Sales Automation: Improving Your Sales Process and Pipeline
Sales is all about closing. But while following up with leads and completing deals are your sales team’s primary responsibilities, chances are that these activities comprise only a small portion of their daily workload. In fact, one survey found that sales reps only dedicate an average of 23% of their time to sales-related tasks, with the remainder going towards meetings, scheduling, researching, and reporting.
These tasks are important, but the time your sales reps spend on them—instead of on selling—is money left on the table. Automating your sales process allows reps to give leads the attention that they deserve, improving your team’s productivity, efficiency and conversion rates.
In this guide, you'll learn how sales automation can benefit your team and how to use the right tools to automate your sales process.
In this sales automation guide, you’ll discover:
- What is sales automation?
- Why implement sales automation?
- Sales process workflows
- Advantages and disadvantages of sales automation
- Frequently asked questions
What is sales automation?
Sales automation is a method of automating and streamlining sales tasks using software and technology, freeing up your team to focus on selling. You can’t automate the entire sales process, but you make many specific tasks, such as data entry, scheduling, lead scoring, and many types of emails a lot easier. No matter your industry or the size of your company, relieving sales reps from these kinds of tasks will significantly benefit your team and revenue.
Why implement sales automation?
Sales automation leads to a raft of benefits across your organization.
- Increases productivity and efficiency. By automating this work, you can free up resources and increase sales. Without automating your sales process, your team is stuck on a treadmill of administrative or communication tasks.
- Ensures that no lead falls through the cracks. Repetitive sales tasks can exhaust your team and sap their enthusiasm, making it easy to overlook leads or other potential opportunities. With automation, your team will remain engaged and attentive. In addition, leads are continually engaged as the system gathers data about their interests and needs, helping to close the sale.
- Increases customer satisfaction. A customer might be only one of many leads, but they should always feel like they’re your number one priority. They don’t want to wait for answers and information. Automation decreases the time it takes to respond to customer needs and streamlines workflow processes, so your customers feel more valued.
Read our guide to Everything You Need to Know About Automating Sales and Marketing
- Streamlines data entry and collection. There’s no reason to rely on your sales representatives to gather every piece of customer data or manually enter data, with its attendant potential for error. Marketing automation software lets you analyze calls and create transcriptions, collect pivotal customer data—which gives you insights into buying interests and trends—and create a uniform data entry process.
- Improves lead targeting and conversions. Sales reps spend a lot of time on leads that never convert. Those are working hours you can never get back. Having easy access to data allows you to analyze and target a lead based on their potential for conversion and effectively retarget leads at a later date. You can even automatically generate and deliver reports to all team members, keeping everyone informed.
- Supplies accurate pricing and inventory. Giving a customer the wrong information makes your company look disorganized and sloppy. Customers will hesitate to trust future information you provide and will bombard your sales teams with questions. Sales automation tools provide real-time pricing and inventory updates, helping to preserve the reputation of your brand.
Sales process workflows.
Your sales process dictates how your team turns prospects into customers. Each action builds upon the last until you make the sale, and each step of the process should address potential pain points and milestones. Remember that sales automation doesn't replace your sales process. It improves and maintains efficiency by standardizing tasks, allowing your sales rep to focus effort and energy elsewhere.
Use your sales process to identify problem areas that your team can improve with automation. Your sales team has many daily responsibilities that can be automated in whole or in part, such as the following:
Finding new leads is the core of a healthy revenue stream. By automatically filtering, searching and informing your team of potential leads, your sales reps get all the information they need in one place to craft messaging that speaks to the customer.
How do you make your product or service a custom fit for your prospect's problem? Gather as much information about leads as possible. Which social media channels do they use? What is their daily work schedule? What is their role? Answer these questions and more with lead enrichment tools that analyze data from numerous sources, providing you with an accurate profile for every prospect.
Correctly entering customer information is a must when you’re building a customer list. Using sales automation software, you can set triggers that add new entries to your customer relationship management (CRM) based on certain conditions, saving your sales team time and avoiding errors.
