When describing a certain job, people will usually lean toward the greater purpose that role serves.
Marketers establish a company, product, or brand to a certain audience. Customer service representatives speak with buyers to find solutions to issues they’re facing with a product or service. Human resources employees work to create a positive and engaging company culture for the people who work there. And sales reps create mutually beneficial relationships with customers.
While those descriptions accurately encapsulate the title into one idea, so much more happens behind the scenes. And newsflash: it’s a lot less glamorous.
For sales representatives, a lot of time is spent on non-revenue generating sales operations activities, such as data entry, pipeline analysis, content creation, and everyday things, like organization. A good stream of productivity can be the lifeblood of a business. You want your sales reps to be building rapport with customers as much as possible, and it’s up to leaders to equip them with sales automation tools that take the mundane activities out of selling.
What is sales automation?
Sales automation solutions are software tools that streamline parts of the selling process to make them more efficient, successful, and profitable for a business. These tools can automate various parts of the buyer journey, such as lead generation, contact management, and sales performance analysis.
Sales automation tools can be used for a one-off task, or they can be completely implemented into your customer relationship management software for an entirely streamlined process.
So much time and energy go into your selling process, and it’s important that a majority of it be spent working with customers to find solutions to their pain points through your product or service.
Sales automation makes that possible. Instead of writing notes and logging data, sales professionals can focus their efforts on meaningful follow-ups and check-ins to see if the solution is properly serving the customer.
As your sales pipeline grows, it becomes increasingly more complex. A growing business means more sales pipeline, and more sales pipeline means more customer relationships in need of establishment. Implementing a sales automation system provides reps with the time they need to do their jobs by offering value to customers and generating revenue for the company.
Where you can implement sales automation
The idea of sales automation can vary. Some businesses will focus on one section of the sales process, and others will find ways to automate across the board. Areas of implementation will depend on where your business currently needs help with streamlining tasks.
Here are a few examples of where you can implement sales automation:
- Record creation: generating new contact and lead records whenever someone interacts with marketing materials and matching them to the correct salesperson
- Activity logging: keeping track of the number of emails sent, phone calls made, and follow-up communication had with customers
- Research: using platforms to identify potential clients or finding public information about prospects to inform communication and sales approach
- Data entry: auto-filling customer details like contact information, the product they’re interested in, and the pricing model
- Communication: connecting with customers, sending relevant content, following up, and keeping track of all interactions
- Lead management: sorting and prioritizing certain leads based on their likeliness to make a purchase and placing them with the best rep for the job
Sales automation tools can even offer guidance on next steps for a rep to take in the sales process. No customer is exactly the same, and your selling approach must reflect that. As prospects give off different buying signals, these software tools can point reps in the right direction for next steps.
Sales automation software
While you can implement a sales automation tool to help with any of those administrative tasks above, it’s important to prioritize areas where you need the most assistance. Buying software for your business is a big commitment, and your designated software budget needs to be spent wisely.
The best way to go about this is by evaluating each stage of the sales process, keeping sales activity metrics in mind. The point of implementing a sales automation tool is to free up time for reps to focus on tasks that are directly related to selling something. Identify areas that could benefit from automation, and start there.
Below are a few software tools that can offer a source of automation throughout the sales process.
Marketing automation software
While marketing actions are a precursor to selling, both departments work with an important common goal in mind: to attract, convert, and retain customers that can offer value to the business. For that reason, it’s crucial that your sales and marketing departments focus on alignment. Marketing automation software can assist with that.
Marketing automation software can streamline any task, workflow, or process associated with creating, executing, and evaluating the success of marketing materials and campaigns. These tools offer businesses a central database where all marketing data is held, simplifying accessibility and use for anyone across the company, including sales reps. Integrations with other sales-related tools, such as CRMs or social media management tools, remove the headache of information silos or lack of relevant customer information.
For a sales rep to effectively communicate with a prospect, they need a compelling message that will generate curiosity. Whether it’s regarding a pain point or a need they haven’t even considered, marketing automation can assist in creating segmented, personalized, and timely messaging that will appeal to that particular customer.
Lead generation software
Successfully fueling your sales funnel with promising leads is one of the best ways you can ensure higher conversion rates. There are a few different categories of lead generation software that can automate the process of finding the right leads and prioritizing quality over quantity.
The first one is lead capture software, which is a software tool dedicated to finding new sales opportunities for your business through prospecting. Markets are competitive, and connecting with prospects before your competitors can be the difference between closing a deal or losing it.
Companies can then use lead intelligence tools to find the data they need to ensure they have accurate and relevant data regarding their business. This information can validate prior research or enrich it with more details.
Then comes the prioritization process through lead scoring software. This tool can accurately determine the potential of each lead that comes through the funnel. Putting a number or score to your leads can help sales reps identify how much time to allocate toward each account and prioritize who to connect with first.
After the lead is scored, you can further automate the process by using lead-to-account matching and routing software, which will allocate the new lead to the best salesperson for the job. This happens through navigating your company’s territory mapping. This feature can sometimes be accomplished using your CRM software, but the more your business grows, the more likely you are to need a separate tool to ensure accuracy and efficiency.
