Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Sales Force Automation

Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Sales Force Automation

Article excerpt

PART I

A recent study by Gartner Group, a major technology research firm, found that 61 percent of sales force automation projects fail to show measurable benefits. This is because the two major benefits - productivity gains and efficiency improvements - are hard to quantify. Nonetheless, a strong demand still exists for sales automation products, expected to achieve $1.5 billion in revenue this year.

In the last few years, mortgage banking has embraced the idea of sales force automation. Most large and medium-sized firms have equipped loan officers with laptops that have point-of-sale software that supports prequalification and application taking. Some packages link to automated underwriting systems or credit bureaus; some have the capability of generating truth-in-lending and good faith estimate documents. Other standard capabilities include E-mail and the ability to download rates and points and receive status updates on loans. However, many loan officers are using the laptops in name only.

On the other end of the scale are the enthusiasts, who load up their laptop with contact management software, word processing, spreadsheets or other programs. Some download freeware from the Internet, risking the possibility of viruses. Supporting this technology can become a real problem, with inexperienced users on the one hand and on the other, software configurations so convoluted that troubleshooting is nearly impossible. All parties are likely to end up dissatisfied, as will company management who spent literally millions on the technology. How can we avoid the pitfalls?

* Establish well-defined objectives. A major cause of the problem is the lack of clear direction on the purpose of sales force automation and, most frequently, a focus on making things easier for the corporate staff rather than the production organization. Typical corporate objectives include the need to increase standards and controls in the roll-out and sale of products and the accuracy and completeness of applications to reduce processing time and effort.

By contrast, producer-oriented objectives place great premium on increasing productivity through time and event management tools and profitability by better lead and referral source management. Customer-oriented objectives focus on reducing cycle time by bringing more of the origination process to the point of sale and increasing the convenience and flexibility in the sales process itself. In all cases, objectives should be as quantifiable as possible. "Increase customer satisfaction" is vague; a better goal is "90 percent of customers will rate the sales call good or better."

* Set a realistic time line. Technology is not a panacea; it does not turn bad producers into good ones. It can, however, accentuate their differences. Moreover, since people adapt to technology at different rates of speed, sufficient time has to be allocated before any results are measured. In most cases it will be a minimum of six months and sometimes as long as two years before measurable impact is felt from automation.

* Designate a representative from the salesforce, not someone from the information/technology (I/T) department, to chair the project. Sales is a unique discipline, one that I/T staff rarely understand. It is very important that someone who has direct experience dealing with consumers and is very knowledgeable about the mortgage process be in charge. …

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