What is Sales Force Automation?
Sales force automation (SFA) or sales automation means using sales automation software and creating workflows to make sales management smoother for everyone involved. The point of sales automation is to simplify the sales process and reduce the amount of manual, repetitive tasks for sales reps.
It makes contact management, opportunity management and task management easier by having the complete history and data of your interactions with a customer stored in one place. It also keeps track of sales leads and helps with setting up reminders and notifications.
But we’re only getting started here, so are you sitting comfortably? Grab a snack or two, and let’s dive into the world of sales automation.
What’s The Difference Between SFA and CRM?
Whether an SFA system and a CRM system is the same thing is a question that’s regularly searched on Google. SFA systems can be (and often are) incorporated into CRM (customer relationship management) systems, but don’t get the two confused.
CRM software helps you manage and analyze data and customer interactions throughout the entire customer lifecycle with the goal of keeping existing customers happy.
While a CRM is a system you use post-sale to retain and satisfy your existing customers, a sales force automation system is used for customer acquisition. We’ll get to all the details in just a minute, but let’s get the background stuff out of the way first.
Sales Automation In Outbound Sales
Mixing smart automation and people skills will help you smoothen your outbound sales process-whether it’s a large or small business. Even though contacting new prospects directly should never feel automated, getting rid of unnecessary repetitive tasks makes everyone’s life easier.
For example, your SFA software can help you send automatic emails to your prospects, either following a schedule or after certain pre-defined triggers, such as them downloading a piece of content from your website.
Great examples of automated emails in outbound sales include congratulations, welcome and onboarding emails as well as abandoned cart emails, referral emails, or milestone emails such as birthday wishes.
If you want to know more about email marketing, you should check out the study we did on cold emails.
Does Sales Force Automation Work For Inbound Sales?
Inbound marketing and sales involve sharing high-quality content like informational blog posts and use cases and and using effective SEO tactics. Inbound is a great way to grow organically as you’ll often bring in leads that convert easily.
When it comes to inbound sales, you don’t want to automate the entire process. Your content team should still work on creating original content and research what is actually relevant to your target audience, and publish the content at the right time to bring in relevant leads.
But an SFA solution can still help you guide your prospects through the sales pipeline once they find your company through inbound tactics.
Why Is Sales Force Automation Important?
Here’s a good rule of thumb: administrative tasks can and should be automated because they unnecessarily take up time and resources you could use for more important tasks. Sales automation can actually reduce the time taken up by sales administration by up to 14%.
Another good reason to automate sales management tasks: sales automation can boost sales productivity by up to 14.5% and increase deal closures by 30%, according to Instapage. And what do you get out of these numbers? More revenue.
In short: when done right, sales force automation will improve your company’s revenue, increase your sales rate and boost the productivity of your sales team. How, you might ask? Let’s see!
The Actual Benefits Of Sales Force Automation
Increase your productivity by simplifying the sales process
When you cut out all the manual work from your day-to-day sales tasks, you have much more time to focus on things like creating meaningful conversations with your prospects. Pretty magical, right?
We’ll soon get to the most important processes to automate, but by getting rid of some repetitive manual tasks you can focus on stuff like improving your customer acquisition process and maintaining relationships with your existing customers.
Some SFA systems can even be run on smartphones or other mobile devices to make using them extra convenient.
Decrease the costs of sales
Once you’ve got your sales force automation software up and running, you’ll quickly see a decline in sales process related costs. And what’s more, you can also expect a potential increase in sales performance and revenue when the process becomes quicker and more seamless.
The costs will decrease because time-consuming manual tasks are performed faster and without continuous input from a person. Your revenue will, in turn, increase because you’ll be able to find customers that are actually a good match for your company and close more deals faster.
Gain more data and information regarding your sales
SFA solutions offer a lot of interesting insights that can help you build your business intelligence and plan and target your sales efforts in the future.
For example, the system knows your customers’ purchase history and can predict future sales based on that, and also help your sales team and sales managers offer the most relevant products and services to the right customer at the right time.
