We live in the sparkly, shiny world of automation. Everything from switching lights on/off to assembling cars can now be automated. This calls for the question though—how important is automation? Is it really of much help?
The answer is yes. Automation is adding value by reducing manual labor, saving time, and in some cases, saving lives.
This is a tweet by Anton Zaslavskia (aka Zedd), a Russian-German record producer and DJ. He tweeted out in support of the smart car Tesla, talking about how it saved his life.
The autopilot feature in the car alerted the driver awake when it detected that he had fallen asleep. Thanks to the automation amalgamation, Anton’s life was saved.
Automation has created a paradigm shift in the way we work, across industries and businesses. And it is the same in the case of sales. The daily life of a sales rep is a list of crucial tasks that can make or break a deal. These include sending out emails, making calls, creating contracts, negotiating deals and more. They do these tasks multiple times in a day for multiple accounts, and it might be challenging to stay on top of all the accounts with just manual work.
A Forrester report states that automating tasks can help save 90% of costs. You can increase efficiency and productivity while cutting down on costs. Those are enough reasons to invest in sales process automation. But how do you go about automating the sales process? Where do you start? Here are the five aspects of your sales process that can be automated:
Studies say sales reps spend 21% of their day on emails. That is a large chunk of their day, almost a quarter, which can be better spent talking to prospects. This calls on the urgent need for email automation.
To get started with email automation, you need to analyze the daily sales tasks performed by your sales reps and figure out :
- What are the most common emails that are sent daily?
- What is the time spent on creating and editing emails before hitting send?
- How much personalization and customization is needed for each email?
There are quite a lot of sales emails being sent in a day, and many are repetitive. As part of the sales cycle, sales reps send out various generic emails like:
- Welcome emails to new leads
- Follow up emails to unresponsive leads
- Demo emails to new sign ups
- Reminder emails about meetings
- Thank you emails to new customers
Creating the email copy, customizing it for each lead and sending them out requires a good chunk of your sales reps time. Let’s assume that a follow up email containing a helpful resource needs two minutes of preparation time before hitting send. If the sales rep has to send the email to 10 other prospects, that is 20 minutes of their time. Also, these emails are only the first touch point in the sales process. They need to spend more time on highly personalized emails for nurturing the leads further. These would take more time to prepare and send, and your sales reps would end up spending hours just sending out nurture emails.
Your frustrated sales reps deserve better, and email templates can eliminate this frustration. Rather than typing out the same email over and over again, they can create and save email templates that can be repurposed as needed saving tons of time. They can also schedule emails so that they can be sent out to multiple prospects at the same time.
However, not all emails can be automated. Sales reps exchange multiple emails with prospects, customers and team members and these need to be manually worked on. Some emails require personalization on the basis of content and context. Email automation cannot come into play for emails containing:
- Discussion on legal parameters
- Pricing negotiations
- Questions on premium features of the product
- Confirming meetings
- Contacting a C-level executive
- When creating emails templates, keep in mind to customize email signatures with links to collateral that can further help nurture the lead.
For example, in a “thank you for signing up” email, add links to product videos and customer case studies. This would help the lead understand product features and use cases better.
- Always add a hint of customization to bulk emails using placeholders.
- Avoid sending emails during their out of office hours. Schedule emails according to the time zone of the recipient.
2. Lead Prioritization
Your business may receive a high volume of leads from multiple resources. Some of these leads may be looking for a fling while some may be interested in starting a relationship with your company. While it makes no sense to spend a lot of time with the former set of leads, your sales reps may not be aware of that. There are, of course, AI-based lead scoring tools to help your sales reps prioritize leads. But before you go ahead and get one for your business, ask yourself the following questions.
- Are your sales reps spending a big chunk of their time in the qualification process?
- Are the conversion rates low?
- Are your sales cycles longer due to leaks and bottlenecks?
If the answer is yes to any of the questions, your business can benefit from automating the lead prioritization process.
Before you set off to create your lead scoring model, consider the metrics that are indicative of your business type. Most businesses score leads based on explicit signals like job title, industry type and company size. In some cases, businesses require deeper knowledge into how the customer uses the product and can lead based on implicit signals like website activity, page visits, and collateral downloaded.
Depending on how your customer uses the product, you can create a hybrid scoring system, using a mix of implicit and explicit signals. For instance, you can grant a higher score to a CFO who visits the pricing page as compared to an intern who visits the landing page.
- If you are a multi-product company, set up different lead scoring models for each product.
