Business Insights 12 Nov 18

The Chandni Chowk market in Old Delhi is one of India’s oldest and largest.

Whether it is shopping for a bargain on the latest fashion trends or to savor everything from a parantha to a jalebi. The Chandni chowk market not just sets the pulse of the consumer racing, but also kindles a feverish excitement in a FMCG sales and distribution professional. Hundreds and thousands of shops selling everything from spices to refrigerators. You have to see and experience it, to believe it. I sometimes feel that the sales force automation software market too will resemble Chandni Chowk soon.

Sales force automation software is for sellers only

Consistent market growth for sales force automation has meant that a number of software products and vendors have sprung up, over the years. You only have to look up the sales force automation software category on software aggregation websites such as Capterra, SoftwareAdvice, SoftwareSuggest and GetApp, to get an estimate of the number of products currently in the market. To differentiate themselves as the best sales force automation software, all the vendors have taken different go-to-market approaches. Some have focused on sectors like FMCG, SaaS and more. Others have focused on UX / UI and especially the product experience on hand-held devices. But all of them have unflinchingly addressed all the requirements of the traditional sales process in and out.

So much so that almost every vendor is guilty of encouraging rigidity in the sales process. The reason for this has been a predominantly inward-looking seller-centric sales force automation solution design. SFA solutions conformed to the needs of sales managers. This created its own problems – functionality bloat, rise in the need to track arbitrary metrics and salespeople productivity issues. Forrester’s Wave report on Sales Force Automation Solutions (SFA) published in 2017 while evaluating the market leaders had flagged off this issue with vendors. It went on to make a case for SFA solutions to provide more, so as to be able to better respond to changing buyer behaviors. This would allow SFA software to mature from sales management to seller empowerment. Is this change in context already happening? Will the entrenched vendors manage this shift successfully? It does not look easy.

SFA for the Buyer

Everyone’s on the internet today, including the buyer. The buyer journey is now a critical input in designing the modern day sales process. SFA vendors do not have a choice. They will have to find ways to incorporate the customer journey in their offerings. In some cases, it is already happening. But in some, there are a plethora of issues.

Pure B2B and B2C look good

The B2B / B2C buyer is empowered. They know exactly what to buy. In most cases, they would perhaps know more than the seller. They have navigated more than half of the journey on their own, without any sales help. Modern day CRMs / SFA solutions are equipped to cater to this reality. Consequently seller organizations are enabled to create successful and meaningful engagements with their end customers. Sellers are able to get a 360 degree view of the leads / customers and not to forget the cutting-edge intelligence tools related to lead qualification, scoring and forecasting.

B2B2C is tough

Designing SFA solutions from a buyer perspective is challenging in a B2B2C scenario. This scenario is most common in the FMCG sector where there are multiple market participants at various levels in the supply chain. Brand owner, manufacturer, stockist, distributor, wholesaler, retailer, consumer – every intermediary has its priority in place. It is like having multiple buyers, but just one deal. Bringing them all under one single view is where the magic can really happen. It is easier said than done. It is not just a business design problem, but also an engineering one. Eventually, SFA software companies will have to bite this bullet, if they have to differentiate themselves in the market. The leaders will find innovative ways to bring in the buyers. There is no hurry though.

Maturity in markets like India is still in its infancy. There are enough opportunities on the seller side. There is still lot to be done in bringing standardisation and digitisation on the seller side. The India market is just scratching the scratch here. Don’t believe me? A visit to the Chandni Chowk market and a few conversations with intermediaries might help.

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