Many times people confuse sales with the closing. Closing a sale is not a sale, it is part of a bigger process that starts from lead generation and culminates in that exhilarating close. But between getting a lead and sealing the deal, there are many other processes that are time-consuming, and yet are necessary to move the lead through each level of the sales process.
This is where sales automation comes in.
What is Sales Automation?
So what is sales automation and why should you even bother with it?
Sales automation is simply creating a system that takes care of all the repetitive parts of your sales process. Fortunately, there are many applications and different kinds of software that make this easy for you.
Known as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, these platforms help you centralize every piece of information on every prospect and customer. An effective CRM is key in streamlining and automating your sales process as it gives your sales team more time to build and nurture profitable relationships with prospects.
The Benefits of Sales Automation
For any organization, sales are the lifeblood that ensures success and sustainability. That’s why it’s crucial to get it right. And to get it right, it is vital to automate the sales process as much as possible. Let me show you why sales automation is critical for any organization.
Sales automation frees up your sales team to focus on doing what they do best – closing. For example, by automating email follow-ups on warm leads, a sales rep can carry out more productive tasks like meeting and forging profitable relationships with prospects.
By the way, just so you are in the know, poorly managed leads and lost productivity cost organizations $1 trillion each year. A big chunk of that money can actually be recovered through sales automation.
Sales reps never have enough time to do what you actually hired them to do – selling. In fact, statistics show that sales reps only spend 35.2% of their time in revenue-generating activities. The bulk of their time goes to other tasks they need to take care of like data logging or, God forbid, looking for a business card in a massive Rolodex. This is where an efficient CRM comes to play. It puts everything in order, making data entry and retrieval quick and easy.
And for sales reps who are on the road, there’s no time wasted in calling HQ for the latest prices. All they have to do is log into the CRM from their laptop or smart device and all the information is right at their fingertips.
Smart lead pairing
For companies that receive a lot of leads, sifting through the leads to check for the ones that qualify is tedious. And assigning the right sales rep to the right lead is something every team leader finds challenging. But with a great CRM and lead scoring tools, both these challenges are taken care of – automatically.
Whether you admit or not, every business exists to do one thing – make a profit. And the more profits an organization makes, the more it can grow and have an impact. Sales automation results in an increase in profits, not only because it increases productivity, but also because it gives every sales rep a proven formula to follow.
Now that you know what sales automation is and what benefits you gain from it, let’s take a look at some sales automation best practices that will help you make sure you do it right.
Sales Automation Best Practices that Guarantee Success
For many who are new to sales automation, it may seem like a thorny path to walk. And the truth is, if you don’t know what you are doing (or get an incompatible CRM), it can be. Let’s look at a few sales automation best practices that will keep you on the right track.
Study your current process
Every organization has a unique sales process. Before you jump onto the sales automation bandwagon, you will have to study your current sales process.
By putting your current system under the microscope, you will gain a better understanding of all the activities in your sales process, the time taken by each activity, and the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of each activity.
Identify the processes that need to be automated
Once you have scrutinized your sales process, the next step towards sales automation is to identify which processes need automation.
In general, every sales process follows the same formula – prospecting, qualifying, meeting, and closing. However, what happens at each of those stages is unique to each organization. And in most cases, most of the activities at each stage can be automated.
Research the software that can aid in automation
Once you have identified the processes that you need to automate, the next step is to research the different types of software you can use to help automate your process. With the proliferation of vendors that offer sales automation services, this can be a daunting task.
The rule of thumb is to prioritize those that seamlessly fit into your organization, don’t have a long learning curve, and integrate easily with other applications you are currently using.
Sales Automation – An Example
Let’s quickly run through a typical sales process and see what sales automation looks like in real life.
Prospecting is one of the most tedious tasks a salesperson has to do. Instead of scraping for data and entering it manually into a spreadsheet, you can automate the process by using tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator. You can use these to set custom filters to get you the contacts of relevant leads. The screenshot below gives a great picture of how this works.
Some CRMs can even use that information to further mine more data on the prospect. This data may include their social media profiles and even the last service or product they signed up for.
Generating leads is just the beginning of all the legwork a sales rep will have to do before they initiate contact with a prospect. The next step involves qualifying leads that are a strong fit with your product or service.
Again, this is something that you can easily automate without having to manually check out everything you need to know about your prospect. By using lead enrichment tools, you can gather information about your prospect. This is information such as their current vendors, their industry, and possibly some gaps you can help fill in their business.
This data will help you build profiles of your prospects that you can use to better position yourself for a pitch and also to better pair the lead to a suitable sales rep.
You’ve mined a list of prospects. And from that list, you’ve segmented a list of prospects that are qualified. The next step for any sales rep would be to initiate contact.
Outreach can easily be automated by creating an email template and by using a service that allows you to send bulk personalized emails. Most CRMs on the market offer this kind of service. It simply pulls the qualified leads from your list and sends out a personalized email – with a strong CTA.
And if you need to follow up by phone, your CRM will automatically send you a reminder with the details of your prospect.
Setting up meetings
One place many sales reps lose prospects is when it comes to scheduling a meeting. When you and your prospect keep volleying emails back and forth trying to set an appropriate date, the prospect may end up growing cold and slip through the cracks.
But with an appointment scheduling tool, (like Calendly if your CRM doesn’t come with one) you can eliminate this as it allows you send a link to your prospect with the days you are open for a meeting. Again, an email template and automation service will save you a lot of time here.
For example, if new leads have signed up and their details logged into the CRM, you can send out an email like this one:
Hi [first name],
I hope this email finds you well.
I’m reaching out to you because [explain how you got their contact information or what lead magnet they signed up for].
[Name of company] has a new product we believe will be a perfect fit for your team at [organization name]. Our product is proven to help you [One sentence pitch of benefits].
Are you available for a quick call [time and date]? I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have then. If the date is not suitable, here’s my appointment calendar [link to calendar]. Let me know which date is most suitable for you.
The good thing about using a CRM for this is that it automatically logs every contact you have with a prospect. This means whenever anyone wants to pull up information on a prospect or client, they see absolutely every communication your company has had with them and where they left off.
Creating and sending proposals and quotes
Sending out proposals and quotes is a necessary but tedious part of the sales process.
Thankfully, you can also automate this without any drafting or copy and paste. By integrating your CRM with a document management tool like PandaDoc this part can also be set to autopilot – well almost. After creating a master copy, automation tools can auto-fill your important (and most used) documents. These tools also come with the option to create a workflow so that the document passes through all responsible parties before being sent out.
Sales Automation – A Human Touch is Still Critical
Sales automation is awesome and frees sales teams to be more productive. But for a sales process to be successful, a human touch is needed in some components of the process. For example, making a sales call, meeting a prospect, and even closing the sale.
This means that it is important for sales teams to automate as much as possible but never lose touch with their prospects.
If you have not yet moved to sales automation, there’s no better time than now to do so. So go ahead, get yourself a good CRM and turbocharge your sales (and profits).