What is Sales Automation?

by Lee Gladish in June 15th, 2021
sales automation

For so long, the job of a sales personnel requires effort to accomplish both administrative tasks, such as order processing, identifying leads, filling out client information, updating sales and customer database, and accomplishing monthly sales reports – and customer relations tasks, which include contacting leads, developing a healthy relationship with prospects, helping with client inquiries, managing customer complaints, closing deals, and maintaining customer loyalty. 

But as a business organization grows along with its prospects, it gets increasingly more difficult for salesmen to accomplish their duties. This necessitates a paradigm shift to prioritize customer relations tasks that effectively generate sales and revenue over repetitive non-value adding administrative tasks. Hence, the sales automation solution was born.

How Does It Work

The act of sales is simply the conversion process of prospects into customers. It’s a demanding job that has plenty of background work behind the actual process of engaging with prospects. These background administrative works are labor-intensive, time-consuming, and have little to do with driving revenue up. A study determined that around 15% of a sales representative’s time is spent accomplishing administrative tasks, which contributes to his or her inefficiency in selling.

Most companies have done well to adopt spreadsheets to reduce manual receiving, storing, and processing of data. Nonetheless, most of the data process still relies on human intervention to further manage, classify, and interpret information and ultimately initiate feedback and actions. 

With the advancement of information technologies and continuous improvement initiatives, sales automation software solutions have penetrated today’s business models by offering tools that reduce manual and repetitive tasks.

Sales automation software works by artificial intelligence that gathers information from various sources – such as customer database, tracking records, marketing advice, and preprogrammed instructions, analyzes them by levels of priority and effectivity, and provides the most optimal recommendation or executes the best actions.

In effect, sales automation improves mechanization in the workload, freeing a big load of time for the convenience and morale-boost of sales representatives while simultaneously increasing the necessary personal time needed to foster a deep connection with the client.

In an ideal and comprehensive sales automation system, everything from research, lead determination, database creation and update, and guidance is automated. The end-product is a supplementary setup that gives sales representatives augmented knowledge, support, and confidence to achieve their goals. 

What technology does is create new opportunities to do a job that customers want done.
-Tim O'Reilly

Tools in Sales Automation

Tracking and Notification

tracking

From addressing prospect inquiries, chasing expectations, meeting appointments, and knowing which leads are on the very edge of conversion – sales personnel have a lot going on in mind. Often, sales representatives, without structural tracking support, find themselves overwhelmed. 

A sophisticated tracking tool is essential to facilitate coordination among various members and functions of the business, especially sales and marketing. Logs of important activities such as awareness campaigns and prospect engagement (e.g. phone calls, e-mails, appointments) are crucial information supposedly communicated among other sales agents and managers. Moreover, highly integrated software systems allow for real-time recording and instantaneous feedback.

Notification systems can augment tracking by alerting support teams, managers, or the sales rep himself to take suggested actions at the best time.

Forgoing these tasks allows the sales representative to engage in a longer and more meaningful interaction with their clients, ensuring higher conversion success rates.

Strategic Pipeline and Funnel Planning

planning

The sales pipeline and funnel are famous theories developed to better understand and optimize deals and leads respectively.

A pipeline represents discrete stages through which a prospect may progress toward a goal. In the context of sales, the goal is to close a deal and ensure retention (if applicable). Pipeline planning and optimization are imperative to ensure leads advance to the next stages quickly and smoothly. It’s important to be able to identify and immediately address stages that are too long, unnecessary, or redundant.

Meanwhile, funnels illustrate the journey of prospects towards potential conversion and retention. Funnels provide information to sales analysts and managers regarding weaknesses in a specific stage in the funnel. With this, special attention, and support such as sales education, training, or special support can be provided to representatives to augment the highlighted stage.

Nonetheless, building the actual data and analyzing it with set metrics is tedious work. It’s almost impractical for sales representatives to accomplish this task despite its invaluable benefit.

Dynamic businesses find great usage for automated pipeline and funnel analyzing software as data can easily be collected, translated to information, and reported. Managers can defer manual input and data processing, and proceed confidently with more useful activities such as root cause analysis and management of corrective actions.

Efficient Resource Assignment

assignment

Managing and matching prospects with appropriate sales representatives add an extra layer of challenge in sales, considering the unique needs and expectations of clients and the availability, convenience, and individual competencies of reps.

Mismatching may lead to ending the deal even before any serious contact has been made. It may leave either party feeling uneasy or overwhelmed which inhibits establishing a meaningful relationship.

Despite having good judgment, sales managers may still be subject to bias and partiality when assigning people. For example, sales managers would normally assign the most important clients to the most competent rep. In the long term, the assigned rep may be daunted by the task, especially when clients are far away. Moreover, the skill development of newbie reps may be hindered due to a lack of exposure and experience.

Software that objectively analyzes both characteristics of prospects and affiliates can supplement the sales manager’s judgment on how to efficiently manage resources.

Scheduling

meeting

In sales, timing is a big deal. Catch the prospect in a bad time, and you can kiss your deal goodbye. 

Of course, this goes both ways as the availability of the rep is also important. Double-booking is a nightmare for anyone. It’s best to evenly distribute workload across the week to avoid piling pressure on a single day and to allow for much-needed recuperation after a good day’s work.

Old school scheduling is a game of cat-and-mouse. For example, the rep would propose a demo, seminar, or appointment schedule via e-mail or text. The prospect responds with a preferred date. Unfortunately, the rep is busy on the schedule, and so they cycle through exchanges until they finally agree. Doesn’t sound so bad? Well, project that to a weekly quota and imagine the rep’s workload chasing the prospect’s convenient time.

