In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, manufacturers, distributors and sales agencies are increasingly turning to sales force automation software to streamline their sales processes, enhance productivity, drive revenue growth and make data-driven decisions. Solutech SAT (Sales force Automation Tool) is a powerful Sales Force Automation (SFA) solution that can significantly boost sales teams’ performance and improve overall operational efficiency. To ensure a successful implementation, it is essential to approach the process strategically and consider key factors that will maximize the benefits of adopting Solutech SAT. This article outlines the steps and best practices for successfully implementing sales force automation software like Solutech SAT.
Clearly Define Requirements and Objectives
Before embarking on the search for an SFA system, it is crucial to clearly define your organization’s requirements and objectives. Determine the specific pain points you want to address in your route to market strategy and the desired outcomes from adopting Solutech SAT. For example, tracking sales team targets, traceability of sales team working and transit times, improving sales team efficiency, enhancing customer visits, processing orders faster, van sales inventory management, visibility into sales team retail audits like surveys, expires and damages reporting, on-shelf availability of products, the share of shelf, stock taking, or even improving logistics planning and proof of delivery.
Setting clear goals will provide direction to ensure you get the right service provider to implement the right functionalities you need. However, it is important that as you start this journey you consider the SFA project as an investment but not an expense as the former will ensure you view it as an enabler to improve productivity.
Assess Current Processes
Evaluate your existing sales processes to identify areas that can be automated and optimized with Solutech SAT. Involve key stakeholders, such as sales representatives, van sales teams, merchandisers, their team leaders, supervisors and managers, to gain insights into their pain points and requirements. This ensures every user’s views are taken into account and the right expectations are set from the onset. As the key decision maker, either as top management or director of the business, you would not want to make the project be seen as a tool forced down to end users from the management.
Resistance from users is one of the key challenges we have noted over numerous organisations, especially those transitioning from manual ways of working to automating their processes. Hence, involving all key stakeholders will ensure there is good buy-in from everyone thus ensuring a smooth transition in terms of change management. Change is scary as many users will be scared of losing their jobs, being monitored and adapting to new ways of executing their roles, and hence as top management, be involved in the full process together with the whole team to give them comfort and ensure that they feel supported.
Choose the Right Implementation Team
Form a dedicated implementation team consisting of individuals with expertise in sales, IT, and project management. Over time, I have noted organisations which feel that SFA projects should be implemented by the IT department, but this shouldn’t be the case. The sales department should be on top of their game in ensuring the system addresses all their requirements, and with the support of the IT department to ensure the project is successfully implemented. The implementation team will oversee the implementation process, manage internal communication, and ensure alignment with the organization’s goals. Depending on the size of your organisation, you can constitute more than one person to champion this process. Assign a project manager who will be the central point of contact and facilitate collaboration between stakeholders and the software vendor.
Set Targets for the Sales Team
Setting clear and achievable targets for the sales team is essential for maximizing the benefits of sales force automation software like Solutech SAT. Start by aligning the targets with your organization’s overall sales and revenue objectives. Most organisations have a revenue target each year and this should ideally form your basis for the targets of every region, and every salesperson in all the regions. Consider factors such as historical performance, market trends, and the potential impact of implementing Solutech SAT. Collaborate with the sales team to ensure their buy-in and commitment to the targets, as their active involvement and ownership are vital for success.
The most important metrics to track should be the number of customers to visit in a month, the sales value to achieve in a month or the sales volume to achieve in a month. In some industries where price fluctuates a lot, tracking sales volume is better than tracking sales value. For example, the number of bales sold instead of $10M worth of sales generated. These targets can be then subdivided into days per the number of working days for each salesperson. This will then define the target for each salesperson per day. As well, based on the number of customers to visit, you may define the strike rate/success rate to ensure salespeople are not only visiting customers but also generating sales from those visits. You may also set targets for payment collection to ensure sales representatives are following up on unpaid invoices. Merchandisers might have more refined KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) like reducing expires (adhering to First In First Out) and damages, reducing stock-outs (ensuring availability), and maintaining or increasing share of shelf.
