The Evolution of Computational Selling – What You Need To Know About Sales Automation

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Regular HUB readers will know that at SalesWays we are constantly looking to improve sales performance using technology – that’s been a mission of mine since my early career in sales and my first personal computer. This is referred to as “sales force automation” and I’ve never really liked the term. It sounds too military for me—I see images of rows of salespeople lined up in battle formation. SFA spun out from “contact management” which involved PCs maintaining databases of names, addresses and other customer data. Attempts to store details of sales opportunities morphed it into SFA. As the information expanded in scope and involved workflow between other departments in the company, the terminology Customer Relationship Management (CRM) took over and quickly became the norm. Now most people are confused between SFA and CRM—trust me, my company sells both products and we find it hard to quickly convince people of the difference.

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The 3 C’s of Groupware: Communication, Collaboration and Coordination

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In my last post I talked about Lotus Notes—how Notes was the first commercially available software application that positively improved the ways teams of people worked together. This new breed of business application was labeled “groupware.” Groupware emerged as computers and networks became universally available across organizations. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Sales Automation (SFA) were the first front office applications made possible by groupware.

In business, people work in teams. Teams are designed to address mission critical processes like finance, production, or development. In the so-called “front office” (customer facing) the three core teams are marketing, sales, and service. CRM uses technology to create information across the core teams and to provide an infrastructure for using and sharing it. There’s no doubt that storing and sharing customer information is the central tenet of CRM— if the information is bad, or incomplete, the CRM initiative will fail.

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Getting Somewhere – Interactive Sales Automation As Your GPS

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Since it was Teacher’s Day in Brazil last Wednesday, I turn to a discussion that I recently had with students in my classroom about comparing the methods and sales models implemented in sales force automation with GPS applications.

While the GPS takes us from where we are to a certain destination we want to reach, sales automation supports the sales professional as he moves through the sales cycle trying to reach a successful conclusion. In both cases we can reach the destination in several ways.

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Who Invited IT? Why Sales Automation Shouldn’t Be a Technology Decision.

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For decades, projects that involve some kind of computer technology and information systems of any nature have inexorably fallen into the realm of the information technology department in order to be analyzed and approved or rejected.

When business areas begin to evaluate a new application for use, the first question asked — is IT involved? Perhaps the better question would be, does IT need to be involved? Today, an accurate answer should often be no. It is time to renegotiate the relationship between business areas and IT departments whose protocols still seem to be stuck in the last millennium when the ubiquitous internet, the Cloud, and mobile devices and apps were all still the future.

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Building a Profitable Opportunities Portfolio Using Priority

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Follow Your Priority

Dealing with probabilities is a way that gives greater consistency and credibility to the projection of future business. When addressed through the answers to three simple questions (Will we get the business? What is the assurance that there will be business? When will it happen?), we define what we call the “essential aspects of opportunity” and introduce a sense of urgency or, in the language of our sales model, priority.

We now have all the factors that determine this priority. It is obvious that the probability of a successful sale directly influences the allocation of resources to work the opportunity, but another factor to consider is time.

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Three SFA Design Principles to Optimize Adoption

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Flowchart

Ed. We’re introducing a new and very welcome contributor to The HUB today – Mr. Gerry Murray of the International Data Corporation. Gerry is an expert in high-tech marketing, including working with some of the world’s largest software and services companies. In addition to IDC, Gerry was Managing Editor at RevenueRecognition.com, a Softrax initiative, and built the marketing infrastructure at Panviva. His article on SFA implementation is simply good stuff for our readers.

According to IDC’s Best Practices in SFA Deployment study, understanding the life of your sales reps and first-line sales managers is key to the adoption of your CRM. Weaving it into their daily routine and motivating them to fill out tedious forms with crucial information is where the rubber really hits the road.  IDC’s recent research into automation systems for marketing and sales shows that you need to cross the 75% adoption line as quickly as possible then reach and maintain 90%+ in order to get the most out of your IT investments in these areas.

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Does the Solo Sales Rep Need Sales Automation?

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Solo Sales Rep

Whenever we discuss sales force automation (SFA), we tend to include it in the context of CRM and customer relationships across many disciplines. This approach ends up focusing the discussion on the sales force only as part of a larger enterprise, and usually in a direct sales model. We forget the sales models that utilize individual sales representatives, often small business owners or independent salespeople.

These small businesses may be professionals working for themselves, or those who, while working for a larger company, are not part of a team. This salesperson literally gets by all alone since he is not supported by a larger structure that can guide him on which technology to use, or that provides operational support and turnkey solutions. In many cases, this individual may not even be a sales person, but a small businessman who cannot afford a sales resource and has to carry on himself.

Sales automation works as well for one person as it does for hundreds. Despite being less involved with collaborative aspects of a technological tool, representatives still need features that meet their individual needs. Accounts, contacts, and opportunities must be recorded and managed. Customer interactions must be documented. And, of course, the most appropriate sales strategy must be developed and its tactics implemented in each case.

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The 2 Biggest Reasons Sales Tools Fail

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Ed. – Today we introduce a new contributor to The HUB – Nancy Nardin, President of Smart Selling Tools. Nancy has 30 years of sales and marketing experience and is a pioneer and expert in sales productivity tools. Her previous work includes the sales analyst firms the Gartner Group and IDC, and she has worked with more than 30 of the largest high-tech and telecom firms in the country. We look forward to more informative articles from Nancy in the future.

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Sales Automation: It’s Not All In My Head

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In Keith Thompson’s book Sales Automation Done Right, sales automation is defined on page seven, and I paraphrase that definition to read, “efficient and effective, technology-assisted selling.” The precision of that definition, the importance of both effectiveness and efficiency, and the ability of modern technology to support them, is critical to success in selling today.

Now I want to get something relevant to this definition off my chest. Something that continues to nag at me whenever my sales staff, or peers, or even bosses or clients, postulate this one particularly absurd assumption. Here is my rant:

IT ISN’T ALL UP THERE.

One of the silliest things I ever heard came from a young, very aggressive, very ambitious, and otherwise very intelligent salesman, while he tapped his head with his index finger. “It’s all up here,” he said.

He meant that he didn’t need technology to record and save and use his sales opportunity information to help him sell, because he kept it all in his head. Technology was good for keeping his contact information and his calendar, but that’s all. Presumably, recording these bits of information on his computer left room for everything else to fit in his head.

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