Moving from Sales Force Accounting (SFA) to Sales Performance Automation

7 minute read

Recent marketing from some of the leading on demand CRM vendors (see below), and the developing research focus at analysts like Gartner (see list below) would suggest that we’ve reached an inflection point in how CRM is now being viewed in the context of supporting the sales professional. And it’s about time. From the perspective of most sales people, CRM systems, and SFA in particular, have been of little value to the sales person. Most of the value accrues to sales management, and from the manager’s point of view, there’s no arguing that having all of the sales data in a single place is a good thing – for them. It provides a mechanism for reporting, measurement, and forecasting. In effect though – that’s just a sales force accounting exercise, (term courtesy of Joe Galvin at Sirius Decisions), measuring activity or results after the fact – and that adds little value.

Discussions on poor CRM adoption, or inaccurate sales forecasts from CRM system have traditionally resolved to the ‘You should expect what you inspect’ type of comment. In other words the sales manager’s role is to make sure that the sales person is a diligent data entry clerk. Where’s the value-add in that? The truth however is that traditionally, unless the data in the system is complete, up-to-date and accurate, little value is provided to the organization – and in many ways the whole exercise is futile.

Here’s a quick test for you to check and see if the CRM system is working for your organization. Run a forecast report for the top 20% largest open opportunities in your CRM system. Now sort it by expected close date. I’d bet that a good proportion of these opportunity have an expected close date in the past – the date that the sales person entered when the opportunity was first created. If this is true, then forecast accuracy is severely compromised.

Here’s a second test. How many (or what percentage) of the opportunities in your pipeline have not been updated in more than 60 days? And how many of these are being included in next quarter’s forecast? There are two likely scenarios here. The first is one where your CRM system can’t provide this report for you – so what’s the point in using the system to manage (and I use that term loosely) your forecast or pipeline. The second scenario is that, if you can get the report, you will likely find that there are a number of opportunities that are being included in next quarter’s forecast, but have not been updated – and probably not worked – in more than 60 days. Now we all know that a sales opportunity never stands still, it’s either going forwards or backwards – and if you’re not working it – then it’s surely going backwards.

So, maybe we should just forget about asking the sales team to enter the data – or at least use it only as a data store and not a source of meaningful data that we can use to manage the business? But no – we don’t need to jump off that cliff just yet. There is a better way – and we’re being to see some recognition of that in recent months.

Where CRM 1.0 was really just SFA – Sales Force Accounting, CRM 2.0 is all about Sales Performance Automation – and finally that will deliver something of value to the sales person that will entice (not force) him (or her) to use the system – why, because it will increase his performance by building in intelligent sales methodology and sales process best practice that guides him to win the deal. At The TAS Group, we’ve been promoting this for a a long time and companies using our Dealmaker Sales Performance Automation software platform see greater adoption, sales forecast accuracy and meaningful pipeline data. This is not just a commercial for Dealmaker – the point I want to make is that there are intelligent Sales Performance Automation systems available today that deliver greater value to the sales person, use built in intelligent algorithms to correct inaccurate forecast data, and provide a much more rewarding experience for sales person and sales management alike – and that’s in everyone interest.

In a recent research focus briefing from Gartner, they identified 6 key strategies for research focus in CRM for 2009 (as it pertains to sales). Items 1, 5 and 6 are areas that we have been evangelizing for 3 years now, and the fact that 50% of the items they are now focusing align with our strategy excites me.

Gartner: Key Issues for CRM Sales Strategies, Processes, and Technologies, 2009

  1. Sales force automation: The ability to use technology to automate sales processes and selling methodologies for all sales resources, including inside sales, territory sales, named-account sales, strategic/global-account sales and specialist sales roles.
  2. Sales incentive compensation: Sales incentive compensation management applications provide remuneration plans with associated rules and quotas for sales personnel (internal and external), as well as track and report on results and determine performance-based payments.
  3. Price management and optimization: Price management technology is used to support a closed-loop, price management process to model, execute and analyze pricing strategies and results.
  4. Sales configuration: Sales configuration systems are used to configure ship-to-order, assemble-to-order and engineer-to-order products, and to configure non-product information (such as pricing, discounts and customized financing plans).
  5. Sales enablement and effectiveness: Technology that helps sales organizations share knowledge and content among salespeople to improve their interactions with customers (for example, collaborative portals or proposal generation systems).
  6. Sales performance management: Sales performance management represents a combination of operational and analytic capabilities that automates and integrates functions for planning, designing, allocating and managing sales territories, quotas and compensation plans.

Also, a recent whitepaper from Oracle supports the trend. Here’s the summary:

Oracle: Seven Tips for Profiting from Lean Times with CRM

  1. Overhaul your sales methodology. Enable all your reps to perform like your best rep. Get your sales team
    working at peak levels.
  2. Turbo-charge your sales teams by embedding best practices into the selling process.
  3. Optimize forecasting accuracy. Get a better handle on your sales outlook, and spot and ? x problems early.
  4. Improve prospecting effectiveness. Find warm leads faster, and route them to the rep who can turn them
    into sales.
  5. Link marketing to sales results. Are you tracking every single marketing message through to a sales
    outcome? You should.
  6. Scrutinize customer service levels. Satisfying existing customers is the best way to generate repeat
    sales. Know who those customers are and how to service them.
  7. Mobilize your sales team. Arm your reps with all the information they need to make the sale. Then get
    them out on the road.

Honestly, it’s as if I wrote this. (I had nothing to do with it by the way!) Frequent readers of this blog will know that I’ve been on this pulpit, banging on with these messages for a long time now. I’m encouraged that they’re gaining market acceptance – and you should be too – it may be the case that by combining two heretofore disconnected disciplines, CRM and sales best practice or methodology, into Sales Performance Automation – the promise of CRM as being helpful to the sales person might finally come to pass.



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