Sales Force Automation FAQ

Updated: April 30, 2009

What is SFA?
SFA (Sales Force Automation) is a subset of CRM software that helps companies automate the sales process, gain insight into customer relationships and analyze sales performance. It encompasses the following business tasks:

  • Order processing and tracking
  • Inventory monitoring and management
  • Contract management
  • Information sharing
  • Customer relationships
  • Sales analysis and forecasting
  • Staff performance evaluation
  • Tracking of customer buying habits
  • Customer demographics analysis

What is the value of SFA?
SFA can help digitize sales documents and make it easy to share information within the company, as well as with clients. It can give greater insight into customer relationships, from the demographics of a customer base to individual buying habits. The efficiency of a sales organization can also get a boost from task automation, process management and prioritization features, which can help make the most of the work force's time and provide higher-quality customer service.

Other departments also benefit from the sales reports produced by an SFA solution. Marketing, for example, can learn more about its audience in real time and can see whether its campaigns and other initiatives are actually boosting sales. On the other end of the spectrum, product-development teams can find out what defects showed up in their releases by looking into the technical-support team's tickets.

Check out this article for more information on the benefits of SFA and how to sell your manager on a solution.

Are the Solutions 'plug and play'?
Many SFA solutions are hosted, Web-based applications that a company can get started with very quickly, depending on the amount of customization required. These solutions help automate processes, but they're not a quick fix for lagging sales or slow agents. A company's sales team works more efficiently and effectively if its members are properly trained and know how to benefit from the SFA solution's features.

What are some common features?
The following can be found in many, if not all, SFA solutions on the market:

  • Lead management: Sales managers can track the performance of sales lists and automatically route calls to agents with the appropriate skill sets. Agents can keep track of leads, schedule follow-ups and log reports on the customer's history.
  • Account-management systems: Allow sales to see a comprehensive view of their customers, including how often they have been called and their responses, demographics and purchasing history. This information can be used to aggregate reports and gain a broader perspective of the company's customer base, or it can simply serve to inform an agent about the person he or she is speaking with.
  • Territory management: Companies can track information across different regions or territories — including setting up systems in a new location, gathering information about clients there, assigning sales tasks to staff members located elsewhere and re-assigning territory information as needed.
  • Contract management: These features can make the contracts process much smoother and more efficient. By sharing contract information, managers can quickly review and approve contracts, renew them sooner and keep an electronic record.
  • Inventory control: Companies can link their sales functions to their inventory systems, allowing them to replenish out-of-stock merchandise or employ just-in-time manufacturing strategies.
  • Sales forecast analysis: Sales staffs can use their own real-world data and knowledge of their customers to better predict sales successes for customers with similar characteristics.

Who are the leading vendors?
If you've heard of SFA and have done a bit of research, Inc. might be the name that pops into your mind. In fact, it may be the only name you can remember — but by no means is it the only vendor out there.

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