Manual lead generation is a time-consuming task. It’d be one thing if it were acceptable to focus on quantity rather than the quality of the leads, but that’s never the case if you want a higher chance of closing deals. All of these lead generation tools can work together to create a sales environment where reps can spend their time focusing on establishing connections with leads rather than picking them out from a crowd.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software
Once you’ve established contact with a prospective customer and learned more about who they are and what they need, you’ll need a place to store all of this newfound, valuable information. Focusing on sales automation would point you in the direction of customer relationship management (CRM) software.
CRM software removes the need for you to keep track of customer data, preferences, and interactions in a spreadsheet or on a sticky note. These platforms help businesses track and manage customer communication by offering a single location to store all of that data. CRMs allow reps to update these records in real time, so during or after an interaction with a customer or prospect, salespeople can simply update the account with whatever it is they learned.
CRM systems come in handy when multiple people throughout the organization need access to customer data. Instead of pinging the account manager, the process can be automated using a CRM. Or if that account manager forgot where they left off with the customer, they can simply look at the account records and decide where to go from there.
CRMs are also great pipeline management tools. These solutions take the manual work of analyzing your sales pipeline and automate manual tasks like suggesting a follow up with prospects, picking out the most promising leads, and monitoring metrics to find areas of improvement.
Customer communication software
Effective communication with customers and prospects requires a human touch. Nobody wants to get a sales call from a robot. While these conversations can’t and shouldn’t be automated if you want to hang on to that potential business, there are other parts of the customer communication process that can benefit from the use of software to automate.
Email tracking software can help businesses manage and send email outreach sequences, monitor delivery, and collect data on important metrics. These platforms automate the process of finding the best time to engage with customers or prospects via email using data that would be tough to collect manually. Email tracking tools can integrate with your CRM and other email marketing tools to ensure alignment across messaging and customer preferences.
If your sales cadence calls for phone calls, that can be managed with software as well. Outbound call tracking software allows sales reps to call prospects directly through the software and record the data during the conversation. Using a CRM integration, this information can then be stored in a centralized database.
In the realm of customer communication falls sales engagement software, which businesses use to integrate their sales process with their communication channels. This tool can come especially in handy when it comes to automating email sequences and scheduling follow up interactions with prospects. Sales engagement software can do the same with calls, social posts, and text messages.
Again, the conversation part of customer communication shouldn’t be automated. However, there are surrounding activities that can be done with software, freeing up more time for sales reps to focus on their interaction with the customer.
Sales performance management software
If a part of your sales process wasn’t producing your desired results, you’d want to improve it moving forward, right? While you can dedicate some time to monitoring sales activity, it’s hard to see long-term impact without software that can automate that process.
Sales performance management software can monitor the progress of your sales efforts and identify areas that will be successful and those that will fall short. Businesses can then proactively address these issues in hopes of improving the results.
Sales performance tools also offer increased visibility via dashboards, through which data can be seen on an individual or team level. These progress reports can then be used by sales managers to inform coaching or training sessions.
AI sales assistant
Computers often come to the rescue of any position, so imagine what artificial intelligence (AI) can accomplish. Incorporating an AI sales assistant into your selling workflows can automate other general sales tasks and processes like lead qualification, pipeline management, forecasting, and data entry.
These solutions are most commonly used to automate routine tasks and free up time for sales professionals to handle more complex issues.
Benefits of sales automation
Implementing a few sales automation tools will take a lot of repetitive, mundane tasks off your sales team members’ plates. That’s a relief they can feel on a daily basis. There are a few other benefits your business can count on experiencing with sales automation.
More time spent selling
According to a study, sales reps only spend one third of their time communicating with prospects and customers. Imagine the number of deals they could close if their customer communication rates increased.
The beauty of sales automation, whatever form it may take for your business, is that it allows reps to spend more time selling. And more time spent selling means building more valuable relationships with customers.
Reduced human error
We’re human. We all make mistakes. Some are more serious than others, but you sure don’t want human error getting in the way of you closing a deal. Unintentional mistakes can go unnoticed in the sales process, and they can ultimately affect the company.
Letting software take the wheel when it comes to tasks like data entry and analysis can reduce the number of errors made by people.
Shortens sales cycle length
With more time spent on selling activities and less on tasks that can be automated, your business can count on a shortened sales cycle. While the selling process takes substantial time and care, and most customers understand that, they won’t wait around forever.
When you automate sales tasks, it allows reps to address customer questions and concerns quicker and with more accuracy. This can increase customer satisfaction and reduce the time it takes to convert a customer.
Tracks data in one place
While your sales team needs to establish connections with customers to get them to convert, they also rely on data to support that. Inconsistent data can result in poorly-informed sales approaches.
Sales automation allows businesses to track all of their customer data in one place, avoiding the occurrence of information silos and out of date records. Whenever a sales rep or marketer needs a piece of information regarding a customer, they can access it from anywhere at any time.
Improves efficiency and performance
Overall, the biggest benefit you’ll see when using sales automation tools is increased efficiency and performance from your sales team. No more face-to-face customer time lost to data entry, data errors that result in a lost sale, long sales cycles, or digging around for important customer data.
The answer is in the software
Establishing processes within your sales organization is crucial, but the automation can only come with software. Adding a new tool to the tech stack is a complicated process, but investing in the platforms your business needs to be successful should never be ignored.
Take the time, make the decisions, and see the results. Happy automating!
You can automate other things besides sales. Head over to G2 to find software to streamline any process within your organization.