Sales automation is one of the greatest inventions in the modern business landscape. By saving a huge amount of time and effort, this solution revolutionizes how companies, customers, and sales reps interact and operate. Ultimately, with the right software in place, it can significantly contribute to making more sales.
In this extensive guide, we’ll explore the technology behind sales operations automation and its benefits. We’ll also delve into the key types of solutions that make it an indispensable tool in today’s sales operations.
You’ll learn how sales automation is a win-win for everyone involved, including customers and sales teams. We’ll also explore its impact on various sales tasks and processes, giving you a clear picture of what can be automated and how.
But let’s start with the basics.
What is sales automation?
Sales process automation refers to the use of software to carry out a variety of sales-related activities that are traditionally done by your sales team. This technology eliminates time-consuming, repetitive tasks and manages sales data. As a result, it provides valuable insights, enabling your teams to focus more on closing deals and building customer relationships.
Automating your sales process may solve many problems. It aims to make the sales process smarter, faster, and more responsive to the needs of the business and its customers. It’s a key solution in any modern sales strategy. Essentially, it’s designed to make a significant impact on a business’s bottom line.
Sales operations automation is not meant to remove the human element of sales. It’s here to free up valuable time for sales reps, so they can devote more energy to engaging with leads and clients.
Sales automation benefits and drawbacks
Sales automation software brings a range of benefits to the manufacturing industry, as well as many other sectors, including utilities, retail, and leisure. Automation software drastically reduces the time spent on routine tasks.
For instance, a sales rep typically spends hours entering data into a system. Automation handles this in minutes, freeing up time for more valuable activities. Manual data entry is often prone to errors. Automation reduces these errors, ensuring a more accurate database of customer information, sales figures, and other vital metrics.
Moreover, automation tools assist in lead scoring and prioritization. They ensure sales teams focus their efforts where they’re most likely to pay off. This targeted approach can lead to a higher conversion rate and more successful sales outcomes.
By automating follow-ups and personalizing communication, businesses can maintain consistent and meaningful engagement with their customers. This ongoing interaction fosters stronger customer relationships and loyalty.
However, it’s also important to be aware of potential drawbacks. Implementing sales automation software can come with initial costs and complexity. This is particularly challenging for smaller businesses or those without technical expertise.
There’s also a risk of becoming overly reliant on technology, potentially losing the personal touch in customer interactions. Training staff and getting them to adopt new technologies can also be challenging.
Lastly, software and integration issues can arise. Automation software needs to integrate seamlessly with other systems in use. Incompatibility or technical glitches can hinder the effectiveness of automation.
How sales automation software can improve your business
Sales operations automation becomes part of your business strategy. It helps identify sales trends, forecast revenue, and even guide decision-making with data-driven insights.
In a nutshell, here’s how sales process automation can help your business:
- Saves time – eliminates processes that don’t have value, cuts down time on manual jobs like filling out forms and report generation.
- Generates leads – automatically identifies and captures potential leads from various channels.
- Standardizes processes – sets up consistent sales procedures and workflows.
- Improves customer management – eases tracking and management of customer interactions.
- Increases sales productivity – helps your sales team prioritize and focus on high-value activities and leads.
- Personalizes communication – automates and customizes your customer outreach.
- Keeps track of sales – helps manage and follow sales deals more efficiently.
- Gives data-driven insights – provides analytics and reporting for informed decision-making.
- Reduces human error – minimizes errors in handling data, estimating prices, and talking to customers.
- Cost savings – lowers your operational costs through process optimization and resource allocation.
- Improves response times – speeds up replies to customer inquiries and problems.
- Forecasts accurately – uses past data to predict sales trends.
- Enhances team collaboration – improves teamwork among your sales, marketing, and support teams.
- Eases regulatory compliance – helps follow industry rules and standards.
And yet the biggest win is for your customers. They get much better service because everything’s faster and more personalized. And this is exactly what today’s customers want. As a recent study reveals, a whopping 73% of consumers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations.
