CRM: Salesforce Automation

Salesforce Automation (SFA), typically a part of a company’s customer relationship management system, is a system that automatically records all the stages in a sales process. SFA includes a contact management system which tracks all contact that has been made with a given customer, the purpose of the contact, and any follow up that may be needed. This ensures that sales efforts are not duplicated, reducing the risk of irritating customers.

Salesforce Automation

Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, is perhaps the most consistently misused term in our industry. The ‘Customer Relationship’ that is being managed by a software category is an exceedingly broad term that must be narrowed in order to make sure we are comparing similar software. ATG breaks CRM into four distinct categories, based on the channel that is being used to manage the customer relationship. The categories are:

Sales Force Automation (SFA)

The tools used by Sales teams to managed sales people, prospects, and opportunities.

Call Center | Customer Success

The tools used by Customer Service agents (historically in a Call Center environment) to manage customers.

Customer-Initiated Interactions

The tools used by a service provider’s customers to manage their own services or accounts.

Partner Relationship Mgmt.

Tools used by a service provider’s Partners to manage customers.

CRM – Salesforce Automation Components


A Prospect in the service provider realm is any person or entity that is not yet a customer.

Prospects can be people on the internet searching for a service your company provides, people that drive past your business, the entire population of attendees at a trade show, or any number of other general scenarios that could possibly end with them actually expressing an interest in the products and services you offer.

If you picture the sales process as a funnel with paid orders at the bottom, small end of the funnel, prospects are at the opposite end. It is most often a marketing organization that is responsible for identifying prospects and moving them further into the funnel.


Generally speaking, a Lead is a person or company that has an expressed or implied interest in the services you provide. Among those that should be considered a lead are, for example, internet users that click through to your web site from a link, folks that speak with your representatives at a trade show and exchange business cards, or somebody that calls or stops by your place of business.


A potential customer becomes an Opportunity when the selling begins. The selling process may be overt or subtle, but when benefits are discussed and interest is expressed, an opportunity is at hand. Examples of an opportunity include internet visitors to specific pages on a web site with a “Buy” button, or verbal exchanges with sales and support staff in which the Lead asks closing questions such as “When can I have service connected?” or “How much does this cost?”

Opportunities are also often with existing customers. They could be accounts with expiring contracts, upsell and cross-sell potential, or avid promoters of your company that provide additional pipelines of opportunities for your organization.

Opportunities typically involve numerous stages, with each stage having a different probability of close. For example, a typical set of stages, with the probability to close, may look like those shown in the graphic at right.

Companies often use the stage and associated probability that comes out of the box from the CRM/SFA tool. Others leverage common selling methodologies provided by Sales Effectiveness companies such as Miller Heiman, SPIN Selling, Target Account Selling (TAS), and Consultative Selling.

Closed: WON
Proposal/Price Review
Value Proposition
Needs Analysis


Quote is the presentation of pricing, and terms and conditions, based on the customer or client’s stated wants and needs. In the world of internet shopping, this could be as simple as the shopper adding the product to the cart, but in many service-based organizations, quoting is where customers are made or lost.

Customers may not commit to the first version of the quote or seek to negotiate additional terms/services. Quotes should be able to be easily changed or reconfigured to represent any additional changes at a near real-time rate.

For many service providers, Quoting is such an integral area that they require additional rigor around the process that goes beyond what is typically available in most Sales Force Automation solutions. The term CPQ, or Configure Price Quote, has evolved to handle complex Quote processing. This area is covered as a specific ATG Monetization Ecosystem™ domain, which can be found here.

ATG recommends that the quoting process follow the FACT framework – Fast, Accurate, Clean, and Transactable.

Every company is intentionally or unintentionally balancing the need for speed, quality, accuracy, and efficiency. For example, every sales rep will tell you that the fastest way to get a quote out the door is to eliminate any approvals, but typically business stakeholders accept that there are financial or legal or other risks that need to be mitigated, hence the need for at least some approval process to ensure quality and accuracy.

Are there too many approvals in the process? Too few? What about data? Should addresses be validated up front, or only at Order time? Should customer credit be checked? If yes, should it be early or late in the process? Each of these factors must be balanced to ensure an optimal selling environment.

FACT Framework

Quote process is as responsive as the customer requires.


Provisioning and Billing Information are complete and accurate.


Quotes and proposals are professional and add credibility to the selling process.


Opportunities, Quotes, Contracts, and Orders are integrated with limited need for redundant data entry.

Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management is taking a company’s tribal knowledge, aggregating it, and then pointing it both internally and externally. From a Customer-Initiated Interactions point-of-view, it means creating a digital library of product and service manuals, FAQs, white papers, case studies – really any non-proprietary information that a customer could use to answer their own questions without needing to use company call center or sales resources.

In a CRM – SFA environment, Knowledge Management is typically used by sales professionals to help them identify solutions for their clients, and handle typical questions that arise during the wants and needs analysis of the selling process. Win themes, value proposition, competitive intelligence, and technical product details are often leverage in SFA Knowledge Management environments.

Beyond just gathering the data and making it available electronically, it needs to be easy to use and easy to find.

Good knowledge management solutions, whether built in-house, used as-a-service, or purchased to deploy on-premise, need to be well organized, use common speech search, and offer a quick connection to a chat or email resource should the current KMS not fulfill the customer’s needs.

