of filling out the information. Perform the math that I showed above and ask them if they are getting $4M per year (or whatever your specific calculation) of value from that information. If they cannot justify the cost, cut the field.

The great thing about cutting fields is that a few cuts make a huge difference. If you currently have 100 fields to be filled out regarding an account or an opportunity and you cut it by 10%, you will find that the remaining fields are far more likely to get attention. You have helped your salespeople, and they will reward you by more eagerly participating in the process.

Sales force automation should help to automate the sales force and increase productivity. It shouldn’t be a burden on the sales force. Your goal is to help them be more efficient not to teach them to type better. Make a point to not waste the time of your salespeople by using every piece of information that they provide and show that the usefulness of that information makes your company a better company.

Photo by tec_estromberg

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *