Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of sales force automation.

Essay by Zazou21University, Bachelor's January 2009

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IntroductionToday, technology is ruling over the world. Everywhere one can see the use of computers, mobile phones and a lot of software meant to facilitate the work of people. In sales management, there is a software which is called the sales force automation. It is a 'type of program that automates business task such as inventory control, sales processing and tracking of customer interactions, as well as analysing sales forecasts and performance.'(Sales Force Automation 2007). This software has of course its advantages and disadvantages which will be discussed below and supported with a true example.

Advantages of sales force automation•Time saving for the sales managerAs this software does most of the paper work that sales people have to do, the manager will be able to get all information right on his table with only a few clicks. That is he will not have 'to gather all call sheets from various sales people and tabulating the results, all these will be presented in an easy way in tables, charts or graphs.'(

Sales Force Automation - Advantages to Sales People 2007). This will save the sales manager's time and he will be able to concentrate on more important work.

•More control over salesThe sales manager will be able to get sales information more frequently therefore he will be able to respond quickly and more directly with 'advice, product in stock verifications and price discount authorisations.'(Sales Force Automation - Advantages to Sales People 2007). This will give the sales manager more control over sales and he will be able to monitor sales closer and will therefore be an advantage as he will be able to make diagnosis as early as possible if ever something goes wrong in the sales process. The sales force automation software again saves time and money.

•Facilitating work of sales representativesSales representatives will no longer have to 'write-out sales orders, reports, activity reports and call sheets, they will simply have to fill-in prepared e-forms.'(Sales Force Automation - Advantages to Sales People 2007). This will save them a lot of time. As we all know, sales representatives are very busy people and therefore they will be able to take more care of clients and take up their queries or commands without the stress of not doing other lengthy and annoying paper work. Another quick service is that they will not have to print out all sheets or documents, it will simply be sent to the sales manager through the company's intranet.

•Sales automation forms the bedrock of the compensation systemWhether someone like the software or not, if a company has introduced the sales force automation to its sales staff, they will have to use it to a maximum because it 'forms the bedrock of the compensation system', as they will not get any commission if they do not 'track the opportunity through the system.'(Mark Cotteleer 2008). It is an advantage for the manager as everything about commission will be easier and there will be no cheating.

•Real examples - National bank of Canada and Commerce BankThe national bank of Canada is an example of a company which has taken steps to 'automate the small loan origination process.'(Jegher 2007). This has resulted in efficiency and they have saved a lot of time and money. Another bank which is using this system is the Commerce bank which has been experiencing 'exceptional growth as loans have grown 27% over the last five years.'(Jegher 2007).

Disadvantages of Sales force automation•Requires continuous maintenanceHowever effective the sales force automation software is, the problem is that it requires continuous maintenance, information updating and system upgrading and all these requires investment for a company. 'Industry analyst IDC estimates that companies spent nearly $3 billion on global SFA application in 2004 and that number is rising.'(Mark Cotteleer 2008). The good part is that if the company is making profit with the help of sales force automation software, then the cost of the maintenance will be paid from part of the profit but if sales representatives or other employees are not using it correctly then it is a waste of money.

•Loss of autonomyFor many sales people, using this software is like a loss of autonomy, that is they will feel like their every step are being watched and monitored by their manager. This may stress the employees and it's the company which will suffer later on. It is also a loss of power for them as 'valuable customer's information is pried from their hands and dropped into full view of the entire organisation.'(Mark Cotteleer 2008). In worst cases, some sales representatives may enter fake data on the software just to show the boss what he will be expecting. This action will therefore make the software useless as the 'system is only as good as the information it contains.'(Mark Cotteleer 2008).

•A sizable monetary investment may be required.

The initial investment on sales force automation software depends on the size of the company and its systems. Different companies will use different types or a modified version of the software and thus it depends on what the company is willing to adopt. The organisations have to make sure that they are not buying a software which is cheap and will be outdated in a few months. For example, 'to automate a sales person on the street, a company will spend between $3000 and $5000 each for the PC, printer and software and for a company with a 100 person sales force, that can add up to $500 000.'(Corse 1989). Therefore all these issues have to be taken into consideration before buying such a software for the organisation.

•Sales people may feel reluctant to use the software.

'When PCs first were introduced into offices several years ago, very few people actually used them.'(Corse 1989). In the same way as the software will be new to salespeople, they will hesitate before using it. That is why proper training should be offered to show them how helpful the software will be to them rather than being a nuisance. For example, 'if all salesperson employ a standardised qualification process, the CRM software should be customised to automate what they already do manually. This will assist them in tracking the progress of sales opportunities, provide greater visibility into their pipeline and gives the manager the reports he needs.'(Stein. 2006).

•Real example - Harris InteractiveHarris Interactive is a company which introduced the sales force automation software system to support its first full time sales staff. However employees 'resisted mightily at first, because they feared that the loss of control over customer relationship might cause the quality of their service to suffer.'(Mark Cotteleer 2008). Finally the sales people accepted the software only after the company has figured out how to put the automation system into its culture. (Mark Cotteleer 2008).

RecommendationsBesides the advantages and disadvantages of sales force automation, the use of this software will be beneficial to both the company and the sales representatives. The software is only a help that will facilitate the job of the sales people and will make the company grow. However there are some recommendations which can be applied by companies for the easy introduction of the software which are:•By making sales representative understand the benefits of the software through training sessions. It is known that 'a salesperson can gain a good understanding of how to use a PC in only eight to twelve hours ideally spent in several two to four sessions over a two week period.'(Corse 1989).

•By supporting the sales representatives by providing them with assistant, not all of them but only the very busy ones. This will alleviate some of the work of the sales representative and they will be able to learn the software without fearing loss of commission.

•The introduction of the software in the company should not look like the manager is imposing the sales force automation but rather approach is as 'a cultural and interpersonal tool whose success depends on salespeople's and other employee's acceptance.'(Mark Cotteleer 2008).

•Sales representatives will have to find some times to learn how to use the new software. They will maybe lose precious times but they will only gain much more after they can manage the use of the software as this will help them generate more commissions. Now another solution exists if they do not want to lose their precious time, they only have to learn the software during non office hours.

Conclusion'Automation is a powerful way to free up resources to be more hands-on with the client when it really counts, as effective relationships build and expand, cross-selling opportunities multiply.'(Jegher 2007). As it has been discussed and observed, sales force automation is time saving, facilitates jobs of sale representatives and is the bedrock of compensation. There are disadvantages such as it requires continuous maintenance, there is loss of autonomy for sales people or it requires a big investment at the beginning but all these are only meant for the welfare of the company.

ReferencesCorse, P., Martinez, Marc. 1989. Benefits Outweigh Pitfalls Of Sales Force Automation. The American Salesman 34 (3): 7. http://proquest.umi.com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au (Accessed August 30).

Jegher, J. 2007. Automation and Integration in Small Business Lending. http://proquest.umi.com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au.

Mark Cotteleer, F. L., Edward Inderrieden. 2008. Selling the Sales Force on Automation Harvard Business Review.

Sales Force Automation. 2007. http://www.bitpipe.com/tlist/Sales-Force-Automation.html (Accessed August 3).

Sales Force Automation - Advantages to Sales People. 2007. http://crmsoftwarefunctions.blogspot.com/search/label/CRM%20Software%20Functions (Accessed August 3).

Stein. D. 2006. Chaos Theory Invades CRM. Sales and Marketing Management. 158 (6): 64. http://proquest.umi.com.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au (Accessed August 31).