Sales organizations spend a lot of time, energy and money deploying sales force automation (SFA) tools. In theory, these systems can automate routine sales processes and provide intelligence about the company’s prospects, customers and sellers. However, many companies require reps to enter large quantities of data such as call reports, meeting reports, account plans and win/loss reports that never seem to be reviewed or utilized by sales management, marketing or other functional groups. This negative reinforcement has immediate and lasting implications. Reps quickly learn how to take shortcuts in the system, entering the minimum amount of information to keep management appeased.
Instead of allowing this to happen, we recommend conducting an annual audit of your SFA system using the following five steps:
- Assess and evaluate. Look at every item that requires manual data entry by the sales rep. Is the data being used? By whom? Is there value provided to the rep or the greater organization? Is it worth the time spent by the sales rep? You can expand the assessment to include the entire screen layout. Is critical customer data readily available to the rep on a single screen? Can reps update opportunities with a minimum of clicks and saves?
- Discard any irrelevant or unused fields. Start with the proposition that sales time is valuable and shouldn’t be wasted on data entry tasks of questionable value. Examine every data item or field – especially those in commonly used objects such as opportunities, accounts, leads and contacts – for quality, need and value. Seek alternative sources of data where possible, such as importing account names and info from third-party data sources. This is an excellent time to assess your sales process and update it to align with your buyer’s journey.
- Hold the consumer of the information accountable. Check to see how the data is being used upstream and downstream. For example, is win/loss data being utilized by marketing and product to develop a better understanding of buyer behavior? Are disqualified leads examined to improve demand generation activities?
Minimize mandatory fields and use randomized drop-down lists. Examine every mandatory field to ensure continued relevance and value. Using drop-down lists for items such as win/loss reason codes can reduce data-entry time but should be randomized to prevent reps from simply checking off the top item on the list.
- Automate and streamline data entry. There are many tools that capture sales activities such as calls, emails and meetings. They capture not just the fact that an activity occurred, but the context and substanc e of the conversation or email. These tools provide much greater insight into buyer and seller behavior than manual data entry, while allowing reps to work naturally within their email, calendar and mobile devices. For data that must be entered manually, try to adopt an “enter once, use many times” approach to prevent duplicate data entry.
An annual SFA audit presents an opportunity to reduce data entry time and errors while delivering greater value to sales reps and managers. It also sends a message that sales operations and sales leaders are serious about rep time and productivity.