By utilising an SFA like Solutech SAT, you will regularly track and monitor the team’s progress using the reporting and analytics functionalities. This data-driven approach allows you to provide timely feedback, identify areas for improvement, and adjust targets as needed. Remember to strike a balance between setting challenging targets that drive growth and motivating the team by providing them with attainable goals that promote confidence and motivation.
Define Required Reports
Reports generated by Solutech SAT offer valuable insights into various aspects of your sales operations and enable data-driven decision-making. These reports provide a comprehensive view of sales performance, including key metrics such as revenue, sales conversion rates, customer acquisition, and retention rates. They help identify trends, patterns, and opportunities for improvement, allowing you to make informed strategic decisions. Additionally, reports can provide visibility into individual sales representative performance, allowing you to identify top performers, identify coaching needs, and establish benchmarks for productivity. Furthermore, reports on customer behaviour, such as buying patterns, preferences, and feedback, enable you to tailor your sales and marketing strategies to better serve your customers’ needs. By leveraging the reporting capabilities of SFA, you can gain actionable insights, measure the effectiveness of your sales initiatives, and continuously optimize your sales processes for enhanced performance and business growth.
It is critical to regularly review and analyze reports to gain a deeper understanding of your sales performance and make data-driven decisions. Therefore, list all the reports you will require to align with your specific business goals and metrics, ensuring they provide meaningful and actionable information. By leveraging the power of reports, you can maximize the benefits of sales force automation software and drive continuous improvement within your sales organization. Better, you can do an integration with your favourite data analytics tool like Power BI, or Qlik Sense to help you build your own custom dashboards.
Set a Budget
Setting up a budget for implementing the project is essential to ensure a smooth and successful transition. Begin by thoroughly evaluating the costs associated with the software itself, including implementation costs, integration costs, licenses and any additional modules or customizations required. Additionally, consider any hardware upgrades or infrastructure changes necessary to support the software like purchasing new devices for the end users. As well, allocate resources for training sessions including travel costs for all the users to any required training location, and ongoing support to facilitate user adoption and address any technical issues that may arise.
Moreover, if you are already using another SFA software, factor in the cost of data migration to the new system as a dedicated resource would need to clean up the data to align with the templates of the new system. By accurately estimating and allocating the necessary funds, you can effectively manage the financial aspects of implementing Solutech SAT and ensure a well-executed and cost-effective implementation process. Having a budget in place will ensure that as you embark on selecting a vendor, you pick a vendor who suits your budget.
Choose The Right Vendor
There are many SFA systems, notably Solutech SAT, provided by Solutech Limited, a leading sales force automation provider in Kenya with implementations across 8 markets in Africa; Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, DRC, Zambia, Ethiopia and Sudan. Work closely with the identified implementation team to source the right software vendor. Ensure the SFA system meets all your requirements and those that are not met, can at least be customised per your business processes. Depending on whether you require integration to external systems like your ERP (Entity Resource Planning) software, evaluate the vendors’ experience in carrying out similar integrations with your ERP.
Understand the vendor’s pricing points, from their implementation and integration costs to licensing costs. In as much as some vendors may not meet your budget, at this point, it becomes important to evaluate whether to relook at the budget depending on how good the demonstrated system is. Also, inquire about the vendor’s ability to provide support as you would want to implement software for which you can get after-sales support. Lastly, it is important to establish whether the vendor is a reseller or the direct owner of the software as dealing with the direct owner will make it easy for you to get customisations, after-sales support and future upgrades.
Sign Off The Necessary Documents
After establishing the right vendor who suits your needs, request for a proposal from the vendor. If need be, you may negotiate the rates, and once you have a win-win for everyone, sign the proposal and sign a contract if need be. When implementing sales force automation software like Solutech SAT, proposals and contracts play a vital role in establishing a clear understanding between your organization and the software vendor. A well-defined proposal should outline the scope of work, including customizations if any, integrations, training, and ongoing support including all costs involved. It should also provide details regarding the project timeline, milestones, and deliverables. When reviewing the contract, pay close attention to the licensing terms, including the number of user licenses, and annual maintenance costs (AMC) if any.
