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The best sales automation tools and software: Processes used by sales experts

sales automation

We look at some of the new artificial intelligence that could be making an impact in your sales team soon, including some innovative cold calling technology, and find out whether sales automation will help salespeople, or replace them. Plus, sales experts share which automation tools they can’t live without.

Science fiction has become fact

In 1964, renowned science fiction author Isaac Asimov published an essay predicting what our world would look like in 50 years. His visions included household appliances powered by “long-lived batteries running on radioisotopes” and “road-building factories in the tropics.” Looking back, many of his predictions seem a little far-fetched...

Others, however, are eerily accurate. Asimov painted a picture of a world in which “few routine jobs cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being.”

Fast forward half a century, and automation is no longer the stuff of science fiction; it’s an undeniable reality. The only real debate is the extent to which it’ll change the modern workforce, and whether that change will be for better or for worse.

Is Tech Out to Get Me?

Ryan Stewman, CEO of Hardcore Closer and Founder of Clyxo, believes technology is poised to take over the industry and render salespeople redundant. According to an article he published in 2018, the era of the salesperson is coming to an end:

If you work in sales, now is the time to step your game up in a major way. Companies are investing in technology to replace salespeople.

Mark Paul of the Roosevelt Institute, however, argues the opposite in his own article on the subject:

Automation, on net, has provided far more jobs than it has destroyed. To be sure, technological change has destroyed jobs and occupations, but it has also created far more new jobs.

As sales technology and challenges evolve over time, in line with Mark Paul’s view on the subject, two things have become abundantly clear:

  1. Sales automation is essential for scalable growth in business
  2. Sales automation tools are designed to streamline a salesperson’s activities rather than replace the sales rep

The Current State of the Sales Industry

In order to understand the opportunities sales automation presents, we first have to understand the problems faced by sales teams today.

In a recent study commissioned by Pipedrive and conducted by YouGov, it was found that UK businesses lose, on average, almost £15,000 in sales each month due to ‘disorganized or inaccurate’ sales activities.

The research also showed that 1 in 4 sales professionals still rely on pen and paper to keep track of their work. What’s more, only 1 in 3 expressed “real concern” over time efficiency and, most tellingly, 60% recognized that the product or service they currently sell could be sold by a machine.

Reading between the lines of these statistics, the takeaway seems to be that, for all the opportunities presented by technology, sales departments are systematically underperforming due to under-utilization.

Far from being made obsolete by the emergence of automation, their performance is being held back by a failure to implement the technology to its full effect.

Artificial Intelligence and Cold Calling

So, let’s pick an example of easily automated busy work: scheduling appointments.

One Pipedrive survey found that 63% of our customers need to schedule a meeting at least once a day, while 44% are having to schedule meetings two to five times a day. The survey also found that 34% consider scheduling rather or very complicated, citing constant back and forth communication one of the key frustrations.

With a scheduling tool, you could automate the whole sales process, so that your calendars are synced, checked out and a suitable time is chosen for both of you.

So, you can schedule a meeting easily enough, but what about automating an actual sales conversation?

When you imagine having a chat with some form of artificial intelligence, you probably think of a clunky, awkward exchange that is punctuated by tinny robotic tones and regular misunderstandings.

Google changed the game on this assumption in 2018 with the release of the Google Duplex AI.

This video shows the AI Assistant holding a full conversation with two humans, first booking a salon appointment, and then enquiring about a table at a restaurant. Not only is the assistant able to react to the ebb and flow of the call, it does it so well that the person doesn’t even suspect that they’re speaking to a robot.

As of this year, you can use AI technology to call and speak to cold leads, arrange follow-up appointments, add those appointments to the calendars of your salespeople, and document the conversation with increasingly sophisticated text-to-speech recognition.

Many sales people will still want the human touch, however, when calling prospects. Sales automation tools can help with this too, to help target and organize leads. With the right tools, you can create a streamlined sales automation CRM.

There are even AI tools that can help you make key decisions around your sales process. Pipedrive’s AI Sales Assistant uses your past performance to suggest where to improve and what to focus on next, helping you to boost results. Customers can access the feed on their Pipedrive app.

