As another calendar year reaches its end, you and your team will likely regroup to plan ahead for what comes next. The strategies you implement can put you in the best position to enjoy a successful 2020. One such strategy you may focus on is tweaking or even reworking your sales automation process, an important part of generating sales for your company even without the direct involvement of your sales team.
If you’ve yet to really master sales automation, a new year is as good a time as any to acquaint yourself with this useful tool. Whether you’re learning about this form of automation for the first time and need definitions and best practices or you’re trying to improve your automation, you’ve come to the right place. Throughout this detailed guide, we will focus on the abovementioned areas as well as others.
No matter your goals for the coming year ahead, the profits you drive from sales will help you achieve them. That’s why it’s especially important to give your sales process the attention it deserves now, as it can later pay back dividends as 2020 gets underway.
What Is Sales Automation?
Before we take that big dive into all the features, steps, and perks of automation sales, we want to establish clarity with a sales automation definition. When you automate sales, you rely on tools such as customer relationship management or CRM software, artificial intelligence or AI, and other software to achieve the sales goals of a company.
In using tools for sales, there is less responsibility on the part of the sales manager and representatives. Their jobs do not become irrelevant just like a marketing company’s jobs don’t become irrelevant when using CRM software. Instead, sales automation frees up a useful chunk of a sales representative’s schedule, allowing them to focus on even more leads and maintain their productivity. This could mean hitting quota and checking off sales goals left and right for your company.
In determining your own sales automation solution, CRM will likely comprise a major role. Think of your CRM software as the heart of your automation, pumping blood into your company’s sales efforts so these can soar.
There are seven means of automating your sales, and they include:
- Automated guidance: With this form of automation, the sales reps receive reminders and notes through the CRM software. These keep the reps on-task and prevent them from missing important prospects who could become customers.
- Lead management automation: Speaking of prospects becoming customers, next, there’s lead management automation. With this form of automation, the sales rep can use rules and filters during lead management that allow them to create a more curated list of leads. While once this all had to be done manually, now that automaton does it, a sales rep has a lot more time to work on other tasks.
- Communication automation: From sales email automation to automated voicemails, meeting scheduling tools, and personal email sequences, communication automation matters a lot.
- With automated voicemails, the sales rep can pre-record a message at their leisure that the lead or customer receives when they don’t answer the phone. This prevents the sales rep from having to come up with responses on the spot.
- By using meeting scheduling tools, sales reps can work with customers quickly and conveniently to schedule meetings based on calendar data.
- With personal email sequences, these automated drip campaigns are scheduled, again making the life and job of the sale’s rep easier.
- Then there’s sales email automation, which can even take care of tasks like unsubscribing inactive users without the sales rep having to do it themselves.
- Automated data entry: Data entry can be incredibly tedious and time-consuming, but it’s also a duty that’s unavoidable. Well, it was before using sales automation. By auto-filling data like price, product information, and contact info for leads and customers, the sales rep saves valuable hours each day.
- Automated research: The Internet makes searching for exactly what you want quite easy, but you can also sometimes get bogged down by too much info. With automated research, sales reps can target social media and other hubs to do easier, more fruitful research.
- Automated activity logging: Emails, phone calls, in-person visits: all this needs to get logged so other sales reps know how far one rep has gotten with a prospective customer. Automated activity logging does all that for the sales rep, once again saving them a lot of time to focus more on other leads and customers.
- Automated record creation: If a sales rep scans a business card or receives opt-in information, they can rely on automated record creation to log all this data so they don’t have to.
How Sales Automation Helps Sales Reps
Companies on a budget may always be somewhat critical of new software because it can come with a hefty price tag. If your business is already driving enough sales to keep you in the green, then you may wonder why there’s any reason to change what you’re doing. It’s like that old adage that if it isn’t broken, then why fix it?
