What Is Sales Automation? The Definitive Guide.

Create a lean, super-efficient sales process using digital automation tools.

A comprehensive guide to sales automation

For salespeople, having more time translates into making more sales. But no one can create more hours in the day. Salespeople shouldn’t have to give up their personal time to try to hit higher quotas. That’s where sales automation comes in.

Sales automation acts as a digital assistant, helping salespeople manage the repetitive and mundane tasks that need to be done in order to have a smooth, organized workflow.

In this guide, we’ll review the foundational questions surrounding sales automation. Then we’ll discuss why so many businesses are turning to this time-saving and profitable tool.

What is sales automation?

Sales automation is software functionality that automates the repetitive tasks that are key to building simple and profitable customer journeys. It’s often included as a feature of CRM software, lead generation software, and email marketing software.

There is no single sales automation definition, because there’s a range of digital tools that automate different parts of the sales process. From lead generation to sending follow up automated emails, sales automation software helps teams manage sales activities more efficiently. And allocate more time to revenue-generating tasks.

Every business wants to increase the number of leads in their sales pipeline, because more leads ultimately translates into more profits. But businesses need more than spreadsheets and Gmail to handle the amount of work that goes into nurturing leads to conversion.

Using automation sales tools, businesses can manage a larger volume of leads in their sales funnel. Then create a standardized sales workflow that can be refined to even greater efficiency over time.

Why do you need sales automation software?

If you plan on growing your business, you need a way of handling a greater volume of leads without sacrificing personalization, branding, or responsiveness. Automation sales tools let you reach out to more leads and nurture them through your sales pipeline, while still delivering personalized interactions that support your brand.

Plus, if you’re using sales process automation tools connected to your CRM, you’ll be able to gain deeper insights into your customer base.

What is CRM, and what is its connection to sales automation?

In looking for automation sales tools, you’re likely to come across information about CRM software. That’s because customer relationship management software is vital to having a streamlined, organized process.

When you’re trying to manage a greater volume of leads, you need a way of storing and organizing all of that data. But if your automation tools can’t quickly retrieve the right customer data when it’s needed, you won’t get much out of those automation tools.

Whether you want to invest in a specific automation tool and integrate it with your CRM, or invest in a CRM that already comes stocked with automation features, it’s key that you have a way of sharing customer data between platforms. The idea of investing in so much software may make some new businesses nervous. But there are many providers of CRM for small businesses who have sales automation technology for growing companies.

Does sales automation replace sales reps?

Not even close. Sales is still a very human-centric business, and people still value human-to-human interaction, especially when it comes to B2B business relationships. While sales automation can reduce the number of sales tasks on a sales rep’s plate, it can’t completely replace the human element.

Technology has come a long way, but it still can’t replicate the kind of human behavior that builds and establishes trust. The exciting thing about automation is that it gives sales reps more time and opportunity to lean into their personal qualities. They can then interact with customers in a way that reinforces a positive, lasting relationship.

How does automating the sales process work?

There’s no way to completely automate the entire sales workflow, because some jobs still require a human touch. But the McKinsey Global Institute found in its research that a third of sales operations activities can be automated. That means there’s an enormous opportunity to give time back to human sales staff, while creating an even leaner and more effective sales operation.

Automation tools allow users to create a hybrid sales experience. Certain tasks are handled automatically by the software, and the more human-centric tasks are still managed by the sales team. Automation can manage tasks including, but not limited to:

  • Forecasting
  • Talent management
  • Lead identification & qualification
  • Quota setting
  • Order management
  • Follow-up communication
  • Sales reports & analytics
  • Pipeline management
  • Sales calls

It’s up to your company to decide which processes it makes sense for you to automate. The best approach would be to consider which tasks are currently taking up too much of your sales reps’ time. And which administrative tasks are always getting done at the last minute.

Then it’s just a matter of figuring out which sales automation software platforms offer the best SFA solutions to those tasks you want to automate.

Sales automation features

Automations act as assistants who handle the recurring tasks precisely on time and without prompting. Like:

  1. Guidance:

    Ensure that deals move forward at a good pace by automating reminders and notifications that alert sales teams of upcoming tasks. This kind of automation acts as a personal assistant who keeps track of responsibilities and reminds team members of when an event or task is approaching. That means fewer missed opportunities.

  2. Lead management:

    Automatically analyze a lead’s behavior, then organize, score, and prioritize those leads before assigning them to the best sales rep. Having a human scan all of that data to score a lead would take countless hours. But a software program can do it in minutes. The result is a curated list of leads that sets salespeople up to convert more of them into buying customers.

