The introduction of the laptop computer in the 1980’s presented the first opportunity and possibilities for companies with a sales force to automate their tasks (Engle and Barnes 2000, 216). This process is referred to as Sales Force Automation (SFA) and involved the integration of computer software and hardware to automate the routine sales activities throughout the company (accessed 5/08 http://www. businessdictionary. com/definition/sales-force-automation-SFA. html). From this point onward companies continued to expand or implement SFA technology to benefit their business practices and help find that competitive edge among their rivals.
SFA is a large field of hardware and software technology this sees different companies seizing the opportunity in different ways or methods. For example small business may only need the bare minimum such as a laptop computer and an email-recording program. Whilst larger businesses such as a the airline industry have a lot more customers and therefore need more technology such as order processing machines, contact management and order tracking systems in order to keep on top of their business activities.
With SFA being such a large concept there are bound to both benefits and downfalls in its implementation to particular businesses. The benefits of a properly implemented SFA technology go well beyond increasing a sales person’s productivity (Gillian 1992, 19) They include Improved access to information, a decrease in the sales cycle, staying in line with their competition and a higher rate of new customer prospects. Whilst the downfall in running a SFA system can be extensive training, cost time and money, the technology not suiting the business and a lack of user involvement.
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With both negatives and positive business have to make the decision whether their company will benefit or not and what type of system they will be most beneficial, with this there are several advantages and disadvantages they can take into account. Everyday there continues to become new ways and measures of automating businesses. Whether it’s a software program such as employee performance evaluation, inventory control or a machine such as check-in at domestic airline terminals or ATMS.
As there becomes a wider array of technology the more suited it will become to specific businesses and their needs. This will make it easier to be implemented and once started the automation process is never concluded (Erffmeyer and Johnston 2001, 167). However there are many advantages to the implementation including it becomes easier for business to cater for the rising expectation of the consumer of the 21st century. For example the recent change in the economy shifted consumer-buying habits (Browne 2002,1), and as it has always been easier to retain clients than discovery new ones.
This gives business with a SFA an advantage as they can store the details of their previous clients and retain them and manage new customer with ease. With automation processes in place ensure businesses are both productive and efficient. Two main benefits that are gained from the use of automating are productivity gains and efficiency improvements (Companies bright future 1999, 23rd). One major productivity gain is the integration of the sales channels, to provide one shared view of the customer and their history with the company (Goldenberg 1995, S1).
This improves productivity as employees can now access all information regarding customers easier, so they can go into meeting more prepared and if the client asks a question they have the resources to answer it straight away. One industry that this works particular well in is call centers and travel agent, as they deal with the same clients multiple times with possibly not having a preference of whom they talk to. A faster follow up time can be one efficiency improvement received by automating. For example in an office setting such as business-to-business operation where quotes are sent for certain amounts of materials.
If an automating system such as email outlook, inventory control and customer management is in place the follow up can be complete within a very short time. This benefits the business as they can complete more follow-ups each day resulting in more business. Another is an increase of new prospects pursued by individual sales consultants (Goldenberg 1995, S1). The automation process makes it easier to input and keep track of multiple clients. It also decreases the length of the sales cycle, ensuring that sales consultants can deal with their client’s effective and efficiently resulting in a fast turnover rate.
These make it easier for consultants to start new customer relationship, as they handle and deal with a high rate of customer intake, which ultimately increase growth within the company. There are several costs and downfalls that a business can face when implementing a SFA system. One disadvantage that occurs when implementing a SFA system is the failure to analyze the companies existing processes (Sales force automation, 2006). When a company wants to implement a SFA program they have to examine their own sales processes, as many do not have a written guideline or uniform process in the sales transactions.
This may give the company long-term benefits as they can pick out the current sales flaws and make alterations in the new structured system. However in the short-term this procedure takes time and resources in order to outline and discover the steps of sales. This delay can cause disturbance within the company. But ultimately the biggest problem caused is if the new sales system isn’t the same method as what the sales consultants used, or the company is not satisfied. This problem could cause the company loss of business through being unorganized and resentment of the program among employees.
When there is a lack of user involvement with the SFA systems the business is disadvantaged (Sales force automation, 2006). Prior studies have shown when new technologies are introduced into a company they can be competence-enhancing or competence-destroying. Competence-enhancing technologies preserve and enrich the value of the employees existing skills, knowledge and relationships (Speier and Venkatesh 2002, 98). Whilst competence- destroying technologies render existing skills, knowledge and relationships creating a perception of deskilling (Speier and Venkatesh 2002, 98).
Depending on the particular user and SFA technology will judge whether the employee’s work will be enhanced or destroyed. For example Generation X or the Baby Boomers might not cope with the technology change as well as Generation Y as they are not exposed to as many new forms of technology. If workers competence is being destroyed implicates the company in huge way through they will see a higher turnover rate and less motivation among their employee’s. A turn over rate implicates the company through the relationships made between the employee and their clients are lost.
This relationship may not be abled to be restarted by the new employee, as the client might not like the new one or decide to go with a different company causing the loss of business. Employee turnover also disadvantages companies through they might take their existing clients, to their new company resulting in the loss of business. SFA systems take both time and money to get in full operation. With being so costly puts a lot of pressure on them to work in an effective and efficient way. This also sees that the members of the sales team will need efficient training to get them introduced with the new process and systems.
If this training is not done properly employee will find it difficult to change over operating systems and it will not be used the way it’s required. This includes not entering data into the system (Sales force automation, 2006) weather being small or large. This cost the company due to if that employee quits or gets fired all that information is lost, as it is not stored within the business. Entering this data tricks employees into thinking there dispensable so a large amount of the time they are resilient.
An example of were this occurs is the housing industry and with leads on houses, if a employee is fired the lead will be lost, but they may show resilience to give over their client in the risk of another consultant taking them. This proves to be an obstacle for management and take time for the employees to become aware and trusting of the new system. In conclusion the implementation of Sales Force Automation systems should continue to be a large part of business processes. As the industry advances many new technologies and add-ons will come about and make processes easier for the business and consumer.
SFA will always provide both benefits and cost to the business its just the matter of defining what works for the company. For example you have to crawl before you walk. This implies that if businesses implementing SFA perfects each step over time they will become second nature for the employees and management. Once started this process is never concluded (Erffmeyer and Johnston 2001, 167) as there will always be something more or to be added on. The SFA is necessary especially in the changing retail environment of the 21st century were customers are expecting more and a higher quality of client relationships and service.
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