Reduce your response time
You’ll have more time to focus on problematic areas such as customer complaints throughout the sales process. Paying extra attention to response time and being fast with customer service can help enhance your customer satisfaction and customer experience.
With an automated sales system, real-time replies are easy breezy.
Keep records and collect data
Your company has a CRM software solution, right? But how about the records and data you normally collect during the sales process? Right now, you’re probably entering all of that manually into the system, if at all.
Once you have your SFA system running, all of that can be done automatically, and conveniently synced with your CRM system.
Minimize the possibility of human error
Have you ever lost a potential customer due to a simple human mistake like forgetting to contact them in time? Yeah, we’ve all been there. An SFA system will remind you, and even contact that person for you, so mistakes like this will never happen again.
Potential Risks of SFA Systems
As we all know, nothing in life is perfect. Here are a few potential problems related to sales workflow automation to know about.
It won’t work if you don’t know what you’re doing
Unless you know exactly what should happen in each individual stage of your sales cycle, it’s impossible to automate it without making a mess. Before using an SFA system, you need a clear sales process.
The installation and maintenance can be quite expensive
Yep. You need to know what you’re doing with the software, and if not, it can be a good idea to hire a dedicated team for that purpose. It’s an investment but when done right, it will usually pay off in the future.
You’ll also want to make sure that your own sales team knows how the process and system work, and that all your integrated systems –SFA, CRM and others like your enterprise resource planning system (ERP) – are compatible.
Data entry and integration takes up a lot of time
When you get started, you’ll need to include all the relevant information regarding your sales process in the system, and preferably integrate it with your CRM solution. This is a time-consuming task that will take your big old bag of patience out for a rollercoaster ride. But don’t worry – it won’t last forever.
Integrating the SFA system with other management information systems can also be demanding and time-consuming at first.
It’s important to know and understand that you shouldn’t overlook the time and effort it may take to make all your automated systems work seamlessly together.
When used poorly, you might lose your personal touch
By automating the wrong parts of your sales process, you risk losing your personal touch and human connection with your customers.
For example, while some aspects of customer support can be automated, it’s a good idea to leave some of it to actual people since interacting with a human being is what makes a positive customer experience for many of your users.
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8 Key Sales Processes to Automate
1. Client Prospecting
With an SFA system you can easily seek out the best new customers for your business, find the best leads and gain relevant information about them.
Another thing that you can do is filter out the most promising leads based on actual data that you gain from them and their interactions with your company. This data includes, for example, the actions they perform on your website.
Be sure to initiate a meaningful first contact with potential customers through automated marketing needs assessments. Your SFA system will be able to assess your prospect’s needs, and your sales team can then reach out to them accordingly based on their specific needs.
2. Lead tracking and scoring
An SFA system can automatically track your prospects’ actions and engagement with your business to tell you when the appropriate time is to actually reach out and talk to them.
Some platforms also offer AI-powered lead scoring and lead management opportunities that in turn help you evaluate and prioritize leads based on different specs like their company, role, location, and so forth. Some leads are simply more likely to close than others, and lead management tools help you keep track of your most promising ones.
3. Scheduling meetings and calls
Sales automation makes the process of scheduling meetings with potential leads a lot easier. Prospects can, for example, see your sales rep’s calendar right away and pick a meeting time that’s most convenient for them.
4. Data collection from meetings and calls
Let’s be honest – data collection is one of the most time-consuming, tedious tasks in the sales process. Lucky for all of us, some platforms help you save data and information throughout your sales process.
Some SFA tools use technologies (like AI) to capture data about the customer and their business, and put that data directly into the integrated CRM system.
5. Deal management
With an SFA system, you can easily handle contact management and order management, as well as recording calls, emails and meetings automatically. AI will keep track of previous deals in order to recommend potential offers. This way you can create the optimal deal for a specific customer.
By tracking opportunities within one automated dashboard, you can skip manual data entry while strengthening communication within your organization.
Reduce the amount of work hours put into sending emails by automating email campaigns that send out certain messages to a certain individual once they perform a desired action.