Where you’re coming from is understandable, as it’s natural to be wary of new tools when what you’re doing already works. That said, upon making the switch to a sales software automation tool, you should see a slew of benefits for your sales team and individual sales reps.
Here are some of the perks you can anticipate should your company begin implementing a sales automation CRM to your preexisting sales processes.
1. Stretches Even Smaller Sales Teams to a Greater Extent
If you’re a small business, then you already know that resources are few and far between, including your staff. You intend to hire more staff once you have the capital to do so, but for now, it’s all about managing what you have.
There is a way to make even a small sales team look like it’s at least twice bigger, and that’s through automating your sales process. In doing so, it’s almost like you’ve hired on several more sales reps even though you haven’t spent a second interviewing or a dime on onboarding.
Besides just stretching your resources, in automating your sales, it’s possible to stretch your budget in much the same way. A too-tiny budget is another problem that can afflict small businesses striving to get a foot in the door. Rather than allocating the funds to hiring new staff, CRM with sales automation can fill in those gaps, giving you a more robust sales presence you’ll be proud of.
2. Tracks Data in One Place to Eliminate Confusion
If you’re familiar with the game of telephone, a story almost never ends the same way it begins. As more and more people get their hands on it, details get changed, things get conflated, and the end result may be riddled with mistruths. Unfortunately, the same can happen to your sales team if they mostly do their work on the phone or even in-person.
When jotting down notes and then passing on this information to other sales reps, details can get missed and thus information unintentionally changed. This is a major deterrent to the sales process, as the inconsistencies can cause your reps to take an improper sales approach that not only could cause them to miss the sale, but lose the customer as well.
Through using one system or software to track all communications with prospects and customers from beginning to end, that game of telephone finally ends. There are no inconsistencies in information, even if it travels across several sales reps to finally reach one.
3. Faster Responses Mean Happier Customers
Every company strives for a high level of customer satisfaction, but sometimes the measures you take aren’t always conducive to that. Your sales reps are undoubtedly busy people, but putting customers on hold for upwards of an hour doesn’t make them very happy. In throwing automation in the mix, it’s possible to address customer questions and concerns much more quickly.
Now, with faster responses and less time spent waiting for an email or someone to pick up the phone, your customer satisfaction increases. Your customers will keep coming back for more, which results in higher sales volume and a better bottom line for your business.
4. Keeps All Sales Leads Visible in Your Digitized Sales Funnel
Your sales funnel acts as the roadmap for the customer journey, beginning in those early days when they were just a lead to when they made their first purchase to today when they’re a repeat buyer. As useful as a sales funnel is, it becomes far less so when customers are allowed to slip through the cracks.
This is often never done intentionally and is the outcome of overworked sales reps balancing way too much on their plates. They forget to follow up with a customer, the customer never gets in touch because they feel shafted, and the business loses sales slowly yet surely.
By moving to an automated sales process with a digitized sales funnel, it becomes nearly impossible to forget or miss any customers. They’re all outlined in a comprehensive list that keeps track of communications from the beginning to this most recent point. If it’s time to follow up, a sales rep can check the last date of communication and then quickly get in touch.
5. Improves Efficiency, Performance, and Productivity
Your sales team does the best they can, but at the end of the day, they’re human. They can only work for so long before they’re exhausted and thus not as efficient. Through sales automation, it’s possible to enhance the efficiency and performance of your often-overworked sales team.
As we said before, in automating your sales, it’s like adding new sales rep to your team without hiring anyone. The automation can step up and make a sales rep’s job easier, freeing up their schedule to focus on pursuing new leads or filtering the ones they’ve already got. Overall, you end up with a more productive sales team that has higher numbers than ever.
How to Automate a Sales Process
You already know that you want to automate your sales process, but you may not yet be familiar with how to do so. In this section, we want to walk you through all you have to do to get started, letting you see inside sales automation.
