SFA for SMEs

 Recommendations for Introducing SFA/CRM

Management Issues of Small and Medium Enterprises

In consultations with small and medium-sized business owners, "I want to increase sales" is very common.

According to the survey on "Management Issues Focused on by Small and Medium Enterprises" in the White Paper on Small and Medium Enterprises 2013, more than 60% of the respondents emphasized "maintaining and strengthening sales and marketing capabilities"  https://slimtime.co.jp/  and nearly 50% emphasized "acquiring new customers" (Figure 1). It is likely that "maintaining and strengthening sales and marketing capabilities" includes sales activities to "acquire new customers." Management respondents answered, "We have a large number of customers since our founding, but sales are sluggish and we want to develop new customers, but we don't know what to do. I don't know how to guide and manage my employees. There is no doubt that acquiring new customers is important for any company, and it is an issue that must be addressed, but it is not the only solution.

2. Strengthen relationships with existing customers

Measures to increase sales can be roughly divided into two categories: (1) acquisition of new customers and (2) maintenance and expansion of existing customers.

While measures to develop and acquire new customers have an image of being "aggressive" and "offensive," measures to strengthen relationships with existing customers may have a strong image of being "waiting" and "defensive," but is this really the case? It is theorized (by Bain & Company) that the cost of acquiring a new customer is five times the cost of retaining an existing customer, and that a 5% improvement in customer churn will result in at least a 25% improvement in profits. In other words, a more efficient and cost-effective method is to focus on the following two points: (1) reduce the frequency and probability of existing customers leaving the company for other companies, etc., and (2) obtain additional sales from existing customers. The key is to retain and expand transactions with existing customers through optimal sales activities.

By actively reaching out to customers and improving the relationship of trust with customers who have not purchased or used the product for a long time, in other words, by increasing the loyalty of existing customers, it is possible to increase sales at low cost and improve profitability.

What is SFA/CRM?

What exactly is SFA/CRM, which has been attracting attention lately?

SFA (Sales Force Automation) = "Sales Force Support System": A system that visualizes and shares sales processes and information to measure the progress of sales activities (KPI), grasp market trends in a timely manner, improve the efficiency and quality of activities, and raise the level of sales force.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management): A concept of management strategy to build trusting relationships with customers and improve customer loyalty, but nowadays it often refers to customer management systems.

Both SFA and CRM were first proposed in the 1990's by a consulting firm in the U.S. and are not new concepts, although the origins of SFA and CRM are different, they overlap in some aspects, and in the 2000's they gradually merged to create a system that integrates both. Today, with the evolution and spread of devices such as smartphones, and the cloud environment, the introduction and use of sales support systems has expanded greatly. Initially conceived as a tool to automate sales activities, SFA now refers to the entire effort to streamline sales processes and operations, strengthen sales capabilities, and enhance profitability.

What will change when SFA/CRM is introduced and utilized and how?

(1) Streamline and strengthen sales activities

For salespeople, effective communication with customers is an extremely important role. However, even if you think you are doing it efficiently, it is difficult to carry out because of uneven activities such as omissions and duplication. Knowing in advance the inquiries and problems that customers may have with other departments and visiting them with prepared answers and responses will make your sales activities more effective. If you are unaware of changes in the customer's business environment and leave it unvisited, you may miss the chance to propose a business meeting or lose a promising potential customer to a competitor. By linking and centrally managing customer management, case management, and action management, which are updated in a timely manner, and by brushing up on sales activities that are not wasteful, sales force can be strengthened.

(2) Sharing of know-how encourages human resource growth

Sales know-how inevitably tends to be highly individualistic, and performance varies greatly from person to person, so sales departments are stuck in a style of individual play that relies on "can-do star salespeople. If the style, know-how, and techniques of "can-do" salespeople can be shared with team members, they can be passed on as "organizational knowledge" to promote performance improvement and growth of the limited human resources, and the team can be expected to achieve the best results. In addition, actions and results will be visualized, and motivation will be improved.

(3) Work style innovation through improved communication

With the shortage of human resources, sales managers and executives are becoming busier than ever. If they can know the actions and progress of each member in real time, they can provide accurate advice and support in response to reports and consultations in a timely manner, thereby strengthening management. This will allow sales members and managers to reduce unnecessary meetings and go directly home without being tied down to desk work, thereby increasing the amount of time they can spend on their original sales activities and promoting "work style reform.

4) Reforms to improve customer satisfaction

By visualizing the sales process in real time, it is possible to analyze the situation and needs of customers more accurately and prevent opportunity loss. By linking this information not only to the sales department but also to other departments, it can be used in all departments of a company, such as product development, inventory management, logistics, after-sales service optimization, human resources, and finance, to build an organization that can make effective management decisions to achieve customer satisfaction.

5. Factors behind the failure of SFA/CRM implementation and the creation of a mechanism for successful utilization

In this way, SFA/CRM implementation seems to be the savior of sales innovation, but it is also true that there are cases of implementation failures where the tools are not fully utilized. There are three possible causes of implementation failure.

Cause 1: Lack of IT literacy Although there are large differences in individuals and age groups, a minimum level of knowledge is required.

2. Complicated input of sales information. Inputting information in a way that is different from conventional methods is seen as an increase in workload.

Lack of understanding of SFA Lack of understanding of the purpose of SFA introduction and reluctance to use it because it is misunderstood as management-oriented.

This can lead to a situation where the tool is simply introduced, but is not used properly. The key is to create a mechanism for how to promote the use of SFA and make it more widespread. Let's take a look at the steps involved.

Step 1

Form a team to promote the introduction of SFA and clarify the issues and purpose of use.

Organize workflows and prepare for implementation


Step 2

Try the trial version to see if it is easy to use and has appropriate functions.

Check the linkage with existing systems, scalability, and support system.


Step 3

Start small!

Implement training and workshops on how to use the system.

SFA/CRM is not a "magic tool" that will increase sales just by introducing it. SFA/CRM is not a "magic tool" that will increase sales just by introducing it, but if you can prepare the environment for introducing it and operate it in a way that takes advantage of its functions, it can become a core system that supports not only the sales department but also the entire company like a "backbone" and makes a significant contribution.

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