Sales automation tutorial: tools and stages
Everyone is aware that it is necessary to automate sales. At the same time not everyone knows why it should be done and how. It is usually a complex and rocky road for businesses which requires time and experience.
To make it clear what sales automation is, it might be useful to read this article. Here, we cover the basics of sales automation: who needs it and why, its pros and cons, stages and difficulties.
What is Sales Automation?
Automation is a workflow enhancement aimed at saving time. For instance, manager in your company creates manually the documentation for the customer, even though, he could use this time to communicate with a new client or evaluate last month sales results.
There are various platforms that allow you to automate diverse business processes such as: document preparation, mailing to customers, marketing analytics and reporting, employee time control, etc.
What tasks does Sales Automation tackle?
An overall Automation purpose is the growth of revenue. In the meantime, the revenue cannot grow on its own, so you need to pin down critical issues, learn from them and iron out the kinks.
Here are the most common tasks to be solved by automating the sales process:
- Flow control. Improving business manageability, recording its stages, uploading reports rapidly.
- Data safety. Saving all business-relevant data, such as: customer contacts, purchase history, ad campaign statistics. This is crucial important because employees may quit often. If the data is not saved, then the business will go round in a circle, having neither a customer base nor historical data to make decisions.
- Time saving. Employees spend less time on routine tasks.
- Errors reduction. The level of human factor decreases. Example: the manager may forget to make an important call — an automatic notification from the CRM system will help him. The call center operator may not be able to answer the client’s question — an automated script will help him.
- Increasing of marketing investments efficiency. Marketing has data and reports to analyse activities and create new strategies. End-to-end analytics data allows you to identify which channel works best to attract a new customer or repeat purchase.
Naturally, each business and product category has its own specifics. Therefore, in each specific case, it will be necessary to look for an individual approach to pin down tasks.
What does Sales Automation bring to your business?
Sales automation covers a wide variety of functions and processes. Each participant will have their own benefits. Let’s see how it works for each role:
CEO and key executives. Simplifying workflow control:
- Allows you to download reports in one click and view the real employees workload.
- The processes in the company become transparent, the stages are clear and understandable for everyone.
- The management owns all the important data: customer contacts, history of working with them.
Commercial Director. Clear customised processes are essential for a person who manages sales to prevent employees from mistakes and spend less time on onboarding newcomers. So here are the following benefits:
- Decreasing human factor
- Predefined process guidance for employees
- Tracking the KPI either of the department or each employee.
- Quick customer issues fixes.
Marketing Director. Data-driven marketing is no longer a new fashion trend, but a real need. Data automation allows marketers to:
- develop efficient communication with customers based on trading history;
- show yourself up when you need to stimulate sales winning;
- track the result of advertising campaigns to record KPIs and collect statistics to create new strategies.
Sales manager. Managers will also benefit:
- No more paper documents! All contracts, invoices, closing documents can be entered and controlled in the system.
- Notifications. The system will notify you when it is time to call the client.
- Right choice. It is easy to offer the client exactly what he needs, viewing the entire history of your interaction.
- Monitor KPI. Identify your stage and influence your result to increase the bonus income.
It is vital to know about shortcomings
There are some difficulties in automation process.
Firstly, people tend to oppose everything unknown and incomprehensible. In 80% of cases, employees are reluctant to switch to the next normal. They do not understand how to work with the system, it seems to them that to do as before is easier. Consequently, if their motivation is lost, discontent and resistance may grow within the company.
Secondly, automation services may work rough at the beginning. Especially if the process is upbuilt improperly: some stage is missed, data is displayed incorrectly or some button does not work, etc. And the most important thing is that each system failures may affect your business. The accountant will not be able to issue an urgent invoice, some client data will be lost — and the process may stop.
Sales Automation stages
To make automation process a breeze, you need to make arrangements for it. Let’s take a look at seven stages that you need to go through so that sales automation will not be a nightmare or headache.
Sage 1. Defining goals.
The main task of the automation is to increase profits. What exactly can be done in your case? What is important for your business? Highlight key goals that will help determine the next steps. For example, goals could be:
- Increase customer flow.
- Activate existing clients.
- Increase the average purchase size.
- Cut the routine tasks out and provide customer with better services.
- Motivate staff.
Stage 2. Defining sales funnel.