“Sales acceleration platforms that integrate with your CRM and automate processes like logging emails, calls and meetings are huge time savers. Power dialing and call center solutions can increase call connection rates by as much as 800%,” observes Jeb Blount, CEO at Sales Gravy and Author of Fanatical Prospecting.

Automation Isn’t Always the Answer

As advanced as automation tools have become, they aren’t always the most appropriate solution.

Complex problems and solutions are not wiped out by technology, explained Timo Rein, Pipedrive co-founder and CEO, at a recent event. Work remains for people in sales who can understand the specific complex problems of a prospect and communicate the value offered by their solution.

Automation is best utilized when it frees salespeople up to develop and manage relationships by handling the other tasks that would take up their time otherwise. The best salespeople are the best communicators, and the more time they can spend using this competitive advantage, the better you’ll understand your customer and drive more recurring revenue.

As good communication is so important in sales, it’s vital that salespeople focus on honing their soft skills—especially as this is what sets them apart from technology.

“Salespeople sometimes feel like a living billboard. But you need to understand that you have an ability to create a serious connection and make a real genuine difference for your customer. You need to learn that and own this opportunity.” says Pipedrive CEO and Founder Timo Rein.

Let’s go back to cold calling for an example. Rather than use robocallers, your business is more likely to benefit from salespeople taking the time to talk to, get to know and build rapport with your leads.

However, as mentioned, this takes time. So, how do you use automations to save time? You find a tool that simplifies everything you need to do around the call to make it a success.

Pipedrive’s Call Tracking feature, for example, automatically links calls to Pipedrive deals, records conversations, takes notes and tracks metrics so you can access the information in one place. All you need to focus on is making the call and perfecting your spiel—potentially with a cold call template. Call Tracking is available to Professional and Enterprise users.

Sales Automation Chatbot

Taking the Human Advantage Into Account

Computers cannot, and will not, be able to substitute the personal connection great salespeople forge with their customers. In fact, you have to find the balance between humans and bots in your sales process to perfect your sales process automation.

In the words of TED speaker and futurist Jacob Morgan:

“After traveling all over the country and meeting a ton of people from all sorts of industries and backgrounds I am convinced that our main role as humans is to be human. There are no machines or robots that have our ability to connect, empathize, communicate, and sympathize. We also have the ability to be vulnerable. Technology just cannot replace us in these aspects.”

The best sales professionals invariably have a range of skills and attributes that go way beyond what modern technology offers. Relationship building, personal charisma and communication skills are only the tip of the iceberg.

One of the biggest problems faced by sales directors is that, right now, those people don’t have enough time to demonstrate those skills. Instead they’re invested in activities that don’t add to the business’ bottom line.

When executed correctly, sales automation systems bridge gaps in the sales process, putting your best salespeople in a position to effectively use those ‘unprogrammable’ skills on the regular.

As the global marketplace becomes more competitive, businesses who are serious about growth simply can’t afford to turn a blind eye to hours spent on tasks that could be automated.

Automation is critical, but quality communication is something the best salespeople offer that technology can’t match. This guide is full of templates that will support salespeople and improve their communication.

Crush Your Manual Admin With This Sales Automation Guide

Learn how to take advantage of new sales automation tech so you can spend more time selling

The sales automation tools industry experts can’t live without

To help ease you into the era of sales automation, we rounded up 20 sales industry experts and asked them about their favorite sales automation tactics. Below are plenty of fast, effective and inexpensive ways to integrate sales automation into your business right now.

Automation tools are easy to implement and free up hours wasted on repetitive tasks that don’t get you closer to a sale. Timing is everything in sales, and if your team is manually entering data while the competition is making calls and closing deals then the numbers will reflect it.

That being said, change doesn’t have to be all-encompassing and instantaneous. By gradually automating different elements of your sales process you’ll see a noticeable difference.

Here’s how 20 sales experts have taken advantage of sales automation technology, and how you can too.

Sean McPheat

CEO of the multi-award winning MTD Sales Training.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“We automate all of our sales reporting. We schedule specific reports to be run on a weekly and monthly basis and the system automatically emails the salesperson.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“Salespeople can get distracted, so to come in with the report/action in your inbox removes a lot of manual processing of reports and working out who and how to contact. It shaves hours off each week.”

