When (and When Not) to Automate Sales Tasks

Automate sales task

Automation can help businesses to optimize success and streamline workflows, but each individual brand needs to consider their own values and services to establish which tasks should be automated, and which shouldn’t. In this practical guide, we’ll try to make the decision a little easier for you.

The current state of sales automation

When the term ‘automation’ is dropped in studies, or even in general conversation, sales teams are usually in the line of fire. 

A lot of this can be traced back to a seminal 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 92% of insurance sales agents would be out of a job, along with 1.3% of sales managers. 

We can look back on this now with a sense of wry relief rather than fear. 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 forcing human staff members into new roles.

In spite of these developments, it doesn’t have to be so cut and dry as ‘automation replaces jobs’ or ‘automation does not replace jobs’.

By using automation strategically, you can enhance the efficiency of your already skilled workforce. Unskilled admin-related tasks can be automated to give your sales professionals more time to focus on closing deals, obtaining leads and growing your business. 

The three tasks you should automate

Automation can give your sales reps more time to focus on what matters. Here are three tasks you can automate to free up some of those non-selling hours.

1. Scheduling Meetings

Trying 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.

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 tracking their pipeline. Some will use post-it notes, others will use a CRM tool. It can be a struggle to keep your post-it notes in order, or your CRM updated, which could result in you missing crucial touchpoints and being unable to forecast future sales. 

Automating your pipeline can alleviate these problems by giving you total visibility and clarity when you need it. By using software like Pipedrive, you will 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.

Automating your sales pipeline

Pipedrive’s AI Sales Assistant automates the process further, helping you make those important next-step decisions.

By analyzing your past performance, the feature brings risks to your attention and suggests new ways to boost your results.

AI Sales Assistant is a feed accessible from your Pipedrive interface.

3. Taking Notes

Did you know that one in four sales reps still rely on pen and paper to keep track of their work?

Note-taking is an essential part of any sales rep’s role. It helps reps build better relationships with leads, allowing them to progress towards a sale more quickly, and it gives managers and other members of the team insight into a colleague’s leads when they need to cover for them. 

However, notes, especially handwritten ones, can be difficult to interpret. It’s also incredibly time-consuming to scribble down call notes after every single conversation.

Automation can save reps a lot of time and ensure that all call notes are kept in the same place, giving managers more insight into sales progress. With Pipedrive’s Call Tracker feature, you can record conversations, take notes and track metrics from one interface to simplify the process.

Find out what sales automation tools the experts can’t live without in our article.

The three tasks you should not automate

Automation can help a lot, but it can’t do everything. Customers still appreciate a human touch when it comes to certain exchanges, and thanks to automation you can free up your sales reps to spend more time on those tasks.

1. Having sales conversations

Talking to people is what sales reps do best, so why would you ever want to automate that? Sure, a chatbot or IVR (Interactive voice response) can almost do the same job as a sales rep for less money (in the long run), but not to the same satisfaction level. 

Chatbots and emails can only take customers so far in regard to your sales pipeline. According to a Google study, 61% of mobile users call a business when they’re in the purchase phase of the buying cycle, and 57% of those cite the main reason as “because I want to talk to a real person.” 

People simply feel better when they talk to a human representative, and it’s unclear if any level of AI will be able to change that—although Google have developed a new chatbot that could impact sales call automation soon.

2. Giving demos

Product demos can take a huge chunk of time out of your sales reps’ day. It can also feel like a repetitive task, so you might be considering automating it. 

However, it’s also one of the most crucial parts of your pipeline. Demos are often the key moment where a prospect decides if your product or software is right for them or not—and can also help strengthen your relationships with prospects.

If you automate your demos, you risk missing opportunities to answer any questions your prospects might have. You may even leave them feeling like your business doesn’t care that much about their customers if you don’t give them the attention of a human sales rep. 

3. Resolving issues

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 infuriating. 

Humans are emotional creatures; we want to convey our feelings and we want to receive a sympathetic response.

Although people are usually happy to solve most problems with the help of technology (i.e. searching for solutions to a problem or following an online guide), this changes when the information becomes ambiguous. 

When there is no clear answer, customers want a human to help them solve the problem. And, with almost 90% of companies saying that they compete on the basis of customer experience alone, it’s important to give customers what they want. 

Automating your business the right way

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 facilitate your best workers, not replace them. With the insight gathered in this article, we hope you can confidently determine the tasks that should be automated in your workflow, and those that should not.