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Maura Ammenheuser
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SFA System Improves Employee Productivity at Sovereign Bank

Sovereign Bank, a regional bank in the Northeast, has recorded a seven-fold increase in the number of users of a sales force automation system it installed at the beginning of the year.

Sovereign Bank, a regional bank in the Northeast, has recorded a seven-fold increase in the number of users of a sales force automation system it installed at the beginning of the year.

In January, Sovereign installed Salesnet, a sales force automation (SFA) product from a Boston-based company of the same name, in a pilot with 40 customer relationship managers in New England. By April, it had extended the product's use throughout New England, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, where it's used by some 275 employees in the bank's commercial markets group (comprising middle market, specialty lending, healthcare, and asset-based lending divisions).

By the end of the year, Sovereign Bank's cash management team, which deals with larger businesses, will likely be using Salesnet also.

The bank doesn't plan to use it in its retail operations.

Salesnet isn't a credit approval system, but a management tool which allows the financial institution to track its sales business and the performance of individual salespeople or entire departments. Salesnet monitors each step of the sales process: prospecting, creating a proposal, credit approval, documentation and closing, and booking.

"It's for prospecting, tracking new deals, and closing new deals," said Bill Patten, director of MIS and project administration at Philadelphia-based Sovereign. "We can look and see who our prospects are and the probability of closing."

"Tracking our pipeline is an enormous amount of our sales responsibility," Patten added Salesnet's cross-sales module and communications applications enable it to track customer relationships, not merely transactions, Patten said. The $37 billion bank had considered traditional customer management systems, but rejected them as too costly.

Salesnet's chief virtue is its simplicity. Salespeople log on and view the information they're authorized to see. As they work, performance information is automatically stored in a central database, allowing supervisors to see how individuals or teams are performing. The system includes sales productivity features like calendars, schedules, accounts, contacts, etc.

Operating via the Internet, Salesnet is easy to use and runs in real time. Staff can access salesnet from work, home or on the road.

There's no software to download, nor does it require much IT support, except for firewalls, said Patten.

Sovereign has a two-year contract with Salesnet for software and services. The primary payback is efficiency, said Patten, noting that it has reduced paperwork and improved sales productivity. For example, a manager can tell if someone else is already working on a particular prospect.

Sovereign Bank is the largest New England financial institution using the product, Salesnet officials said. Other companies using it are American Express, British Telecom, Charter Communications, Staples and Tellabs.

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