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Implementing an SFA solution. Part I

Gathering user data!

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One of the first questions to be answered when implementing SFA solutions is in regards to the changes that will be made to the users’ data gathering tasks when they are at their customers’ sites. Businesses tend to try and incorporate business process changes along with IT changes and this must be done in moderation, to avoid having a negative effect on sales performance.

So, which are the tasks that a sales rep of a company that sells FMCG products should perform? How should the sales reps’ tasks be selected and prioritized so that the company receives data that will help with better decision-making and overall sales performance, without hindering the sales performance of the sales rep? These are questions that the management team needs to answer before proceeding with an SFA project. Projects that do not have clear answers to these questions will definitely face problems during their implementation, due to users’ resistance to the business and IT changes and also due to lower sales.

In an ideal world, sales reps would gather shelf data (faces, prices, out of stock etc), customer stock data, check second display agreement statuses, make new agreements for product displays and record all of this data without disrupting the process of order taking and maximizing sales. In reality, these data gathering and sales tasks have to be combined with more work in the stores, like setting up displays and fixing the shelves. This takes time, and more time in each store means fewer stores visited per day. This, of course, means fewer sales per day.

So, each task needs to be evaluated in terms of the data it will bring to the company, how this data can be presented and analyzed in reports, in order to become useful information, and what sort of decisions can be reached using this information. Bearing in mind the value of these decisions and how the sales reps’ performance will be affected by the data gathering tasks, an equilibrium must be reached between these two. The management team needs to make decisions about which tasks should be incorporated and which should be postponed for later stages of the project or altogether disregarded, so that tasks that enhance reporting will not affect the amount of sales a representative can bring to the company.