5 best practices to ensure adoption of your Field Force Automation solution
While many companies which have a strong dimension of their business processes related to field operations such as Consumer Goods manufacturers are embracing new SaaS of the type of Sales Force or Field Force Automation to gain efficiency and transparency, there is a high risk of rejection by the field users.
Purchasing software can be a significant expenditure, and the return on investment is not guaranteed, the implementation can indeed become a failure if the user of the tool rejects it and does not want to change their working habits.
The main fear expressed revolve around:
A loss of autonomy with the tool being perceived as a policing tool for the managers
A loss of power, as the key information about customers becomes stored in a system, visible to the entire organization, and not only with the sales representative
Losing time in having to fill the tool, leading to field sales filling poor quality data just for the sake of it
Field Force Automation does not intend to replace the fieldwork process but rather to enhance it by automating the tedious and time-consuming tasks such as taking orders, storing customer information, thinking about follow up when visiting customers, etc so that the field user can have more time to devote to what matters the most: the personal relationship with the customer. Sales Force Automation systems also help to align the various stakeholders involved in serving the customer: marketing, sales, customer service, technical support, etc., and provide real-time visibility to the senior management to make informed decisions.
Below are the 5 best practices that can help in getting internal adoption of the new Field Force Automation system.
1. Put yourself in the shoes of the field user
Yes, some fears of the sales representatives are correct, the managers will better monitor what they do, they might lose some leverage that they have concerning the company by handing over the information about the customers, they will learn to adopt a new way of working. But the managers should emphasize the long view, which is that the SFA tool will likely enable the sales representative to be more productive, which should translate into better commissions. It is also an opportunity to identify who is committed to working for the company as per the process and expectations defined and who is not. By experience, the adoption of such a tool leads to the departure of field users who were not complying with the job requirements.
2. Make the adoption simple and stress-free
Companies should ease the transition process by providing the right support in the beginning to the field users to understand how to use the tool. This can come in the form of training sessions, production of the relevant documentation material, feedback sessions to adapt the tool to their needs, etc, appointment of referents to handle questions and remarks.
It should be made clear also that there will be no impact on their compensation in the transition period while they take time to learn the tool and get up to speed with it. That could be done by putting the targets on hold for this transition period and only start calculating the incentives based on the tool after the usage is considered normal.
3. Make the tool part of the company culture
There should be a strong commitment from the top management to pushing the tool and referring to it in the daily work practices. All the field users should be consulted in the deployment to listen to their feedback, needs, potential challenges such that all of them are handled. Best practices should be shared internally through the existing communication platforms such as WhatsApp groups, etc. Top users should be encouraged and rewarded.
4. The tool should benefit the field user first before the company
In our experience, successful deployments happen when the company tries to add value first to the field user, by providing the right information, making his daily job easier, tracking his target completion, etc. Only when that is in place, and there is regular usage, can be considered the benefits for the office users, in terms of building the right reporting, digging into the data, etc.
The field user should see the benefits of using the tool for himself, to do his job, rather than for pleasing his superior. If the tool is only perceived as a policing tool, the usage will probably be poor and the data quality weak.
5. Consider it as compulsory
There must be a clear message from the management that the use of the tool is not an option depending on the willingness of the field user. The best practice is to say that whatever has not been filled in the tool does not exist and will not be considered. This is especially important as the foundation for determining the variable incentives/commissions for the sales force, based on KPI measured by the application, such as the number of clients visited, the sales made, etc. This will force all users to adopt the tool in a continuous manner.
Implementing a Sales Force or Field Force Automation system is not a technical project, it should be taking into account the organizational and cultural dimensions to ensure the adoption of it by the end-users.