Sales Force Automation (SFA) needs a reboot. The truth is, over the last 20 years, SFA systems have done little to help salespeople sell. Instead, they have just been a Rolodex of information focused around the needs of managers – a dumping ground where data goes to die.
And until now, the lead and opportunity management process has been depicted as a funnel with distinct stages. Sales teams generate reports that identify where their prospects are in the sales process. Companies develop strategies to optimize each stage of that process.
But sales people have lamented for years that the sales process is non-linear. Prospects visit your website for research, maybe download a paper or watch a video, even solicit a Request for Information. Then they go dark. Only to circle back and request a high-stakes demo or do more research.
The problem is that most SFA tools don’t adequately capture or manage this disorder. They have a hard time accounting for, and providing useful guidance for, the erratic, arbitrary, real world of sales.
To better capture your client or prospect’s intent, focus on “state” not “stage.”
To truly guide salespeople in a more data-driven, insightful, and proactive way, your sales automation software needs to focus on the prospect’s state not their stage. After all, the customer is the one driving the sale – not the process. And, as mentioned above, customers are unpredictable.
SFA software needs to react to customer wants, needs, and behaviors, and draw predictive guidance from their unpredictability. It’s not impossible, but it does require software that can capture and analyze data in real-time, then provide recommendations for the next best steps to take – regardless if the actions appear sequential.
The new way to think about sales management: You are not managing leads, you’re managing dynamic opportunities.
Because the nature of the interaction with your customer can change in a heartbeat, the opportunity itself is dynamic. This means that your SFA tool needs to have the capability to orchestrate multiple tasks simultaneously, and revise recommendations for exceptions.
Basically, it needs a foundation of dynamic case management to intelligently organize and track the dynamic actions within the opportunity. With dynamic case management tracking and managing assigned tasks at each stage, you can define sales strategies that support the complexities of non-linear customer paths.
New SFA requirements
The Forrester Wave™: Sales Force Automation Solutions report states, “Seller productivity, application ecosystems, and Artificial Intelligence usher in a new age of selling,” and mentions four items SFA solutions need to address:
- Providing contextual experiences for various sales roles.
- Enhancing seller productivity.
- Cultivating an ecosystem of sales capabilities to boost seller effectiveness.
- Using AI and machine learning to guide selling actions.
By 2020, Gartner predicts 15 percent of all new enterprise B2B SFA implementations will feature event-driven processes, so reps can provide the right experience at the right moment when interacting with prospects and customers. For example, if a prospect has spent time on your website investigating a specific product, the sales rep will be notified to send them a product sheet.
At the same time, 30 percent of all B2B companies will use AI to augment at least one of their primary sales processes.
The bottom line is this: Sales Automation is moving away from funnel-based lead and opportunity management to a real-time, dynamic system that delivers enablement to sellers and engagement with clients and prospects, based on the customer’s needs – not arbitrary internal processes of a company.
- Read how real AI and automation help work get done.
- View our product demo “How you sell is as important as what you sell,” which shows how Pega’s AI-based tools provide an advantage in managing dynamic opportunities.
- Watch this interview with John Bruno of Forrester Research on how SFA tools are evolving to support the AI-empowered seller.
- Learn about the product features that differentiate Pega Sales Automation from the competition.
- Network with the world’s top brands and Test drive Pega Sales Automation at PegaWorld 2018.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chris Benedetto, senior director of product marketing, brings 20 years of CRM, digital transformation, and marketing insight to the Pega Sales Automation team. He helps clients solve problems and build impactful sales solutions.