Author: Sayantan Hajra, Technology Head 1Channel- Sales Force Automation at Channelplay Limited
For decades, SFA implementations have had a higher failure rate than most other types of enterprise software. As per some leading industry research analysts, the failure rate is staggeringly high at 60%. Ironically, root cause of these failures is not related to hardware or software issue or anything related to the system performance. Rather, most SFA failures are result of a very human problem – low adoption rate. Some research paper says that average adoption rate of SFA implementations running for at least a year is around 50% and there are many instances where adoption rate is less than 10% even a year after the launch.
These are for sure alarming numbers considering the time, effort and money that are invested in such initiatives. So, it is very important for us to know how adoption rate can be improved in any SFA implementation and take necessary steps accordingly to avoid a doomsday. Here are some tips based on our experience of managing numerous SFA implementations over several years.
First let us talk about what can be done at the solution side:
- Easy and intuitive mobile app workflow
Well, no one loves an IT solution where it is always a struggle to find out what to do next. Neither is SFA an exception, nor are the sales people using it. The user interface, placement of buttons, icons etc. should be so intuitive that user can make the next move without even pausing for a second to think where to click. Special attention must be given to ensure that user fills minimum number of fields and make minimum number of touches to complete any activity. We have seen cases where users are asked to fill a long remark for each visit they make even though no one really reads those remarks, neither any big data query can generate anything meaningful out of it. This is a perfect scenario that can lead to low adoption.
- Mobile app workflow must be in sync with the steps of a call
To ensure that sales team also feels that the SFA app is actually going to make their life easier, sequence of activities in the app must match with the sequence in which they perform these activities in an outlet. Let’s take example of a merchandiser of any FMCG company. When he is in front of the shelf which has all the oral care products, after checking stock of his own brand, he will obviously check the share of shelf with respect to the competition. You cannot expect him to first go to all the shelves of different product categories to capture stock and then again come back to each shelf to capture share of shelf. So, the workflow in the app must be such that after selecting a product category he should be able to enter both Stock and Share of Shelf data and then he can move to the next product category.
A more sophisticated way of encouraging SFA adoption that is emerging now-a-days is gamification. Announcing rewards & recognitions or publishing a national / regional leaderboard on SFA app are great ideas to improve adoption. Some online contests, publishing the name of the winners, providing an option to like or comment can actually generate lot of fun which acts as a ‘pull’ for SFA adoption.
- Communication Capabilities
We typically get used to an app when it keeps on updating us with some new information or we can share information with others. The same is true with an SFA app also where features like Push Notifications, Chat with peers or supervisors can play a big role in improving adoption. If important information such as new sales targets, current achievements, special product launches etc. are sent through Push Notifications, end users will start feeling more engaged with the solution. Similarly, a medium for two-way communication with peers and supervisors will help them to share important information on the go eliminating any need of using any other communication software.
Some other important factors:
- Connect well with the team
During any SFA launch, the first thought that comes in the mind of a field sales person is ‘Am I going to get tracked?’. We faced this question numerous times from many end users that whether the system will track where they are going after working hours. Son it’s a no brainer that purpose of using an SFA application must be well explained to the team to get a high adoption. It’s very important that the sales team must also believe that such a system is eventually going to make their life simpler. One very important step to build such a confidence is to respect the field sales team and take their feedback about the application regularly and act on them.
- Regular Training
While it may sound very cliché, but frequent interactive training during initial few months of the launch plays a huge role on the long-term adoption of the solution. Also, the way trainings are conducted sends a signal about organizational importance of such initiative. We have seen clients who shares a training deck with end users and expects them to go through the same and start using the solution. For sure it needs a magic to achieve a decent adoption in such cases. It will be also a great idea to nominate candidates from the existing user base who can be called ‘SFA Champions’ and will be given responsibility to train a set of people. It will not only create a healthy competition, but will also put the ownership of the success back on the end users.
- Age & Ego Factor:
This is a very soft issue and should be handled with diligence. Although India is considered as a country of young workforce, still 20% of the field sales people are of 50+ age and they usually become a big bottleneck to drive adoption. They are usually not conversant with technology, especially using a smartphone or a tab. While it’s tricky to eliminate that phobia, constant efforts must be made to do so.
Another softer issue to be tackled is the ego of the high performers. It’s very common to see a resistance from those who have been constantly meeting or exceeding their targets. They typically don’t see any value addition in using SFA and consider it to be an overhead. They must be explained and convinced about the long-term benefits and organizational goals.
It’s very important that a proper governance mechanism is formed jointly by the IT and business team to track system usage, measure training effectiveness and capture end-user feedback. They must also track the benefits (or ROI) of the SFA implementation and possibility of integrating it with other enterprise software to ensure that it becomes an integral part of organization’s enterprise IT strategy. Effective governance can ensure that roadblocks for wider adoptions are analyzed and taken care of.