Customer Service

From a CRM/SFA perspective, Customer Service means having the ability to have a comprehensive view of the customer. If it is a new customer, there may be limited information available. If it is an existing customer, it is important to have a comprehensive view of customers’ interactions with the company.

For example, if you are trying to get a customer to renew a service that has two open trouble tickets, and a billing dispute requesting a credit for poor service, you may be in for an uphill battle.

The Customer Service component of CRM/SFA is the linchpin of the recurring sales cycles. Often, the best opportunity for a company to win new business from an existing client is by providing superior customer service to that client from the beginning of the relationship. More and more, service providers are relying on renewal, up-sell, and cross-sell processes to expand revenue from their existing client base. This pressure leads to increased focus on customer service.

In complex service provider B2B selling, CRM/SFA has traditionally focused on simply winning the first deal. In today’s omni-channel customer maintenance environment, salespeople, and the SFA function, are one cog of a complex, collaborative team structure required to effectively manage the entire customer lifecycle.

Case Management

Case Management is a broad term that can included Issue Management, Trouble Ticket Management, Exception/Approval Management, and Dispute Management. It is simply a mechanism for creating, managing, and completing requests initiated by, or on behalf of, a customer.

Case management allows ‘cases’ to be captured, then distributed to the necessary individual or team for resolution, while providing visibility of its ongoing status. There is typically a strong audit trail to document what was done, when, and by whom.

Effective case management provides an excellent opportunity to take a potential negative with a customer and turn it into a positive.


The quote should provide an area for the customer to easily agree to the terms provided. This will facilitate the provisioning, activation, shipping, etc., necessary to provide goods and services quickly and easily to the customer. The approvals are retained for future reference.

Approvals are typically needed for quote processing within the CRM/SFA realm. Approvals often ensure that quotes are accurate, meet internal revenue standards/margins, can be delivered with quality, and with appropriate terms and conditions. The approval process should involve the appropriate level staff and be clearly communicated as quickly as possible. Approvals are retained for future reference.

Certain customers require special care. These customers may receive appropriate discounts added to their quotes, special services, or renegotiated price rates outside of what is available to the sales team at that time. These require even more speed and efficiency as well as thorough review at the appropriate levels.

Quoting and Approvals associated with quotes can reside in CRM/SFA, Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) or sometime both.

Reports & Dashboards

CRM/SFA is the home for Reports and Dashboards. Both public and private companies rely on sales forecasting to provide transparency for internal groups (for example what sort of demand will be in store for products and services) and external groups (for example the investment community).

Sales management uses CRM/SFA reporting to track progress/status at the company, unit, division, customer, and individual sales rep level. CRM/SFA tools typically provide several out of the box reports, as well as Dashboards that can be prominently displayed upon login. They also make tools available easily build custom reports and dashboards that are tailored to their particular business needs.


In a CRM/SFA context, Pipeline refers to the funnel of potential sales that may be coming to fruition. Pipeline begins with high volume/low probability Prospects, which winnow their way through Lead and Opportunity objects, which ultimately close out as deals that were Won, Lost, or Abandoned.

Typically, Pipeline reporting focuses on the Opportunity object, which contains Opportunity Amount, Date of expected Close, and Probability of close. These combination of attributes can be used to ‘value the pipeline’ to predict how many deals (opportunities) will close, when, and at what total amount.

Detailed: People | Process | Technology

CRM SFA is typically the domain for a service provider’s direct sales force. This usually includes field sales reps, sales engineers/pre-sales, sales management, sales operations, inside sales, and often account management. Often, the Marketing organization is involved as well in their responsibility for Campaign and Lead Generation.

In complex product and selling environment ‘opportunity teams’ can be expanded to include Product, Engineering, Legal, and Operations, often for additional configuration or approval of a product or service. Finally, numerous users consume reports coming out of the CRM SFA function, including Finance and Marketing Communications for reporting to the investment community and commissions.


Key Vendors

Below are the key CRM SFA technology providers for the service provider community

Salesforce Sales Cloud

Founded: 1999
HQ: San Francisco, CA
Company Type: Public
Website: www.salesforce
Cloud/On-Premise: Cloud

Microsoft Dynamics

Founded: 1975
HQ: Redmond, WA
Company Type: Public
Cloud/On-Premise: Cloud

Oracle Sales Cloud

Founded: 1977
HQ: Redwood Shores, CA
Company Type: Public
Cloud/On-Premise: Cloud

Oracle Siebel

Founded: 1977
HQ: Redwood Shores, CA
Company Type: Public
Cloud/On-Premise: Cloud


Founded: 1972
HQ: Waldorf, Germany
Company Type: Public
Cloud/On-Premise: Cloud

Sugar CRM

Founded: 2004
HQ: Cupertino, CA
Company Type: Privately held
Cloud/On-Premise: Cloud


Founded: 1998
HQ: San Mateo, CA
Company Type: Public
Cloud/On-Premise: Cloud


Founded: 1996
HQ: Pleasanton, CA
Company Type: Privately held
Cloud/On-Premise: Cloud


Founded: 2002
HQ: New York, NY
Company Type: Privately held
Cloud/On-Premise: Cloud



If you’re ready to find out how ATG can help transform your company,
give us a call at 1-866-805-4284 or click the button below.