5 Ways to Improve Your Sales Automation Process
Automation has been a long time coming.
Victorian science fiction writers once wrote about human labor being handed over to an army of robots, and ever since, we've waited for the automated revolution. Now, finally, the robots have come to save us from repetitive, tedious tasks in a range of fields—sales included.
The reality is, the most rewarding aspects of sales take up only a fraction of the workday. The satisfaction of talking with customers and closing deals is supported behind the scenes by many other time-consuming tasks that drive the sale to completion. It's in these areas that automation can make a valuable contribution.
Today, we'll explore five important methods to improve your sales automation process. But first, let’s discuss what it is and why it matters.
What Is Sales Automation?
Sales automation is not about relentless sales calls from a sales bot—that is a misapplication of technology that results in irritated customers and zero sales growth. Sales automation is about taking the tasks that a salesperson (likely) dislikes and getting them done efficiently and automatically—while keeping the customer’s best interest in mind.
Examples of the sales automation process might include using email automation tools for follow-up, incorporating scheduling links in your email campaigns, using automated forecasting software, and other services that ultimately improve the entire sales process.
Consider Simon. He spends his days selling handy electronic stationery packages such as PDF separator software. His business doesn’t use sales automation.
Simon gets to the office. He's energized and motivated, ready to connect and persuade. However, before he can do any of that, he needs to prospect for sales leads. Depending on the software that Simon uses, this may be a laborious and tedious operation, with lots of research offering little reward.
Once he’s finally identified a lead, he can work to make it a qualified lead, then a qualified prospect, then close the sale.
And then he can use that positive momentum and move on to the next customer, right? No. Now Simon has to stop for some administration, including CRM data entry—and possibly, begin the process again.
Automation solutions can help Simon … and you.
The Benefits of Improving Your Sales Automation
From email sequences to managing customer data, sales process automation liberates salespeople to spend more time interacting with potential customers—as intended. Taking the time to improve your sales automation will pay off. Here’s how.
Accelerate Administrative Tasks
Many sales automation tools help with administrative tasks. From creating and updating customer information, to follow-up emails that move the customer along the pipeline, these tasks are necessary … but also very time-consuming.
Often, more time is spent on admin tasks than client interaction and closing sales. Did you know that sales reps spend only 28 percent of their workweek selling? That’s a lot of wasted time.
Sales automation software helps streamline your sales processes so email templates are generated, sales calls are logged, and invoices are created—automatically—giving your sales team time to focus on the customer.
But the benefits of sales automation extend beyond simple task completion.
When you combine repetitive tasks with large quantities of sales data, frequent distractions and human error are almost inevitable. Enter sales automation, which doesn’t get tired, bored, or spend an hour diving down an internet rabbit hole.
Imagine a member of your team is researching to find prospective customers. They’re zoned-in and making progress until a customer reaches out about a quote … and they have to drop what they’re doing.
Will this query wrap up quickly? Or will it prompt a long, complicated pricing and quote process? With automation, you can remove this risk with automated proposals and inquiry resolutions that produce quick answers, allowing your sales team to get back on task.
So, implementing these solutions can minimize interruptions for your team. But employees will love it for more than just this.
Removing the frustratingly slow and repetitive parts of your sales team’s day does more than just increase productivity. Now they can focus on what they do best: talking to customers, closing sales, and crushing quota.
Good automation improves both morale and sales numbers.
Happy employees are less likely to quit—and we know that finding and training quality talent is neither quick, nor inexpensive. Support your sales reps in what they want to do, which is sell and close and grow their career. Your support will pay off (in more ways than one).
Are you convinced? Let’s dig into the application of the sales automation process, and tips for improvement.
5 Ways to Improve the Sales Automation Process
These five methods will put you on the right track with sales automation. Learn where to focus your efforts, and what mistakes to avoid.
1. Automate Repetitive Tasks
This is the main area of impact for sales automation software. As mentioned earlier, a lot of time is spent on tedious, repetitive tasks that belong in the hands of automation—not an intelligent sales rockstar. Here’s how to apply and implement this:
Researching public information to identify new leads can be done automatically. Automation software can scour public information and present it to your team. Now it’s ready to be used for lead generation and outreach.
Let’s say you want to find decision makers at a company. Rather than spending the time to dig into their social media accounts and look at their about page, a lead generation tool can automatically find the right people and share their contact information.
Another way automation can help with research is by combing the Internet to find email addresses. Email finder tools, for example, can find or guess email addresses for potential leads so you don’t waste time searching.
However you use it, research automation saves time and helps you reach new potential customers more quickly.
Administration and Communication
Admin and data entry are not what most salespeople dream about. Here’s the good news: Automation excels in this area. If the admin load includes creating and maintaining customer records, for example, most of this can be done automatically by customer relationship management (CRM) tools, like Close.
As the customer relationship develops, important data like call recordings and updated contact information can be updated without effort from your reps. The info is then easily accessible in the centralized CRM.
Any information that needs to reach another department at the company, when a certain point in the sales process is reached, can be sent automatically. Does the post-sales team need the sales info immediately after the close? Don’t bother your rep—let the CRM take it from here.
Finally, CRM software can also help manage the automated side of customer relations throughout the sales funnel. From first prospecting email to final sales confirmation, these informative, relatively generic communications can be sent automatically.
2. Focus on Specific Tasks
It might seem that amazing sales automation tools are the answer to everything. To reduce costs and improve efficiency, a business can use it across the board, then sit back and rake in the results, right? Wrong. Automation works best when the team has carefully considered which specific processes will benefit from it, and which are better left to human touch.
So, where to apply automation? Consider where the automation process delivers what humans cannot—and vice versa. If automation will speed up the sales process without damaging the customer experience, then go for it.