Leads rarely become customers right away, and it will usually take several interactions before you gain their trust and earn their business. With automation, you can create targeted email funnels or campaigns and schedule emails with personalized messaging. And because manually drafting and sending the same email types is incredibly time-consuming, you can create email templates that are easily customized as needed and can be used repeatedly.
Logging call notes can sometimes take more time than the actual call, which means call reporting may be inconsistent or overlooked altogether. Leave this to technology and incorporate tools to summarize your calls and analyze responses for conversion potential. You’ll then know how to retarget customers immediately after the call ends—and you can follow up without delay.
Download the Definitive Guide to Sales Lead Qualification and Sales Development
Manually tracking each prospect's interactions and communication with your sales team increases the chances that your team will miss something. Sales automation tools can record your calls, meetings and emails, accounting for each event and giving you insight into how prospects are engaging with you.
Proposal quality is one area your sales team can’t neglect. If you're not automating quotes, customer data, product details and pricing information, then you're working harder, not smarter. Be sure to develop an internal workflow that complements the process and guarantees that key decision-makers approve the proposal before submission.
Analyzing data is the task that managers love to hate. Reports let you know how your team performs, but the process of generating and reviewing them can be a productivity drain. Look for a solution that automatically creates reports and emails team members to provide updates on important metrics like revenue totals and conversion rates.
When nurturing quality leads, random selection is not your friend. It's best to match leads and team members according to skill and experience. Consider which sales rep will be able to connect with the prospect and convert their interest into action. You can automatically assign leads by location, company size or role.
Not all leads deserve the same level of attention. To get the best results, you must prioritize prospects based on demographic and behavioral data. However, sorting these details can feel like an uphill battle. Square this circle by automatically prioritizing leads based on data from many sources, including your lead capture forms, online behavior insights, and email and social engagement data.
Advantages and disadvantages of sales automation.
✓ Improves and maintains efficiency through standardization: working smarter not harder.
✓ Analyses data and derives continual insight in real time and over longer periods
✓ Frees up sales staff to do what they’re best at—using the personal touch to close that deal.
✓ Reduces human error, increases response time, avoids replication of contacting potential customers.
✓ Management can project cashflow, revenues and new areas to explore in greater detail and with more confidence.
x Can be costly, especially when not using sales automation to its fullest potential, and there is a need to spend time on maintenance and training.
x Risk of losing human touch in some interactions previously initiated in person.
x The inflexibility of many automated systems is no different here.
x Users of the sales automation system must be more technically advanced than previously to use it to its potential.
x More data may require more or better human resources to deal with overloads.
Frequently asked questions about sales automation.
Is sales automation impersonal?
Imagine a system which gave you all the details about your prospective customer, and allowed you to build trust and rapport with them faster. A system that never let you forget to reschedule a meeting, or follow up with extra information requested. Wouldn’t your personal connection be stronger because of that? The human factor is still crucial, but human factor and sales automation are not mutually exclusive.
When should I use sales automation?
Whenever you want to reduce costs per sale. When salespeople are spending too much time on routine tasks, or your sales hit rate seems sluggish. When you’re not generating enough leads, or not converting leads into sales. The right technology can streamline processes and allow people to perform at their best.
Is sales automation bad for jobs?
On the contrary, salespeople can get back to what they do best – selling. Sales automation frees up busy workers from admin and other tasks that generate no direct revenue. They’ll add extra skills to their portfolio handling the software and have a better chance to prove their ability to close deals.
Easily automate your sales process today.
Sales automation opens your team up to a world of possibilities and potential. CRM forms are a core part of sales automation, but to truly unlock their benefits, you need a comprehensive automation solution that guides your sales process at scale and integrates with your CRM and other platforms.
That’s exactly what you’ll get with Marketo Engage. It helps your sales team identify and engage leads across channels and allows your marketing team to provide key insights to your sales reps. It integrates with the most popular CRMs as well, including Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, making Marketo Engage your all-in-one automation solution.
Request a demo today to discover how Marketo Engage can help your sales team get the results they seek without adding to their workload.