Through an automated scheduling tool such as a shared event calendar, the marketing and sales team can neatly organize campaigns and engagements with prospects. Moreover, more efficient wide-audience engagements can easily facilitate as convenient for both parties. 

Prospects can choose which dates are convenient. Whereas the sales and marketing team can avoid double-booking with an organized calendar, as well as reach a wider audience in a shorter engagement time by pooling.

Shortlisting and Lead Nurturing

lead
Stop Selling ice to Eskimos! It's crazy!

Old school selling preaches of extraordinary salesmen that can sell anything to anyone, hence, the saying, “selling ice to Eskimos.” But in the hustle and bustle of today’s world, would anyone do this for bragging rights?

The goal of sales reps is to convert as many prospects into loyal ones as they can. But some form a faulty notion that widening the entrance of the sales funnel leads to the same outcome. The problem here is that giving full attention to the massive pool of prospects may risk diluting the quality of the sales process, ultimately being counterproductive.

Whereas, shortlisting qualifying leads through set rules and filters such as: For B2B – production size, industry growth forecast, and revenue; For B2C – income bracket and proximity enables a more focused and strategic approach with a higher conversion probability.

By now, you would know that encoding data and setting filters are no job for a man. Lead management software can be programmed to identify which leads are most likely to advance. On top of basic contact information, the lead’s records can easily and quickly be updated to include preferences, availability, supplier history. Curating various information from prospects can serve as valuable research and support for sales representatives to provide a more personalized experience in their sales.

A blend of automation and customized service provides clients with an enticing experience that they are top-of-mind. This ensures that follow-ups are relevant and appropriate to sustain interest and enhance the likelihood to convert.

Accurate and Punctual Report Making

report

Reports are essential tools for bottom-up communication. It includes specific metrics and KPIs that higher-ups analyze to be able to produce a support system to sustain process strengths and augment weak links. 

But generating quality reports take serious time and effort. Field time, collecting data, encoding, and charting & tabulating – these are the first parts of a tedious report-making sequence that fall under the sales representatives’ responsibility. 

In addition, non-standardized individual report procedures pave the way for inconsistencies, missing data, and redundancies – which would be a predicament in generating a comprehensive summary.

Sales representatives should always be forward-looking – close a sale now, look to close another one later. When a rep looks back at his previous event to accomplish a report, he is wasting precious time that could have been used to learn and develop his skills, engage with prospects, or deliver a closed deal.

An automated report system provides a standardized and organized platform that collects, secures, and processes concise and specific data. This prevents the inclusion of unnecessary data and saves sales representatives time and effort. 

Information can then be reported via comprehensive presentation formats or infographics, which are easily appreciated and interpreted by management.

BENEFITS OF A SALES-AUTOMATED SYSTEM

benefits of sales automation

PROSPECT

With an automated system supporting the refined sales process, the prospect can experience a prompt, orderly, and customized flow of transactions from start to finish. 

With outdated styles of marketing, prospects are overwhelmed with approaches that are too pushy, annoying, and spammy. Advertisements and follow-up notifications would just randomly pop in text messages and emails, which may squeeze their way during a busy time. And worse, the content is often overly generalized and irrelevant which leaves prospects confused and detached from the conversation.

Wow, this kis just sent me 5 emails on the same day, saying the same thing. He's got the fire in him. His product must be that good. I guess I'll take it. Better give him a call now.
-No one

Ideally, prospect experience should be given top priority in aspects such as choosing appointment schedules, setting convenient areas, customer personalization, and reliability of communicated information.

Automation software that studies individual prospect behavior patterns and preferences, and uses the information to evolve itself to better meet expectations are at a clear advantage over presumptuous approaches that are partial and lacking a personal touch.

Who would have guessed that a machine would be responsible for enhancing the humanistic side of sales?

SALES REPRESENTATIVE

Let’s give our sales guys a break. Being the lifeblood of the business, they are under tremendous pressure being subject to quotas and handling different prospect personalities.

Automating most of the administrative and non-direct sales work is a strategic initiative to alleviate pressure so that they can concentrate on more meaningful work, that is bringing in sales.

Furthermore, AI in automation solutions provides substantial intel and a flexible framework to guide reps in decision-making and action execution. For example, it can remind reps to initiate phone calls at specific times upon analyzing prospect online activity and suggest alternative strategies after consideration of prospect’s historical preferences.

MANAGEMENT

Sales automation software does all the dirty work in between data entry and report presentations as precisely, comprehensively, and timely as your organization’s budget allows.

Utilizing technology to capitalize on real-time updates of database information and high-speed data processing, managers can enjoy the elegant report outputs of sophisticated computers from quota dashboards to funnel and pipeline infographics.

As an effect, executives can translate the time saved from preparing and interpreting a report to actually creating solutions and improvements to ameliorate organizational performance.

CONCLUSION

Sales automation does not intend to replace humans in sales but instead complements the human aspect. It does so by mechanizing multiple dimensions in selling that are repetitive and tedious; consequently, helping sales representatives increase productivity to achieve their goals.

On top of speed and accuracy, sales automation incorporates comprehensive intelligence on the business, the type of prospects, and the capabilities of the sales representatives to the movements of organizational elements. Sales automation AI evolves as the pipeline and funnel progress; hence, better preparing the process for future endeavors.

With a steep climb to the top, businesses have to loosen their workloads to ever have a chance of being successful. 

Your cart
    Checkout