Sales teams juggle many moving parts in their day-to-day activities, such as making calls, scheduling appointments, and sending emails, among other repetitive tasks. They need to be organized, efficient, and effective to maximize their results.
Recent studies show that marketing and sales departments worldwide intend to increase their automation budgets in the upcoming year in an effort to help their teams operate more efficiently.
This blog post will explore the basics of sales force automation, including what it is and how it works.
The Definition of Sales Automation
Sales automation is the process of using technology (such as software applications, artificial intelligence (AI) tools, and similar) to automate and manage a company’s sales activities.
Typically, this automation entails the integration of core business applications into a single system for more efficient data sharing within an organization or across organizations in a supply chain or channel partner network.
The benefits of sales automation include:
- Increased sales productivity and efficiency
- Reduced operating costs
- Improved customer service and satisfaction
- Improved process quality
- Enhanced visibility into the sales process for better decision making and more
With a proper set of sales automation software, sales reps can focus on providing value to their customers instead of wasting time on administration and trying to figure out which sales task needs to be done and when.
Did you know that over 30% of sales-related activities can be automated? Although the most potential for automation lies in deeply standardized and repetitive activities, such as order management, credit checking and invoicing or some by post-sales activities (regular follow-ups, handling incoming requests, etc.), strong focus is now being put on business development activities starting from lead generation to deal closing.
Let’s break down the sales process and identify the key sales activities that can be automated in that area which is most relevant for us.
For this blog post, we’ll define sales activity as any task performed by a sales rep or sales professionals to move prospects through the sales funnel – from interest to purchase consideration and then, hopefully, to an order.
1. Lead generation and list-building
Lead generation includes activities such as finding potential customers based on ICPs (ideal customer profiles), building lists of prospects and targeting the right accounts.
Typically, this is done manually – a sales rep would search for the right prospects online, look for their contact details on their websites, attempt to contact them directly via email or phone, and then qualify their level of interest based on the response received. Such a way of prospecting is time-consuming, and it can be difficult to scale this activity.
A sales automation tool can help you build lead lists more efficiently and quickly by automatically extracting prospect data from websites and social media platforms. It can also identify potential customers who match your ICPs, saving you the hassle of manually sorting through data yourself.
Once you have a list of potential customers, you can automate prospecting by automatically sending out emails to prospects – so that only interested leads that meet your ICPs will be contacted.
If an automated outreach campaign is carefully crafted, it should increase the number of high-quality leads generated as well as their conversion rate.
2. Qualification and lead-scoring
With automation in place, you no longer need to rely exclusively on manual processes for qualifying leads. Leads who start engaging with you can be scored and prequalified so that follow-up manual activities are prioritized for most promising prospects.
Qualifying leads includes determining their level of interest and likelihood of purchase. Automation allows us to judge whether a lead falls into our ICP or how close it gets to it in terms of industry, size, location, or other attributes. It can also include the evaluation of the sentiment of a response to cold outreach campaigns or other activities done by the person, such as website visit or content consumption.
In terms of content consumption, a sales automation platform can automatically score leads based on their engagement with your content (webinars, eBooks, articles, etc.), website activity, and more. This information can then be used to determine whether a lead is ready for sales engagement or not.
Based on this information, business development representatives can quickly determine whether a lead should be passed to next stages of a pipeline, handed over to an account executive, or even dropped from the lead list.
Lead scoring helps you prioritize the most promising leads and focus your time and energy on those who are already interested in your products or services.
The automated lead qualification provides a scalable way to generate more high-quality leads, allowing you to focus on the prospects that matter most.
3. Setting appointments
Usually, it takes a lot of time to set an appointment with a prospect. Even more so if the potential buyer lives in a different time zone than you do.
However, because this step is crucial for the sales process, you need to find ways to reduce the friction as much as possible. Various tools can help you seamlessly schedule appointments with potential customers.
For example, you can use a tool that allows you to book time slots on your calendar and then share the link with the prospect. You could also send out automatic meeting requests or use an AI-powered chatbot to set up appointments for you.
4. Closing deals
Sales automation can help you draft and send contracts quickly and efficiently without any errors. It can also keep track of contract changes and manage approvals – so that the entire process is streamlined and less prone to mistakes.
In addition, sales automation can be used to create custom quotes and proposals for potential customers.
All of these features work together to help you close more deals in a shorter amount of time.
5. Lead nurturing
If your target account is not yet ready to buy, you’ll need a way to stay in touch and nurture your relationship with them.
That is where lead nurturing automation comes into play – it provides you with the tools that enable an automated workflow for following up on leads who are not yet ready to make a purchase. Using these tools ensures that every potential customer receives personalized content that will help them move closer to becoming a client.
As the number of potential customers increases, it is practically impossible for sales reps to keep track of all the leads and nurture them personally. That can only be done for the highest value prospects. For all other, automated nurturing processes are much faster and easier. Using lead nurturing tools helps you stay top-of-mind with your prospects without requiring a lot of effort from your sales reps.
Sales and marketing is all about data. Data collection, extraction, transformation, cleansing or loading into a reporting or dashboarding tool. So-called data pipelines need to be automated to allow for processing at scale and error omission. Basic reports then include information about the number of leads per period, conversion rates, win rates, deal sizes and other key metrics.
Sales automation can help you gather all this data automatically so that you have everything you need in one place. This information can then be used to improve future campaigns and ensure that you always have a steady stream of leads.
Two additional areas with potential for automation should be mentioned:
1. Email warming
Sending emails that don’t look like spam can be challenging, especially when there are hundreds of messages to send. Using email automation tools that automatically warm-up your cold email domains for you ensures that your emails pass anti-spam filters without any issues – so your leads start receiving them immediately in their inboxes.
2. CRMs and basic workflows
Thanks to a variety of tools and sales CRM (customer relationship management) systems, you can now easily create automated workflows for your sales reps. These workflows help them keep track of their progress and follow the right process for each lead without even knowing that. Workflows can also assign tasks to different team members so that everyone knows who is responsible for what when it comes to closing a deal.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Is there a downside to sales enablement through automation? If it helps generate more leads and increase sales revenue, what could go wrong?
Having too little contact with your prospects can put you at risk of losing them to competitors or developing a relationship that is not strong enough to result in a successful sale – so there needs to be some element of personalization and customization involved.
Automation should be used to supplement, not replace, human interaction. When it is used correctly, sales automation can increase your sales revenue while freeing up your time so you can focus on other aspects of your business.
When trying to implement automation in your sales process, focus on the areas of your sales process where you can benefit most from using these tools.
Sales automation is the way of the future. It is vital for all B2B companies, as it allows them to handle more leads and close deals faster.
Sales automation tools can help create a customized experience for your prospects by sending the right message at the right time – leading to higher conversion rates and revenue growth.
You can implement automation at almost any point in the sales process – lead generation, qualifying leads, lead nurturing, closing deals, and more. However, make sure that you don’t go overboard and automate everything, as this can lead to a lack of personalization that could ultimately hurt your sales.
AI.corns can help you learn more and do more with sales automation. Contact us today to see how we can help you take your business to the next level!