Technology can give companies a competitive edge. For example, consider how the web has changed the way we do business. Companies offering online services are outpacing their competitors, and those companies developing their own smartphone apps gain a different technology advantage as the world is going mobile. Technology working behind the scenes is just as important as customer-facing applications, which is why embracing sales automation should be a priority for any organization.
Sales automation is just what it sounds like—automating the sales process. By computerizing routine business tasks such as order processing, contact management, order tracking, customer management, and sales tracking, sales professionals can become more efficient. Integrating sales automation tools with other business processes makes the entire organization more efficient and improves customer service. For example, integrating the customer relationship management software (CRM) with shipping and accounting will simplify order processing and streamline transactions from order to delivery.
Sales automation tools should simplify routine tasks, giving sales professionals access to the data they need while facilitating order processing and collaboration. The objective is to harness technology to make the sales rep’s job easier. If the sales automation tools become too complex or time-consuming to use, their value is diminished since the technology actually detracts from the primary objective: freeing time for the sales rep to do what he or she does best—selling!
Where Sales Automation Pays Off
There are a myriad of sales automation tools available, each contributing to different aspects of the sale process. These are five areas where sales automation tools are extremely useful:
- Reporting—Keeping up with sales prospects and follow-up calls is easier with automated reminders. Reporting tools can set reminders for important tasks and keep your team informed about progress on different projects.
- Lead distribution—How many times do leads arrive, only to sit in a database until they are assigned? Automating lead distribution shortens response time and increases sales.
- Lead prioritization—Part of successful selling is knowing when a prospect is ready to buy. Using sales automation tools and analytics, you can create an automated lead scoring system that makes it easier to identify which prospects to contact first.
- Reducing administrative time—Every two hours of selling often requires another hour to catch up with paperwork. With the right CRM tools, many administrative tasks can be automated so creating customer records, logging calls, setting follow-ups, and other tasks become automatic.
- Automating your calendar—Scheduling is always a challenge. With shared calendaring tools, you can set meetings within the company and with customers, identifying available times and resources.
Depending on your organizations, there are any number of tasks and functions that will benefit from technology.
Approaches to Sales Automation
There are various ways to deploy the tools needed to automate sales processes.
You can host your own enterprise sales tools using your own servers, which offers several advantages to this hosting your own sales automation tools. Some organizations need to address regulatory concerns such as HIPAA, so enterprises that maintain their own software running on their own servers will provide a greater degree of control over security. Hosting your own sales automation tools also enables customization, and the ability to integrate sales data and processes for different departments.
Cloud-based sales automation services are gaining in popularity because of their cost and versatility. Using software-as-a-service solutions with online data repositories gives sales reps ready access to customer data from any location at any time. Most of these cloud sales automation tools can be customized and integrated into other software applications hosted in the cloud or on local servers.
Mobile computing has become more important than ever, which is why there are more sales automation apps than ever. The SalesForce AppExchange, for example, features hundreds of productivity tools developed for handheld devices. Software companies are also creating mobile versions of their software to interface with hosted sales automation tools, so that sales reps can access and enter data from mobile devices.
Getting the Reps to Adopt Sales Automation
No matter how you approach sales automation, the tools only have value if they are used. According to CMO Council, lost productivity and poorly managed leads cost at least $1 trillion every year, most commonly due to the lack of adoption from salespeople. To get sales reps to embrace new sales automation tools, those tools have to be relatively easy to use and, more importantly, they need to show real value.
Sales automation tools should empower your sales team. All salespeople have come to rely on email, laptops, tablets, and smartphones to do their jobs, and truly successful sales reps use social media and other technologies to connect with customers and prospects. According to BiznessAPPS, sales reps who engage in social selling are 50 percent more likely to meet or exceed sales quotas. The same is true of sales automation tools. Show the reps how they will increase productivity, save time, reduce paperwork, or increase revenue and they will embrace those tools. The challenge lies in finding the right sales automation tools to meet your needs.
There are resources available that can help you automate your sales processes. MarketStar’s Sales-as-a-Service® solution, for example, offers sales automation support and training as part of the full solution of outsourcing an inside sales team. Sales automation is a vast, complex arena with thousands of vendors. With the right guidance, you can arm your sales team with the technological tools they need to reach the next level of sales performance.