Your sales process automation must include several parts or sections: awareness, interest, decision, and action. Here is an overview of each of these important sections of sales process automation:
- Awareness: In this case, awareness refers to that on the part of the lead to your company. They may find your business through a Google search, a paid advertisement on a website or social platform, or even from a guest post on a blog. The lead knows nothing about your company right now and you know nothing about them.
At this stage of the game, it’s best to use workflow automation so you can share information with the lead as it pertains to your business. This workflow automation may be targeted to your blog, your email drips, or something related.
- Interest: If the lead takes the bait through your workflow automation, then you move on to the interest phase. To reach this, the lead must have had some form of interaction with a member of your company, such as opting into an email newsletter or calling for a consultation. Now that you have their interest, you must maintain it, and that means peppering the lead with information about why they need your products or services. To that end, whitepapers, eBooks, and blog content can help.
Retooling your workflow automation is useful during this second phase as well. You might automate a welcome email after a lead opts into your email newsletter, for example. You could also automate a reminder to a sales rep to call the lead if the lead has completed a contact form. This stage is all about capturing and building on interest, and automation can be quite handy for this.
- Decision: Now, your lead moves on to the third phase, or the decision stage. They’ve learned about your company through your efforts and their own, as well as the products and services you sell. Their interest is hopefully piqued, and now they’ve come to the point where they have to make a decision. Your sales reps do not have to stand idly by while this happens, as automation is useful here, too.
Namely, you want to use automated document generation to get contracts and other pertinent documents out to the lead as they begin to make up their minds. By automating workflows like you’ve done the entire time, it should be easy to create and streamline sales documents, getting them in the right hands right away.
- Action: If all goes in your favor, then the lead will have decided to finalize a deal with you, often by purchasing a product or service. By relying on a review-and-approval workflow that’s, of course, automated, your sales team never loses track of the flurry of sales quotes, proposals, contracts, and other important documents that come in during this time.
Sales Automation Benefits and Best Practices
While we talked before about how an automated sales funnel can simplify the jobs of your sales team, that’s far from the only benefit you’d enjoy through a sales automation platform. Here is an overview of several more of these perks for small business sales automation as well as that for mid-sized and bigger companies.
1. More Detailed Reporting
You can’t always be there to oversee everything your sales team does, and so having weekly or monthly sales reports lets you catch up on what you missed. Sometimes though, reading through these reports is like looking at a puzzle with a couple of pieces missing. You get the general idea of what’s going on, but you’re missing the whole picture.
When logging all these data entry details through an automated tool, sales reps won’t skip any o the information you need. The more data the sales team has to contribute, the fuller and more detailed the reports are. Even better is no one is spending extra time slaving to make these reports more helpful; the automation is simply doing its job.
2. Better Sales Accuracy
There’s nothing worse than a sales rep accidentally misquoting a price for a product or service during a call or email with a lead. When the lead then goes back to look at the prices in their own research and finds out it’s wrong, they could jump ship and buy from a competitor instead. As we’ve said before, your sales reps are only human, and as humans, they’ll make mistakes.
Automation rarely does the same unless you feed it the wrong information. The assistance of sales automation reduces human error, producing more accurate information on pricing, customer needs, and other crucial information. Avoiding missteps like these keep the sales rep in the good graces of the customer.
3. Faster Proposals
When drawing up a proposal for a lead or customer, how long does it take your sales team? Once the task begins hogging up hours of time, then it’s detrimental to productivity. However, proposals are a necessary part of the sales equation, so it’s not like your sales team can skip them, right?
Well, yes and no, at least when automating sales. The sales rep can input critical information into a template and then the software draws up a mock proposal. This proposal still has the human touch, but it’s not taking up hours to create like it once did.
4. Analyzing Calls
When your sales rep is on the phone with a lead or customer, they’re cradling the phone in one hand and ready to jot down notes with the other. Perhaps instead of using a pen and paper, your sales reps prefer taking notes via computer. Either way, they’re only half-listening because they need to be ready to capture the information they can then use to begin the selling process.