  3. Communication:

    This kind of automation covers everything from email, to chatbots, to appointment scheduling tools. Salespeople have limited amounts of time, but customers today expect rapid responsiveness. Communication automations allow companies to set up an automated process for fielding customer interactions. Even if every person at the company is busy with a task, customers can still receive emails, book appointments, and engage with chatbots on the company’s site to find the right product.

  4. Data entry:

    Probably the most tedious task of any sales rep’s day are manual tasks. Like entering customer data into their system. Automated data entry spares them from repetitive and time consuming tasks by auto-filling data like contact details and pricing models.

  5. Record creation:

    Automatically create new profiles for leads engaging with your marketing materials, and store contact data in your CRM for easy access to all departments.

  6. Research:

    Automatically perform research of public information to search for new potential customers. There’s a huge amount of information on the internet and social media, and it’s always being updated. Research automation helps identify possible customers with high value potential and then organizes those findings for the sales team.

  7. Activity logging:

    Track emails sent, meetings scheduled, and phone calls made, so everyone can see how far a sales rep has progressed with a lead. Seeing what steps have been taken and how many are left to go keeps the process standardized and repeatable. And by automating activity logging, sales reps are saved from having to manually log their activities themselves.

What are the benefits of sales automation?

Automation sales tools are a financial investment, and it takes time to learn how to best add them into your process. For that reason, you need to know that what you’re getting back for your investment is worth it.

Here are some of benefits companies typically see after implementing a strong automation sales strategy:

  • Optimize your sales force’s unique skills. Sales reps are hired for their assertiveness, honesty, and unique personality traits that build good relationships with customers. But these desirable traits don’t always get their full use if salespeople have to spend too much time on mundane, repetitive tasks. Automating recurring and tedious tasks allows more time for customer-facing sales activities. Sales reps can actually utilize the skills and personality they were hired for.
  • A clear, lean sales workflow. By using automation sales tools to quickly and accurately perform tasks, you can build a streamlined, repeatable sales process that creates a positive customer experience. On top of that, having a well-organized sales process helps onboard new sales talent, and provides insight into better practices for the future.
  • Accessible, accurate data in one place. Automation tools let companies automatically gather and analyze up-to-date information, without spending endless hours of manpower performing manual searches. And with all of that accurate data in a centralized location, everyone in the company knows that they’re all using the same accurate information in their work.
  • Fewer opportunities for error. Mistakes can be forgiven, but they can also be costly. Sales process automations perform repetitive tasks faster than humans can, without suffering from fatigue, boredom, or distraction. By taking tasks away from sales reps, it reduces the amount of human error that can enter into the equation. While still processing and managing enormous amounts of data.
  • A more efficient onboarding process. It’s much easier to onboard new reps when you have a clear, streamlined sales operation. When new reps don’t have to spend so much time on administrative tasks, they have more time to learn the company and its products.
  • Better insights into customer behavior. As your leads and customers continue interacting with your company, you can automatically monitor and record their behavior. Then, when you want to make a move, you have more information about their likes and dislikes. That gives you a head start when it comes to serving their needs and leading them to a sale.
  • Convert more leads into sales. All of this adds up to an increase in sales. With the ability to handle a greater volume of leads while still delivering a personal touch, companies experience higher conversion rates. All while doing less manual work.

What are examples of sales automation?

Using sales process automation in an automated workflow improves efficiency and saves time. And yet, some managers are still hesitant to use it, citing fears over building impersonal relationships.

But implementing automated processes doesn’t have to rob your business of its personal touch. In fact, when used correctly, automation sales tools give time back to sales reps so they can allocate more attention to their person-to-person interactions.

Here are some examples of how automation sales tools help companies make more time for better interpersonal relationships:

Scheduling meetings

Scheduling a meeting can involve long email chains that sometimes span several days. This eats up time on your sales reps’ part, and doesn’t necessarily make the prospect’s journey any more pleasant. Automation sales tools allow users to skip the long email chains and set up meetings instantly.

When prompted, prospects can simply view your sales rep’s calendar of available dates and times, and select the one that works best for them. The software automatically updates the availability, and adds the new meeting into your sales rep’s calendar.

Sending personalized emails

There are tons of email automation tools for sending large numbers of personalized emails. Users can set up everything from follow-up emails, to drip campaigns, to welcome messages.