Is there a particular industry/business type/market your tactic is best suited for?

“Every industry!”

Jeb Blount

CEO at Sales Gravy and Author of “Fanatical Prospecting”.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“We focus on automation solutions that help give reps more time for selling. Tools for prospecting and building outreach lists have vastly improved over the last few years, enabling account-based selling and decreasing the amount of time spent prospecting.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“We work within a client’s existing tech stack (and sometimes make suggestions to change platforms) to identify data silos, workflow inefficiencies—such as double entry and manual data logging—and other inefficiencies that can be automated.

“Sales acceleration platforms that integrate with your CRM and automate processes like logging emails, calls and meetings are huge time savers. Power dialing and call center solutions can increase call connection rates by as much as 800%, intelligently prioritize the right person to call at the right time and cut call back time on inbound inquiries to mere minutes.”

Is there a particular industry/business type/market your tactic is best suited for?

“As all companies are making the move to the cloud and embracing automation technologies these are applicable across virtually any organization with a sales team. However, we do find that technology companies are usually most interested in and earliest to adopt automation solutions for their sales team.”

Phil Jones

Bestselling Author of “Exactly What To Say.”

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“We have experimented with varying degrees of automation and currently limit automation to areas that support human connection and help set expectations for manual intervention.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“The systems we use, like Zapier and JotForm, have perfect memories and that allows me and the team to focus on the human parts of our customer experience and focus on client needs.

“The tools we use save us hundreds of hours every week, and also continue to deliver growth in value over time. Having worked with many of these tools for almost a decade, I have archived history that allows for excellent management information and also templated examples galore that can be repurposed and duplicated as required.”

Is there a particular industry/business type/market your tactic is best suited for?

“When there is long term value in clients in a B2B setting, having the ability to recall and remember conversations accurately and promptly can be a key differentiator.”

Sujan Patel

Co-founder of Mailshake and Voila Norbert.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“I use automation to assist my sales team. I use a combo of Pipedrive, Zoom, Zapier and mailshake to talk to and nurture prospects and move them down the sales funnel.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“Our sales cycle takes three to six months and requires three to four phone meetings and dozens of email exchanges. We create a few drip emails to qualify the lead and move it from marketing qualified leads (when a lead comes in) to sales qualified leads (they meet the criteria to be a client). This saves our sales peoples dozens of hours a week.”

Viktoria Ossipova

Customer Success Team Lead, Pipedrive.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“As there is in any department, in Sales there’s a number of annoying routine activities every organization would want to automate. Amongst them I find the process of scheduling calls and meetings with clients the most painful and time-consuming, so for me it’s the top priority for automation.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“Having this process automated eliminates constant back-and-forth, which saves tons of time, enhances the client experience and, as a result, speeds up sales.”

Is there a particular industry/business type/market your tactic is best suited for?

“My tactic is suited for any business, any industry. Businesses with high volumes will especially appreciate it.”

Eddie Kane

Sales Manager at Tadi Brothers.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“We automate incoming sales calls. The number populates and our sales team adds a name and brief description of what they are looking for. We then input the item number so we can easily pull it back up. Finally, the system automatically reminds our sales team to call the customer back at a later date per their request.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“It saves a lot of time and energy by having a form that autofills info such as a phone number and allows easy to fill slots with other info. It also creates a reminder to follow up, which leads to sales.”

Garrett Genest

Marketing Manager at Kudos.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“We've automated everything up until the demo. So when a lead comes in, the emails that go out to that lead from sales are entirely automated.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“In a nutshell, our sales team now only needs to reply to emails and perform demos, spending much less time mucking around trying to reach out or get meetings booked.”

Is there a particular industry/business type/market your tactic is best suited for?

“I think that this type of sales automation works best in industries where you still have a lot of potential for discovering and acquiring new customers. I think a lot of SaaS companies fit within this definition which makes them a natural fit for partial or total sales automation.”

drone sales automation

Darren Schreher

Digital Manager and Into the AM and iHeartRaves.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“As an e-commerce company, we found that the online return process was not only a challenge but was critical to the future success of our brand. Our return process used to be very costly with a lot of manual labor, but since changing over to a more automated process it has increased our profits and provided a much better return process for our customers.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“Our recently upgraded software can now automatically send a customer a return label for them to send products directly back to us. This cuts down lots of friction by not requiring the customer to provide their own shipping labels. The software also helps us track exactly which stage the return is in and clearly communicate the status to the customer so they know what's going on at all times.”

