January 9, 2012 – Sales force automation has found more traction recently, though more enterprises will likely turn to analytics and as-a-service to improve sales data and efficiency in the coming year, according to Ventana Research.

That’s according to a new research report from the consultancy, entitled, “Sales on the Cutting Edge: Improving the Business of Sales to Maximize Revenue.” The newly-released survey was conducted online in the fall of 2011 and consisted of responses from 233 executives and IT managers at enterprises of various sizes and industries.

Four years since the inception of Ventana’s first research report on sales performance management, competitive pressures in sales have forced enterprises to revisit their existing sales processes, strategy and maturity levels. Fifty-eight percent of enterprises reported scattered sales information as an impediment driving software sales, up 7 percent since the first Ventana sales performance management survey in 2008. And 52 percent of enterprises reported consistent use of desktop spreadsheets for sales, even as, in a separate question in the survey, 49 percent reported that desktop spreadsheets “make it difficult” to manage sales efficiently.

To deal with those maturity challenges, enterprises increasingly prefer new applications via SaaS, according to 41 percent of respondents. There has also been a push recently toward more sales force automation, the application of which is up 15 percent from 2008 to 67 percent. Sixty-one percent of enterprises involved in automation reported satisfaction with meeting their SFA requirements, and only 11 percent reported they were making plans away from automation or switching their SFA vendor.

However, Ventana doesn’t believe SFA is able to handle growing complexity of sales operations or sales performance management as a whole, particularly with the range of  sales applications that enterprises cited in the survey as being “very important,” such as forecasting, lead management and analytics, according to Ventana CEO and Chief Research Officer Mark A. Smith.

“SFA has advanced in adoption and satisfaction, but not the large priority moving forward compared to other applications and technology,” Smith says.

Like automation, analytics is undergoing a big boost with sales performance management, though Ventana wrote in its report that it expected more long-term benefits from the application of new or developed analytics for sales. Ventana reported that 77 percent of participants rated analytics as a “critical” trend for sales. In addition to the 36 percent of enterprises that have applied sales analytics capabilities, 23 percent more plan to deploy analytics to that area in the coming year, according to the research firm. Across the survey, 64 percent of respondents indicated they would improve their sales analytics capabilities during the next 12 months.

To access the report, click here. Ventana will also present a Web seminar on the report findings on Jan. 19, which you can register for (and watch afterward on-demand) here.