How to avoid failures in SFA implementation for small and medium-sized companies

Small and medium-sized companies may have different images of SFA systems. Among them, the most common images are "attendance management for sales representatives"  and "making daily reporting work more efficient". However, the actual reason why SFA systems are considered important is far different from these images.

The essence of SFA systems lies in the "consolidation and visualization of information assets. That is the significance of introducing SFA systems, and it is the clue to solving many sales issues.

Background of the birth of SFA systems

SFA systems were born in the United States in the 1990s. At that time, many U.S. companies were troubled by the fact that they could not accumulate customer information as an asset. Since the mobility of human resources in the U.S. is several times higher than in Japan, it is impossible to predict when a sales representative will change jobs or leave the company, and workers do not feel the appeal of a lifetime employment system like Japan.

Therefore, it is not unusual for a sales representative who has worked for a long time to suddenly change jobs one day, and each time this happens, the sales representative loses the customer information he or she has. This is where SFA systems come into play. By inputting customer information that was previously managed individually into the SFA system, customer information is stored as an asset even if the salesperson changes jobs.

Nowadays, "customer information utilization" is the main focus

In today's business world, SFA systems are finding advantages in "utilizing customer information" rather than accumulating customer information, and the functions for this purpose are being enhanced. Customer information is no longer managed by each sales representative, but by the entire sales department or organization, which not only improves the efficiency of sales activities, but also contributes greatly to the systematic and strategic promotion of business negotiations and marketing.

In other words, SFA systems are now regarded as an important IT infrastructure for consolidating and utilizing information necessary for sales expansion, profit margin improvement, sales strategy, management strategy, and many other situations.

Although the importance of SFA systems is high, there is still one problem. Although SFA systems themselves are complex and do not require specialized knowledge or skills to implement, they tend to fail, especially in small and medium-sized companies. Let's take a look at the reasons for this.

1. Resistance from salespeople

Since SFA systems are information systems for sales activities, their users will naturally be salespeople. However, many salespeople show strong resistance to the idea of entering their own customer information into the system for the purpose of sharing. Even if they are working as a team in a department, it is inevitable that they would want to monopolize customer information, considering that their individual performance will affect their personnel evaluation and career. The problem is that they ignore the resistance of the salespeople and decide to introduce the SFA system, forcing them to input the information into the system. The result is obvious, whether the SFA system will work or not.

2. Loss of original significance due to increased workload

For salespeople, core time (the time directly related to profits) is the time when they are communicating with customers. Therefore, the introduction of an SFA system is meaningless if it does not extend the core time rather than interfere with it. However, if the workload is increased in the early stage of the SFA system, and the work efficiency is not improved after that, the situation will end up falling apart.

3. Unclear objectives of SFA system implementation

The most important thing in implementing an SFA system is to clarify and share the purpose of the implementation. What we need to pay special attention to is companies that decide to implement an SFA system thinking, "My clients and competitors have already implemented SFA systems and are succeeding, so why don't we try it ourselves? If the purpose of implementing an SFA system is unclear, it will be difficult to know which product to choose, and it will also be difficult to operate the system properly after implementation.

4. Unnecessary functions and difficult to use

In recent years, SFA systems have become increasingly multifunctional, and there are "SFA systems that can do everything," such as those with built-in marketing functions and integrated analysis tools. However, if these functions do not match the objectives of the SFA system, even if they are multifunctional, they will be unnecessary for your company and you will end up with a system that is difficult to use.

5. Not being able to use the information even after collecting it

The essence of an SFA system is to "consolidate information assets," but what is important is the "next step," which is to utilize the consolidated information assets. However, there are many companies that have successfully implemented SFA systems to consolidate their information assets, but have yet to utilize them.

There are many reasons why SFA systems fail, but most of them are not caused by the SFA system, but by the company implementing it. Therefore, it is essential to keep the key points of the SFA system implementation in mind in order to avoid failures, and to aim for correct implementation and operation.

Based on the reasons for the failure of SFA system implementation, here are some points to avoid failure in implementation. We hope that you will keep these points in mind and aim for the correct introduction and operation of SFA systems.

Be sure to clarify the purpose of introducing an SFA system.

Share the purpose of the introduction not only with the sales department but also with other departments.

Explain the significance of introducing the SFA system to the sales staff.

Then, explain the benefits to the sales staff.

Conduct a questionnaire before introducing the SFA system.

Clarify concerns about the introduction of the system based on the results of the questionnaire.

To the extent possible, eliminate the burden of implementation.

Consider how to improve business efficiency after the introduction of the SFA system.

Create and implement a concrete plan to improve business efficiency

Consider adapting operations to the SFA system

Clarify the current issues in sales activities

Define the expected effects and necessary functions of the SFA system based on the current issues

Pick up multiple SFA systems and compare their functions.

Determine the budget limit for the SFA system.

Select an SFA system that can be implemented and operated within that range.

Consider a cloud-based SFA system for future scalability.

If you are working on overseas business, consider overseas products.

Consider how you will utilize the information assets gathered by the SFA system.

Create a specific plan for utilizing information assets.

Select a business partner to support the implementation of the SFA system.

Work with the business partner as a team to implement the SFA system.

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