Kimberly Spencer

Founder of Crown Yourself.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“Automation is key to creating a virtual business. We use Ontraport for our customer management, and we use Hootsuite and Later to automate 80% of our social media. This allows us to batch schedule AND have a life.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“As a high-performance coach, I recommend blocking the time. So instead of having to remember, forgetting, remembering, and then losing track of the thing you were doing, you can carve out an hour or two a week to write your content, and then schedule it. So you can think about how you’re going to serve your customers better, and create more awesome products, rather than trying to stay on top of everything.”

Cristian Rennella

VP of Sales and Co-Founder of oMelhorTrato.com.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“After nine years of working with an internal sales team to answer our client's questions through live chat, it was not until five months ago that we started developing our own AI sales chatbot to automate the process as much as possible.

“Thanks to Artificial Intelligence through Deep Learning with Google's TensorFlow platform, we were able to automate 56.9% of queries! The user receives their response in seconds and our sales team only has to answer those questions that were never consulted before. And also, this helps the whole team because we don’t have to be answering the same questions again and again and again. It's excellent!”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“The results have been amazing. For example, our B2B sales increased thanks to this AI chatbot by 24.4%! (yes, amazing!) This is equal to $3.7M in additional revenue a year (the best sales strategy in the last 5 years—spectacular!)”

Is there a particular industry/business type/market your tactic is best suited for?

“My personal prediction is that AI will create the next revolution in the whole world of businesses starting with repetitive and simple tasks, but saving a lot of time!”

Kim Smith

Content Marketing Manager at GoodFirms.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“I automate documentation by involving all the individuals at once to prepare a customized template, so that its created with the knowledge and attention of all sales wizards. The common errors suggested are worked upon and, as a result, this helps create a branded document with the same format to be followed by the whole sales team.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“It helps to create reliably organized, brand-marked, error-free archives, utilizing the new data, and pre-checked lawful clauses without fail. It totally expels the requirement for manual work. Moreover, the entire thing is web-based, so no need to download the software.”

Is there a particular industry/business type/market your tactic is best suited for?

“Insurance, education, banking and travel ticketing."

Thomas B. McVey

CEO at rethink.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“Lots of stuff! Email drafts, dialing leads, lead prioritization, call logging, list building and more.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“One of our SDRs once dialed all his leads manually. Talk about carpal tunnel syndrome! With the right tools, you can dial leads directly from your CRM with one click. According to the Bridge Group, technology that automates dialing can help reps dial 40% more each day. Plus, by using semi-personalized templates, we’ve been able to cut email time in half!”

Oz Chowdhury

Project Marketing Manager at PowerPhrase.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“Instead of manually contacting people, we create a list and send emails together at once, using a program called Auto Klose. The software allows for personal customization and automatically fills in the company name, person's name and other information regarding their company.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“I used to send emails manually and it has saved me hours and hours of my time! Now I can gather a list of people and companies and send it together in one go.”

Ely Delaney

Co-Founder and Lead Trainer at YourMarketingUniversity.com.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“One of the easiest processes to automate is lead qualification. For me and my clients, we put systems in place to help qualify leads by offering them training webinars, guides and even surveys. Another big process that is huge for our clients to automate if booking appointments.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“For my own business, these automated systems are my 24/7/365 employees. Once someone is in the system, it just works: Reminders are sent, content is delivered. Automating the booking process literally saves me two to three hours a week.”

Is there a particular industry/business type/market your tactic is best suited for?

“Small businesses in the coaching/consulting industry do the best with this type of system that I see all the time.”