You need to analyze the sales process and visualize it as a funnel that customers go through. All stages of this funnel must be entered in the CRM system. Each business has different sales funnels (it depends on the average purchase amount, purchase cycle, etc.). In general the model can be the following (then everyone should detail it for their own tasks):
- Client’s interest — lead on the website, in the call center or offline.
- Assigning client to a particular funnel stage (by product categories, price, or something else).
- Proposal preparation.
- Registration of the transaction (entering customer data, contract, invoice, etc.).
- Activation of an existing client;
- Repeat purchase.
Stage 3. Allocating resources.
Assign the employees to be responsible for the automation in the company and scope the budget amounts. What is important:
- Plan a budget;
- Assign or contract-out devs;
- Form a working party within the company;
- Designate an executive manager to inform other employees.
Stage 4. Streamlining business processes.
Automation does do wonders. It only helps speed up and improve processes. Therefore, you should conduct an internal audit and
- analyse the current processes and sales;
- think how to improve these processes;
- cut the routine tasks down.
Stage 5. Selecting tools.
The market are full of various services and apps. Select and compare several providers, study their feedbacks. The choice depends on your needs: docflow, direct mailings or end-to-end marketing analytics automation. For instance, you can connect internal CRM system, Ads manager system and messenger service with help of Albato.
Stage 6. Implementing.
Whatever you automate, you will definitely go through three steps:
- Prep activities. Example: collecting and formatting all clients data, creating letter templates.
- Setting. This complex process should be under the sway of IT professional and product manager.
- Testing and summing up. Before putting on-line a ready-made IT solution, it is necessary to test it. Include timing in the process for testing and summing up step.
Stage 7. Analysing and changing the project.
After a month or two of using new system, analyse at the results. If something goes wrong, then it is important to understand where the problem is:
- Technical failure.
- Human factor (an additional employees learning may help).
- Missing stages (e.g., of the sales funnel).
- Data problem (incorrect or not full).
Implementation of the automation is a time consuming process. Sometimes you have to return to the starting point. But then, when everything is running, you will see how much easier it will be to work.
Depending on what your goals are, what processes you decide to automate, you need to choose one or another tool. We will focus on a few of the most common options.
- Project management services. It will help to streamline processes and fix them online. So you can control the traffic of tasks and the timing of their fulfilment. There are many services now, such as Trello or Jira. You can use the free versions if you don’t need advanced features.
- Service for communication with clients. You can link all customer communication channels into one system. So that the client can choose from a variety of options (messenger, social networks, phone, etc.). You can collect all communication data in one place, regardless of their type.
- Email newsletter. It is easier to manage direct mailings to customers with a special platform (for example, Mindbox or Unisender). You can download unified email templates, set up automatically mailing chains for different segments of the database, upload reports with statistics on campaigns, etc.
- Sales scripts. To smooth over the human factor in communication between managers and clients, it is useful to write scripts. Namely, conversation scenarios where all the possible clients questions will come forward in details, as well as answer to these questions, objections handling and cross-sell instructions.
- Dashboard. It helps to receive reports on the KPI implementation quickly and in a convenient format. For example, in Google Data Studio, you can customize the display of the reports you need for campaigns from Google Analytics.
- Working time map. This is an employee time tracking tool. It is worth using it if you suspect that the problem is in the inefficient distribution of working time, delaying processes. Maps will allow you to see the bottleneck and understand how to improve the process.
Starting such a complex process as a sales automation, it will be useful to be aware of bottlenecks from the start.
- Automation tasks are defined incorrectly. Example: you decide that you need to overload customers with mailing lists and calls to make them return. But in fact, you have poor service: managers do not know how to sell a product, they are overloaded with routine tasks. This problem has to be solved differently.
- The project team is poorly prepared. The IT project-manager has irrelevant experience, the product manager is not motivated, employees do not understand the reason of automation.
- Business processes and sales funnel are described incorrectly. For example, you have an English school. You decided that the client should buy lessons after the first interaction. But in fact, you need to give him an opportunity for free trial lessons and invite him to a webinar. It means, that there is an additional stage of involvement that you’ve missed.
- Provider issues. For example, its platform cannot integrate with your internal systems.
Apparently, you can handle the sales automation process if you pay appropriate attention to the described details. It is important to determine the goals, to understand what exactly your business needs and select the experts who will help in the implementation.