Look for provisions that address data ownership, confidentiality, and data security to safeguard your sensitive information. Additionally, ensure the contract includes service level agreements (SLAs) that define the vendor’s responsibilities, response times, and support channels. It is crucial to review all terms and conditions thoroughly and seek legal advice if necessary to protect your organization’s interests and ensure a mutually beneficial partnership with the software vendor. If need be, you may sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) with the SFA vendor to ensure your business data interests are protected.
Remember, it is important to consult with legal professionals if your organisation does not have a legal department to ensure that all legal and contractual aspects are properly addressed based on the specific requirements and regulations of your organization and jurisdiction.
Begin Implementation: Configurations, Customizations and Integrations
With all paperwork done, implementation of the system begins which involves mapping all use cases and processes, setting up the client deployment, and configuring the features and data. Prepare all the required data from users’ data, their route plans, products, price lists, prices, customer information and any other data required for setup. During this phase, work closely with the software vendor to customize your Solutech SAT according to your organization’s requirements. Map your sales processes onto the software’s features and functionalities, ensuring a smooth and intuitive user experience.
Configure the software to match your terminology, workflows, and reporting needs. Depending on the project timeline, conduct frequent User Acceptance Testing sessions to ensure the software is being configured per the requirements. If there are integrations to be done, whether for payments or ERP integration, introduce any external service providers in advance to harmonize all integration needs. These integrations enable seamless data flow, eliminate manual data entry, and provide a holistic view of customer interactions and sales performance to ensure once orders are booked from the field, they reflect in the ERP system on a real-time basis.
Training and Hand Holding
Effective communication and training are vital for successful software adoption. Once UAT sessions have been given the green light by your implementation team, the team can proceed to plan for training sessions with all users. If there are users who need to be merged into one central location from different regions, ensure the team effectively plans for this, factoring in the different user groups who need to be trained, from van sales reps, order bookers, merchandisers, drivers, supervisors and top management. The software vendor should provide a detailed training work plan detailing the places of training, the date and time of training, and the user groups to be trained.
Conduct training sessions for users, providing hands-on experience and addressing any concerns or questions they may have. Encourage feedback and create a supportive environment to facilitate a smooth transition. After the training, it is important to handhold the users by accompanying them to the trade to ensure they easily get up and running with the software. This will help in creating familiarity with the end user and their day-to-day roles hence increasing adoption rates.
Monitor and Evaluate
After implementation, close the project and then closely monitor the usage and performance of Solutech SAT. Analyze key metrics such as sales growth, productivity, and adoption rates to assess the software’s impact. Regularly solicit feedback from users and make necessary adjustments to optimize the system’s functionality and address any emerging challenges.
At the end of the day, what gets measured, gets done.
Therefore, ensure the end users are utilising the software as required and progressively monitor the data being captured especially customer information to ensure data completeness and accuracy. It is only by monitoring and evaluating that you will be able to know where to improve and how to improve. Ensure the right users internally are getting the correct reports from the system to ensure they effectively utilise the software to its maximum capability.
Sales force automation is an ongoing process. Regularly review and refine your processes to leverage the full potential of Solutech SAT. Stay updated on the latest software updates and features, and actively seek user feedback to identify areas for improvement. Encourage collaboration between the implementation team and the software vendor to ensure your organization continues to derive maximum value from the software. Ensure the implementation team can re-train new users or even existing users to ensure you are self-reliant internally, without relying on the software vendor at all times.
Implementing Solutech SAT or any sales force automation software requires a strategic approach and careful planning. By clearly defining objectives, involving key stakeholders, customizing and integrating the software to match your organization’s needs, and providing comprehensive training and support, you can successfully implement Solutech SAT and maximize the benefits it offers. Remember to continuously monitor, evaluate, and refine your processes to ensure ongoing success in sales automation and drive sustainable business growth.