They send them at the desired time and with the appropriate personal information. Automations can also be arranged to cut off email sequences if the receiver took a specific action. They don’t receive any more messages after responding positively to a CTA.

Prospecting

Knowing which leads to prioritize in sales can save enormous amounts of time. Using automated sales tools, your reps can automatically scan the internet for new prospects and send weekly or monthly lists, without sending duplicates. Automated prospecting tools can also score leads so your team knows who to prioritize in their efforts. Instead of wasting time on the contacts who are less likely to buy.

Reporting

It’s important to have a consistent, accurate view of the health of your company. But organizing and reporting on that view is a time-consuming task. Some sales automation platforms allow users to create real-time reports and then send them to different groups or individuals. Everyone only gets the reports that are most critical to their jobs.

Auto-dialing

Sales calls are great for immediately getting the attention of a potential customer, but the process of dialing that many contacts can be exhaustive and long. Predictive dialer software reduces downtime between calls, making it possible to connect with more contacts without making sales professionals manually call each individual customer. There are also automation sales tools for recording, summarizing, and logging calls for future reference.

Chatbots

AI in sales is constantly upgrading its abilities, and one of its latest offerings is online chatbots. These are automation tools that allow prospects and visitors to ask questions and get automatically generated answers instantly. They can also gather contact details, process payments, and get tracking updates. And chatbots today don’t have to sound like bland robots.

Their use of language can be personalised to suit your company’s brand and voice. You can still tailor your customer interactions with a personalized touch.

Sales forecasting

Understanding seasonal trends and past sales data helps predict future growth. Certain automation tools help companies create forecasts using accurate and up-to-date data, without forcing a team member to sift through endless spreadsheets and documents.

How to integrate sales automation with a CRM?

Many CRM platforms already include sales process automation features. If you find an automation tool that isn’t included in your CRM, however, you can visit your CRM’s app marketplace and perform a search to see if it has a native integration for that particular automation app. You can also use third-party integration apps like Zapier to connect your CRM with your chosen automated sales tools.

What is the difference between sales automation and marketing automation?

Sales and marketing automation tools are often similar in function, because they involve tasks like emailing and large groups of contacts and personalizing messaging. The goal of marketing automation is to attract more leads by replacing manual marketing tasks with automated processes.

Teams can then use automation sales tools to convert more of those leads into buyers. Each process, whether sales or marketing, uses different automation tools for boosting their productivity and sales performance.

At the end of the day, marketing processes have much more to do with research, content, and distribution than they do with connecting with customers and creating a buyer’s experience.

Frequently asked questions

How can you get started with sales automation?

Talk to your sales reps about the tasks that are taking up the most amount of their time. Get a full view of which non-revenue-generating activities are using the most amount of manpower. Then do some research into different digital tools that will automate those tasks.

The most obvious way to know if an automation platform is right for you is to actually use it. There are plenty of free CRM trials that allow you to test drive their sales automation solution. Get a feel for them before committing to a single platform.

How can sales automation improve sales productivity?

Salespeople only have so many hours in the day. Maximizing the amount of time they can devote to actually making sales is critical to productivity and profit. Automated sales tools allow salespeople to allocate more hours to those activities where human trust is most needed.

While salespeople are busy with those tasks, the automation tools manage the necessary but repetitive administrative jobs, like emailing and scheduling. Everything gets done faster, and the digital sales team has more time to build stronger, more lasting relationships with their clients.

What businesses benefit most from automated sales?

Businesses from any industry and of any size can benefit from automating pieces of their sales pipeline. But the most benefit comes from how it’s used, not where it’s used. To get the most out of your automation sales software, you need to be strategic about what you’re going to use it for. And which tasks you’re going to take off your sales reps’ plates.

Are there any downsides to using sales automation?

The downside to using automated sales is you risk losing your sales rep’s personal touch if you try to automate too much of your sales process. Building a relationship between two parties involves trust. If you assign too many of your tasks to automation, your prospects may start to miss the human connection and look for it elsewhere.

A good way to avoid any downsides of using automation sales tools is to be honest about your sales reps’ personal strengths. Automate around their abilities, not over them, so you’re not stomping out the best assets you have.

Try a sales automation tool for free

Zendesk Sell is an all-in-one simple CRM platform for sales teams and sales tracker. It offers powerful sales force automation features for slimming down your sales cycle and giving time back to your reps. Zendesk helps companies cut down on time-consuming administrative tasks while still gaining valuable customer insight.

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