Sales Force Automation is a technique of using software to automate the business tasks of sales, including order processing, contact management, information sharing, inventory monitoring and control, order tracking, customer management, sales forecast analysis and employee performance evaluation(Thomas, M.S & Michael, S.M 1996). This revolution that is sweeping through society is changing the nature of selling. For last 150 years, traditional selling process bases on the two ways communications, that is salespeople to customers, customers to salespeople.
Such face-to-face selling or in-person selling can require a lot of time, energy, and expense, but the payoff can be tremendous. Despite all of the new high-tech alternatives, an in-person sales presentation is the single most powerful marketing tool in use today. National television advertising, telemarketing, e-mail, or print advertising have nowhere near the ability to motivate a particular customer to actually place an order as does face-to-face selling (David, G. H & Mckee, D 1999).
Face to face communication in sales force.
Social trends point to the increasing need for face-to-face communication in efforts to change people’s attitudes and behaviors. That communication is simply a method of sending a message from one person or group of persons to another, which the communication process is the most natural and the most familiar. It is direct, immediate and responsive. We can perceive reactions at once and can modify our own behavior to clarify the message. It is vital importance to salespeople whom use this communication tool with their potential buyers of a product with the intention of making a sale; also they can focus initially on developing a relationship with the potential customers with an attempt to ‘close the sale'(Pyle, J. 2004). Does face to face is the best way to communicate? In the small business, Personal selling involves face-to-face interaction between buyer and seller, which is a very important part of a store’s effect to communicate with its customers.
Sellers are able to have exclusive contact with the buyer and clearly articulate the benefits of the product or service. And buyers are able to get personal attention and have their questions answered fully (Personal selling, 2005). It creates a mutually beneficial situation in which both buyer and seller feel they are meeting their objectives. During face to face communication, one essential part of effective communication is feedback. Only in personal selling does the potential for a clear feedback channel exist. Even cashiers are salespeople in the sense that they convey a message to the customer. As salespeople interact with customers, they not only hear verbal responses, but also see smiles, frowns, and nods. The verbal responses and the nonverbal reactions provide feedback. These responses help salespeople modify the sales message to the specific needs of the customer (Personal selling, 2005).
A successful selling can be made via face to face communication because it is an effective strategy that both salespeople and customer can see each other’s characteristics, body language, gestures, facial expression, intonation, or words to make a sufficient judgment, and it is also a powerful selling method for building a stronger relationship with the potential customer. Unquestionably, the face-to-face communication that takes place in the personal selling situation that can (1) clearly identify and translate product features into benefits and satisfactions that solve customers’ problems and fill their needs; (2) pinpoint the customer’s uncertainties about purchasing and provide knowledge and information to reduce these uncertainties; (3) provide specific rational psychological reasons that help the customer make a purchasing decision; and (4) build trust between organizations and its’ potential customer (The Importance of face to face selling, 2003). One research point out that most managers think that Face-to-face sales method can carefully explain the new process or product to their customers (Martin, C .2005).
However, the major disadvantage of personal selling through face to face communication is the cost of employing a sales force. Sales people are expensive. In addition to the basic pay package, a business needs to provide incentives to achieve sales, such as commission, bonus arrangements, and the equipment , such as car, travel and mobile phone, to make sales calls (Personal selling, 2005). Moreover, there is not a cost-effective way of reaching a large audience in now faster society. A sales person can only call on one customer at a time. In other words, salespeople need to go to the prospective customer in order to demonstrate or illustrate the particulars about the product or service. For reaching a large customer; salespeople will be taking a lot of time to achieve the goal (The Importance of Good Communication, 2005).
Sales force automation- SFA.
Following by the rapid and continuous drop in the price of computing and the businesses are increasingly global that joined with advances in communications technology; the structure and process of selling have altered the competitive environment (David, G. H & Mckee, D 1999) . Technology makes salespeople more effective and productive because it allows them to provide accurate and current information to customers during sales presentations. Sales force automation (SFA) implies that technology can be used to speed up previously inefficient operations of a company, which the Internet and related technology have affected the personal selling process (Thomas, M.S & Michael, S.M 1996 & Yudkowsky, C, 1998). Product information on Web sites is available to customers and prospects. In the past, salespeople delivered this information to the customer by face to face. The Internet releases salespeople to focus on the most important aspects of their job, such as building long-term relationships with customers and focusing on new accounts. Information is shared among users in every department that contact with the customer.
Also, information sharing promotes more effective channel partnership. In fact, salespeople use computers to connect them (through the Internet) to their own company’s databases when they are out on sales calls. This gives them the ability to provide the customer with extensive, relevant information almost immediately (Sapru, P, 2005). It reduces administrative tasks for salespeople and makes them better prepared for every sales call. A successfully implemented SFA solution can improve the productivity and efficiency of the sales team, which can result in higher customer satisfaction and higher revenue per customer of a company (Thomas, M.S & Michael, S.M 1996).
Salespeople become intelligence agents in the field when they feed that information directly into the data resources shared by the rest of the sales force and the company at large. SFA is becoming vital selling tools that can be used to communicate through a global basis; also, it is a most cost- effective way that the business can reach its large customer globally. According to the estimated, the advantages of using sales automated technology can increase at a rate of 40% annually include the ability to generate sophisticated multimedia presentations, to create internal communication systems, to monitor sales rep progress, and to keep databases of customer histories (Yudkowsky, C, 1998). In the book ‘Virtual Selling’, the author indicated that SFA is rapidly rising to the forefront salespeople of the business computing market (Thomas, M.S & Michael, S.M, 1996)
Marketing communication tools definitely has been changed. Sales force automation provides a cost-effective way of a company’s salespeople expenditures, innovations in opportunity, immediately contact, activity, and account management as well as automatic quoting, product configuration, research, and reach a large customer (Yudkowsky, C, 1998). However, face to face selling can be more successful to reach people’s heart and build a stronger relationship in accomplish a selling objective. The problem is not which mode of communication is used; it is the quantity and quality of the produce/service content need to be considered. There is no one way to communicate well; each method has strengths and weaknesses.
It is the balance of the methods, using their strengths and avoiding the weaknesses that will make good communications. As selling a car, house and insurance, face to face communication is a crucial requirement that salespeople need to build the trust, product value and satisfy customer needs in the entire selling process (Selling a car, 2004 & Business Family Champion, 2005). Although SFA has changed the way of both selling and purchasing process, customers have more choice than ever before, as their can choice any thing by the click of a mouse. Yet face to face communication is the only way that salespeople can build a real trust, and interpersonal relationship in human’s life.