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An Executive's Guide to CRM Software

An Executives's Guide to Understanding Sales Force Automation


Every Vice President of Sales or similarly titled sales leader relies on two primary factors for success, a motivated, professional sales team and sales knowledge. Question several sales executives about sales methodologies and the answers will be varied and generally opinionated. From solution selling to power based selling to concept selling to spin selling, there are hundreds of different sales methodologies which profess to guarantee sales success. Name a term and a book exists detailing a proven sales tactic. Even the phrase, ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, is a sales style.

Think about it.

Managing one salesperson is an easy proposition, covering the operations of a remotely distributed sales force deployed internationally is a different challenge. Corporate culture and sales strategy are serious considerations in deciding on Sales Force Automation software. When deciding to take the foray into this arena, consider SFA software solutions that are appropriate relative to your company and particular environment.

Almost as crucial as company and culture are the stages of the sales process which will be computerized, sequenced and automated. The diversity of SFA software on today’s market covers varied automation methods and the entire range of the selling cycle, from suspect to prospect to client. Competing successfully in the global marketplace created by the Internet requires a thorough analysis of the way a business collects, shares and acts upon data. Even if an entity does not have a heavy web presence, almost every corporation utilizes e-mail for exchange of simple information. The range of SFA software choice is remarkably wide, and many can be quickly eliminated if they do not provide an entity’s basic requirements.

SFA software solutions can become enormous undertakings involving considerable time, resources, and capital. In the past almost all of CRM software available fell into this category. Within the last several years however, a deeper range of choice developed as the software matured, grew in functionality and often became vertically focused for designated industry fit. One problematic aspect of the considerable array of such software on the market today is deciding on a vendor.

Budgeted expenses for the anticipated SFA deployment can narrow the selection of systems available immediately, as can the availability of internal resources. For example, if the purchasing company does not have sufficient internal Information Technology (IT) department resources, a decision must be made to either acquire these pre-requisite resources, or evaluate only hosted SFA solutions.

When evaluating the costs of the SFA or CRM software solution other associated costs beyond the software acquisition should be thoroughly planned for. If the business has an existing accounting system, inventory system or manufacturing software application, it naturally follows that if the vendor for that solution has a Sales Force Automation module, it should be considered early. Developing an integration between two disparate systems is an ongoing and costly alternative.

Whether the decision is made to evaluate either non-hosted or hosted SFA software, other expenses will certainly come into play. If the sales force requires additional hardware such as laptop computers or PDAs, that hardware must be acquired with the corresponding labor and hardware maintenance costs considered. Even when hardware is on hand, it may not fit the selected software’s specifications, and upgrades may be warranted.

The professional services or consulting expenses required to implement even the simplest Sales Force Automation system on the market can be a considerable investment. For Small and Midsize Business (SMB), a generally accepted rule of thumb is to estimate vendor consulting costs to be equal to the amount spent purchasing required hardware and software. For midmarket and enterprise businesses, the rule of thumb is to multiple the software costs by a factor of two to four to estimate total consulting fees. If extensive software customization in needed to match either current business processes or industry specific functionality, then double the amount already estimated for preliminary budgeting purposes. It software modifications are deemed essential, it is imperative to obtain an firm estimate from the vendor prior to a purchase decision being made. The estimated costs of customizations must also be extrapolated over the life time of the solution. The software customization estimate should therefore also include the costs to upgrade the customization when new SFA software versions are released.

Before a sales cycle can be automated, it must be understood, documented, detailed and agreed upon by each member of the team involved. Adhering to proven processes is a pre-requisite for SFA software automation.  

Successful SFA deployments demonstrate one basic trend. They are all dissimilar. No two entities will use the same feature sets in the same way.  Any sales manager looking to automate sales processes must acknowledge that the human trait that makes a sales person a dynamo also results in resistance to using CRM software; The Maverick trait. Add that to the dynamism of each prospect, each situation, each office location, each industry, and it is easy to understand why less than half Sales Force Automation software implementations are resounding successes. Yet, almost every system available has the crucial features necessary to make SFA successful, mapping the user interface to an individual through cosmetic changes of the user interface.


CRM Introduction Real World CRM Executives Guide to SFA Marketing Automation Customer Support