Selling is a challenging task for any business—which is where sales force automation (SFA) software comes into play. SFA solutions are meant to reduce the amount of time it takes to close a deal, help sales teams pursue a larger amount of better leads and automate the time-consuming details.
SFA software also gives management the ability to track sales figures and goals more easily, keeping everybody on the same page.
Here at Software Advice, we often talk to businesses who come to us seeking new sales force automation solutions as they face the challenges of operating and growing in today’s market. These interactions give us unique insight into what features and functions buyers are looking for in new software.
This report will examine a recent analysis of 200 conversations with small to midsize businesses (SMBs) in order to identify the top trends amongst SFA buyers.
- Compared to our 2015 SFA buyer report, there is an increased desire among buyers for automated follow-up reminders (84 percent; up from 23 percent) and tracking interactions (88 percent; up from 46 percent).
- Buyers are more likely to have previously used manual methods (74 percent in 2016 compared to 48 percent in 2015), with only 16 percent already using a commercial CRM product.
- Most of the buyers in our sample are small businesses: 55 percent have an annual revenue of less than $1 million and are looking for an SFA system for one to five users that costs somewhere from $60-$75 per user per month.
Buyers Are Troubled By Disorganization and Poor Tracking
According to Amy Van Atta Slater, the SVP of worldwide sales operations for Rovi and former VP of enterprise corporate sales for Salesforce, this desire for automation is in part a reaction to higher turnover rates amongst employees,
“To be able to have records on the notes and conversations that people have with their customers means that if you have a salesperson that walks out the door then the customer engagement doesn’t walk out the door with them,” Slater says.
She adds that, “A lot of people look at their CRM platforms not just for prospects, but for how they’re servicing that prospect once they become a customer.”
These comments suggest that contact management is a crucial need for SFA software buyers because it allows them to focus on maintaining and nurturing important relationships.
A major trend in SFA, Slater notes, is part of a larger movement “toward the ‘R’ in CRM, which is about relationship management, because people really want to extend that relationship beyond just the transaction.”
Desire for Tracking and Automation Up Double Digits Since 2015
In our 2015 report, contact management was the most desired feature for buyers, with 83 percent reporting it as as a necessary functionality. That number has increased this year, with almost all respondents (98 percent) expressing a desire for contact management functionality.
Nikhil Hasija, CEO of app/data synchronization company Azuqua, believes this overwhelming majority indicates just how much SMBs are looking to connect business transactions across multiple software platforms.
“Whatever’s existing in the market is just not working for people, and they’re looking for a more connected experience,” he says.
Contact management, then, extends beyond simply a database of names, numbers, and email addresses. Instead, when integrated with tracking, contact management comprises a set of living data that is, as Hasija calls it, “fresh.”
The need to track sales teams’ interactions with clients has increased drastically (from 46 percent in 2015 to 88 percent this year), as has the desire for automated reminders/follow-ups, which has almost quadrupled, from 23 percent last year to 84 percent this year.
Tracking interactions and scheduling reminders/follow-ups enables sales teams to rely less on faulty memories or outdated reminder systems. They can instead use an integrated SFA tool that provides them with shared knowledge of past experiences and future plans for each contact and/or lead.
More Buyers Are Changing From Manual Methods
In 2015, we found that almost half (48 percent) of our buyers were looking for software to replace manual sales force tracking methods. In 2016, though, that number has increased to almost two thirds of buyers (74 percent).
Meanwhile, the number of users who say they are unhappy with the dedicated commercial CRM software they are using remains roughly the same (16 percent compared to 20 percent in 2015).
As automation becomes ever more important, it seems that SMBs are realizing that manual methods do not provide a realistic approach to CRM.
They are also coming to find that using free applications (such as those provided by Google), or those that might be part of a package they already own for other purposes (such as those provided by Microsoft), can prove problematic as the size of a business scales up.
“What we most often find is that individual sales or customer support people create their own spreadsheets that house their contact information and dates of interaction,” explains Susan Connor, president and chief CRM strategist at Salesforce integration firm Squareblue Consulting.
“What results is a splintered view of the entire organization’s relationship with clients and prospects. Each person sees their own tree, but no one has a view of the forest.”
Most Buyers Make Less Than $1 Million in Annual Revenue
More than half of the buyers in our sample (55 percent) reported an annual revenue of less than $1 million, with another 25 percent having a revenue of $1 to $5 million. Businesses making between $6 and $50 million annually made up only 20 percent of our buyer sample.
“As more and more people get closer and closer to the customer, marketing, sales and customer service/support will need access to the attributes of this particular customer/contact,” Hasija notes.
“The SFA software becomes the central record/source of truth, and more than a few people will need access to it.”
Jeanne DeWitt, owner of cloud services company CPU, Inc, adds that, “These kinds of [SFA-enabled] mechanisms allow the sales interactions to remain personalized but also allow for a streamlined processes and further redundancy reduction.”
However, for a small business with a limited budget, adding more users can greatly increase the cost. The majority (80 percent) of buyers in our sample are looking to spend a maximum of $75 per user per month, with more than half (57 percent) looking to pay within the range of $60 to $75/user/month.
It seems, then, that most SMBs don’t want to break the bank with new SFA software, and are looking for a solution that will cost them around $300 to $400 a month, in addition to set-up fees.
“Too often these smaller organizations, though, are intimidated by the costs of some of the industry leading tools. There are in fact cost effective alternatives.”
For many small business buyers, SFA software may seem like an overly complex solution for the seemingly simple problem of storing contacts, tracking information, and setting reminders.
However, it’s important to keep in in mind that this problem may be more complex than it seems at first, and that the software solutions may indeed be easier to implement than they appear.
Here are a few important points for prospective SFA buyers to consider:
You may need more SFA users than you think. A huge part of CRM is the ability of all stakeholders across a company to be able to access client/lead information, which requires access to the SFA system with an open sharing model.
One of the most basic aspects of SFA software is also in many ways the most important—contact management. Keeping track of clients and leads can be an arduous task, but software can make it much easier. SFA solutions allow for a clear, consistent approach to tracking relationships with contacts and continuing to nurture that relationship post-sale.
The money spent on optimizing SFA software up front will likely reap dividends further down the line. Creating better relationships between your sales team and clients/leads will lead to more sales. The more you can do to streamline and automate this process, the greater the chance for success.
Note: You can find more information about our methodology here.