Sales force automation

Sales Force Automation for Small Businesses – A Step by Step Guide

Imagine a typical work day of a sales person’s job. It involves hundreds of emails, dozens of phone calls, hours of data gathering on new leads, sending proposals/invoices, follow-ups. All of these are essential and there is no substitute.

The problem is the insane amount unproductive time spent on these activities, with manual data entry, looking up different tools and collating data.

According to studies, sales people spend less than half of their time actually selling.

The key to getting more sales is to give them more time to sell. This is precisely what sales force automation enables you to do.

Your business needs more sales. But your staff is working at full capacity. You don’t really want to bring on additional employees and spend the time and money training and onboarding them. The good news is, there’s a way to significantly improve your sales force’s productivity and efficiency without the need to hire more staff.

But first, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your sales function process driven?
  • Is your funnel conversion optimized?
  • Are you sales staff free from data entry and manual time-consuming tasks?

If you answered “no” or “it needs work” to any of these points, sales force automation could be exactly what you need.

What is Sales Force Automation?

Sales force automation is essentially a set of processes that optimize the output of your sales staff. This involves optimizing the funnel conversion at every stage and freeing up sales staff from time-consuming and often repetitive tasks.

Jobs such as lead generation, research, lead nurturing, email communication, invoicing, payment processing, upselling, can all be automated – saving potentially thousands of hours while adding to your bottom line.

How to Automate your Sales Function?

Getting started with sales force automation doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. By following a few simple steps, you’ll be able to create a process that helps both staff and customers get the information they need in order to make more informed, confident decisions. Here’s how to do it.

1. Map Out Your Sales Process

In order to get most out of sales force automation, you’ll first need to create a sales process. You need to have a clear understanding of things such as the customers’ buying behavior, various phases of the sales process, the time frame involved, people involved at each step in the funnel, and what needs to be communicated at each stage.

Whether it’s talking with a sales rep, or being put on a drip campaign for follow-up, or submitting a helpdesk ticket and getting a call from a rep to ensure satisfaction, knowing how a visitor becomes a lead, then a customer – and who/what systems they interact with is vital for creating an effective sales process.

Understanding the various phases will help you and your team to create a cohesive strategy and implement automation where it makes the most sense to do so.

For example, the message that worked at the customer acquisition stage won’t work for the customer retention stage. Having a well-planned, concerted set of messages for each step will dramatically improve the flow of your customers through each phase of the buying process.

2. Plan what you wish to automate

Once you have an understanding of the exact process, people and systems involved, you need to figure out what you want to automate.

Consult with your staff to determine which tasks are most cumbersome or time-consuming for them. Which tasks do they most commonly spend their time on and how it can be shortened without sacrificing customer service and satisfaction.

Once you have these points worked out, consider the many different ways they can be automated. There is no “one size fits all” solution to automation as the process, people, and tools involved are unique for each business.

Let’s look at an example of scenario:

Assume that one of the most time-consuming aspects of your marketing and sales process is to gather leads, qualify them and then present them to sales for proper lead nurturing and follow-up.

Doing this process manually can take a considerable amount of time, coordination between marketing and sales. With Salesforce automation, the time spent is dramatically shortened, the qualification process is fast and easy, and the customer feels their request or need is being heard and acted upon.

So the process you have identified for our example scenario will look like this:

Gather leads from website -> Qualify with automated emails -> Pass the qualified once to CRM and assign to sales reps to call.

3. Choose the Right Tools

Once you understand what you want to automate, the next step is to choose the software tools that will bring your idea to fruition. It can seem overwhelming to choose the right tools for a plethora of options. It’s important to keep in mind when deciding is that any product or service you choose should be based on the results you want out of the tool.

Before choosing the tools, ask yourself the following question when evaluating their usefulness:

a) Does it help reduce manual data entry and automate any part of the process you wish to automate?

For instance, if we look back at the automation example, you’ll need a tool that can handle the lead qualification part with automated emails. With that being the case, you’ll want to look for email marketing tools that allow for drip marketing or automation workflows. MailChimp is one such service that encompasses both of these features.
But even though Mailchimp has automation workflows, they are strictly for the scheduling and sending emails. They don’t work with other, third-party apps. Which brings us to our next question:

b) Does it integrate with surrounding apps for a seamless experience?

Your sales process will typically involve multiple software tools. While this is not desirable, it is unavoidable unless you wish to go for a hefty, expensive, all-in-one marketing and sales automation product. All of these tools have to be able to operate and communicate with each other in a way that makes sense for the goal you want to achieve. It is, therefore, ideal to choose tools that inter-operate the way you need.

4. Setup Automation

After you choose the tools, it’s time to set up the automation and communication between them.

Looking back at our earlier example, let’s say you chose Wufoo form designer for your web forms, MailChimp as your email marketing service, and Salesforce for your CRM. How do you get them to all communicate with each other and automate the lead follow-up process?

Wufoo needs to send the gathered lead information to MailChimp, which needs to initiate the automatic drip campaign. MailChimp then needs to automatically push good quality leads to Salesforce.

This requires you to carefully explore the integration options offered by these tools and set them up as per your need.

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5. Monitor and Fine-Tune

Setting up automation is not a “once and done” process, but rather a continuous refining technique – in much the same way as landing pages, split tests, and other conversion optimization strategies.

Once you have your overall automation process set up, it’s a good idea to experiment with minor modifications and tweaks while tracking and measuring the results you get. The tools you choose should also be flexible enough to allow for these experiments and fine tune your process.