Virtual Selling: Going Beyond the Automated Sales Force to Achieve Total Sales Quality

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9780756776268: Virtual Selling: Going Beyond the Automated Sales Force to Achieve Total Sales Quality

The days when a salesperson could carry the company catalog around in his or her head have disappeared. From high-tech to low-tech industries, today's salesperson often represents thousands of products available in countless permutations. According to Thomas Siebel and Michael Malone, although more than 500 companies are rushing to market with information technology to aid millions of salespeople world wide, these systems are destined to fail. Why? Because, the authors argue, they focus only on improving efficiency, rather than on increasing the effectiveness of the selling process.

Instead, Siebel and Malone demonstrate the need to incorporate Sales Force Automation (SFA) within an overall philosophy that supports the sales force by fully informing sales reps to assist them in real selling, not just data recording and analysis. The authors show how this new vision, called Virtual Selling, will spearhead a new generation of SFA design to provide powerful tools -- from opportunity management systems and marketing encyclopedias to product configurations and team selling across multiple distribution channels -- which will enhance customer contact and heighten the effectiveness of the sales representative.

By assuming the larger role of "point person" at the center of every transaction, the members of what the authors call the "Informed Sales Force" will resemble independent entrepreneurs directing their own business by developing long-term customer relationships, generating proposals, managing the configuration and creation of products, and providing customer service and support. Siebel and Malone explain how this reengineering of sales can enable firms to achieve the perfect balance between the needs of sales and the operations of the rest of the company. Finally, the authors reveal how, in their equation, the Informed Sales Force uses Virtual Selling to reach Total Sales Quality, with great leads, smart pitches, irresistible closes, and above all, sales.

The potential benefits of SFA to business are enormous, from cutting costs to boosting productivity and revenue. Siebel and Malone's innovative and inspiring approach to this important subject will enable corporate managers and sales professionals in all industries to transform the virtual selling vision into reality.

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From Booklist:

Siebel and Malone describe their sales philosophy called "virtual selling," show how it is put into action, and then describe a final goal for the process (the "Informed Sales Force" ). Excellent points are made against blind faith in technology and the experience many companies have with serious shortcomings in their salesforce automation system. The authors point out that in the race to automate sales, the software is often used as a means of cost reduction, with word processing, spreadsheets, E-mail, etc., used for control and analysis rather than aimed at improving the sales process. Their solution is the Informed Sales Force, which uses technology to maximize the individual salesperson's selling time, provide computer access to all corporate and marketing information relevant to the sale, and position the salesperson to make critical decisions independently. Although the book offers valuable insights, it is highly theoretical. Nevertheless, with the surge in usage of automated sales technology (sales of such systems estimated to be $700 million in 1995 and $10 billion by 2000), this book is a good resource for considering the potential value of such technology and its pitfalls. Mary Whaley

Review:

Charles R. Schwab Chairman and CEO, The Charles Schwab Corporation "Virtual Selling" is loaded with practical ideas for improving and expanding our relationships with existing and future customers.

George T. Shaheen Managing Partner, Andersen Consulting Total Sales Quality will revolutionize the sales process, the same way that Total Quality Management (TQM) revolutionized business management. It's about time that TQM is applied to sales, the last unautomated corner of the corporate world.

A. Michael Spence Dean, Stanford Graduate School of Business A very useful and insightful book. It sets forth clearly and persuasively the substantial returns to be gained from the right kind of investment in sales information systems.

Debbie Miller Vice-President, Systems Business Unit, Americas, Digital Equipment Corporation A must read for every sales person, sales manager and corporate executive who plans on using computers to make customers more satisfied and close more business.

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Thomas Siebel, Michael Malone
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