Sales automation is the process of taking manual sales tasks and making them automatic by using software and artificial intelligence (AI).
Boring? Yes. Sorry.
But don’t let the definition fool you. Sales automation can absolutely transform your business.
In this article, I’m going to break down what sales automation is all about and how you can start using it.
When you’re done with this article, you’ll know whether you should start using sales automation (spoiler alert: you probably should), and you’ll understand exactly how to implement automation for ideal results.
What Is Sales Automation?
It’s easy to use lots of ten-dollar words to describe sales automation, but it’s pretty self-explanatory: sales automation is automating sales.
(And, yes, I just used both words to define the words.)
In other words, sales automation is all about using software to mechanize the manual tasks that your sales team performs every day.
Here’s an example. You probably have a contact form like the one we use at Chili Piper:
When a lead fills out that form, you need to review that information and contact them as soon as possible.
If you don’t use automation, then one of your sales reps will have to be notified that a lead has filled out your form. That rep then has to reach out to the lead. Then they move onto the next lead and repeat.
This is terribly inefficient because it forces individual team members to focus on one task for a long period of time.
So what does this look like with automation?
Instead of making team members reach out manually, you can use lead response software like Chili Piper to automatically contact leads as soon as they fill out your form.
This not only frees up your team but also ensures that you engage the lead instantly.
And this is just one example of sales automation. With the right sales automation tools, you can dramatically increase your efficiency, which will ultimately lead to more successful sales.
I know, of course, that not all businesses have the sophistication, time, or experience to implement automation systems. And that’s okay. But there are ways to automate many aspects of the sales process that cost very little, and don’t require a lot of technical chops.
Sales Automation and Marketing Automation: What’s the Difference?
Sales automation and marketing automation are not the exact same thing.
So, what’s the difference between sales automation and marketing automation?
Marketing automation is the use of software and tools to automate marketing tasks. This includes the execution of workflows and processes that learn the behavior of customers over time.
Sales automation, by slight contrast, is automating aspects of sales tasks.
Yes, there’s going to be some overlap because sales and marketing often use the same tools and try to achieve the same ends.
The real differences between sales automation and marketing automation boil down to how your particular businesses conceives of and organizes sales and marketing tasks.
We wrote a whole article on marketing automation so you can get even more intel.
The Importance of Sales Automation
At first glance, sales automation seems like a luxury. You might be wondering if you really need it.
The answer is a resounding yes.
I’ve seen teams whose sales process required cobbled-together spreadsheets and in-person conversations.
Once they plugged in some sales automation mojo, it was like the ugly caterpillar metamorphosed into a dazzling butterfly.
Sales automation isn’t just about making your team work less. It’s about increasing the efficiency of all of your sales processes so you can focus your attention where it matters most — converting leads and closing sales.
Consider the fact that using automation can bolster your conversion rates. When you automate large parts of your lead management strategy, you can do things better and faster, which typically leads to huge improvements in conversions.
Automation can also save you valuable time. It can take upward of 15 contacts with a lead to close a single sale, and that requires sales teams to spend lots of time talking to leads.
If your team also has to do tons of manual tasks, they’ll have less time to engage with leads, which will result in fewer sales.
Using automation can free up your sales reps so they can focus on lead nurturing.
The list goes on. Forecasting, data entry, lead generation, lead distribution––these can all be simplified using automation.
If you haven’t thought about sales automation importance, you owe it to yourself to do so. The reality is that if you’re not using sales automation in 2020, you’re falling behind.
But again, you have to do automation the right way, so let’s take a look at the building blocks of sales automation and why they matter. I’ll also share some sales automation ideas, give you real-world use cases, and explain where automation is absolutely necessary.
Sales Automation: Lead Generation
Lead generation is a field of study all its own. Basically, it boils down to attracting potential customers from your target market.
Source: Brenton Way
It’s a complex element of sales that involves a lot of moving parts. And if you do all of that manually, you’ll struggle to keep up (especially if you’re growing).
