Sales Automation: Here’s Everything You Need to Know Before Implementing It

Sales reps only spend 35% of their time on selling-related activities.

The rest of it is likely occupied by repetitive and unproductive tasks, like data entry, searching for information across applications, etc.

You can prevent your sales team from performing these time-intensive and less fruitful activities by using sales automation. In the process, you’ll be rewarded with a shorter sales cycle, a higher close rate, and better all-around experiences for your prospects, customers, and employees.

So how, exactly, can you perform sales automation? And what are all the benefits you can expect to gain from leveraging it?

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the answers to these questions, but first, let’s review what it means. 

Table of contents:
1. What it is
2. Its use cases
3. Why it’s important
4. How to implement it

What is Sales Automation?

Sales automation (also known as sales process automation) is the use of automation to streamline end-to-end sales processes. These processes include any part of the sales journey, from attracting prospects to upselling and cross-selling existing customers.

If you’ve read about sales automation before, you might have noticed that this definition is  significantly different. In the past, it was either one of two things: A specific type of software or tool (like Reply.io or HubSpot) that can automate individual sales tasks, or the automation of simple, ad-hoc activities.

Our definition broadens the scope and impact that sales automation can have, allowing you to fundamentally transform how your sales team operates day-to-day. The examples highlighted in  the section that follows show you exactly how.

Sales Automation Examples

We can devote a separate guide exclusively to the different ways you can apply sales automations. For the sake of brevity, we’ve condensed our list down to the top 7 use cases:

1. Intelligent Prospecting

As your sales team pursues leads, they’ll likely consider a host of factors when determining which to prioritize. 

They can move beyond background-type descriptors (like organization or role) and pursue leads more successfully by taking intent data into account. In other words, they can look at the specific activities that leads perform, and using sales automation, respond to them promptly. 

For example, say a lead visits your page in the software review site G2, and then goes on to look at the pricing page on your site. Clearly, this lead is evaluating you carefully and is seriously considering your product or service. 

You can share this buyer intent data with the appropriate sales rep instantly with a bot that can communicate between your chat platform (e.g. Slack) and the rest of your apps. The bot can also enrich the lead’s information using a platform like Clearbit, and by taking info that already exists in your other apps, like Salesforce

The bot’s chat messages can look like the following:

A Slack message that shows all kinds of information on an inbound lead.

2. Account-Based Selling

If your team follows an account-based selling model, you’ll need to keep your pulse on signals that reveal when a target account is open to sales outreach. 

Note: These signals can include anything from a new executive being hired to a competitor contract that’s close to expiring. 

Similar to the previous sales automation example, if the conditions for this signal are met, you can use a bot to notify the appropriate sales rep via chat, and move quickly in reaching out to that target account.

3. Lead Routing

This involves sharing inbound leads to sales reps using a chat platform. 

To perform lead routing effectively, you’ll need to consider the following:

  • Which reps have the bandwidth to pursue the lead?
  • Which reps have the expertise and background to engage the lead successfully?
  • What information can help the rep better prioritize and respond to the lead?

Once you have a handle on the answers to these questions and can implement them as part of your lead routing workflow, your reps can engage with leads more effectively.

Here’s what lead routing can look like with Lead Bot:

4. Sales Enablement 

Your reps might not have the time or the ability to identify the most persuasive content for a given lead. You can support them by proactively recommending the collateral they should share.

One way to implement this sales automation example is by using tags in a platform like Gong. For example, when Gong tags a competitor in a deal, the rep who’s managing it can automatically receive content (via chat) that’s focused on differentiating the organization from that competitor.

5. Order to Cash 

A slow, error-prone order to cash process is likely to leave everyone frustrated.

Using sales automation, you can fast-track it end-to-end. This simply involves building workflows where:

  • Whenever a product or service is added into the CRM, it’s automatically added in your ERP (e.g. NetSuite)
  • When an opportunity gets marked as closed won, the ERP generates a sales order
  • Once the sales order is completed, the CRM automatically adds it to the appropriate opportunity page 

Throughout each of these steps, the chat platform can notify the appropriate stakeholders, allowing everyone to know where things stand at any point in time.

6. Quote Approvals

Getting a quote signed off by higher ups quickly can make all the difference in closing a sale—or losing it.

You can expedite the approval process by incorporating a workflow automation. Here’s how it can work:

The sales rep or a customer success manager (CSM) submits the quote in your CRM. If the quote meets standard terms used by the organization, it’s automatically approved. If it doesn’t (e.g. the discount exceeds the standard threshold) their manager gets notified via chat. There, the manager can decide whether to approve or reject the quote, and the rep or CSM can then get alerted of the decision via chat.

7. Threshold-Based Report-Alerting

As your reps busy themselves with their day-to-day tasks, they might miss important information that can help them prioritize their work more effectively.

