SFA automation – What about the relationship?

As a student of CRM, I spend time reading research about CRM and recently came across a SFA (sales force automation) buyer’s guide. I was very interested in this document as I thought it would list key elements of SFA as a sub category for CRM. Notably, the document claimed that marketing plus SFA equaled CRM. Here’s what was listed as basic requirements:

Lead tracking, e-mail tracking, scheduling and a database store this information

Then, as advanced requirements, the guide listed:

PDA support, sales workflow, prospect manager, contract manager, contact manager, lead capture, quote generation, web 2.0 support, call center integration, order management, territory management, profitability analysis, sales training and pipeline analysis.

Again, I am a student of the CRM process. So I raise my hand and ask: where in this collection of capabilities does one account for our post-sales relationships with our customers? After all, aren’t our current customers are best future customers? What about:

Deployment success of past purchases, solution value to the customer, post-deployment uptake by the customer’s users, handling on-going customer requests for new capabilities, tracking alignment of customer business objectives and vendor roadmaps, etc.?

Does marketing do this on a customer-by-customer basis? Not that I’ve seen. And support is usually focused on fixing problems. So, how does this information get capture and accessed?

At Exalead, we find an increasing number of customers asking us to provide a 360 degree view of their customers to their sales people, support teams, management and other stakeholders. Why? Because they need to have a complete picture of the customer relationship. And, that means integrating data not held in SFA systems. That data could be transactional information, customer support incidents, tracking of internal projects or work on behalf of customers, inventory availability and location, customer feedback from forums, etc. Our customers tell us the business case for this is simple: more business! With increased understanding of our customers, we don’t just push our products, but help them increase their business. And that is a very exciting relationship to have with customers.