With sales automation, not only can it provide transcripts of each call your reps have with leads and customers, but the software can analyze this information as well. The intelligence tools within the software will let your sales team know where they excelled and where they can do better.
This instantaneous information means the sales reps can apply the feedback they just received that same day, making fewer mistakes with future phone calls.
5. Automated Email Follow-ups
Nurturing the bonds you form with potential customers or established customers is necessary for garnering their repeat business. Using email is one of the easiest and quickest ways to engage and nurture customers, at least until a sales rep forgets to follow up. This is an honest mistake in most instances, as the rep could get bombarded with emails, so the customer email slips to the bottom of the pile.
That won’t happen with automation, especially with reminders delivered straight to the sales rep. Now they’ll know it’s time to get in touch with that customer before inadvertently missing the sale. An automated sales process can also schedule when email follow-ups go out and even provide templates for writing the content of the said email.
6. More Income
In reviewing the above perks, what’s clear is that sales automation can produce a more unified, productive, cohesive team that all works towards the same common interest. With the time to bring in more leads and convert them to buying customers, the sales team’s efforts result in an increase in sales for your company.
Now that we’ve had a thorough discussion of benefits, we also want to outline the best practices your sales team should follow when automating sales. After all, as we mentioned at the beginning of this article, you may be using sales management and automation for the first time. These rules to follow will set you up for success.
7. Don’t Automate Randomly
If your company’s sales team has a process that they’re already quite expedient at, then perhaps there’s no need to automate it. You also shouldn’t just automate anything or everything because you think it will help. Instead, there has to be some order to which parts of your sales process your company decides to automate.
A preferred way to choose where automation works best is to do a thorough but honest assessment of the system you’re using now, whatever that happens to be. You want to look for the flaws but also any strong points the system may have in case you decide not to automate these.
8. Have a Plan Ready
Upon completing your assessment, you can decide which areas of the sales process could use some work. Perhaps it’s that your sales team has no means of automating email follow-ups and other communications, so they lose track of some customers. Maybe they’re so distracted taking notes during phone calls that they accidentally volunteer incorrect information.
Either way, whatever area of your sales process it is that needs remedying, you should prepare an automation plan or blueprint. This allows you to anticipate all the steps and stages you must complete to begin using automation for enhancing your sales process.
9. Choose Your Software Carefully
It’s also never a good idea to pick a sales automation software without doing thorough research first. You should not just select the first software you come across for convenience’s sake, but rather, compare several options. In your comparison, you want to check prices, yes, but also features.
Should you sign up for a year’s trial of an automation software only to find out it’s missing features you deem important, this is going to put your company at a disadvantage. You now have to either deal with the missing features for the duration of your contract or pay extra for a second software. Both defeat the purpose of using automation in the first place, which is supposed to be for convenience and proficiency.
10. Try a Short Trial Before Fully Utilizing Your Automation Software
That’s why another best practice when selecting which sales automation to use is to try a trial run first. These trials may last 14 to 30 days, with some of the shorter ones only seven days. You’re not paying anything during these trials, but you can use most if not all the features you’d get if you did shell out for a paid subscription to the automation software.
During this trial, make sure you really sit down and get a feel for the software and how it works. Encourage your sales team to do the same, especially since they’ll be the ones using it all the time. If the software is too clunky, difficult to understand, or hard to navigate, it won’t be any better once you pay for it. It may be best to acknowledge this isn’t the right solution for you and move on.
You should also pass on an automation software if you discover it’s missing features your sales team cannot go without. Unless some features are unusable during a trial, then you need to know the software has everything you need before you pay.
11. Know the Downsides to Automation
Throughout this guide, we’ve talked very positively about sales automation software, and that’s because it warrants the praise. Like anything, though, automation is not good if you use it too much. As useful as sales automation can be to businesses of all sizes, automating every last part of your sales process will not deliver the kinds of results you strive for. Instead, companies often end up with just the opposite.
