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Raise your hand if you are confused about which is a better tool to manage the sales force for cable operators – a) Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, b) Sales Force Automation (SFA) tool or c) a cell phone. If you answered c because you do not understand the jargon or explanations software companies or so-called experts use to market themselves you are not alone. If you answered c for any other reason then sit down and pay attention. Having reviewed this subject for a long time, the following is a far simpler explanation based on upon the cable operators need.

CRM: Are Mobile Computers Better than Cell Phones for SFA?

Female Cell phone close-up hand outdoor message sms e-mail

Using cell phones to stay in contact with your direct sales representatives (DSRs) won’t improve productivity, generate additional sales, run real time credit checks, print a sales receipt, connect with the ICOMS, CSG and AMDOCS billing systems, optimize sales routes or impress any subscriber. Cell phones can only hold so much subscriber contact information regardless of how much you paid for it or how many cookie cutter applications it can run.

If you are managing your DSRs in this manner you are at a competitive disadvantage because the next MSO has state of the art mobile handheld devices that connect directly with the office doing all the things mentioned above plus they reduce the sales cycle time because approvals are near-real time. Just as importantly, the subscriber does not have to wait for a work order to be scheduled making them happier.

Comparing a CRM to a SFA

Both SFA and CRM are software packages are designed to enhance the sales process as well as reduce cable churn and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably because a CRM umbrella includes SFA. However, SFA is based upon a pure sales perspective as compared to the sales and marketing premise of a CRM system. Let us start with a easy overview of each.

SFA in the cable industry has one primary purpose which is to increase sales. Simply put, faster sales cycles = more visits to more potential subscribers = more clients. It is 100 percent driven by a we need more clients perspective which is all about increasing cable sales. Good SFA software is designed to function as end-users will use it. This means that it may be highly customized for a specific industry or company. In contrast, generic off the shelf software packages or those that can not interface with the three major billing systems will not significantly decrease the sales cycle time.

On the other hand, a CRM is a generalized tool. designed to pull together sales, client retention techniques and marketing together to squeeze the most revenue out of the client base. This is easiest to understand if you view a CRM a group of modules versus a SFA tool that has a greater degree of specialization. A CRM can perform some of the functions of an SFA and there is overlap between the type of data collected and used but the SFA portion of a CRM is not nearly as specialized as a stand alone SFA.

The purpose of an SFA is to make more sales, get more visits and get more customers. It is a customizable sales tool. For the cable industry this specialized tool speeds up the sales cycle by reducing the amount of time waiting for data to be taken back and forth from the subscriber to the office and vice-versa. For example: Online credit checks can be performed with mobile handheld devices eliminating the waiting for approval time as well as the lost time following back up with the customer. The handheld devices also have access to the latest promotional pricing and subscriber history for better objection handling. All of these features plus many more are designed for one purpose – make more sales!

Define Your Cable Sales Objectives First

The point of this post is that in order to make a decision about purchasing a CRM or SFA tool, you must define what is important to your organization. Both types of systems can increase sales and reduce churn. A full blown CRM is more expensive to purchase and requires a true marketing understanding in order to utilize the wealth of information that can be collected. A CRM can be a very powerful tool if set up and used correctly. In contrast, SFA is less expensive but more narrowly focused on increasing sales through greater sales efficiencies.

Hopefully, this explanation of the difference between CRM and SFA has clarified some common misconceptions. SFA is a subset of CRM but it is most effective when tailored specifically for cable operators as a stand alone tool. Share with us your perspective or experiences.

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