Imagine how much more your sales team could accomplish if they spent less time on menial admin work.
When implemented strategically, sales task automation can enhance the efficiency of your already skilled workforce. It streamlines workflows so your sales reps can spend more time showcasing their talents: selling.
In this article, we’ll cover three tasks to automate and three tasks to avoid automating so your salespeople can focus on closing deals, obtaining leads and growing your business.
The current state of sales automation
When the term “automation” is dropped in business studies or even in general conversation, sales teams are usually mentioned.
A lot of this can be traced back to a seminal 2013 paper called “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerisation?” by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne from Oxford University. A study in this paper estimated that a number of people would be out of a job with increased automation, including 92% of insurance sales agents and 1.3% of sales managers.
For now, salespeople can look back on this prediction with a sense of relief. After all, sales jobs comfortably fall within the category of those that require a “human touch”. By automating people skills or other aspects of relationship management, you risk negatively affecting the customer experience.
Instead, the jobs that appear to be most heavily affected by automation are in the retail and service sectors, with coffee shops hiring robot baristas to replace staff and Amazon’s robot pickers taking over responsibilities in fulfillment centers.
In spite of these developments, it’s not so cut and dry as determining if automation replaces jobs.
Used strategically, sales automation can enhance the efficiency of your skilled workforce, working alongside them and supporting them. With that in mind, there are some tasks you should automate and some you should leave to your human sales reps.
3 tasks to consider automating
Sales representatives only spend around 30% of their time selling, according to The Center for Sales Strategy. They spend the rest of their work day attending meetings, training, filing paperwork and more.
Sales task automation can help salespeople reclaim this time. Here are three sales tasks you can automate to free up more hours.
1. Scheduling Meetings
Attempts to schedule sales meetings over email and voicemail can feel like a game of correspondence chess.
You make your move, wait for the other party to make theirs, and then, more often than not, the time and date you suggest isn’t convenient. As a result, they suggest another meeting time, but this time you can’t make it, and the game goes on.
Fortunately, there are many automation tools that you can use to schedule meetings quickly and easily. Tools like Pipedrive’s Scheduler give prospects direct access to your calendar so that they can see when you’re available and select the slot that best suits them.
Instead of navigating the email back-and-forth or exchanging voicemails, sales reps get a ping in their inbox when a meeting is scheduled.
2. Managing pipelines
Sales reps speak to so many people all day, every day, so it can be easy to lose track of who is who and where prospects are within the pipeline.
On top of this, all sales reps have their own way of managing their pipeline. Some will use post-it notes, others will use a spreadsheet. It can be a struggle to keep your post-it notes in order or your spreadsheet updated, which could result in you missing crucial touchpoints and being unable to forecast future sales.
By using CRM software like Pipedrive, you get a clear visual interface of your pipeline, enabling you to know exactly who to contact next and to stay in control of your sales process. This functionality will then help you determine which steps and processes should be automated.
Pipedrive’s AI Sales Assistant takes it a step further and helps you make those important next-step decisions. By analyzing your past performance, the AI Sales Assistant brings risks to your attention and suggests new ways to boost your results.
3. Following up
“The money is in the follow-up” is a well-known phrase in sales, and with good reason. People are busy and life often gets in the way.
By following up with potential customers who have shown interest, you can stay top of mind and increase your chances of hitting your sales goals. Even if your follow-up emails are met with a rejection, you’ll know you can confidently focus your sales efforts elsewhere.
With multiple leads and prospects at different stages in the pipeline, remembering to follow up with them all could become a full-time job in itself. That’s where an automated follow-up email can support you.
While the contents of the follow-up message (or sales call) should be personalized, you can automate reminder notifications and get most of the way there with templates. This way, you can tackle that critical job of following up in a fraction of the time.
Your follow-up email will look different depending on your situation, discussion and customer pain points. A follow-up email after a sales call might look like this:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you on [day].
After speaking with [my boss/colleague/department], we’d be happy to [extend this special offer] to your organization.
Are you around for a 10-minute call on Thursday?
Templates can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. Pipedrive’s Campaigns add-on also lets you track when emails are opened, so you know who’s still a hot lead and who’s running cold.
If you’re really short on time, you can fully automate follow-up emails. Pipedrive populates templates with data from your CRM, cutting down your time spent following up even further.
Automation has enormous benefits, but that doesn’t mean you should apply it to everything. In sales, the focus is always on building relationships – and this is where automation just can’t reach as well as humans (yet).
Below are three sales tasks you should avoid automating.
1. Having sales conversations
Sales conversations are too nuanced to automate. It’s where the best sales professionals shine by building trust with your company, handling potential customers’ unique objections and qualifying leads.
In the enterprise sales and B2B worlds in particular, high-value deals need a human touch. Closing these deals involves interpersonal and communication skills that AI can’t compete with. This is where automation should take a backseat.
Sales conversations are best had by reps, not robots, because they allow salespeople to pick up on subtle cues that can influence the direction of the conversation and, ultimately, sales performance.
For example, a salesperson might pick up on wavering voices, changes in tone of voice, long pauses, frustrated sighs and other cues that are difficult to write into code with accuracy. Keep your sales conversations personal.
Product demos can take a huge chunk of time out of your sales reps’ day. They’re also often repetitive. Therefore, it might be a tempting sales activity to automate (e.g. by sending a pre-recorded video demo).
When calling a company to make a complaint or to resolve an issue, a robotic voice on the other end of the line can be frustrating.
Although people are usually happy to solve most problems with the help of technology (i.e. Googling solutions, using the FAQs presented by a chatbot or following an online guide), this changes when the need is beyond a general inquiry.
When there is no clear answer, customers want a human to help them solve the problem.
Newer companies with a unique product will especially want to provide as much support as possible. Avoid obstacles that prevent new customers from finding out about your product or prevent existing customers from using it.
Additionally, in this day and age, customer support is a battleground. According to a 2018 study, 68% of consumers will forego lower pricing if they trust that they’ll be better supported by another company.
Investing in human customer support is a competitive feature in today’s digital market. No matter what type of business you run, it pays to keep customers happy.
The best way to add automation to your business is to identify unskilled and repetitive tasks to automate and leave the rest to your skilled workers.
Any contingencies, such as changes and problems, are best handled by humans. Sales conversations are also best left to the pros, as they require a level of connection that machines aren’t capable of forging with prospects.
In other words, automation should be there to support your best workers, not replace them.
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