The rapid "downsizing" of American companies reflects, in part, the advantages of computer systems that let fewer managers accomplish more. One of the most exciting opportunities in computer-assisted management is currently being demonstrated by organizations that are automating management of their sales and marketing efforts.
For years, we've been hearing about so-called "contact managers" that let a sales person keep track of his or her appointments, promises, and personal notes inside a computer instead of on paper. The obvious advantages of this technology include better organization of the infor-mation and faster access to any particular item. But the hidden advantage can be even more important: contact managers are the basis for more advanced systems of sales and marketing management.
For example, it's simple and easy for a sales person to jot notes in contact management software rather than on paper. But once the information is stored there, it's also simpler and easier to use it to plan each day's activities. The software can automatically remind the sales person of appointments, promises, and other activities that should be scheduled today, or any particular day. It's also far easier and simpler for the automated sales person to begin monitoring his or her own performance: what percentage of time and effort went to actual sales work? to high-profit customers or clients? to high-probability prospects? Are there times or days when I have a better closing percentage? How can I reschedule my week or month to take better advantage of natural opportunities to improve sales, to capitalize on my strengths and limit the impact of my weaknesses?
A sales person's automated sales information can also simplify the process of setting one's own performance goals--whether in terms of total income, total sales, or customer-by-customer sales, and of monitoring one's daily, weekly, or monthly progress toward these goals.
Once a sales force is comfortable using automated sales information systems--like a contact manager--automating the sales and marketing management process, too, becomes an inviting possibility.