Let’s look at an example: the action could be starting a free trial with your SaaS company. Your first automated email could be a simple welcome message. Then later you could follow up with another email and, say, give them a discount on their subscription for a month after the free trial has ended.
You set up the email campaign just once, and every time someone meets the predefined trigger, the emails will be sent automatically. It sounds easy because it is easy.
An SFA system will also keep track of your email templates and safely store them in one place, in case you ever need to make any edits to existing templates or create new ones.
Signature automation a.k.a creating a good automated email signature will make it as easy as possible for possible new customers to contact you. A good signature includes at least clear contact information, your company name and a link to your website.
You can certainly make it cooler with pictures and colors, but it’s a good idea to start with the essentials.
7. Proposals and requests for proposals (RFPs)
In an SFA system, you can automate the RFP process, communicate more easily within organizations, track the results you get and easily reuse RFP templates. An SFA system also lets you collect useful data from your RFP results.
8. Creating contracts and deals
Set up workflows with your automated sales and marketing software to automatically create and edit records for leads who meet a certain criteria or perform a desired task on your website.
For example, if a lead with a certain job title visits your website, you already have a suitable template ready to go.
Sales Automation Tools
Sales, Marketing And Service Combined
There are multiple platforms that offer a combination of sales, marketing and service systems, all integrated. These include services like HubSpot Sales, Leadsquared and Outreach.
If you’re looking for a combination of lead generation software and tools, as well as a CRM system, you might want to check out Salesforce Hub.
Another nice option is Pega Sales Automation – it has has a built-in AI that guides your sales professionals to the best leads, opportunities and content, and then suggests best next steps.
There are multiple email automation tools out there, but you have to get started somewhere, right? Check out services like MailChimp and Prospect.io to get started on your email marketing shenanigans.
Invoicing & Contracts
LeadExec is a platform for capturing and routing inbound web leads and phone calls. PandaDoc offers a completely automated custom approval workflows that are designed to save time and make it easier to create, review, approve, and send documents. And lastly, companies like Keap offer an invoicing system for seamless payments.
Chatbots help keep potential guests interested and push them further ahead in the sales funnel while simultaneously ensuring a great customer experience. Using intelligent chatbots in your sales strategy means being there for your potential buyers and customers on their terms, whenever they need you.
To learn more about why we love chatbots, you can read our comprehensive guide to all things chatbot!
Awesome Examples Of Sales Automation
Targeting New People At Interesting Companies
Each time someone is hired at a company you’re targeting, you can have the system automatically email them to say congrats, then later send them, for example, a survey about the future of marketing.
After this, an automated notification will let a salesperson in your team know to call the customer and schedule a meeting.
Notifications About New Developments
The SFA system can notify your sales team about any developments at a company you’re following. These developments can be things like a new product launch or anything your company is interested in.
When you are aware of these things happening, you can contact relevant people whenever suitable, or have the system contact them for you.
Keeping Track Of Customer Behavior On Your Site
Even without enabling cookies or leaving any digital footprint on your site, some platforms will give you the probability of a customer converting based on their behavior.
It can even tell you from what companies your website visitors are from, so that you can find out (for example through social media platforms like LinkedIn) who to contact from that particular company.
Making Subscription Renewal Easier in SaaS
In addition to helping with the sales process in general, you can automate and simplify subscription renewal within the system, and notify your sales professionals about upselling opportunities.
Like we mentioned before, contacting your customers via email after their free trial is about to end is a good example of using sales force automation in SaaS.
Sales Automation Process Checklist
- To sum everything up here’s a checklist to help you get started with sales force automation:
- Know your sales process
- Identify your best leads with a lead scoring program
- Automatically create deals and save the data you get from them
- Automate responses to your prospects (don’t forget follow-up messages!)
- Create reminders about moving forward in deals
- Move deals through stages in your pipeline automatically: through, for example, scheduling meetings, signing documents and payment
- Be ready for the next steps after closing with automatic reminders to your team
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