Have you ever wondered why your sales reps lose deals when the only thing they need to do is just follow up? Or why they can’t find the data they need? Or spend so little time on actually selling? In the times when most products and services are produced to make our lives easier and where even fridges are smart, you should ask yourself: have I done everything to make my sales managers’ lives easier?
If you look closer, you will see that about a third of sales operations, mostly connected with administrative and reporting tasks, can be automated with the help of automation software and AI technologies.
It’s obvious that sales operations have a considerable automation potential that could free up a good deal of sales reps’ time in favor of the core sales activities. It may seem that most companies have already leveraged this but, alas, statistics show that only one in four companies has automated at least one sales process.
So why do companies doom their sales teams to repetitive manual tasks instead of letting them up their direct selling skills?
Some businesses believe they don’t have enough financial and technical resources to adopt sales automation software. Decision makers might be unaware of the automation use cases and the whole range of platforms covering either multiple sales processes or highly specific tasks, as well as of the value of these tools.
Below is a sales automation implementation guide that should help businesses start their own automation journey towards streamlining sales workflows.
The sales automation potential is so big that it leaves no sales stage unaddressed. All you need to do to get started on it is ask the right questions.
Start your probing of automation opportunities by talking to your salespeople. Put together a complete list of their responsibilities and sort these by their weight in terms of time and effort. If you see that administrative tasks take up a lion share of sales reps’ time, it’s a good reason for rolling out an automation solution.
However, simply identifying opportunities doesn’t mean you can dive into automation right away. First, you need to evaluate the readiness of both sales processes and people. For instance, to reap more benefits of automation, your sales teams will need to first eliminate the haphazard factor from their approach and gravitate towards standardization. Sales reps should also realize that automation means changes. It’s not about delegating a good share of their tasks to software and forgetting about them. It’s more like having a partner who they need to work shoulder by shoulder with in an effort to boost the overall performance.
One more critical thing to consider is infrastructure. Automation means new technology. In this regard, you need to make sure you have or can provide enough human and instrumental resources to launch and support the project in the long run.
Stakeholders might view automation as an extremely financially demanding project and try to stay away from it. In reality, you don’t have to adopt a high-end platform at once as you can automate at a slower pace, streamline processes one by one, and see how it’s going.
Whatever approach you choose, these are the major expenditures to consider:
Once you’re positive about your sales automation potential, you need to identify the most promising use cases and prioritize them for automation. As a rule, such use cases can be found along the entire sales cycle.
The major guiding principle in mapping automation use cases is to prioritize standardized, time-consuming and repetitive tasks that require manual data entry.
We’ve gathered a few examples to illustrate automation opportunities at different stages of a sales journey with the use of such technologies as robotic process automation, chatbots, natural language processing, artificial intelligence, and others.
Automation tools driven by machine learning implementation are able to accumulate customer data from different sources. This helps identify target audiences and provide a 360-degree view of customers in terms of their location, preferences, buying patterns, and more.
As a result, sales reps can provide highly personalized digital customer experience across different touchpoints, predict churn, and get more opportunities for cross-selling and upselling.
Lead management is usually associated with a great amount of administrative work. Here’s how different aspects of this process can be automated to make sure each lead gets attention at the right moment:
Companies can also leverage chatbots that can take up a good share of time-consuming tasks, such as reminders, notifications, answers to frequent questions, and more.
Deal management is full of paperwork that requires a considerable amount of manual data entry. Luckily, it’s possible to automate at least a portion of deal-related activities, like logging and recording calls, scheduling meetings, e-signing contracts, registering emails, updating records, drafting proposals and quotes, and more.
Prices, discounts, and special offers are updated all the time. If sales reps have to force updates manually for hundreds of items, it means lower accuracy and delays. Automation helps change prices almost instantly, with minimal error risks. What’s more, it provides field workers, who don’t have time to consult different sources, with the freshest information and carefully calculated prices for any product configuration.
Sales managers often have to deal with a time-consuming task of reviewing calls of their colleagues, while those have to choose between carefully re-listening to their calls or jumping to the next call.
Intelligent automation tools powered by automatic speech recognition and natural language processing can log, record, and transcribe calls to provide insights based on mentions of competitors, products, keywords, and prices. As a result, instead of listening to the entire call, it’s possible to review the highlights, evaluate how sales reps handle various situations, and identify spots they need to work on.
Customer journeys don’t end with a closed deal but often require after-sales assistance. This can also be streamlined. For example, product activation and license upgrades can be fully automated. Common customer requests can be addressed with automated answers and instructions, with every operation verified and corresponding updates registered in the system.
No matter how big your automation plans are, it’s better to start with a few top priorities and see how it’s going. This way, you can test an array of internal aspects, like the readiness of the infrastructure and processes, hidden risks, sales reps’ attitude and expertise, and the level of stakeholder buy-in.
If you see that the automation potential extends to just a few processes, like reporting or lead management, you can go for a few proven apps to cover these needs, providing these apps are well-integrated and synchronize the data they store.
However, if you plan to automate more and more processes along the sales chain, then it’s a good reason to move to a full-fledged CRM platform. Our extensive experience of CRM implementation proves that a CRM is the best foundation for automation scalability. It allows digitizing almost any sales process and deploying or integrating more advanced automation solutions powered by AI.
After all, separate tools mean enclosed data. For customer-oriented companies, a CRM becomes a must-have customer experience technology that serves as a hub of customer data from different sources, providing more opportunities for automating customer experience personalization across various touchpoints.
Another important step for companies with a strong automation mindset is to establish an automation center of excellence as a cooperation platform for experts from different teams, from software developers to sales and marketing specialists. The center will accumulate knowledge and expertise, form the automation agenda, lead automation enterprise-wide, and review the requests to automate specific processes.
Itransition has a proven track record of automation projects in different industries, where our specialists helped customers streamline critical processes and boost team performance by reducing manual work and digitizing collaboration.
One such project was for Bruntwood, one of the largest commercial property management companies in the United Kingdom. We helped them sunset their outdated systems and adopt a centralized digital solution that automated their business processes, provided a 360-degree view of customers, and fostered customer-centricity. After a few roadmapping meetings, they opted for Salesforce customization as the platform fully met their requirements.
In the course of Salesforce implementation, we configured and customized the platform, created custom pages and business logic, and integrated third-party systems, such as DocuSign, SMS-Magic, FinancialForce, and Checkfront.
The CRM platform covered the entire sales cycle and let the customer:
As a result, the customer was able to automate existing business processes, reduce manual work, get a collaboration tool for their in-house employees, real estate agents, and tenants, and focus on improving customer experience. The customer reported that within a few months, the sales cycle shortened from 20 to 18 weeks, the conversion rates increased by 15%, and time for preparing board papers reduced by 60%.
Automation of various sales aspects doesn’t mean sales reps are going to lose their jobs. In reality, a comprehensive approach to automation and a skillful application of technologies alleviate sales reps’ work by taking up the most time-consuming and error-prone tasks and letting them do what they know better—communicate with customers and sell.
At the same time, automation is not a quick task. It requires a thorough audit of the company’s automation potential, available financial and human resources, implementation roadmap, and scalability scenarios.
Why should you bet on automation today? Digitized, automated internal processes help sales reps make sense of data instead of struggling with manual data entry, efficiently manage their time and tasks, and focus on areas where they can add real value. Sales automation is a win-win scenario for all the sales cycle participants, from stakeholders to sales reps to customers.