- Set thresholds for the scores on the lead and bucket your leads based on their score as cold, warm and hot.
- Make sure you configure the model for negative scoring. This is a common mistake made while creating lead scoring models. We take into account only positive attributes but over time, the lead interest may begin to wane. For instance, you can assign negative scores to leads who have stopped engaging with your website and aren’t responding to the emails sent by the sales rep.
- Do not score based on vanity metrics like say, email opens. They are not the best indicators of the lead’s interest as the lead may have opened the email multiple times to read it but may not have gotten the chance.
3. Lead distribution
Research indicates that calling a lead within the first five minutes of sign up will increase the likelihood of them answering the call by 100X. But this isn’t the case in most companies. In most cases, the business receives leads from multiple sources—website, blog and social media—and they remain untouched within the CRM for a period of time before being assigned to a sales rep. There is a gap in the time from when the lead enters the CRM and the sales rep reaches out to them.
This is where lead distribution comes in. By automating lead assignment, the response time is cut down which, in turn, increases the lead conversion ratio. You can assign leads by geography, industry type, company size, and deal value, making it a lot easier and faster for the sales rep to get in touch with prospects. This helps increase sales efficiency as it avoids multiple reps reaching out to the same lead.
DO’S: If you have leads from all over the globe or you have a multi-product business, you can automatically assign leads to sales rep handling a particular region or product.
4. Day-to-day tasks
Apart from modular tasks like sending emails and qualifying leads, sales reps do various administrative tasks on a daily basis. These contribute in small ways to the larger growth of sales.
The various tasks could entail:
The true success of a CRM lies in the fact that it serves as a single source of truth. It is an organized collection of data on prospects, customers, deals, accounts, and related sales activities. But this information has to be entered manually by the sales rep. Automating CRM data entry can help reduce the time and effort spent on it.
With automatic call logging, your sales reps can crush their daily sales call quota and not worry about missing out on adding calls to the CRM. The CRM will automatically log calls into the respective lead profiles.
With lead enrichment tools, the lead profile can be auto-populated with relevant information like job title, industry, and company. This eliminates the need for the sales rep to manually research on the lead.
Creating appointments and setting reminders
To schedule a meeting with a lead, there is usually a flurry of emails sent back and forth with various time slots. Automating appointments using a tool like Calendly can eliminate this hassle. You can forward a link to your calendar with the available time slots and the lead can choose their preferred time slot. A calendar invite is sent to both parties automatically and a reminder email is triggered before the scheduled time.
When a deal is won, the deal status has to be updated within the CRM. The sales rep has to switch over to the invoice generation tool and create and generate an invoice for the lead. This is time-consuming as they have to switch between tools. Using automation, an invoice can be generated automatically when the deal status is updated to “Won.”
5. Report generation
Reports are tiresome and boring but extremely important. As a sales manager, you are responsible for revenue targets. You need to be aware of how the sales pipeline is moving and measure the output of the sales process. The easiest way to do this is to maintain records of the sales activities.
But collating data manually would involve updating a spreadsheet after each task is done with a description, like the number of calls completed, the outcome of the call and call notes. For each KPI, you have to maintain multiple records. That’s a lot of manual data entry, tabulation, and graph generation. If you miss out on adding an activity to the list, you will end up with erroneous data. That’s where reporting automation can help you.
Before you automate your report generation, make a list of all the reports you need and the KPIs you need to track:
- Annual sales report
- Quarterly sales report
- Sales calls reports
- Sales emails reports
- Team performance comparison
These are team reports. For individual rep reports, you’d have to track their KPIs like:
- Emails sent
- Calls completed
- Qualified leads
- Deals created
- Closed lost
- Closed won
By automating reports, you can eliminate the manual task of collecting, organizing and analyzing data. This further excludes inaccuracies that are borne out of human error. Multiple reports can be created easily by choosing the necessary parameters. Sales rep performance can be tracked by customizing reports with the KPIs that need to be tracked.
DO’S: Schedule individual reports so that the rep is aware of their performance and can tweak their activities accordingly.
DON’TS: Avoid keeping information to yourself. Make the reports accessible to the team so they have visibility into how the team performance is progressing.
Sales process automation is easier when you have a powerful CRM. With an easy-to-use and intuitive UI, Freshsales can help your sales team improve productivity with features like sales campaigns, intelligent workflows, website, and event tracking and more. Try Freshsales for 30-days free.
Cover image by Sailesh Gunasekaran