Sales force automation technology can help companies improve their forecasting.
Client management and sales are key functions in most organizations, and companies are increasingly realizing the importance of preserving and developing relationships with their existing clients, in addition to developing new client bases. As a result, technology tools geared at improving customer service and managing sales relationships have grown in importance. Sales Force Automation (SFA) softwareas part of an overall client relationship management (CRM) software strategypromises just that.
With the growth of hosted applications and advanced real-time reporting, these products offer companies not only reduced IT costs and better contact management, but also smooth integration with other systems and improved cash-flow forecasting.
The return on investment on such CRM technology is increasingly clear, and companies around the globe are looking at hosted SFA and CRM to aid in streamlining process flows and improve contact across the communication chainfrom customer to sales to other internal functions. SFA is a contact management tool to bring together all past and present data on clients, keep track of leads and update information in real-time. In addition, it allows accurate sales forecasting, which can then be used for improved cash-flow forecasting and can also be used to help make management decisions.
Some providers offer traditional software modelswhere customers buy the license and implement and manage the software within the group. Others offer both traditional and on-demand applicationswhere the firm hosts the software and delivers it over the Weband some simply offer hosted applications.
David Black, president of New England Mortgagewhich has been live with SalesForces hosted SFA since June 2004agrees that the advantages are many. We get sales leads from many different directions, and we needed a system that could manage those automatically in order to effectively pursue our leads, he says. Before that, our follow-up was not as efficient as we wanted, so this was essential.
Black says the group had tried building systems themselves and had used products such as Goldmine. But managing that was very expensive, he says. We are 90 people now, and managing updates was a nightmare. With SalesForce we have a whole batch of new toys that we dont have to worry about. He says the ease of accessfrom anywhereand the fact that changes happen in real-time are both a plus. Being an ASP and over the Internet also helped a lot, he says.
Another key issue for companies considering any new technology is how such a system will interact with existing internal systems. It is critical that providers have the technology in place to ensure smooth integration, particularly when considering on-demand applications such as hosted SFA. Not only is it critical to other business units to ensure that data from sales go through to their systemssuch as accounting, general ledger and treasury systemsbut also it is critical that sales gets information held in those systems.
Greg Gianforte, CEO, RightNow, explains: A CRM application should deliver a 360-degree view of the relationship between a company and its customers. That requires that integrations exist between the CRM system and other internal systems that might store relevant information about the client relationshipfor example, prior financial transactions, order status or other such information.
Nonetheless, there are real advantages to using CRM technology and sales force automation. With strong backing, incentives and good internal marketing, it can be a highly useful addition to corporate client management strategies.