• United States



by Erin Kinikin

To Get Value From Sales Force Automation, Follow the Money

Feb 05, 20035 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security


What type of business impact can we expect from an SFA implementation?


One of the biggest dangers of a sales force automation (SFA) implementation is that too much attention is paid to automating the sales process and not enough to defining and ensuring the expected results. SFA can help capture and share customer interactions, deepen understanding of customer relationships (such as households, reporting structures, or influence maps) and increase sales efficiency and effectiveness via task automation, process management and prioritization. However, automating the processes of the best sales people (or capturing customer data) doesn’t necessarily yield more revenue for the company. The true value of SFA comes from translating processes and customer information into revenue – the ultimate sales result.

There are many ways to generate revenue and profits. The sales people can sell more per deal, they can sell more deals or improve the close rates or the profitability of the deals they sell, or they can sell each deal in less time (resulting, presumably, in more deals). In addition, sales can sell more effectively, either by selling more to existing customers (leveraging existing account knowledge and relationships) or by eliminating or automating administrative tasks (presumably freeing more time for selling) and focusing on the highest probability deals. Effective SFA ties the tool implementation to the specific strategies (and supporting tactics, and metrics) for revenue generation. This helps ensure sales force automation is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Sales force automation can take a primary role in information gathering and process management, including lead qualification, forecasting, team communication and complex opportunity management, and task automation (such as quoting or customer communication). It can also serve as a portal for customer activities, allowing the representative to better coordinate company resources on behalf of the customer. Sales force automation can also take a secondary role in initiatives like cross-sell and lead management (by communicating the leads to sales and tracking results) and in territory and resource management by driving management reporting that can help adjust resources and quotas to maximize results. However, in all of these areas, it’s the business strategy supported by the tool – not the tool itself – that delivers the value (see table below).


Start every SFA project with a clear understanding of the expected results (goals) and the techniques (strategies, tactics) that will be employed to achieve them. Walk the process – understand where SFA is expected to save time or change behavior and build in the right information and processes up front. Make sure that time-consuming and error-prone handoff points such as lead routing, new product launch and order admin for completed deals are also addressed to maximize time savings.

If rolling out SFA in combination with a new sales process, understand how the sales and marketing executives will track compliance and provide the right level of reporting in the tool. Less is better for sales – think big picture and key metrics, not tons of information. Build in management reports that verify that results are being achieved (revenue per rep, quota attainment) – in a format that is comfortable to the decision-maker. If sales management can’t use SFA, the sales reps almost certainly won’t use it.

Make sure to identify and focus on areas where you can save sales time, not just areas where sales can provide additional customer information (at a productivity cost). Make sure there is a benefit for all users of the system.

Basic, accurate forecast information should flow naturally from the sales process and SFA tool, not become a separate activity or set of manual overrides. Sales process is about controlling the sales cycle, and forecasting should be a byproduct of the process (and a trigger for reassessment if the forecast doesn’t match the level of sales activity). Ask for the spreadsheets used by sales today to run the business – and make sure the SFA system can collect and present the right information. Good sales management already has a gut-level sense of performance levels and issues – they just don’t have effective mechanisms (besides weekly sales calls and flying around on airplanes) to collect and maintain it.

Expect resistance to quantification mechanisms that may lead to headcount reductions or quota increases. Make sure there’s a near-term win for the sales team – improving average attainment or enhancing new representative efficiency – before raising the bar to do more with less.

Strategies, Tactics and Metrics
Increase close rates
  • Improve lead qualification or prioritization
  • Better access to sales tools
  • Win rate
  • Losses by deal stage
  • Increase deal size
  • Cross-sell
  • Value justification
  • Encourage use of other channels
  • Average deal size
  • Discount percent
  • Deal size by channel
  • Improve rep efficiency
  • Automate routine tasks
  • Faster access to information
  • Offload smaller deals to self-service
  • Revenue/sales person
  • Sales calls/week
  • Faster ramp up of new reps
  • Slef-service utilization
  • Improve cycle time
  • Automate quoting or proposals
  • Better team communication
  • Terrirory and resource mgmt
  • Time to quote
  • Average time in sles stage
  • Sales cycle duration
  • Cross-sell/upsell existing customers
  • Install base campaigns
  • Lead management/referrals
  • Percent of business from repeat customers
  • Number of products/customer
  • Improve customer retention
  • Improve timeliness and coordination
  • Use customer knowledge to deliver better value
  • Account penetration
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Customer repurchase rate
  • Improve revenue predictability
  • Forecasting
  • Qualification by deal stage
  • Forecast accuracy
  • Deal dropout time
  • for Revenue Generation

    Elana Anderson contributed to this article.