No matter how good automation is, there is one thing this software lacks: the human touch. It’s best if your sales team works in conjunction with the automation to achieve your sales goals. Relying too heavily on software makes all your communications sterile and stilted, and that’s no way to win or keep customers.
The Difference Between Sales and Marketing Automation
In this guide, we’ve discussed automation as it pertains to sales, but automation exists in many other forms as well. For instance, companies may use marketing automation as well as sales automation. Is there a difference between sales and marketing automation or are they interchangeable?
No, these two forms of automation are certainly not interchangeable, that’s for sure. Both do share similar elements, in that you might use email marketing for sales and marketing. However, with a sales automation platform, all the communications are made through the sales team with the intention of hearing back from customers or leads. Since the sales reps will communicate with only as many leads and customers as a company has, the volume of emails they send is decidedly lower, maybe 400 a day.
Compare that to email marketing automation, in which the salespeople have no role. The marketing team is striving to bring in new leads that can be converted to customers, and in doing so, they tend to send out far more emails than your sales team would. These communications are targeted but massive and can be mailed with a marketing automation platform.
While sales automation platforms and marketing automation platforms do decidedly diverge on separate paths, they will converge eventually. The contacts that a marketing team gets could be passed on to the sales team to then nurture, eventually earning them the sale and perhaps even repeat business. Without marketing automation platforms, your sales team might not have anyone to sell to, because customers and leads often find your company through the promotions of marketers. Without a sales automation platform, the marketing team’s efforts would only get you so far, bringing in leads but not making nearly as many sales.
An Overview of EngageBay’s Sales Automation
If you’re thinking of implementing a sales automation system for your company in 2020, you’re going to start researching software providers now. In your quest for the best sales automation software, you will come across many options, but which is truly an ideal fit for your business needs?
We highly recommend our automation services here at EngageBay. Our company was founded as a means of helping small businesses and startups that want to use software comparable with HubSpot but without the high HubSpot prices. EngageBay uses a combination of marketing and sales automation to help many companies reach and surpass their goals, so why not your own?
If you recall from the last section, while sales and marketing automation are two different animals, they intersect at points. EngageBay offers both for all your business needs. Our sales automation is always free, even if you don’t subscribe to any of our other services. This isn’t on a trial basis, either; you never have to pay to use our sales services like prospect automation.
The features you’ll find in EngageBay’s sales automation CRM is as follows:
- Reaching out to customers via phone from the online CRM, not a company phone or smartphone
- Call recording and logging so you never miss any communications with customers
- Appointment scheduling with calendar links inserted right into the signature of your emails
- Email tracking to review what your leads and prospects might do next, such as opening emails and clicking through; you can then establish an automated workflow to strike while the iron is hot
- Study metrics and analytics for drawing up sales proposals, such as how much time the lead was on the page, which pages were read, etc.
- Establish more than one deal pipeline at once so you can track the progress of several leads in the sale funnel
- Review data like past customer communications and other interactions to get a full view of the customer’s needs; this allows you to achieve greater customer satisfaction
As you automate your marketing efforts, you’ll find these EngageBay features are especially helpful:
- Create web forms with setup rules that ensure the message appears when you want it, such as an exit pop-up that can recover a potential customer and drive them to make a buying decision
- Personalize emails to build that bond between company and customer, retaining their satisfaction and keeping them buying
- Segment your audience using smart metrics, such as actions completed or left incomplete, email clicks, email opens, and more
- Rely on predictive lead scoring so your marketing team doesn’t have to qualify all leads personally, freeing uptime
- Automate drip email campaigns, using sequences, templates, and scheduling so your emails reach the right members of your audience at the right time
A sales automation process works best when the human element of sales is still present. That said, by implementing automation, it’s possible to increase revenue and the productivity of your sales team. 2020 is a fantastic time to kickstart your own sales automation process, which you can do with EngageBay.