What is the Sales Automation Process? Guide, Examples & Tools (CRM & More)
No one needs to tell you time is money. And since there are never enough hours in the day, if you don’t spend your time on the right activities you may as well flush money down the toilet.
Okay, maybe that’s a bit gloomy. Many people are highly productive, and if you’re taking a few precious minutes to read this article, you’re likely one of them. Yet, statistics show there’s a good chance you’re not nearly as prolific as you could be when it comes to sales.
According to Forbes, sales reps spend nearly two-thirds of their time on tasks that don’t increase the bottom line.
That’s right: a full 64.8 percent of their day goes to “non revenue-generating activities, leaving only 35.2 percent for functions related to selling.” That’s inside sales reps; field reps are slightly better at driving business, spending an additional 3.1 percent of their time on revenue-generating activities.
Part of the problem is only a small percentage of reps are actively monitoring how they spend their time. According to the same source, a mere 22.9 percent of them use a time management methodology of any kind. That means from leveraging apps to trawling LinkedIn, they can’t be sure if a given activity has any real value.
There’s good news though; if you automate your sales pipeline process, you will see a much higher ROI for every activity, whether it directly contributes to sales or not. Even your non revenue-generating activities will become more useful, because you’ll never wonder whether you ought to be doing something again. In essence, with a sales automation process, you will dedicate each segment of your day to a good purpose.
Want to increase productivity and profitability as a startup or established company? Want to reach your goals faster or help your sales team reach theirs? It’s time to make use of a thoughtfully designed sales automation process flow, more commonly known as a customer resource management (CRM) system.
In this article we’ll discuss what sales automation is, the benefits of automation solutions for the sales process, and some of the best automation tools to consider today.
What is Sales Automation?
Examples of the sales automation process include using software to send follow up emails, create drip campaigns, or assign tasks based on predefined rules.
Customer relationship management and sales software tools are designed to streamline organizations by automating sales tasks and workflows. A good sales automation process facilitates every step you must take to move a person from prospect to customer (and beyond, to repeat customer and loyal bestower of word-of-mouth marketing).
Logistically, CRM software is a set of digital tools that help you:
- Complete administrative tasks and minimize time-consuming busy work
- Track prospects’ and customers’ contact information and the actions they’ve taken
- Fill your sales pipeline and track the progress of other sales professionals on the team
- Monitor sales stats in real time
- Follow up with prospects, customers, colleagues and other people
- Use artificial intelligence to automate next steps depending on customer behavior and needs.
While many tools can be used in sales automation, a solid CRM is one of the most effective tools for sales teams.
Benefits of Sales Automation
The sales automation process has a number of benefits. For starters, when you automate tasks within the sales funnel–from the very top where vast numbers of unvetted prospects enter the funnel to the bottom, where the most qualified leads close –you spend far less of time on activities that don’t actively generate income.
Let’s say you have the choice to spend your time updating contact information for current customers or cold calling. Which one is more likely to lead to sales? More importantly, which one requires your presence and which can be left to a computer?
If you answered “cold calling” for that last question, then your computer is much more convincing than ours, and we’d like to meet it.
If you’re like most people, though, you’re needed for cold calling and updating your contacts database is something you’d love to offload.
Sales automation has a several other benefits, including:
When you use a system that streamlines all your sales activities, you can complete each step faster. That means your response time is quicker, customer satisfaction improves, you close more deals, and you minimize the number of repetitive tasks.
For instance, let’s say your company has just committed to a dedicated email marketing campaign. In the past, that meant writing a set of emails, plugging a bunch of addresses in, sending them out one at a time, and waiting to see what would happen.
Today, lead management is much simpler. Instead of manually emailing your customers and leads, you can now write an email once, then setup rules describing when to send that email out to people. The algorithm will send it out at the right time, to people who meet specific parameters, without you ever having to think about it. All you have to do? Plug in email addresses as you get them from prospects.
