The sales landscape is perhaps the most competitive it’s ever been. Sales reps struggle to find ways to do more with the time they have, which always seems to be shrinking. These days, reps spend only around ⅓ of their time each day engaged in selling.

So what do reps do with the other ⅔rds of their day? It should be sales calls! But they’re bogged down in a swamp of administrative tasks that, while necessary, aren’t an effective use of their time. After all, sales reps are paid to sell, not do data entry.

How can your company maximize the amount of time the sales force spends engaging with prospects and closing deals without losing sight of the important administrative work that comes with it? That’s where sales automation tools come in.

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at sales automation, and show you a myriad of ways your business can use sales automation tools to empower your sales team to make the most of the time they spend selling.

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What is Sales Automation?

Sales automation streamlines the administrative work that’s generated by sales processes. From updating records in your CRM to generating proposals and keeping leads warm as they begin their journey through the sales cycle, sales automation can empower your team to get more done.

In the past, this work required tedious manual data entry, which robs salespeople of time they could spend on more productive work. A variety of different sales automation tools exist to automate these administrative tasks, saving time for sales reps and sales managers.

As more software companies begin to employ AI and machine learning in their products, sales automation tools have an even greater impact on sales productivity. Beyond helping with administrative work, many new tools use predictive analysis to provide reps and managers with data-driven suggestions to improve the customer journey and close more deals.

Why Do You Need Sales Automation?

In a word: productivity. Sales automation software can make any sales team more productive by using artificial intelligence, and empower your reps to spend more time generating revenue and less time getting bogged down in the minutia of their jobs.

Perhaps most importantly, sales automation helps to ensure that your data is accurate and comprehensive. For any sales team, and especially enterprise sales teams, you’ll always have a few reps who aren’t as diligent about logging data in your CRM and other systems. This results in missing data and inaccuracies that will affect the integrity of your data and forecasting.

Before long, these data inaccuracies will undermine management’s ability to effectively guide their teams. All of the time and money you’ve spent grooming an effective sales staff will begin to spiral down the drain.

Plus, sales automation is an area in which almost all major companies are already investing. If you aren’t ready to make significant investments in your sales staff’s future, you will be left behind by the competition.

Still not convinced? Take a look at some of these compelling statistics on sales automation:

  • Sales reps only spend 23% of their time each day actively selling
  • 85% of sales tasks can be automated by the end of 2020
  • 30% of businesses will be employing artificial intelligence (AI) in their sales processes by the end of 2020
  • High-performing sales teams are 3.4x more likely to employ AI in their selling practices than underperforming teams

The Dangers of Sales Automation

Sales automation is arguably the most impactful sales development since the invention of the telephone. Still, businesses shouldn’t rush out to invest in every sales automation tool they can get their hands on.

Your sales reps already have several different programs to use daily. While most automation tools are easy to configure and use, they represent another platform that reps will need to master. Add too many new tools to the mix, and you run the risk of burning out your reps. Instead of adopting these helpful new tools, they’ll ignore them in favor of maintaining the status quo because they’re overloaded with software.

Sales automation tools are only as good as the sales strategy behind them, and if they aren’t used properly, you can easily end up with too much of a good thing.

The goal of sales automation is to deliver a more memorable and engaging experience for customers, and you must not lose sight of the focus on the customer.

Customers are real people, and they expect to be treated as such. If your prospect starts to feel like they’re a number, or like just another deal in your pipeline, they’ll quickly lose interest in your product. This is especially true in B2B sales, where customers expect to be guided by an expert through each step of the buyer’s journey.

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The Importance of Sales Training

Training is critical whenever you’re bringing new sales automation tools into the fold. In the wrong hands, it’s easy for a rep to misuse their automation tools. Instead of effective and engaging, the reps’ efforts can come off cold and spammy, and that’s usually enough to turn off even the most engaged prospects.

It’s crucial that businesses invest in the sales training programs necessary to turn their reps into experts of any new platform or tool you integrate. Doing so will allow your staff to learn what it takes to generate the right responses from their prospects and how to create meaningful and memorable interactions with each potential client they pitch.

The Six Critical Aspects of Sales Automation

Sales automation now touches virtually every aspect of the sales process. From the moment you make the first contact with a prospect through towards delivery of your product or service, there are sales process automation tools that make it easier for sales, marketing, and management to do their jobs effectively.

The six areas you’ll find automation sales tools are:

  1. Sales Prospecting
  2. Marketing Automation
  3. Pipeline Management
  4. Activity Tracking
  5. Sales Guidance
  6. Order Management

Sales Prospecting

Sales reps need to be able to start meaningful conversations with prospects as quickly as possible. To get your foot in the door, you need to demonstrate what the client needs and how your product or service can fill that need.

