What's your take on the future of the salesforce automation (SFA) market as it relates to vertical markets? In the next few years, do you think software vendors will start creating SFA software that corresponds to particular industries?

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The promise of vertical salesforce automation (SFA) software certainly hasn't kept pace with the verticalization of other CRM components like the contact center. There are a few industry exceptions, however, like in the consumer packaged goods industry -- where SFA software looks more like partner relationship management (PRM) -- and in the pharmaceutical industry -- where it looks like sample inventory tracking. Why? The biggest issue has to do with business model: B2B vs. B2C (high-involvement products such as insurance). We could argue that there really is no such thing as "SFA" for B2C industries, but that's a whole other discussion.

I'm guessing the real nature of your question has to do with whether you should wait to purchase SFA software until there is a specific version for your industry. My advice is NO. The most important secrets to SFA adoption have very little to do with industry specificity, and everything to do with your sales process being fully integrated into the system and having sales reps trained and coached on how to sell using the system as a tool and information management. Of course, your IT folks might argue that verticalization decreases customization, and to a certain extent that's valid. But again, the truer measure is how close the application gets to the methodology and how well the sales reps know how to sell using that.

I think that in the next few years, however, software vendors will decouple their SFA processes from their application infrastructures to enable YOU to create SFA software that corresponds to YOUR particular way of selling.

This was first published in December 2006

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