Sales Force Automation Buying Tips

By Robin Wilding
Updated: June 20, 2011

Sales force automation (SFA) solutions are incredibly diverse—which makes sense seeing as sales forces are unique and agile creatures as well. Every sales force is different, and this fact must be front and center when choosing your SFA software.

When choosing your SFA software, consider the following tips:

Tip #1 Needs Analysis

Because sales departments are so diverse the first thing you should do is perform a needs-based analysis. You need to understand the department and their job processes. The best way to do that would be to find a point person in the sales department to work with as they can give you valuable insight into the features that a SFA solution would require.

Tip #2: Consider a Modular System

Sales departments are amorphous creatures and are consistently changing, and for this reason you may want to a consider a flexible solution that can change with the department. The best SFA systems are therefore ones that are as agile as sales department and are flexible, scalable and modular.

Tip #3: Demo and Test

SFA software often comes with a plethora of tools and incredible customization options. For those two reasons it is of critical importance to demo the software and to obtain a trial version if at all possible. Customizations within SFA software are important because of the diversity of sales forces—and knowing how these will work with your current platforms and software BEFORE you purchase can make or break the implementation.

Tip #4: Ask Questions—Lots of 'Em

Because of the high degree of difficulty in choosing the right SFA solution for your specific sales force, asking the right questions is important. Ideally you should be discussing these questions with someone in the sales department first. Here are some examples of the kinds of questions you will want to ask your SFA vendor:

  • What is your road map for the future in terms of upgrades and/or improvements?
  • Which specific verticals do you have experience working with?
  • What type of service and support do you offer, and what is your average reaction time to support inquiries?
  • Can you supply references?
  • What is the total cost of ownership? And what elements are included in the listing price and which elements cost extra?

Tip #5: Negotiate

In SFA purchases there is always room for negotiation. List price is exactly that—the list price. It has wiggle room; list prices are always inflated and you have every right to ask for a discount. This works best if you ask while still in the information gathering stage, not when you have all but chosen the vendor as your solution. Feel free to ask for discounts or free stuff—after all we all like free stuff. Try asking for a discount on services and support, or ask for free training or add-ons.

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