Wednesday, September 9, 2009 : Changing the Face of Sales Force Management

“Most people believe that sales force automation software is only for companies with a large sales force. Our past experience has showed us that even a 3 member sales team benefits from having information about each client stored in a common repository with easy access and analysis through detailed reports. This significantly eliminates the need for data entry and record maintenance leaving more man-hours for scaling up businesses. Recording every piece of information about a client allows the team to offer high quality service based on individual client needs. Web hosted CRM packages offer price their products based on the number of users which limits the cost for such organizations.” Adjusting to these tools is also much easier than what is expected by most clients, since they do not require external software or hardware. Efforts are made to ensure a user friendly experience thus limiting the need for prior technical knowledge of any kind. Records maintained prior to adopting these systems can be imported easily minimizing the need to duplicate data.

The beauty of hosted customer relationship management software tools is that they are just as relevant to companies having a sales force of 5 people as they are to companies with a sales force of a 100. Smaller companies where each client represents an important source of revenue use CRM tools to minimize operational costs while offering high quality service to their customers. Larger companies benefit from the centralized database of information and the ability to monitor operations remotely with minimum time and effort.

CRM software has evolved considerably over time. It has reached a level of comprehensiveness where every aspect of the sales cycle is automated and can be managed with greater transparency and efficiency. Planning the sales process, lead generation, contact management, sales call management, dispatch and delivery of products, and even customer service management are all included in most CRM tools available in the market today.

According to Mr. Rakesh Jain, Chairman of Frontline Securities Limited, “ - CRM software has become the backbone of our entire sales force in every division ranging from mutual fund distribution to equity trading activities. We have managed to set up a new branch office in Mumbai with the help of only two sales people as a result of this tool. We manage all our lead generation and sales call activities from our head office in Delhi, leaving only the actual calls to our sales people in Mumbai. They have managed to cover Pune as well as Mumbai due to the additional operational efficiency offered by our CRM package. Our conversion of leads into actual clients even in Delhi has increased by over 40% since we employed this product.” Frontline Securities Limited uses Frontline SSM, a web based CRM package created by their sister concern- FSL Software Technologies. The software offers modules for lead generation, contact management, sales call management and even after sales service management activities.

Mr. Indivar Arora of Precision Testing Machines Private Limited also testifies to the benefits offered by - CRM packages. His biggest problem tended to be keeping track of the machines he sold across the country so that he could allocate sufficient resources to their after-sales maintenance. This was easily remedied by FrontlineSSM. The software helped him maintain a record of sales made by every branch and employee in his company. He was also able to plan the resources he would require to service these beforehand, and build a team of service engineers accordingly. “Managing operations across 30 branches has become far more efficient in terms of both the time and cost involved”, he believes.

The biggest misconception about CRM packages is that sales forces are adversely affected by the increased transparency in operations creating a ‘Big Brother’ effect. However, in most cases, employees enjoy the freedom of not having to report their activities daily to managers directly or maintaining tedious logs. Employees can get feedback on their handling of clients and related activities, which can be used to enhance their skills. They are also given direct access to higher levels of management, which could create a medium for exchanging ideas and perspectives.

While the number of large service providers offering CRM software in India is still limited, the ready adoption of these tools augurs a significant increase in this number of the near future. The improvement in features and prices that this would bring would have a significant impact on the adoption of such software by every company, irrespective of its size and industry.