Here’s a dilemma for any sales manager:
If you have a well defined sales process, your reps are probably spending most of their time on admin rather than selling.
If you don’t have a well defined sales process - well, you should!
Here are some common problems in both scenarios:
For those who try to implement a sales process:
It is not being followed by most reps!
The ones who do follow it spend their time doing admin such as creating opportunities or logging for KPI measurements rather than talking to customers.
Some reps “just follow the process” instead of thinking for themselves, which leads to poor communication and waste of time.
Even if you do have a process, steps are being forgotten or ignored.
The process is too rigid and doesn’t adapt to individual situations which leads to a poor close rate.
If you don’t have a sales process:
Deals are not followed up and become stale.
Important call-back dates are forgotten.
Reps focus on the wrong deals and not the ones that can close.
Everyone communicates differently and you don’t really know what works.
A few star performers outshine everybody and you don’t really know how to replicate them.
Whichever route you go, you’re faced with seemingly insurmountable problems! What’s a sales manager to do?
Sales automation to the rescue!
What is sales automation? In one sentence, it’s kind of like having a junior sales assistant at your side.
Using it, you’ll be able to:
Create a sales process that adapts to the situation by automatically creating tasks and reminders for them depending on what happens
Saves a lot of admin time by automating tasks and streamlining processes such as booking meetings or creating opportunities
Make sure nothing will fall through the cracks by reminding sales of important actions
Ensure contacts don’t go stale by helping to nurture contacts in a relevant way
Help sales follow up with higher quality by providing information about what their contacts do and suggesting templates to use in various situations
Why is sales automation important?
In short, sales automation can help you implement a sales process in a way that works with your salespeople rather than forcing them into a mold.
If you’ve ever had to nag your salespeople into using the CRM because you needed some reports, you’ll find that sales automations are a natural incentive for sales people to use the CRM!
Imagine if you had an assistant who would take care of a lot of your admin, contact nurturing and lead research for you if you just logged into the system once in a while. Wouldn’t you want to do it then? That’s basically what sales automation is, and why it’s important!
But the real reason why sales automation is important is money. Money saved or money gained. In this article about Marketing and Sales Automation ROI, we show that if you have only 3 people, the software would pay for itself if it made each salesperson 3% more effective. Based on working with almost 100 customers, we have no doubt that and much more is achievable by almost any business with a sales force.
What about B2B sales automation?
We believe that the following is particularly useful in a b2b sales automation context:
Sales process automation
This is the ability to automate the way your sales process is implemented. Contrary to a traditional (non-automated) sales process, sales process automation can dynamically adapt to the situation by providing tips and suggest templates in each stage depending on the situation in question, and handle some of the admin which saves time and improves forecasting quality.
Automated sales intelligence
Automated sales intelligence provides salespeople with information that helps them follow up more effectively. For example, it can tell you when a new lead is hot (displaying buying signals), notify you when they revisit the website or click emails, and inform you about which features or what kind of messaging might work best.
Sales automation software
There are plenty of sales automation tools out there! Which ones should you use?
We’ll go through two types in this article: On the one hand an automated CRM, and on the other hand stand-alone sales automation tools you can plug in.
What is a sales automation CRM?
The CRM market looks something like this:
The X-axis (simple-complex): A simple CRM is streamlined for ease-of-use, but it’s not very customisable. By that, we mean you can’t build your own modules and object types. You have your basic objects such as Contacts, Accounts, Opportunities, Products, Tasks - and that’s basically it on a high level. With a complex CRM, you can build objects that represent basically anything in your business, and in some cases they can act as your full-fledged ERP system, project management system, invoicing and billing system, delivery/service system, and much more.
The Y-axis (passive-active): A passive CRM is basically a database. Sales people are expected to store data in it for forecasting and sharing info. An active CRM on the other hand is what we’re talking about with sales automation. It gathers a lot of data and intelligence for you, it helps you co-drive your sales process with you.
Here’s a video explanation:
An Active but Simple CRM-system like FunnelBud SharpSpring is built to make sales people’s lives easy, streamline sales, and maximize revenue. It’s not meant to be an ERP system. (If you want to understand how a ERP differs from a CRM, read this article: CRM vs. ERP.)
So what are the main features that help you automate sales? The ability to:
… define steps in your sales process and use that in automations.
… create reminders when contacts perform certain actions or if certain criteria are fulfilled (or not fulfilled).
… suggest templates intelligently to save you time and improve quality.
… manually or automatically start nurturing sequences to selected contacts.
… automatically create opportunities and move them to certain stages when you perform certain actions.
… qualify new leads by detecting behavior that indicates buying intent.
Real life examples? How about:
If a high-value deal isn’t followed up on: Start smart nurturing sequences and retargeting campaigns.
If a contact reaches a certain stage and has shown interest in certain products: Create a reminder task with pre-written email template suggestions.
If a contact you haven’t been in touch with for a while returns to the site: Create a reminder and notify you to check it out.
Other sales automation tools
There are also a bunch of independent tools out there you can use for your sales automation needs. Here are some examples:
Helps you do automated outreach. Can be plugged into your sales process as an independent tool, and contacts can sync to your CRM when they’ve shown interest.
Automated sales intelligence
Get information about companies you should reach out to and what to say.
Automatically populate information about prospect companies in your CRM.
Check out website visits
See which companies visits your website based on their IP address, even if they’re not a part of your CRM.
Can you build an automated sales system?
As you can see, there’s plenty of benefits and plenty of options if you want to introduce sales automation to your company. Our recommendation is: If you want to automate your sales, start small. Start with a low hanging fruit. What’s the current biggest bottleneck? Here are some starting points:
Too much admin? See if you can automate some of the more mundane and repetitive tasks, such as opportunity creation or updating.
Forgetting follow up? Set up some simple reminders in certain situations, for example for any lead that is older than X months.
Too many leads? May sound like a pleasant problem, but the fact is that you could be leaving a lot of money on the table. Why not automatically nurture these contacts and notify salespeople know if they click?
Varied follow up quality? Perhaps the easiest of them all, gather your best salespeople in the room, and ask them which templates they use most. Share these with the team in the CRM. Quality will rise for everybody.
Want to try the SharpSpring CRM today? We’ll help you set everything up in the system (Professional Services are included in our pricing at no additional cost). Let us walk you through how it works: Request a Free Demo!