Sometimes we all wish we had a magic button to push when we need help with difficult-to-answer questions. That button may not exist, but for startups struggling to jumpstart their sales, one of the best ways to begin uncovering answers is through sales force automation (SFA). There are a variety of SFA tools on the market — the most widely known of which is probably Salesforce.com — that can provide the practical solutions you need to drive sales. While none of them are or will ever be a magic button, if used correctly, they can be incredibly helpful and yield valuable results.
Here are some of the fundamental steps you should take to get the most out of your SFA tools.
1. Think before you jump
Diving right into SFA without a plan of action is never a good idea. To make your experience with SFA tools valuable, you’ve got to carefully plot your strategy. The first step is to get buy-in from key stakeholders in your organization, starting up front with how the company will benefit and how you intend to use SFA. In most cases, you’ll need to sit down with the vice president of sales, the director of marketing, and the end user (typically a sales rep). In larger companies the project team may also include stakeholders from IT and customer support.
2. Nail down your sales process
Before you meet with stakeholders, make sure you have a clear understanding of your sales process. How do you manage leads and opportunities? What data do you need to forecast and close deals? Because expansion-stage companies often don’t have a sales process in place, this exercise can be rather daunting. Nevertheless, having a sales process is essential if you want to scale your business effectively. Make sure you’ve got a solid process in place, or at least in progress.
3. Add meaning to your data
One of the key challenges with SFA is ensuring its adoption across your sales team. Having a clean data model with information that is meaningful to your end users is the key to driving that adoption. Be sure to think about what you need and to get input from others. Ultimately, you want to be very selective because having too many fields is a recipe for disaster. Collecting meaningless data can make SFA time-consuming and lead to an unfocused sales team that doesn’t want to use it.
4. Formalize the rollout with training
SFA tools can help growing companies get a leg up on their competition. They do so by allowing users to centralize accounts and contacts, track customer interactions, monitor the business via real-time dashboards, and leverage valuable information that they can use to help them build better relationships and close more deals. What an SFA won’t do, however, is actually close deals for you. To get the most out of your system, your users must be trained on how enter data correctly and how to leverage the data that is already in the system. A formal rollout should not only include instruction on how to use the system, but also on the benefits for both the user and the company that come with proper utilization.
5. Make a date to automate
Once you settle on a sales process and have buy-in from key stakeholders, it’s time to focus on automation and workflow. The only way to generate sales revenue is to focus on what’s important — more selling and less administration. By automating your processes and workflow and using as much out-of-the-box functionality as you can, you’ll soon experience widespread adherence to your business processes, less redundancy, and easy approvals. The rest of your time will be spent building customer relationships and closing deals.
To learn more about developing an effective sales process, check out 3 Common Breakdowns in the Expansion Stage Sales Process.