For example, if the value of a rep’s pipeline falls below a level that makes it near impossible to  meet their quota, and they aren’t made aware, they might not take the appropriate steps to build up their pipeline, quickly.

That’s where threshold-based report-alerting can help. Using it, you can instantly send reps and their colleagues, like their manager, a message through a chat platform that flags them about a key metric that’s dropped. The message itself can include tips for improving that metric, but the alert on its own is typically enough to spring the rep to action.

Keeghan Lavin, a RevOps Manager at Workato, offers additional insight on why this automation is so valuable:

“The ability to help reps stay on top of their performance by sharing personalized, real-time data not only motivates them to work harder but also smarter. “

We might have saved the best automation for last. Why? When we asked 44 executives in the technology space which sales automations they use, we found that threshold-based report alerting was (by a good margin) most popular: 

A list of the most popular sales automations.

Why is Sales Automation Important?

Given all of its applications, sales process automation offers a myriad of benefits:

It saves your team time

Remember when we mentioned that your sales reps are only allocating 35% of their time towards selling activities? With all the time they’re now able to save using sales automation, they can reallocate more of their effort towards cold-calling prospects, sending personalized emails, showing demos, negotiating deals, etc. This all but guarantees that they’ll sell more and be more content in their day-to-day job.

It frees up your team’s headspace

Instead of worrying about things like whether they recorded an activity incorrectly in their CRM or if a lead is sales-ready, your colleagues can think about their accounts more strategically. For example, they can brainstorm ways to engage a champion at a target account, or they can think through how to structure a proof of concept that’s more enticing for a prospect.

It gives your team a competitive advantage 

According to our very own lead response study, B2B organizations take hours to respond to inbound leads. For example, we found that they took 11 hours and 54 minutes, on average, just to send a personalized email!

A pie chart that breaks down how long it took companies to respond to an inbound lead.

As we reviewed in our lead routing use case, you can use sales process automation to fast-track your team’s response time, and take it from hours to minutes. This gives your organization the competitive advantage it needs, as it allows your reps to contact leads with exponentially greater success than your rivals. Case in point: According to the Harvard Business Review, your ability to contact inbound leads successfully falls 10X if you fail to reach out within 5 minutes. 

It streamlines the closing process

Once your team has gone through the hard work of negotiating a deal, the last thing they need is a strenuous, lengthy process in closing it. It can jeopardize the deal, harm your organization’s reputation in the eyes of the prospect, and, at the very least, provide an unpleasant experience for the rep or CSM.

Using sales automation, you can fast-track the entire closing process—from creating the contract to sending the first invoice.

3 Steps for Automating Your Sales Process

Now that you know what sales automation is, all of the ways you can use it, and why it’s important, you’re ready to start implementing it.

Here’s a general framework you can follow:

1. Identify manual tasks within regularly performed activities

Take a look at all the day-to-day work your team performs, such as cold-calling or emailing leads. Within those activities, ask yourself: Is there anything that can be automated? Chances are, you’ll find several tasks that can be. 

Something as simple as showing a demo can be supported by a variety of automations:

  • The call recording can automatically get added to the account’s page in your CRM
  • The call can instantly get transcribed, with the transcription then being shared with the appropriate employees
  • If, after the demo, the prospect isn’t ready to move forward, the rep can put them in a nurture sequence with the click of a button

Once you’ve mapped out the tasks that can be automated, you’ll need to prioritize them based on business needs.

Alternative idea: Work backwards from your KPIs

Do you want your automations to shorten your sales cycle? Increase your close rate? Improve your reps’ day-to-day experiences? The KPIs you ultimately land on can help you better determine the workflows you prioritize building.

As an example, if close rate is a priority, you should focus on automating a process like quote approvals first.

2. Connect the relevant systems and build out your workflows

Once you know which workflows you want to automate, you can kick start the process by connecting all of the necessary applications in an enterprise iPaaS.

For order to cash, for instance, this can include platforms like Docusign, Salesforce, NetSuite, Gmail, and QuickBase

You can then set up a trigger (a business event) in the enterprise iPaaS along with a corresponding set of actions (or real-time business outcomes). 

To continue with our order to cash example, the trigger can be when you mark a deal as “Closed Won” in the CRM, while the actions can include notifying the appropriate stakeholders about the status change via email and/or chat, adding the signed contract to the account’s CRM page, and creating an invoice in your ERP.

3. Measure the impact your automations have, and make adjustments as needed

Once your automations are live for a few months, you can begin to measure their performance against the KPIs they aim to address. If an aim was to shorten the sales cycle, for instance, you can assess how much shorter (or longer) the cycle is now versus before the automation’s implementation. 

Being able to suss out whether an automation is working, and why it is or isn’t, can go a long way in helping you optimize it or change course altogether.

Ready to start building your own sales automation? Learn how Workato, an enterprise automation platform, can help transform your sales workflows end-to-end by scheduling a demo with one of our automation experts!

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