Sean Dudayev

Business Growth Expert at Frootful Marketing.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“The process that is a must for me to automate is email follow-ups. Salespeople don't have time to draft email campaigns, create follow up systems and track every follow up on a calendar. I make sure that all workflows are systemized for them based on data. Once a lead enters a certain stage of qualification, it will be assigned its own workflow automatically, particular to that stage, with automated email drip campaigns, and automatic reminders for salespeople when it's time to call again, with emails and notes logged on the record.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“This is helpful because it helps the salespeople focus on bringing in new business and creates a fail-proof system for them to work in. Any business that I helped to set up an automated sales process has experienced a 10% to 20% increase in the lead-to-close ratio. It affects the bottom line drastically.”

Is there a particular industry/business type/market your tactic is best suited for?

“If you ask me, sales is detrimental to any industry, so if you have salespeople, you need to automate your follow up process.”

Nate Masterson

CMO of Maple Holistics.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“At our company, we used marketing automation to send mass emails which contained several different offers and discount codes. Every 10% of our audience received a different discount offer which was valid on one product for one day only.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“We measured which discount offer was the most popular and made it available for a full week to all of our customers. We even emailed our customers the results so that they could see for themselves! We received a ton of positive feedback on our little discount competition.”

Jay Perkins

Co-Founder at Kettlebell Kings.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“As both a sales rep and a business owner, all of our email is automated. It all fires based on specific triggers taken by prospects and customers. Whereas the old style would be checking in with a prospect or customer at random, I automate that by using software tools to take action for me based on pre-set trigger actions taken by a prospect or customer.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“This helps save time and helps make the framework for any conversation more tailored to the action that I know has occurred. It allows me to be prepared for that conversation by the experience I have of hundreds of other people who have taken that same action before. This saves tons of time as instead of making random calls I have meaningful conversations. Based on these triggers, you can make every conversation meaningful because you know the action that has been taken, rather than blindly checking in on prospects all day. This allows more time to be spent prospecting, marketing and trying to reach new audiences.”

Is there a particular industry/business type/market your tactic is best suited for?

“I think this tactic works in any SaaS sales role as well as e-commerce sites.”

email sales automation

Samantha Stone Avneri

Marketing Director at Regpacks.com

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“The best thing we do is anytime a lead is created, an email automatically goes out saying ‘hello’ and letting them know the next step in the process, usually setting up a demo, and a little bit more about our company and what we do.

“We also have several email templates that go out based on a person’s status as they move through the sales process, including follow up emails and more.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“Sales tends to be a ‘manual’ job, in that you have to evaluate the quality of a lead, do some background on their company or what they do, and tailor an approach you think will work best. So by cutting out the menial tasks—like emails going out at the right time and scheduling of calls (using our software, we can present calendar units to pick a time for a call that works best)—you save time and can invest more in research and personal connection.”

Tim Brown

Owner of hookagency.com.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“The biggest aspect of our sales process I automate is the sharing of marketing strategies and tips that facilitate the connection between marketing and sales.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“Whether it be A/B testing Facebook ads, or personal favorite marketing blogs, continuing to keep a lead warm over the first couple weeks with some follow-ups has been extremely nice to automate. It allows us to write the perfect responses once, rather than constantly re-writing the same ideas to send over. It’s also easy to forget follow-up, so automation is essential.”

David Rolf

Sales & Marketing Manager at Cymphony.

What sales process(es) do you automate?

“The number one Sales process that I automate for our business is prospect call backs from web form inquiries.”

Why’s it so helpful? How much time/cost does it save?

“The integration took less than 15 minutes to setup and the results have been outstanding. Our sales team are now converting 33% of inbound inquiries to new business, compared to 21% previously.”

Is there a particular industry/business type/market your tactic is best suited for?

“I’d recommend automating the prospect phone back process to any business in a competitive industry, particularly where time is of the essence.”

It’s Your Turn to Step Up Your Sales Process

The tools sales teams use vary greatly depending on industry, company size and the day-to-day tasks included their unique sales process. There’s no one-size-fits-all automation tactic.

While browsing through the expert sales automation tips above, you probably noticed a few that could help and others that don’t quite fit in your daily grind. If you’re still uncertain about implementing automation tools in your sales process don’t worry, you’re not alone!

Our in-depth guide to strategic sales process automation could help your sales team and your business achieve scalable growth.

Happy Closing!

Crush Your Manual Admin With This Sales Automation Guide

Learn how to take advantage of new sales automation tech so you can spend more time selling

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