Prospecting tools can manage tedious tasks like inbound lead generation and lead enrichment, so you’ll be working from a list of qualified leads. You’ll be able to apply needs-based selling techniques to demonstrate the value your company can offer them. This helps you engage prospects, but when you sell to a customer’s needs, you’ll experience 30% less churn.

Lead enrichment is another powerful tool of prospecting automation that gives reps the accurate information they need to engage with prospects in the most meaningful ways. With lead enrichment tools, you’ll know more about your prospect, their pain points, and what they need to grow in seconds, eliminating the need for hours of research.

Automated record creation is another effective sales automation tool that can immediately put new prospects into your pipeline so your reps can begin working their accounts. With these tools, any time one of your landing pages or email forms captures a lead, the information is immediately imported into your CRM so your reps can get right to work selling to this prospect.

Marketing Automation

Marketing software and email management tools simplify the process of engaging with your clients and pitching them on your solutions. Sales reps and marketing teams spend hours searching for the right ways to engage with their prospects and developing custom pitches for each prospective customer.

With email automation tools, your sales professionals no longer have to agonize over when and how to engage with prospects and manage each customer relationship. Instead, these tools deliver the right content at the right time with email marketing templates that trigger the right reactions from prospects.

From creating compelling customer journeys with email marketing campaigns to managing social media (such as Linkedin Inmail), marketing automation proves incredibly useful regardless of your company size. Most digital marketing process automation platforms also provide actionable insight based on predictive analytics and customer response.

Adding marketing automation to your sales stack can also help you maximize customer success, provide better customer service, and maximize your cold email outreach efforts.

Pipeline Management

In the past, the average day of a sales representative involved loads of manual data entry. This work is critical to ensure that data is accurate, and reps are working their prospects effectively, but that doesn’t make it any less tedious for your reps.

With sales pipeline management tools, like a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, reps can eliminate the deskwork associated with manual tasks like updating the CRM or spreadsheets to focus more on actively engaging each sales lead list. These tools automatically record the key information from each interaction your rep has with the prospect to provide accurate customer information without the manual work.

Sales managers can rest assured that all of the critical info from each interaction makes it into the CRM, so they don’t have to worry about hounding reps to do their admin work. Plus, since all of the data is accurate, managers can make decisions with greater certainty, knowing the data is clean.

Lead Tracking

Understanding the buyer journey is critical for a successful sales organization. Keeping a close eye on inbound leads throughout the sales cycle can help reps provide a more targeted and individualized experience to every potential customer, while also allowing for more accurate sales forecasting. But lead tracking is one of the most difficult things to do effectively, and it can also be quite expensive.

Lead tracking automation and sales enablement software provide you with a suite of tools that can help you monitor prospect activity so each sales representative can create the most targeted and interactive pitch possible.

Sales Guidance

Even the highest performing reps within an organization can run into bumps in the road where they’re stumped as to what their next step should be as they work an opportunity. With sales funnel tools, machine learning, and AI provide the type of proven, data-driven guidance your reps need to supercharge their selling activities.

Automated guidance tools are especially useful for your less-seasoned reps that can often use a nudge in the right direction to ensure that they’re working their opportunities effectively and maximizing sales performance.

Beyond using complex AI technology to deliver reps with real-time guidance on the next steps in the sales process, sales guidance software also alerts reps on the perfect time to follow up with prospects, and what to follow up with for maximum customer engagement. Reps will be able to reduce response time and respond more persuasively in any sales scenario.

If your organization has a competent sales staff in place, and you’re trying to maximize their effectiveness, you’ll be able to crush your sales quota by adding sales guidance software to the mix.

Order Management

The final piece of the puzzle is order management automation, which can help a variety of departments streamline their administrative work. Once the deal is completed, there’s plenty of inter-departmental work between the administrative, sales, finance, and fulfillment teams.

There are many moving parts and a variety of stakeholders you’ll need to keep looped in throughout this part of the sales process. As you’d imagine, it’s easy to drop the ball and have a project draw on far longer than it should.

By adopting an order management system, you’ll be able to produce deliverables more quickly, keep your customers happier, and streamline the workflow for multiple departments.

Final Word

Sales automation is already an indispensable new technology for the millions of businesses that use it. As adoption rates continue to soar, sales automation tools are going to become ubiquitous.

Businesses like yours still have time to get in on the action and begin optimizing your sales processes to win more deals and deliver better experiences to your customers.

More businesses adopting sales automation tools means that more of your competitors will be employing them as well. Start looking for ways to automate your most time-consuming sales processes today. You’ll be able to deliver a memorable customer experience, efficiently work your sales funnel, grow your revenue – and your bottom line will thank you.

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