Even entering email addresses isn’t necessarily one of your manual tasks, though, since many websites now gather email addresses automatically and feed them into the CRM. Yay for sales automation!
Time Savings and Better Deal Management
Let’s return to the example of updating your contacts database. This is an important part of pipeline management, but is a notoriously tedious task that sales reps hate.
With an automated CRM, though, you can let artificial intelligence do the dirty work. Your system will give itself a once-over to see whose contact information is incomplete, whose is old, whose indicates it might be time to cross-sell, etc. Then the CRM will alert you to the potential action items, saving you from culling through the hundreds or thousands of contacts that didn’t warrant your attention.
The same is true for managing deals. Tracking your prospects through the sales pipeline is a critical step in nurturing leads, but it can get overwhelming. With a CRM, you don’t have to comb through and find the right leads for a particular sales task – you can just plug in the parameters and let the computer tell you who to focus on today.
More Effective Team Communication
Communication is key to any industry. The sales process is historically rife with human error. Examples include forgetting to follow up, adding incorrect notes, or accidentally assigning a lead to two different people on the sales team.
Happily, a CRM can minimize these potential errors. It can tell you when it’s time to reach back out to a contact. It will send out an alert when you’ve forgotten an important detail. And the system will make sure only one rep gets a particular lead, minimizing friction in the sales process.
Understanding the Stages in the Sales Process Automation
The sales automation process may stretch over a few weeks to a few years, depending on the types of products or services you offer and other factors. No matter what you’re peddling, though, it consists of four basic stages. Let’s take a look.
The awareness stage is at the very top of the funnel. At this point, the prospect has an inkling that they need something you can provide. They’re likely also researching a range of your competitors’ offerings as well, by consuming content like:
- Blog posts
- White papers
- Research reports
- Expert content
- Social media posts
If you’re smart, you’re providing plenty of these types of content to lure prospects in at this stage.
Speaking of live chat, that typically sits right on the cusp of the Awareness and Consideration stages. At this point, prospects are typically warmed up enough to welcome live interactions such as phone calls, emails and chats.
Therefore, during the consideration stage, your CRM should automatically send prospects expert content like videos or podcasts through timed emails. It should alert you to follow up with prospects after a live chat. And it should let them know via whatever contact info you have that there’s a webinar or related event coming up that focuses specifically on their interests, in case they’d like to attend.
Wow, your CRM is starting to seem like a total boss.
Alright, your prospect wants what you sell. Now it’s time to make sure they buy it from you, not your competitor.
In the decision stage, your prospect knows they’re going to take action. Therefore, this stage involves a lot of side-by-side comparisons of products, resources, customer service and other value-added items. Your goal is to be the most value-added company around. Even if your niche is very, very small, you want to be the best in it so prospects are likely to choose you when it comes time to press “Buy.”
At this stage, your customer relationship management system will help you with automated tasks such as:
- Highly targeted, timed emails across all stages of the sales funnel
- Offers of live demos and prospect-focused events
- Ad retargeting that includes case studies, product comparisons and literature
- Emails and ads that offer coupons and incentives
…and anything else that will turn a prospect who is ready to buy into someone that will buy.
In some descriptions of the buyer’s journey, the decision stage is the final one. However, it’s important to keep in mind that making a decision and taking an action are not the same thing. Simply because your prospect has decided to buy something from you does not mean they’ve actually transferred money from their bank account to your company’s.
Therefore, we at Close like to add a fourth stage: Action. This is where the rubber meets the road, where the prospect’s decision meets their wallet, where your product or service meets them for the first time.
Ensuring your prospect takes action is a critical part of the sales process, and automation can help you with this. Say you’ve gotten a “yes” on the phone or through an email or you got a handshake at a trade show.
In the action stage, you and your CRM will make sure the customer gets everything they need to make a purchase for realsies. A link, a phone number, an order form;whatever it is, you need to help them take action if you want them to do it.
How Does Close’s Sales Automation Tool (CRM) Work?
