Human beings constantly straddle their technological peak. Where we were once impressed by sliced bread, these days we barely even bat an eyelid when NASA lands something on Mars. For me it doesn’t matter what we invent, human’s impulse for discovery and development is astounding.
Technology has seeped into every aspect of our lives and taken it over. We turn the kettle on through our phones and ask Siri to close the blinds when it’s bedtime. We speak to each other through screens. We work less because computers do it for us, helping us get more done.
Look at my industry. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is the fastest growing software market; worth $80 billion by 2025. This forces me and my competitors to constantly innovate. Where our product used to be about storing and maintaining customer data, now it is so much more.
There’s a CRM revolution taking place. As a result CRM has become such a broad term, increasingly having new features and bits tagged onto it. The industry has taken a huge step into AI and automation, making everybody’s lives easier from developers and marketers, to customers.
Sales automation is the streamlining of tedious, time-consuming tasks in a company’s sales process. These days you can automate your whole sales process, and I’m going to show you how.
Why would you want to automate your sales process?
Let’s start somewhere in the middle, where CRM already does all those basic CRM-y things for your business. You’ve got all your data there; your client profiles, deal breakdowns, a nice-looking pipeline, and of course the communication aggregation that forms the basis of every CRM platform.
CRM sales automation takes that data and uses it for you. It takes care of all the processes you would normally complete in another tab, fiddling about copy and pasting data between the two. CRM has evolved to maintain the whole customer journey out of one simple dashboard.
This ultimate alignment between processes offers beautiful business insights…
- Customer behaviour trends and similarities at different pipeline stages.
- Which content and sales enablements are most effective.
- Lead generation avenues that are most beneficial.
- Any customer objections and subsequent bottlenecks throughout the sales cycle.
- The average amount each stage of the sales cycle takes.
- Simple aggregation of key metrics, often at the click of a button.
With these insights, we gain a more complete view of business than ever before. We can tweak and optimise our sales outreach until it’s… well, perfect. On top of that, using a single tool ensures we have clean data as we do not need to aggregate and match various datasets. It also affords us the opportunity to align our sales and marketing teams, bringing customer engagement to new levels.
Let’s take a walk along our sales journey, and learn how to automate our sales process.
There can be no sales process without the leads that undergo it. Lead generation, as I’m sure you know by now, is the process of finding people to buy your product or service. I’m sure you’re also aware that there are two main categories of lead generation: inbound and outbound.
Both methods of lead generation can be automated without any negative repercussions for a business.
Inbound lead generation automation
For me, web forms are best for quality inbound lead cultivation. They’re an area of your website where a lead comes and gives you their data in agreement that you can contact them further along the line. There are loads of different things you can sway for web form data: newsletter subscriptions, event invitations, freemium content, and even user feedback.
You get high-quality data and leads in a good web form because these are the leads who want to give you their data and are more likely to eventually make progress down the sales pipeline. The only downside is that you aren’t in control of the quantity of leads you get in your pipeline.
Outbound lead generation automation
Outbound lead generation, without sales automation technology, is a tedious and time-consuming endeavour. It involves a lot of tabbing in and out of platforms like LinkedIn, copy-pasting data, and repeating. It’s every salesperson’s nightmare.
CRM integrations with social media mean you can visit the platform of a lead you think is appropriate, hit a button next to their profile, and glean all their data straight into your chosen CRM platform. Whilst automated outbound lead generation might not offer the quality of inbound lead generation, it does offer the quantity. Inbound and outbound generation should be run congruently.
Either way, your business reaps no negatives of lead generation automation; only positives. Because we’re not interacting with these leads just yet, we don’t lose any personality in outreach. In fact, it’s the opposite. Leads enjoy a better experience for quicker entry to the sales pipeline.
Common misconceptions about sales automation tend to be based around lead nurturing and the loss of a human touch when it comes to engaging leads further with a brand. It’s true that personality is essential to nurture leads, but sales automation has already evolved past those problems.
Email sequence lead nurturing doesn’t just work in terms of sales, but it also increases email open rates, keeps you fresh in a prospect’s mind, provides instant results for prospects, and opens up an opportunity to inform and entertain leads. It’s a win-win.
Out of all the possibilities for automation in a business, I’ve got to say that drip campaigns are the most exciting to me. They start with a trigger, such as a lead entering your pipeline, and they hopefully end with an opportunity to pitch a product to leads in person, having educated, entertained, and developed leads with creative and insightful content.
Let’s imagine a lead just entered our SaaS pipeline…
A lead enters the pipeline via webform, because they wanted access to freemium content. Drip campaign automation sends an email automatically with freemium content access. After three days another email is sent. It can say whatever you want it to, but it makes sense to educate our leads further in the field that freemium content is related to. We track this drip to see if our lead opened and engaged with the email, and we can move them onto the next stage in our pipeline if they did.
Eventually, we want to get a demo booked in. Our final email invites them to a demo with the customer support team.
I can understand why some might say that personalisation and automation can’t exist side-by-side in lead nurturing. I’d even agree to some extent that you can absolutely over automate lead nurturing, and sending out a bunch of emails to every contact in your database is not the way to do business.
However, automation has come so far that we can chop and change the different steps of our sales process workflows. We can, for example, maintain the first two emails of our drip campaign and swap the third one for a real, human touchpoint. Instead, let’s set a notification for a member of the sales team to reach out, either by phone or email, and get the demo booked in for sure.
Customer Activity & Post-Sales Care
After generating and nurturing your leads up to the point of a demo or in-person meeting, the actual selling part is down to the sales team. There’s no chatbot (yet) that’s going to answer specific questions or tailor a personalised outreach based on what it knows about a potential customer. An approachable, skilled customer success team is the beating heart of a sales process and always will be.
Sales Automation exists to help them stay on top of that outreach. When the deal has been sealed, your business should focus on maintaining relationships with a customer. This opens up opportunities for cross-selling and upselling and develops a reputation for your brand by cultivating reviews and referrals. Winning customers is important; retaining them is essential.
Sales Automation makes the post-sale push much easier. For example, you could build an automation workflow which notifies a team member when customer activity is low. Similarly, you could fire them a quick email just to check everything is okay. Sales Automation affords a business such flexibility.
Never miss an assessment call to make sure a customer’s desires and needs were met, giving your business the best chance of developing those reviews, that referral, and your overall reputation. Understand when a renewal date is impending and give your sales team enough time to develop their outreach and get that renewal in the bag.
I can’t stress enough the importance of an effective post-sale process. Maintaining existing customers is essential in the post-pandemic business world, as a way of developing a steady revenue flow when customer buying power is so unpredictable. It’s impossible without Sales Automation.
After that, CRM in all its glorious ‘everything-under-one-tab’ mantra offers an opportunity to constantly optimise and improve sales processes. A shared database automatically filling and filled with all sorts of customer data, and automated workflows in place to harness, control, and use that data to reach out and nurture our leads and make sales only gives way to more data.
It tells us which processes work better, where we can improve, and which parts of our process need change to be implemented. Sales Automation offers an infinite chance for process iteration.
I find a lot of irony in the fact that sales automation doesn’t actually automate your sales. Sales is and always will be executed and completed by a sales team. Sales Automation automates the processes around your sales process. It frees your sales team from the shackles of data entry and account-watching. It helps you do less, but achieve more. Way more.
It’s time to join the revolution.