For example, customers benefit from improved levels of service. Their experience is not impacted when the courtesy email comes from a bot. They likely won’t even be aware (and if they are, they won’t care).
Here’s where it matters: If the customer wants to respond to the email by calling the company, will a real person answer?
There are huge advances being made in artificial intelligence (AI), so much so that chatbots are getting close to passing the Turing test. But customers still like talking to people (usually). The human element is key here. It improves the customer experience, and provides something a software cannot.
Don’t cut corners that will ultimately damage your customer service and reputation. In the long term, it’s not worth saving a few bucks.
Reducing costs shouldn’t be the only motivation behind introducing automation to the sales process. But it’s still a relevant (and important) aspect. Which leads us to:
3. Find Ways to Save Time and Money
Automation can bring enormous financial savings to an organization. When individuals or even whole departments are tasked with things that can be automated, automation can reduce staffing needs.
Consider the area of supervision. Sometimes, a sales manager's primary role is to keep sales reps focused on certain priority areas, or ensuring that key info is shared across the team. Your sales automation solution can have these things built into the platform, triggering notifications on the sales reps’ dashboards.
Time-sensitive situations can be highlighted as well, so that sales reps can take advantage of every opportunity, like the best time to call a prospect or the start of a useful sales webinar for continuing education.
These types of automation allow you to readjust your company’s supervision situation. These savings (both financial and personnel) can be re-invested elsewhere to further improve the customer experience and deliver better customer satisfaction. Use your brilliant sales managers for creative and strategic sales activity—something a robot can support, but never replace.
Automation also saves time. If your company’s sales process depends on certain steps being completed by certain staff at certain times, then you might end up with a blocked-up sales pipeline.
Replace these potential hold-ups with a fluid and systematic process. Completing a sale with steps that aren’t dependent on the availability or willingness of another individual will result in better performance.
The net outcomes are happier customers and (likely) higher conversion rates, because delays are minimized. Plus, your bottom line benefits from a shorter sales cycle.
What’s more, many sales platforms have lead scoring capabilities that help indicate which leads are warm and should be contacted right away. This prompts sales reps to nurture the leads that are most likely to convert soon.
When used right, sales automation can really reduce your resource waste—namely, time and money. But remember to assess your process and update it as necessary.
Carefully analyze your automation processes. If there are performance issues due to the failure of automation tools and apps that are breaking down and wasting time and money while they’re repaired, this is an automation failure.
In these situations, leadership must consider whether to pursue a different automation solution—or ditch it completely in favor of manual task completion.
4. Start Small
Don’t begin with full automation, across the board, Tomorrowland-type tech. It’s easy to get carried away with tech innovation, but you risk two hazards if you go too far, too fast.
Damage to Your Business Culture
Change can be shocking to your process and your team. Your company is an organic entity and it functions with elements of convention and familiarity. While you don’t want complacency, neither do you want to entirely abandon what’s worked in the past.
The benefits from streamlined automation can take a little while to be felt, as workers get used to the new way of doing things and become aware of new opportunities. So, it makes sense to introduce automation incrementally.
For instance, by limiting your initial step toward automation to a “welcome aboard” message for new customers, you’re starting in a way that won’t leave employees spiraling out, wondering what happened to the company they joined. Then, increase automation as you go along—taking your employees with you.
Damage to Your Business Character
Customers can be sensitive to changes at their favorite company, especially existing customers. They’ve committed to doing business with you because they like you and the way you do things. Change too much, or change stupidly, and you may damage their loyalty.
The key here is to retain what it is about your business that customers value and appreciate. Maybe this takes a good survey to divulge, but so be it.
Let’s say your company sells fruit juice in a jaunty, sparkly way. You want to streamline your sales process but don’t want to lose any existing customers. So, you do a survey that finds that the majority of your clientele love your quirkiness—but more specifically, the communication personality on your packaging and in your marketing.
Now, just make sure that your communication is on-brand … and automate it. Get an amazing content creator for the messaging, both for social media and email marketing campaigns, and then let automation take care of the delivery.
In short, don’t mess with the intrinsic elements that customers love about you—and work with automation to make it 10x better (for all involved).
5. Concentrate on Daily Tasks First
For automation to have its strongest impact, it needs to be applied to the small, daily sales tasks. If you only use it to create your annual report, you aren’t using automation to its full potential.
Time is sucked up in the accumulation of the myriad tiny tasks. For instance, going back and forth to email and checking new messages constantly wastes a lot of time. It’s far more efficient to have concentrated email sessions, say, every two hours.
Once again, automation to the rescue. Set up your sales rep dashboard to tell you when it’s time to check emails. At that time, spend concentrated effort on dealing with what’s come in. Maybe the sender has even been told by an automated process that their email has been received and will be responded to soon.
Automation can also stagger email-check periods so that a joint inbox is attended to by someone on the team every few minutes. This can have a huge impact on email response rates.
This certainly beats the default, all-too-common method, which involves an alert every time an email comes in. This only interrupts the rep’s workflow—impairing their ability to get their job done.
Automation—the Future of Sales?
An efficient sales automation process has a lot to offer. It performs tedious tasks far better than humans, and leaves humans to do what a software tool just can’t. In terms of reduced stress, better sales productivity, and optimized lead management, the benefits are real and long-lasting.
But remember: Be mindful of where you apply automation. You want all the benefits, without incurring some of the risks. Be especially careful with customer interaction. Their experience is everything. And also—beware of upsetting your company culture or character. You want to keep your company’s value and values intact.
With careful application, automation can boost your sales processes and benefit the entire company. Welcome to the sales force, robots.
Ready to dive in? Start with a CRM that automates outreach and streamlines customer data within your sales team (and between departments). Try Close with a 14-day free trial.