Tag: SFA

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.

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Sales force automation should not punish salespeople

Sales force automation should not punish salespeople

Nearly every sales force of size has implemented a tool (or tools) that are designed to “automate” the sales force. Unfortunately, the implementation of these tools rarely automates anything. In fact, it regularly slows down the people that it is supposed to help.

Let’s do some simple math. Assume the average salesperson at your company has an annual quota of 2 million dollars ($2M) divided evenly to $500K per quarter. There are approximately 2,000 hours in a standard working year (yes, I understand that exceptional salespeople will regularly work more than 40 hours per week). This means that each hour of the year has a quota of $1,000. Each standard working day has a quota of $8,000.

Let’s put this a better way. The billable rate of each of your salespeople is $1,000 per hour! Think about this; this is far more than the billable rate for any consultant that you sell or more than any consultant that you have hired to help you run the company. Kimble recently did a study of consulting billing rates, and the average rates were all less than 1/4 of the rate you need from your salespeople!

It is obvious that your company would want to automate that very valuable resource.

When a salesperson thinks of automation though, he or she think of reducing the time on the more mundane time hogs to maximize the time in front of customers. When a manager thinks of automation, he or she thinks of how to extract even more information from their sales force. These two goals are inherently at conflict since managers want more and more information while salespeople want to do less drudgery work.

This lack of alignment in goals means that at least one group is going to be frustrated with the implementation of a sales force automation system. Unfortunately, if the salesperson is frustrated then it is likely that the “automation’ project will never be truly successful. Instead, there will be constant threats from management to keep the system up-to-date and failure to do so will result in fines, loss of some benefits, and maybe even firings.

Whenever I hear of a company that is “nagging” salespeople to update the system, I know that they have done a poor job in making sure that everyone is on board with the sales force automation project. They have implemented a system that is win/loss rather than a win/win.

When my father was a salesperson, he did very little internal book work. When he needed a TELEX sent, he scribbled it on a piece of paper and handed it to his team secretary. When he needed a letter sent to a customer, he scribbled the note, and it was typed up by the secretary or his secretary came in for dictation. In either case, he didn’t worry about formatting or letter structure as that was the job of his secretary. He would hand business cards to his secretary, and she would insert them in order in a notebook that he carried in his car. If the customer didn’t have a business card (rare for him in those days), she would create a note card of the same size with the information. His expense reports were easy: he handed receipts to his secretary along with a handwritten log of his mileage, and she did the rest. He had the ultimate in “automation” as he just delegated all work except for making sales calls.

When I was a young man and beginning my career in sales, we also did not have gadgets to make us more productive. I carried a tape recorder with me. I would dictate my call notes to the team of secretaries in my office. Those notes were returned to me as well as copied for my manager so that he knew what was going on. My correspondence was simple as well since I dictated those while driving down the road and handed the cassette to the secretarial pool. If a piece of literature was required, I noted it in the dictation, and a secretary pulled it out of the library. Expenses were a little more difficult than my father since I had to fill out a form and sign it. I still spent more time selling than I ever did doing bookwork.

Then came the advent of automation and personal computers. We now need to hunt and find our literature. If you don’t know how to type a well-crafted email or letter, you are at a significant disadvantage. The slower you type, the worse your productivity. We type call logs into the sales force automation system which cannot be safely done while driving to the next appointment, but rather require that you be camped out in the office or a Starbucks.

All of this means that productivity for salespeople has been severely reduced in this age of computer productivity. The gauge of most workers in the internet age is the speed that they can answer emails or create documents. For salespeople, productivity is measured by the number of sales calls we make and size of our revenue. If your sales force automation system is reducing the amount of time your sales force is spending in front of a customer than it is NOT an automation system!

Tomorrow, I will finish this thought by trying to explain techniques to help you make your sales force automation project actually automate your sales force. Check it out!

Photo by hiyori13