Manufacturers and Distributors, especially Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies are constantly facing pressure to increase their sales and market share while maintaining profitability. Manufacturers and Distributors can achieve these goals by implementing sales force automation (SFA) solutions. SFA, such as Solutech Sales Force Automation Tool (Solutech SAT), can revolutionize the way Manufacturers and Distributors operate, providing them with the tools and insights they need to optimize their sales strategies, increase efficiency, and drive growth.
What is Sales Force Automation?
Sales force automation is a technology-driven process that automates sales tasks and activities, such as route planning, customer management, inventory management, merchandising, order processing, to logistics. It enables companies to streamline their sales processes, reduce manual errors, and increase efficiency and productivity to serve their customers better. Additionally, it provides real-time visibility into sales performance, allowing companies to make data-driven decisions to improve their sales strategies.
How Can SFA Benefit Manufacturers and Distributors?
Manufacturers and Distributors can benefit significantly from SFA in several ways:
- Streamlining Sales Processes: SFA can automate the entire sales process, from route planning, customer data centralizing, and inventory management for van sales, to order processing, allowing sales teams to focus on more critical tasks such as building relationships with customers and use data to sell more and better. This improves sales team productivity and enables them to focus on high-value activities that drive growth.
- Improved Data Visibility: SFA provides real-time visibility into sales performance, enabling manufacturers and distributors to monitor sales trends, identify opportunities, and make data-driven decisions to improve sales strategies. This improves the accuracy and reliability of sales forecasts and enables companies to make informed decisions about resource allocation and pricing. By adapting Solutech Sales Automation Tool, we have seen the great lengths our customers go in making data-driven decisions from the data they gather from their sales teams in the field.
- Enhanced Customer Management and Loyalty: SFA provides detailed customer information such as master data of all the customers, geo-locations of the customers, purchase history, frequency of visits, unpaid invoices, and customer targets. This information can be used to develop personalized sales strategies and marketing campaigns, improving customer engagement and loyalty. With the generated data from customers, manufacturers, and distributors can opt to build a strong customer loyalty program and advance merchant financing to the best-performing customers. I will write about merchant financing in the coming months and how it can be a channel to drive high customer loyalty.
- Efficient Order Management: Solutech Sales Automation Tool automates the entire order management process, from order placement to delivery, reducing manual errors, and improving order accuracy. This leads to increased customer satisfaction and repeat business. The beauty of this process is Solutech SAT integrates fully with all leading ERPs to enable field orders to be synchronized directly to the ERP system to allow the finance team to start invoicing the orders in real-time thus reducing Order to Delivery time.
- Proof of Delivery. By automating the order generation process, it is important that manufacturers and distributors alike implement proof of delivery for their orders. Not only is this important for documentation purposes but for efficiently managing their logistics division by making sure delivery vehicles are fully utilized properly. As well, the auto-generation of optimized loading sheets to enable warehousing teams to load faster, coupled with optimized delivery routes to drive driver performance can only lead to an efficient logistics process in the long run.
- Increased Efficiency: SFA automates routine sales tasks, allowing sales teams to focus on more important tasks. This improves efficiency and enables companies to achieve more with fewer resources.
- Efficient Modern Trade Management. By automating merchandiser activities, companies can streamline their operations for supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, cafes, and institutions from appointment management, audits for inventory, products availability, brands availability product expiries, damages, display units, price indexes, and price comparisons to survey audits.
Challenges of Implementing SFA
While SFA solutions such as Solutech SAT provide many benefits, implementing them can be challenging. Some of the challenges may include:
- Resistance to Change: Sales teams may resist adopting new technologies, leading to resistance to change and a lack of adoption. At Solutech, we have become experts in change management and continuously train our Customer Service teams to effectively manage change, especially for sales teams who have never used technology before. Manufacturers and distributors though need to be aware of such challenges and help by being at the forefront of enforcing the change.
- Integration with Legacy Systems: From our experience, many manufacturers and distributors still operate different legacy systems for their Entity Resource Planning (ERP) systems and unless integrations are done, it will become extremely hard in the long run to have to input data into two systems which will be time-consuming. This can cause issues with data integrity and make it difficult to achieve a single source of truth. Over the years, we have fully integrated Solutech SAT to SAP Business One, SAP Hana, Microsoft Dynamics 365, SAGE Evolution, SAGE X3, Epicor iScala, Odoo, and Syspro, among other ERPs.
- Cost: Implementing SFA can be costly, especially for smaller companies with limited budgets. It is crucial that manufacturers and distributors do not see adopting SFA as an expense rather than an investment that will help drive sales and overall growth of their companies.
- Data Security: Storing sensitive customer and sales data in the cloud can be a security concern for companies, especially in the wake of data security concerns worldwide. It is therefore crucial that SFA companies implement strong security policies and mechanisms to ensure their clients’ data is safeguarded at all costs. Working with publicly listed companies like Crown Paints PLC in Kenya and Pepsico in Ethiopia has enabled us to put efficient data security mechanisms including SOC2 Compliance.
In conclusion, sales force automation is a powerful tool for manufacturers and distributors, especially FMCG companies looking to optimize their sales strategies, increase efficiency, and drive growth. While there are challenges to implementing SFA solutions, the benefits outweigh the costs. By streamlining sales processes, improving data visibility, enhancing customer management, improving order management, and increasing efficiency, manufacturers and distributors can stay ahead of the competition and achieve their business objectives.