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Why You Hate Your Sales Force Automation (and what to do about it)



This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.


Recently I dropped into a salesperson’s sales force automation to look at a couple of opportunities. What I found was disappointing.

The first deal had five stakeholders attached to it. I was inspired. But other than names and contact information, there was nothing useful there. There was a record of the dates and times of meetings and phone conversation, but not a word regarding the content of those calls. The salesperson lost the opportunity the last time they competed for it, and what I found in the sales force automation was less than helpful in understanding what happened or why.

The second opportunity was worse. There was only one stakeholder on the deal, and that one was from outside of the company. There wasn’t single note, but there was an attachment. That attachment was the pricing they emailed the prospective client. Uninspiring.

You hate your sales force automation because you believe it only serves management and their forecasts, and you’re mostly right. You hate it because you think it is unnecessary data entry work, and you couldn’t be more wrong.

How To Use Your Sales Force Automation

In that first deal, I wanted to know what each of the stakeholders wanted or needed, what were their individual preferences, who was engaged, who had influence, who had authority, at what stage of the buying cycle they were in, what were their challenges, what would motivate them to buy, what would keep them from supporting us, the questions they asked in meetings, and any email correspondence (which could have easily been forwarded to the software).

I would want to know who won the deal last time, why they won, and any communication that occurred with the company between the date the salesperson lost the deal and the day I popped in to look at it.

Your sales force automation is a record of your relationships. As you sell, you gather tons of information, information that may later prove useful, information that may later help you appear as if you have command of the details, information that gives you context for future discussions.

Don’t be lazy. Don’t be short-sighted. Use your sales force automation to help you sell better. You’ll soon discover that management buys it for the forecasts, you use it to help you manage your relationships and win deals.

Questions

Do you use your system like it belongs to you or your management?

Who made the decision to use it that way? Is it serving you?

What records would keep? Where should you keep them?

No matter how good you believe your memory is, it’s not better than a computer.


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Comments

comments

  • Brad Monaghan

    Hi Anthony. So true – so much sales force automation is wrongly geared to management, which would be fine if it didn’t cause so much grief for the frontline sales rep. Simple systems that are user friendly are going to win out every time, like Perenso and the new breed of similar iPad and Android field apps. It’s up to us as managers to inspire reps to use these systems because it boosts productivity. At the moment, too many of them do the opposite.