Sales Force Automation – Complete guide to what SFA software does


1. What is a SFA system? Sales Force Automation definition

SFA or Sales Force Automation refers to a system that automates field agent activities such as Pre-Sales, Van-Sales, Merchandising and Trade-Marketing. 

Basically, an SFA software is meant to help field salespeople get more customer visits and activities done in less time. By automating repetitive tasks, sales teams become more efficient and productive because they will be able to take more orders per day.

It can be said that an SFA system directly connects the customer, the field employee and the company, facilitating direct, real-time communication between the three parties.

In some industries, such as FMCG, it is often said that SFA = CRM. SFA includes the specific functionalities of a sales-focused CRM, but CRM software generally doesn’t provide the automation of sales tasks that are usually available in an SFA system. Find out more about what CRM means here.

2. How does SFA software work?

A sales/marketing software for field agents has two tightly integrated components:

  1. A mobile app that works on smartphones or tablets and is used by field reps to give them the mobility, flexibility and, why not, presence they need to do their jobs better, faster and easier.

With this SFA mobile app, sales agents take sales orders, issue invoices, collect balances, record delivery of orders, collect market data, apply discounts, commercial policies and special price lists for each individual customer, communicate with sales managers and supervisors, track the daily routes and visits they have to make, monitor their sales target etc.

  1. a Back-Office system that is used by sales or merchandising managers and supervisors. From here they set the daily routes for each individual field agent, give them the goals and steps they need to take, target them, the number of sales/collections they need to achieve and more. Also from here, you can track the activity of field agents in real time.

At the same time, an SFA mobile app integrates with the ERP system to automate the entire sales process, especially for distribution companies. This means that orders from the field arrive immediately at headquarters to be processed and to generate order-related documents such as invoices, shipping notices etc.

Communication between the ERP system and the SFA system also takes place in reverse because information from the ERP on product stock quantities is synchronized in real time and fed into the SFA system to avoid situations where agents take orders for products that are not in stock or cannot be fulfilled.

3. What are the components of an SFA system?

A sales software for field agents is modular, so any company can configure it according to their needs. As modules remember:

Administration – BackOffice – for defining targets, setting up special price and discount lists, activities, targets, routes, customer visits to be performed by the field sales/marketing team and forwarding information to agents

Pre-Sales – to automate distribution and sales activity by taking orders directly from the customer’s premises and generating receipts on the spot. Delivery of the order to the customer is made at a later date;

Van-Sales – Order placement, invoicing, cash collection and order delivery is done directly, on the spot, using the product stock in the salesperson’s machine/van.

Tele-Sales – for companies that sell by phone and want a single sales platform

Target – for setting field agents’ targets. It is designed to motivate agents to become more productive and to monitor their work.

Commercial policies & mixed promotions – so that agents have everything they need at their fingertips to properly implement promotions, activate customer promotional bonuses etc.

Photo & Multimedia Presentations– for merchandising agents in the field to photograph shelves, position promotional displays, to present images, videos or product catalogues to customers.

Questionnaires – to collect competitive information such as prices and promotions or other Trade-Marketing & Merchandising data from the market about own and competitors’ products

GPS – for tracking the activity of field agents and generating activity reports for each individual agent, as well as for delivering the coordinates of the visits they have to carry out each day

Supervizor – useful for monitoring and improving the skills of field agents. Merchandising supervisors randomly check agents’ activity and compare their reports with their own.

Planning & reporting – for planning, coordinating and controlling activities in the field

Dashboard & Analytics – for the analysis of graphical reports containing market information or information on orders, sales, agent activity and so on. Reports are created based on a large set of KPIs.

Credit Controller – limits the customer’s indebtedness and blocks bad debtors from placing new orders until they pay their debts to the supplier/distributor.

4. What activities does an SFA system cover?

When used as sales software for field agents:

  • Manage customer contact details such as name, address, phone etc.
  • Automatic recording and transmission of customer orders to ERP.
  • View stock and product characteristics
  • Management of an efficient sales process based on a clear sales cycle and automation of orders based on customer purchase history
  • Ensures real-time communication between headquarters staff and field agents
  • Provides support for the implementation of promotions and quick stock clearance
  • Takes orders even from locations where there is no Internet and automatically synchronizes orders with the ERP system as soon as the Internet is available
  • Monitor and contribute to the improvement of KPIs and agent-specific targets
  • Automates sales activities and increases employee productivity and market cash collection levels
  • Helps to effectively coordinate the entire sales team and check their work when they are in the field
  • Contributes to the uniform and correct implementation of commercial policies, discounts and promotions
  • Supports detailed analysis of sales data with reports

When used as software for Retail Execution (Trade-Marketing & Merchandising):

  • Collects data from the market with the help of questionnaires, about own products and competition, which can be used for strategic decisions
  • Provides information needed for effective price and promotion management
  • Checks shelf merchandising standards, such as how the planogram should look, shelf space, secondary placements, presence of promotional materials and of own, as well as competition products etc.
  • Identifies strengths and weaknesses of merchandising reps and helps improve them

Many of the activities outlined above also apply here, such as tracking merchandising agent activity, communication between agent and site, managing customer contact details and so on.

5. In which industries is an SFA system used?

An SFA sales/marketing software can be used in any industry, by any company using sales agents.

Mainly distributors and manufacturers who have their own distribution divisions using SFA software come from industries such as FMCG, food, ice cream, meat, dairy, bakery, wine, beer, water, juices, other beverages, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, veterinary, cleaning and home care, building materials and installations.

6. What are the advantages of an SFA system?

  • Helps increase sales. SFA is the solution with the greatest direct impact on sales growth.
  • Greatly shortens the sales process and customer visit time due to automation and standardized sales circuit, so the agent will make more customer visits in one day, therefore taking/collecting more orders
  • Enables effective control and limitation of customer balances directly from the SFA mobile app
  • Provides real-time access to a large number of reports
  • Agents always know what products are in stock, so they won’t take orders they can’t fulfil
  • Synchronizing field orders with the ERP system increases the speed of order deliveries and increases customer satisfaction
  • Optimal route planning and GPS agent tracking
  • Improves cashing thanks to the possibility to cash the order on the spot
  • Helps improve the way promotions are implemented
  • Targets and related bonuses improve employee performance
  • Managers can easily identify problems and act quickly to resolve them
  • Monitoring and supervising the work of field agents is quick and simple and ensures that agents follow the sales process
  • Eliminates order errors and related losses
  • Gather important market intelligence
  • Monitors the execution of trade-marketing actions and the presence of own promotional materials at points of sale: POSMs, secondary placements etc.
  • Monitor the correct implementation of shelf marketing activities;

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