The robots are taking over humanity! No, this isn’t an intro to a sci-fi movie. It’s the reality we have to live in. But don’t panic just yet.
Process automation can be a real life-saver for busy salespeople, streamlining up to 30% of their activities and allowing them to focus on revenue-generating tasks instead. This can lead to a dramatic improvement in team productivity along with many other business benefits.
And it is easier than it might seem.
In this article, we will detail the advantages and use cases for sales process automation along with some tips on how to implement it. So, read on.
The role of automation in sales-related activities
Simply put, any technology that is used to reduce manual labor and shorten the time for fulfilling the tasks related to the sales process – whether directly on indirectly – can be defined as sales automation.
What does “directly or indirectly” mean, you ask? Well, sales teams are often burdened with tasks that have nothing to do with selling but still make a big part of their daily activities. For example, here’s a breakdown of how most sales reps allocate their time at work.
That is why effective sales automation covers more than just default activities like prospecting. And that is also why it has such a major impact on a business in general, offering a ton of benefits, e.g.:
- Optimized sales processes
- Lower overhead
- Predictable business outcomes
- More enjoyable buyer experience
- Increased business revenue
- Higher customer retention
On top of that, process automation reduces the chance of burnout and improves the general well-being of your team. This is what makes it an ultimate sales productivity booster.
5 ways automation can boost your sales team productivity
Back in 1989, an article in the Harvard Business Review Magazine mentioned: “investments in marketing and sales automation systems hold tremendous potential for productivity improvements.”
Fast forward 30+ years, this still rings true. Luckily, technological advances have eliminated most of the barriers to adopting sales automation. With the vast amount of tools and use cases, it’s now easier than ever to benefit from it.
For example, here are some of the ways you can use sales automation to boost your team’s productivity:
1. Eliminate manual work
The first thing that should be automated in your sales process is routine, manual work, like tracking receipts and expenses. Some examples include CRM records updates, data sync within your sales stack, calls dialing and logging, follow-ups, etc. While these administrative tasks are undoubtedly important, they take too much of your time and energy.
Automation reduces the number of manual tasks freeing some time for your sales reps to focus on what’s really important. After all, your sales rep’s time and skills cost more than any automation tool subscription out there. So why waste your most precious resources on trivial, repetitive tasks?
2. Optimize sales processes
At the same time, there are some tasks that still require some human touch and can’t be 100% automated. In this case, software can help optimize related processes by taking care of their technical aspects. This includes lead generation and routing, social selling, nurturing, and so on.
You can even streamline most parts of the prospecting process. Use dedicated tools to capture leads directly on your website (i.e. visitors that match your ICP) or social media (LinkedIn), add them to personalized outreach sequences, and engage across different channels.
While this process will still require some effort, e.g. lead research and outreach personalization, automation can help you minimize the effort while maximizing the output.
3. Increase sales velocity
The best way to increase sales velocity? Streamline the interactions with customers using guided selling tools. In other words, get tailored suggestions on how to reply to the prospect or what information to share based on the stage they are currently at or sentiment they’ve expressed in communication with you.
You can also have dedicated tools to help with lead routing. This will help you process incoming leads in the shortest time possible by automatically assigning them to the available sales rep (e.g. when working across different time zones), pushing them to an automated engagement sequence, or sending a link to schedule a meeting right away.
4. Help with decision-making
Automation can also help your sales reps make informed decisions throughout the selling process. Lead scoring is a great example of how that might work. Instead of sorting through and replying to dozens of incoming emails and records in your CRM, certain tools can automatically detect buying intent and help you prioritize your leads accordingly.
You can also automate the process of drawing actionable insights from your CRM software (e.g. specific buying signals or promising audience segments) or track your prospect activity online using social listening tools. Having this kind of information at hand allows you to tailor your selling tactics accordingly and improve the outcomes.
5. Improve team communication/collaboration
Communication inside and outside of your sales team (e.g. with marketing, product, support/success departments) is crucial for productivity. After all, there are tasks that require combined effort – take for example sales enablement.
While it’s the marketing department that is typically in charge of creating content, many sales reps still have to waste around 30 hours per month looking for or crafting their own collateral – mostly because the provided materials are either irrelevant or impossible to customize and use. That’s why it makes sense to automate communication regarding content requests and make it a recurring process. Using knowledge base tools can significantly improve your sales teams’ productivity, as it will allow them to instantly access any documents they need and improve overall communication.
Speaking of internal sales communication, having a certain level of visibility among your team members is important too. This is where automatic reporting and task allocation can be of great help.
How to get started with sales automation
The multiple benefits of sales automation sound tempting. Yet, many businesses are still hesitant to put their processes on autopilot. One of the reasons why some might be lagging with automation is that they don’t know where to start.
The best way to get started with sales automation is by coming up with a clear action plan. For example, here are some steps you should consider along the way.
Step 1: Define the opportunities for automation
Take a close look at your sales process to identify the bottlenecks that hurt your performance. Talk to your team to find out if there are any roadblocks they struggle with. Make a list of areas of improvement to pay attention to first.
Also, make sure that it’s rational to focus on the selected aspects so you can allocate your resources wisely. For example, if your sales team is still handling prospect outreach and engagement manually, investing in sales forecasting wouldn’t be the best start.
Step 2: Audit and structure
Once you identify the focus areas, make sure to come up with the milestones for your sales automation roadmap and key metrics to measure along the way. These will also help you fine-tune your efforts along the way and evaluate the outcomes of your initiative in the future.
Step 3: Choose the right tools
The sales automation market is ready to offer hundreds of productivity tools that can ease the life of your sales team. You can learn to masterfully juggle dozens of them within your stack or choose a one-stop-shop solution that will do all the job – the choice is yours.
When building your sales stack make sure the tools you choose work well with each other, either via native integrations, change data capture for your databases, API, or solutions like Zapier, Automate.io, Integromat, Outfunnel, etc.
Step 4: Train the team to use new tools
The abundance of new tools requires time to learn to use them. Allow your team to test these tools. Most of them will offer some sort of onboarding flow or even personal training sessions to help with this.
Also, do not ignore the software vendor’s customer success team. Many products offer round-the-clock service with personal account managers ready to jump on a call and show you how to get the most out of their product.
Step 5: Measure and improve
Sales automation is an ongoing process that requires constant monitoring and improvement. There are always things that can (and should) be optimized.
This is not a one-off action that will instantly improve your performance. Use your initial productivity as a benchmark to compare your progress against and never stop looking for ways to do better.
Sales process automation can be a game-changer, offering a ton of competitive benefits for your team. But only if you do it right. So, make sure to take a responsible approach to the selection of tools, plan each of your actions and follow a general strategy.
Please keep in mind that automation isn’t a one-off task and should not be abandoned halfway. In this case, it can do more harm than good. But if you are determined to improve your team’s effectiveness, productivity, and overall morale, it will be well worth the effort.