Next-Generation SFA Tools: Scoring Versus Scorekeeping

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A major appeal of SFA and CRM applications is their ability to store vast amounts of historical information. Essentially they are a repository for “what happened”. If people are vigilant about entering data on a timely basis, these applications can answer a myriad of questions: How many sales calls did each salesperson make last week? What products has this customer bought recently? Who is the key contact for this service? What is the 30-60-90 day forecast? The data mining possibilities that historical data offers is limited only by technology, the intellect of the user and the amount of data to be mined.

However, I would argue that of all the people in an organization, the success of a salesperson is least dependent on historical data. Hence most sales people don’t embrace SFA and CRM willingly because they don’t help salespeople SELL! They force salespeople to allocate valuable selling time to data entry, to scorekeeping.

Ask any salesperson about the past and they will tell you that it means essentially nothing; nobody cares what you did yesterday. Salespeople are inundated with questions about what they will sell next week, next quarter and next year! Successful sales people cannot and do not live in the past. A salesperson’s success is all about the future as envisioned by their prospects. Unlike accountants, where the accuracy of the Balance Sheet and Income Statement is paramount; the salesperson must always focus on the future – achieving the Forecast.

I would argue that the next generation of SFA tools must be outward focused. The focus must be on scoring NOT scorekeeping. Specifically, SFA tools need to help salespeople in the execution phase of selling, i.e., the sales call. If every salesperson spent as much time planning their sales calls as they do today reporting their activity, their success rate would be phenomenal.

Take a survey at your company today. Ask a few salespeople how much time they spend planning for a sales call AND if they develop a written sales call plan and a written agenda their sales calls. If your company is like most of the companies, you will be disappointed in the answers. Then ask them how much time they spend every week entering SFA and CRM required data. Like my wise grandmother often told me “let’s be sure our priorities are right”.

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