Four Hot SFA Projects


Share on LinkedIn

Which projects are going to help your sales team win the race?

Which projects are going to help your sales team win the race?

One of the top questions I hear from VPs of sales is: What’s the next, best thing that we can do to take our sales force automation (SFA) and overall sales programs to the next level?

To build a better sales CRM program plan, follow these three steps:

As that demonstrates, the answer to the “what next?” question will differ for every business.

But based on what we’re hearing from VPs of sales, as well as the numerous CRM project implementations we’ve delivered this year, here are my view of the four hottest sales CRM projects:

1. CPQ: Configure, Price, Quote

One of the most high-priority items on many sales VP agendas is the concept of CPQ–for configure, price, quote, or what’s sometimes called quote to cash. Think of it as the intersection between the sales and order management systems. Expect CPQ to become a top priority for many businesses, thanks to its ability to support both business growth and increased sales efficiency.

The CPQ premise is simple: Give salespeople the ability to easily put together the right–as in, most attractive–configuration of products for a customer or prospect from within the SFA application. Handling this in-system helps sales reps more easily navigate the bewildering array of product SKUs offered to customers. As a result, they can generate more quotes, which results in a greater number of sales.

Meanwhile, these quotes are linked directly to the order management system, which reduces the number of incorrect quotes and incorrect product orders. Incorrect orders are a huge drain on profitability due to wasted manufacturing effort, product returns, and the resulting customer service attentions that are required. That’s why one of our manufacturing customers estimates that by putting a CPQ program in place, they’ll save two points of gross margin, thus paying for the CPQ improvements–and then some.

2. Account Planning

The economic environment today is fine in the United States, and more challenging in European markets. But the bottom line is that we’re no longer in the go-go 1990s era of Bill Clinton and unbridled market optimism. Accordingly, businesses now are focusing on getting more out of their current customers, rather than winning new accounts.

That’s why a top sales program project might be ensuring that you have the right account planning capabilities in your SFA arsenal to map the value of accounts–meaning, what you think their revenue potential will be–as well as to build annual or periodic sales plans that achieve those objectives. Extensive research has shown that sales teams with a plan are much more likely to meet their sales targets.

3. Social CRM Meets Sales

For advanced practitioners of CRM, this is the time to take sales social. I say advanced, because many of our B2B customers, especially, have been through what I’d call the Gartner hype cycle for social CRM: Great excitement and hype, followed by unmet expectations and subsequent disillusionment. To summarize: “Facebook helped overthrow the Mubarek regime in Egypt, so surely it will help Acme Manufacturing sell more widgets?”

If you could subtract out the hype, social CRM is actually in a good spot on the business-payoff curve. It’s not overthrowing sales as we know it, but leading-edge practitioners are seeing steady results. Still, social CRM is an entirely new concept. Like the early days of the Web, it’s not clear how the concept can be best harvested for business returns, but it pays to find out–starting with telling your CEO to get social.

4. Sales Analytics

Finally, an emerging trend –which may not reach full bloom just yet– is cloud-based sales analytics. As more and more businesses shift their SFA operations to the cloud, they’re finding that traditional approaches to reporting, analysis, and data warehousing aren’t keeping up.

In part, that’s because cloud CRM applications live in the moment. Say you create a sales forecast today. Over the next few weeks, you’ll no doubt revise the opportunities–qualify some out, create new ones. The forecast, naturally, will be updated as a result. But cloud CRM tools don’t typically save a historic view of that forecast; only a current one.

To compensate, some businesses dump their cloud CRM forecasts into Excel every week, but that’s not ideal. Say you’re Panasonic, trying to compare 52 weeks of billion-dollar forecasts. Not only is that going to be a lot of work, but even if you manage to keep up, the comparisons may not be accurate–we all know how challenging it can be to manually manipulate that amount of data.

As a result, many businesses are investigating cloud-based CRM analytics add-ons–from vendors such as Cloud9 and Domo–to accurately compare the state of their sales pipeline today with six weeks ago, or any other time in the past.

Get Planning For Business Results

The above isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of must-have CRM projects for every sales program. But many sales VPs have been telling us that they plan to pursue these types of projects, or else to put intermediary capabilities in place that will help them achieve these capabilities in the future.

On the planning front, one final note: Always focus on business outcomes, rather than technology. First, identify the next, best steps for your sales program, and then put the right implementation plan and technology in place to make it happen. Because small steps, not big leaps, are the most direct path to not just CRM project success, but achieving the business goals your plan must promise to deliver.


Want to build a more effective CRM program? Then identify the next, best step for your marketing, sales or service program, by benchmarking your current program against the best practices we’ve assembled through our experience with more than 5,000 CRM projects. Once you’ve identified what to improve, then find the best tools and technology for the job.

Post and thumbnail photos courtesy of Flickr user Phil Roeder.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adam Honig
Adam is the Co-Founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. He is a recognized thought-leader in sales process and effectiveness, and has previously co-founded three successful technology companies: Innoveer Solutions, C-Bridge, and Open Environment. He is best known for speaking at various conferences including Dreamforce, for pioneering the 'No Jerks' hiring model, and for flying his drone while traveling the world.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here