Field force automation (FFA) is the capture of field sales or service information in real time using communications technology, typically handheld PDAs, wireless devices, tablet PCs or mobile phones. The captured data is transferred immediately to back-end systems (ERP, CRM or accounting systems) through wireless connectivity (Wi-Fi, 3G, satellite or GPRS). This instant capture of information reduces time delays, avoids manual double entry data errors and enhances field force productivity.
Among all the sales teams (inside sales, pre-sales, call center, sales development), the field force is the hardest to control because you are not with them physically. As your field sales reps move from one prospect to the other, you want to know what’s happening with every meeting. You don’t want to wait for the meeting to get over and then call the rep each time and ask “What happened. how did it go”
Field force automation solves this challenge by establishing a real-time communication channel between the off-site sales team and the onsite team handling sales and admin operations.
From an operations perspective, availability of field information in near real time allows a business to plan delivery schedules, reduce inventory and monitor and control the field workers. Field force automation is seen as beneficial to businesses in regard of customer relations, maintaining skills among the field workforce, and limiting the size of this workforce.
The biggest challenge in field force automation is in developing a simple, but usable, user interface for the hand-held device or mobile, and connectivity at the location of information capture. Connectivity can be overcome by having a system which can retain the information captured in the device cache and later synchronize with back-end systems (“thick client”).
Field Force Automation = Efficiency
Automation means efficiency. It removes certain manual and repetitive tasks from your field sales process like assigning leads to the relevant sales rep, eliminating paperwork, logging meeting updates and reporting.
Eliminates paperwork (or excel sheets)
Tracking performance on the paper or an excel sheet for that matter is largely unsustainable for any forward-thinking organization. The paper pile keeps increasing with time. An automated system will allow you to add new leads to the system automatically (from phone, chat, website, third party websites). It eliminates typing mistakes and keeps the data organized.
A field force automation app allows a sales rep to add the notes real time instead of coming back to the home/office, visualizing the meeting and writing down the meeting history. They can click pictures of important documents and upload it there and then. A sales manager (sitting in the office) can also review the notes instantly.
Assign leads automatically
When a lead is captured, the software automatically assigns that lead to the relevant salesperson based on certain criteria like zip code, product or proximity. This reduces response time drastically. The sales rep is notified on phone with all the lead details available with just a tap.