Sales teams know it all too well: repetitive, administrative chores such as data entry can eat up valuable daylight and take away from time you could spend engaging with buyers.
For any rep, relationship-building with prospects should be the primary focus — not wasting time on reporting or other tasks that could be automated. Using the right CRM and sales automation software to pre-program outreach can give reps the bandwidth to focus on nurturing relationships with customers.
Keep reading to learn how automation helps sales teams direct their energy where it matters most — selling — and get strategies for successful sales process automation.
What is sales process automation?
To understand sales process automation, let’s first define how it differs from sales process automation:
Sales automation is the process of systematizing sales-related tasks using technology and AI. Sales automation software can typically handle many of the labor-intensive tasks, like sales outreach, email campaigns, and data entry.
Sales process automation takes it one step further and automates various steps or workflows in your sales process so it’s streamlined and efficient. With sales process automation in place, reps can focus less on the admin and more on connecting with customers.
At the end of the day, you’re left with a well-oiled, streamlined sales machine — if done correctly.
Why does sales process automation matter?
Sales automation is no longer the next frontier. In a time of turnover and economic uncertainty, sales process automation is more important than ever before. Whether you're doing more with fewer people or needing to quickly ramp up new sellers, automating your sales process is the best way to ensure your team makes all the necessary prospect touch-points, so you can achieve your quota.
Three benefits of automating the sales process include:
- Improve the efficiency, productivity, and performance of your sales teams. We’ve said it a few times, because it’s true; when you remove tedious or mundane administrative tasks your sellers have more time to concentrate on building customer relationships.
- Boost data consistency across your organization. Automation enables standardization of your sales process and removes opportunities for errors or misplaced information.
- Speed up the entire sales process. Automation enables your sales teams to move swiftly and close more deals!
For a busy sales manager with a full roster of reps and deals to keep track of, an effective sales automation process can mean less time spent sifting through various spreadsheets and relying on incomplete data and more time for coaching.
Stages in automating the sales process
So you want to automate your sales process, but how or where should you start?
At a high level, a prospect moves through four stages:
Pro tip: Tailor your sales automation process to match that of your typical buyer’s journey.
Your potential customer realizes they have a problem, but they probably haven’t heard of your company yet. Perhaps they are Googling common issues that your product or solution solves, clicking on a paid ad or a social media post, or reading through blogs of other folks who have experienced a similar problem.
While you may not have visibility into all of their activities before they reach out to you, your future buyer is out there, they’re doing research, and leaving a trail of valuable data behind. To access this information, you need a sales execution platform that can capture this interaction data and translate into actionable insights and recommendations.
At the awareness stage, prospects might get tempted by flashy sales offers (aka limited-time deals) via email or SMS. To effectively engage with those leads and grow their interest, you need a platform that captures those buying signals and capitalizes on them by sending the right message, at the right time.
Now that your prospect has found you, they’re likely intrigued. They are returning to your website or exploring your content a little deeper — and are hungry for more.
This is the time for your sales process automation to capture those leads (and alert you to their interest). Whether signing up for a newsletter, requesting a demo, or downloading a research-heavy piece of content like a whitepaper you want to ensure that you are doing everything you can to keep fostering this conversation, in exactly the way your buyer wants.
For example, If someone books a demo, your sales reps need the advantage of an automatically scheduled meeting with all the additional background information collected and ready for analysis prior to the call.
This stage is all about educating and building as much interest as possible, and automation can help your reps save plenty of time.
Once your reps have successfully engaged with the prospect, answered any questions, and provided them with supporting collateral, they’ll be ready to buy. But you still need to show up better than your competitors.
So give your reps every advantage to close the deal.
During the decision phase, your sales automation should help you keep in touch with your buyers by sending key information about your products or solution. Now is the time to share mission-critical information, like product documentation, implementation guides, contracts, or invoices.
With minimal effort from your sales reps, technology can help you automate the entire process of storing, updating, and sharing all these documents.
Congratulations! The buyer has selected you. Now you need to collect payment or confirmation to seal the deal.
Now is when your sales reps need automation software to alleviate the manual tasks of tracking new deals, payments, and customer details. Leveraging an automated billing system can reduce administrative work, boost cash flow, and make customer management easier in general.
Additionally, with sales automation technology you can track revenue by whatever parameters you prefer.
3 strategies for successful sales process automation
Clearly, there are benefits to automating your sales process but it’s important to have a solid plan in place before implementing a new process or technology.
1. Know your platforms: use the right sales automation software
When it boils down to automation platforms, there are many solutions on the market — for both sales and marketing. It’s important to make sure your marketing and sales automation is working in harmony, not against each other.
Remember: Marketing automation and sales automation are not the same thing.
Though marketing automation helps teams generate leads for sales teams, a sales execution platform ensures that every inbound lead brought in by marketing is leveraged to its fullest potential.
These two technologies should work together to bring sales and marketing alignment. With a sales execution platform, sales teams can increase revenue while measuring performance in an efficient yet scalable way by:
- prioritizing tasks
- prospecting at scale
- measuring and optimizing results
- nurturing important customer relationships
If your sales and marketing can work together, marketing can test and improve the quality of inbound leads with a repeatable and measurable sales playbook while your sales teams retain control over outreach methods, messaging, and those critical buyer touch-points.
2. Use a phased approach
If you’ve ever worked anywhere that has decided to use a new tool, you’ve likely experienced a common scenario:
Everything is just about ready to go. The announcement goes out company-wide. Hooray! It’s launch day! Oh, wait. It’s not working correctly. No one knows what they’re supposed to do. IT is overwhelmed with help tickets. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Like any new software or technology, you can’t just roll out a sales execution platform organization-wide and expect perfection from the get-go. To successfully implement an automated sales process one of the smartest things you can do is roll it out in phases.
For successful implementation:
- Follow a wave approach and create a pilot to test and refine new processes
- Begin with the most promising and least critical applications
- Have automation teams work closely with sales reps and sales support staff to ensure experience and expertise are reflected in the system
- Once you’ve worked through any kinks, slowly onboard new reps onto the system
- Enlist visible champions to help encourage adoption of new tools as you roll out to a greater organization
By starting with a smaller group of reps, you can fine-tune your sales automation process to work the way your organization needs it to.
3. Lean on your sales execution platform
If you are investing in sales process automation technology, you shouldn’t be doing it alone. The right vendor can offer guidance on everything from adopting the tool that will work best for your organization to how to go about your change management.
Look for a platform with support accompanied by:
- Personalized set-up support
- Platform optimization
- Guided training sessions
- Technical support
- Managed services
A busy sales manager doesn’t have time to do it all, especially if you are overseeing many reps and deals on top of implementing a new tool. The right vendor can ensure your organization starts strong with your sales automation and has the support your team needs to do what you show up each day to do — close deals.
Create more pipeline, close more deals
The Outreach Sales Execution Platform, powered by AI-driven insights, can help your revenue organization create more pipeline and close more deals.
With the most B2B buyer-seller interaction data in the world paired with proprietary AI technologies, Outreach helps organizations translate sales data into intelligence and automate the sales process.
To learn more about automating your sales process so your reps can win more deals, talk to an Outreach product expert.