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Sales force automation provides no competitive advantage.

by Michael Maoz  |  November 20, 2009  |  6 Comments

Watching the fortunes of the Fortune 500 gyrate in the chaotic machinations of world trade, you have to wonder if there is any advantage to investing in only one leg of a customer strategy.

The biggest names in software have been touting sales force automation (SFA) applications for years, and one of the fastest rising software companies of the last five years even named itself after this class of application. But is there any evidence that SFA is a differentiator to a business? Has it helped a company escape the downturn? Anticipate the downturn? Profit from the downturn? Or is it just the great equalizer, the low-bar to stay at parity with the competition? And if so, what is the fuss all about? And what is, then, a better determinant of business success?

We have been writing for 12 years that SFA is one of many dimensions of a customer strategy. We have written and presented over a thousand times that good understanding of customer intentions, personalized (or ‘persona-tized’) marketing messages and excellent customer service were equally important.

Just about every client realizes that it is the ‘before’ and ‘during’ and ‘after’ of the customer interaction that counts – not one in isolation. What the customer expects largely determines how they will ‘consume’ an experience. And you either shape these expectations or they get shaped for you by blogs, forums, and the buzz in the market.

And then there is the element of new media – Twitter and Facebook and SMS and web communities that operate entirely beyond corporate control, where no sales force can easily go.

We as organizations are so poorly designed to approach the challenge comprehensively (multi-channel, multi-department, and ‘outside-in’) that only a radical rethinking of the problem will shake senior management into making the required changes in how we go to market.

Any good examples of large enterprises who have done this are welcome, and in future blogs I will share some as well!

Category: crm  customer-centric-web  innovation-and-customer-experience  sales-force-automation  sfa  social-crm  social-networking  social-software  twitter  

Michael Maoz
VP Distinguished Analyst
13 years at Gartner
26 years IT industry

Michael Maoz is a research vice president and distinguished analyst in Gartner Research. His research focuses on CRM and customer-centric Web strategies. Mr. Maoz is the research leader for both the customer service and support strategies area and customer-centric Web… Read Full Bio

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  4. Nigel Walsh says:

    an interesting idea and thought. I don’t know a world without SFA and have never thought to question it. To me it always made sense to track and share what we do, how we approach an account. The SFA was one small part of the toolset in doing so.

    Perhaps we should ask, what did we do before SFA – how did we organise ourselves and our information. Is SFA simply an electronic and automated way of those old metal filing cabinets?

  5. Yes, SFA/CRM simply provides the ability to automate whatever sales process your company has been using. However, very few SFA/CRM vendors, service providers, or users have been able to accurately define the user’s sales process.

  6. ellathinks says:

    CRM provides the customers sophisticated relationship programs meant to promote advocacy and action.

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