Think about it. Lead generation means that you have to all of this:
- Attract leads by publishing lots of authority content
- Direct prospects toward your content
- Post regularly on all major social media platforms
- Engage with prospects who have questions or concerns
- Manage leads who respond to your calls to action (CTAs)
- Respond to leads immediately after they fill out your website contact form
- And much more
If you don’t automate any of that, then you’ll need a huge amount of muscle to balance everything. For the majority of startups and small businesses (and even many bigger businesses), that’s both impractical and wasteful.
That’s why every mega-successful company automates at least some of their lead generation processes.
Automating your lead generation frees up your team to focus on actually building relationships with leads. It also allows you to take on more leads instead of having to spend hours and hours manually managing each lead.
So how do you go about automating your lead generation? While it’s possible to automate many aspects of lead gen, there are a few that are must-haves.
First, consider email automation.
Chances are you’re pulling in a ton of leads through your email marketing. Email is a great method of fostering buyer enablement and providing value to a large audience.
Automating your email with robust email marketing software will allow you to focus on creating irresistible emails that are packed with value. Scheduling, segmenting, and sending become a whole lot easier when they’re automated.
While email isn’t technically sales, one leads to the other. Ensuring that your email game is on point will help you optimize your sales process from the get-go.
Source: Smart Insights
Second, automate data collection and initial engagement.
Data collection is crucial when it comes to lead gen. Getting the right info will allow you to know how to qualify and nurture each lead based on their unique needs.
Initial engagement is just as important. Speed to lead statistics show that engaging a lead within one minute is ideal, and that’s almost impossible to achieve manually.
Data collection and first contact go hand in hand. Ideally, you want to gather info and engage a lead simultaneously, and this is something you can only accomplish with the right automation tools.
That’s exactly why we built Chili Piper: to instantly engage leads and make first contact right after they provide their information. When a lead fills out your contact form, they’re immediately prompted to schedule a call, and that call then gets assigned to your sales team.
1-click booking makes it even easier for your leads:
You don’t have to worry about contacting leads right away or digging through your calendar to find available slots––Chili Piper does all of that for you.
No matter what software you use, though, you should have some way of automating data collection and initial outreach. That way, you won’t have to deal with countless spreadsheets and days of emailing back and forth.
Sales Automation: Lead Management
Lead management is a vital part of your day-to-day operations.
It encompasses lead generation as well as other lead-focused marketing and sales activities, so it’s another area where automation can help.
Lead management includes data collection and initial contact, but it covers a lot more ground than that. Basically, if something has to do with your leads, it’s probably part of your lead management process.
The key to automating your lead management is to use CRM (customer relationship management) software.
A full-featured CRM will allow you to automate many elements of lead management, serving as a lead database that stores all the essential info and helps you move a lead down your sales funnel.
For example, here’s a quick look at the back end of Salesforce, the most popular CRM today:
(Calling Salesforce a CRM is kind of like calling a Ferrari a car. Yes, it’s a car. But it’s so much more.)
You can use a CRM to capture, track, and manage leads throughout the buyer journey. It’s an easier, more elegant alternative to Excel spreadsheets, and it requires a lot less data entry. Instead, you can focus on your leads––where are they, and how can you move them forward?
You can also integrate third-party apps into most CRMs for even more power.
For example, you can integrate Salesforce with Chili Piper to instantly enter new leads into your system the moment they fill out your form. You can schedule a call with the lead and start qualifying them at the same time.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of ways to plug in apps to a CRM to automate even more of your lead management and sales processes.
Whatever software you select for lead management, using Chili Piper is critical to the entire solution.
Chili Piper integrates with all of the popular marketing and sales solutions.
Sales Automation: Automate Sales Processes
Lead-focused activities aren’t the only things that automation can help out with.
As the name implies, sales automation can automate sales processes of all kinds.
For instance, if you’re a B2B company, inside sales automation could make life much easier for you, especially when combined with smart outsourcing.
Take prospecting as an example.
