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The sales industry has changed dramatically over the past few years. In this digital era, companies can no longer rely solely on brochures, flyers, or billboards to market their products and services. Today’s consumers expect personalized interactions across all channels. Personalization drives customer loyalty and engagement, leading to increased sales and revenue growth.
About 71% of buyers expect companies to understand their needs — and nearly 80% are likely to make repeat purchases from brands that offer personalized experiences. Enterprises that make personalization a top priority grow faster, earn higher profits, and have more satisfied customers than other companies.
This trend, however, poses new challenges for sales professionals. They not only need to keep up with the ever-changing technological landscape but also create a targeted prospecting strategy and leverage data to anticipate customers’ needs. That’s where sales automation comes in.
Automation software can streamline repetitive tasks and make it easier to manage your sales pipeline. At the same time, it allows sales to get the most out of customer data and reach the prospects who are most likely to convert. Companies may also use this technology to cut unnecessary expenses, increase customer satisfaction, and drive repeat sales.
Most sales professionals spend about 65% of their work hours on clerical tasks and other activities that don’t generate revenue. Redundant tasks like finding qualified prospects, creating quotes, following up on emails, and invoicing can be time-consuming, too. This mix doesn’t even include the time spent in internal meetings!
Perhaps not surprisingly, more than one-third of sales activities can be automated, according to the management consulting firm McKinsey.
For example, sales teams can use today’s technology to automate 50% of order-related tasks, such as credit checking and invoicing.
McKinsey also reports that 30% of sales strategy and planning processes, 40% of post-sales activities, and 43% of the tasks related to quota setting, contracting, and sales teams could easily automate negotiation. Yet, only 25% of companies have automated at least one of these processes.
Sales automation is all about using the right tools to eliminate or reduce manual tasks. Depending on your needs, you may use automation software to:
Companies can also automate business processes like customer support, social media management, invoicing, and accounting.
HR departments, for example, may use automation tools to filter job applications, screen candidates, and streamline employee onboarding.
In a 2020 Salesforce survey, 74% of IT and engineering professionals said automation allowed them to save up to 30% of the time previously spent on manual tasks. In addition, nearly 60% of respondents were able to cut costs by 11 to 30% after switching to automated solutions.
However, sales automation does more than just streamline repetitive tasks and free up your time.
With this approach, you’ll gain deeper insights into your target audience and drive efficiency across the entire sales process. Plus, your sales team will be better able to identify potential clients and meet or exceed their quota.
Let’s see other benefits of sales automation:
For example, customer relationship management (CRM) software can generate a 360-degree view of the customer’s journey.
Sales teams can use this data to better segment prospects, create buyer personas, and personalize their communication with clients. Moreover, CRM systems and other automation tools can improve your response time and boost customer satisfaction.
This technology also allows for more accurate sales forecasting and reporting, eliminating human error. On top of that, you may use sales automation tools to assign lead scores, monitor campaigns, schedule outreach activities, or target specific groups with personalized messages.
Balancing automation and personalization is essential in this technology-driven world. Sales automation ensures your messages reach the right audience in the right context at the right time. Personalization, on the other hand, enables sales pros to customize their communications based on customers’ needs.
As discussed earlier, sales teams must tailor their approach to the target audience and nurture their client base. Hard-sell tactics rarely work and can drive customers away.
For example, the approach salespeople should take when selling to small-to-midsize businesses (SMBs) is very different from trying to sell to large companies. When tailored processes are married with the smart use of automation to eliminate tedious tasks and keep your sales teams focused on the right things all the time, everyone has a greater shot at success.
Not sure where to start? Try these strategies to automate your sales process and close more leads.
First things first, identify the sales processes you want to automate. These could include:
As discussed earlier, you can put most of your tasks on autopilot—but don’t expect it to happen overnight. Instead, make one change at a time, see how it works, and then decide on the next steps.
Let’s say your sales reps spend hours scheduling meetings with prospects, potential partners, and other parties. In this case, consider using meeting scheduler apps like Motion, Calendly, or SavvyCal to automate this process. Most software programs will generate a link you can send to potential clients so they can choose a time slot that works for them.
Next, decide whether you want to use all-in-one sales automation tools, such as CRM software programs or task-specific tools.
Zapier, for example, works with over 5,000 apps, allowing users to automate nearly every aspect of the sales process. The same goes for Salesforce, Hubspot Sales, and other all-in-one platforms. These tools, however, may be too complex for SMBs and involve a steep learning curve.
Alternatively, you may use task-specific tools like ContactOut, Datanyze, Airtable, Mailchimp, Zoominfo, and others.
Datanyze, for instance, enables sales teams to find and reach potential clients, create segmented lists, and get real-time information on B2B prospects. Mailchimp, on the other hand, works best for email automation. Sales pros can use the platform to manage email marketing campaigns, conduct A/B testing, personalize the customer journey, and more.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and sales automation go hand in hand. AI can streamline reporting, forecasting, lead segmentation, communications, and other sales processes when used properly.
A 2020 report found that high-performing sales teams are 2.8 times more likely to use AI than underperforming ones. In addition, almost 60% of high performers leverage this technology to optimize the customer experience and improve internal processes.
Most sales pros agree that AI allows for personalization, better insights, and more accurate forecasting. At the same time, it provides the data they need to prioritize and manage leads, track their sales activity, maximize the performance of each stage of the sales funnel and identify opportunities.
One way to automate sales processes is to integrate AI into your operations.
For example, you could use chatbots or intelligent phone bots for customer communications. Sales teams may also use AI-powered tools like Conversica, Drift, or Exceed.ai to identify high-converting leads, improve customer service, and turn prospects into buyers, suggests the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute.
Sales professionals send more than 36 emails and make over 35 phone calls per day. Given these figures, it’s not surprising that only one-third of their time is spent on actual selling.
One solution is to use automation tools with built-in email templates, chatbots, and other handy features. Outfit.io, for instance, offers dozens of email templates you can tailor to your needs. Users can choose different font sizes, colors, email banners, and more.
Your sales team can pick automated templates for autoresponders, welcome emails, support emails, order confirmations, follow-ups, and everything in between. Campaign Monitor, Zapier, and other tools enable users to automatically send personalized emails based on the customer’s location, gender, purchase behavior, time zone, and other data.
Think about the emails you get from Converse, Sephora, Adidas, Birchbox, and other brands—they all use this approach to personalize the customer experience.
Last but not least, review your sales data every few months to make sure it’s current.
Most automation tools use the data stored in your system to streamline communications, invoicing, and other operations. If this data isn’t accurate, your efforts will go to waste.
Also, consider using automated data management tools to keep your records up-to-date and minimize errors.
Better yet, choose a CRM platform that integrates seamlessly with the sales automation tools used by your team. This approach will capture more value from your customer data, save time, and improve work efficiency.
Automating your sales processes doesn’t have to be difficult. Assess your current workflows, check for inefficiencies, and choose a solution that meets your needs. Simple things, such as implementing chatbots and automated email templates, can make all the difference.
What matters most is finding the right balance between automation and human interaction. Sales teams should combine manual and automated processes in a way that allows them to close more deals and save time without sacrificing the customer experience.
Last, remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all automation tool. Be prepared to experiment, make mistakes, and start all over. Start small, train your team, and adjust your strategy.
About the author
Katy Flatt works as a freelance marketing consultant for Stampli and other agencies, streamlining workflows and coordinating personnel while doing a little writing on the side. When she isn’t digitally organizing, she can be found cuddling with her rescue and foster dogs.