The goal of any good sales automation process is to wrap every sales task you need to complete into a single system that can help you do it all. That way, you not only check off those tasks, you can identify gaps in your current modus operandi and plug them to avoid losing good prospects.
Close helps not just sales managers but entire sales teams automate their process and grow their sales pipeline. Close’s solutions make activities such as lead management, internal and external communication, data entry, sales forecasting, sales rep activity logs, and record creation much easier than with siloed apps for each process.
Here’s how the integrated system can work to streamline administrative tasks, data entry, outreach, and more for salespeople across the globe.
Lead Management Automation
Converting prospects into customers is an important step in the sales cycle. Close’s software is able to use rules and filters that allow sales executives to create a more curated list of leads, separating them by their characteristics, such as:
- Buying behavior
- Stage of the sales funnel
- Company touches
- Available contact info
After segmenting them, sales automation software can then sort them into neat lists or “buckets” to determine the most worthwhile leads (via lead scoring), assign them to appropriate salespeople and make the most of each prospect.
If your sales automation process doesn’t involve a communication arm, you’re doing it wrong. From customer facing email marketing and campaigns to in-office communication, you need the ability to send simple, compelling and secure missives to prospects and team members.
For instance, Close can help you increase your efficiency with email automation that uses your own chosen service, such as Gmail. Or we can help you integrate with everyday tools such as DocuSign, Intercom or Zendesk. Using email templates and scripts, you can communicate with customers on your terms, but track them all with Close.
More concerned about an efficient communication workflow internally? No problem. Close offers both manual and automated email services to help you talk with team members, create paper trails and communicate more effectively overall.
Automated Data Entry
It’s no secret that data entry can be an incredibly tedious and time-consuming task. Oh, and did we say boring? Because that too.
Happily, Close is able to auto-fill specific sales data, which streamlines contact management and saves valuable hours for your sales reps every day. Instead of manually keying in each piece of information, you can now enter only the most important, then let the system do the rest.
Sales forecasting is the process of estimating future sales, and it is absolutely instrumental in the sales pipeline process. Using sales history data as a baseline, companies predict their short-term and long-term performance.
Of course, not everyone has a great forecasting tool at their disposal, which is where Close comes in. By plugging your stats and metrics into the company tool, you can increase your ROI, make better decisions and keep your performance on the straight and narrow.
Automated Activity Logging
It’s not enough to know where you’re going; you need to know where you’ve been as well. Sales emails, phone calls and in-person visits can all be tracked in real time in Close’s software. Once you have a system that captures real-time data at all times, you’ll know exactly when to contact people, because you know at what times they’re most active.
Automated Research and Record Creation
Part of the sales automation process is minimizing how much time you spend logging info and searching for it later. With Close, sales teams can scan business cards or receive newsletter opt-in confirmations, then simply let the sales automation software create new records and profiles. Say goodbye to that particular time-wasting task!
This then allows sales reps to focus on pitching products and closing deals with hot leads that the software identifies, rather than looking for those leads in the first place.
Overall, Close can enable you to track every task you currently have in your workflow without breaking a sweat. Imagine being able do all this in one place:
- Send follow-up emails to qualified leads
- Save time on lead generation with a scheduling tool
- See major marketing enrichment with chatbots, notifications and more in your tool suite
- Increase sales productivity with smarter sales calls, emails and so forth
- Attract new leads easily with a sales automation platform
Well, now you can.
How Sales Automation and Marketing Automation Work Hand-in-Hand
A sales automation process is worth its weight in gold. Actually, considering how light a piece of cloud-based software is (zero pounds?), it’s worth infinitely more.
The sales process involves a lot of separate activities, and not all of them are worth your time. Luckily, automating marketing and sales tasks can save you tons of time and lead to bigger profit margins – and no one helps you do it like Close.
Close is an all-in-one solution for both sales and marketing. We’re the one-stop-shop for email sequences, contact management, segmentation and more. Watch our demo or try us free for 14 days.
There’s no time like the present to automate your sales process, so don’t wait!