Finding prospects can be time- and labor-intensive for your SDRs (sales development representatives), and it can also take up time that your sales team could spend closing sales. By the same token, though, you need prospects to turn into sales.
While sales prospecting can’t be fully automated, you can automate large parts of it, like data entry and list building.
Let’s say you currently go out and look for businesses in your target market using LinkedIn. Done manually, that process can take hours of your valuable time. You have to search LinkedIn, find companies based on your criteria, and then compile them into a spreadsheet or list.
Instead, you can use a combination of outsourcing and automation. Outsource the list creation by having a freelancer or virtual assistant find those companies for you.
Once you have that list, you can upload it straight to your CRM, where it will automatically be sorted for you. From there, you can focus on engaging the lead and closing the sale.
The result: A clean, ordered list of prospects and hours of saved time. That’s the power of sales automation.
You can also apply this to other inbound sales processes (like inbound lead conversion). With automation, you can add leads to your CRM as soon as they contact you.
Their essential info will be right there for you, and you can automate follow-ups in case you don’t hear from the lead in a certain timeframe. (Of course, you should personalize your follow-ups, but only personalize about 30-50%.)
Or how about sales forecasting? Using a CRM like Salesforce, you can track your current sales performance and forecast your sales based on constantly renewing data.
Sales Automation Tips
Now that we’ve looked at sales automation as a whole, I want to give you a few strategic tips for making the most out of your automation.
Don’t feel like you need to automate everything if you’re small and growing.
Automation works best when you have constant streams of data for your automation systems to work with.
If you’re a smaller business with fewer inbound leads, then automating your sales process might actually be overkill.
On the other hand, if you’re getting more inbound traffic than you can handle, automation can swoop in and save the day.
If you’re wondering whether you should try sales automation, assess your current needs. How many leads are you getting per day? How much sheer data are you dealing with? If it’s a significant amount, then you should at least give automation a try.
Don’t automate processes that need a human touch
Yes, sales automation can be wonderful, but automating too much is a problem.
If your sales process solely consists of canned responses and automatically triggered interactions, you’ll come off as robotic and lifeless.
The rule of thumb here is to only automate things that aren’t better with a human touch. For example, you can definitely automate data entry because it doesn’t get better if a human does it (and sometimes it actually gets worse if a human does it).
But you wouldn’t want to automate something like late-funnel messages to qualified leads. At this stage, you need to be building your connection with the lead, and if you automate that, they’ll notice.
Instead, use your CRM to help you manage the lead with a personal touch.
Source: Finances Online
Yes, automating everything would theoretically skyrocket your efficiency, but automation isn’t solely about efficiency. It’s about freeing up your team to focus on what matters most.
Sales Automation: FAQ
Time to review the concepts we’ve discussed in this guide. Here’s a quick overview of all things sales automation.
What is sales automation software?
Sales automation software is any software that mechanizes manual sales tasks.
Most CRM (customer relationship management) software has automation features baked in, and you can also integrate other software like Chili Piper for maximum effectiveness.
How do you automate sales?
Sales automation can be accomplished by determining which menial sales tasks take up the most time. You can then program your sales automation software to perform those tasks, thus freeing up your team and saving you time and effort across the board.
What is sales forecasting?
Sales forecasting is projecting how much revenue your business will generate. This process can also be automated using a CRM.
Can sales be automated?
Yes, but not completely. While you can automate menial, administrative tasks, you should never automate anything that requires a human touch (like engaging with leads who are deep in your funnel).
How do you prioritize prospects?
The best way to prioritize prospects and leads is to use sales automation to begin the qualification process immediately. Your sales automation software will collect essential data, and you can then assign each lead to the perfect sales rep.
Thinking about sales automation?
Sales automation can be magical in the right cases. If you’re dealing with lots of inbound traffic and need to take some of the pressure off your sales reps, then you should seriously consider automation.
Chili Piper can help you with that by immediately responding to leads so you don’t waste a second. Combine Chili Piper with Salesforce or other solutions, and you can instantly import those leads into your CRM without any friction.
If you like the sound of that, go ahead and request a demo.