What sales tasks and activities could be automated?
Studies suggest that over 30% of sales tasks can be automated. Here are some common sales activities that work really well with automation:
Data entry and management
Automating the data entry process ensures that customer information, sales data, and interaction logs are accurately captured and organized. This reduces time spent on manual data entry and minimizes the risk of human error.
Sales reports and analytics
Generating regular sales reports is time-consuming. Automation software compiles these reports, providing insights into sales performance, customer behavior, and market trends, all with minimal manual intervention.
Sales pipeline management
Automation tools can track the progress of deals through the sales pipeline, providing real-time updates and alerts on changes or actions needed.
Quoting and invoicing
The software automates the creation of quotes and invoices, saving time and minimizing errors. Your customers receive timely, accurate, and professional-looking documents.
Product search, selection, and calculation
Automation streamlines the process of finding and choosing the right products for customers. It selects the best options based on customer requirements, ensuring they get precisely what they need.
With automation, customers or sales reps easily configure products to meet specific needs. This tool guides them through selecting various features and customizations, ensuring the final product aligns perfectly with customer preferences. It’s particularly useful for companies that offer complex customization options.
Automated systems can handle many customer service tasks, like answering FAQs or providing status updates on orders. This ensures customers get quick and consistent answers, improving their overall experience with your brand.
Lead generation and scoring
Automation can analyze customer interactions on your website and score leads based on their actions, indicating which prospects are more likely to convert.
Automated email campaigns, also a key aspect of marketing automation, help you communicate with prospects and customers right on time and in a personal way. The software sends follow-up emails to clients right after they download a brochure from your site. Additionally, it can also identify chances for cross-selling and up-selling and automatically send sales emails that tap into these opportunities.
When you add up all these jobs, they can take humans hours to complete. Automating these sales tasks saves time, allowing your business to focus more on strategy and less on routine work.
How to get started with sales automation?
To successfully adopt sales automation, you need an effective plan. Start by assessing which parts of the sales process need improvement. Look at where your team spends a lot of time doing repetitive tasks or where mistakes happen often. It’s all about finding the right spots where automation can really help.
At this stage, you should also sketch out a plan of action. Map your plan with the sales goals you want to achieve through automation.
A good tip is to talk to your sales team and get their input on what they think could be automated.
Choose the right solution
Once you know what you need, it’s time to find the solution that fits. Don’t just go for the most popular one, but make sure it’s right for your business. There are many tools available on the market.
Alternatively, you can have a software development company build a product with custom features 100% tailored to your business. The right tool should also integrate well with the systems you already have.
Before making the final decision, check out online reviews, ask for recommendations, and read published use cases of successfully delivered projects to other clients.
Onboard you team
After choosing your software provider, the next big step is training your team to use it. This step is important because even the best tool won’t be much help if your team doesn’t know how to use it effectively. Make training sessions engaging and hands-on. Be patient and make sure everyone feels comfortable asking questions.
Implement and integrate
The next step is to put your new solution into action. The implementation and integration stage is often underestimated when, in fact, it’s a massive task.
However, if you go for a custom-made product, the software provider often does all this work for you. Before signing off, the software experts will make sure your solution works as it should and fits perfectly with your current business systems. This undoubtedly takes off a lot of burden.
Once your new system is up and running ensure, you monitor how things are going. Look for improvements in efficiency and sales results. Be ready to make changes and tweak your approach based on what you observe. Sales automation is a continuous journey, and there’s always room for improvement.
Best sales automation tools for effective operations
Automation is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are many solutions to automate your sales processes. The right sales automation platform for a business depends on its specific needs, sales processes, and the nature of its clientele.
This could range from simple CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems to more complex solutions integrating artificial intelligence for strategy generation and predictive analytics.
Here’s a snapshot of the essential components and features of effective sales process automation solutions.
Enterprise Resource Planning system, or ERP, is a unified platform that brings together your business processes. It centralizes data from sales, finance, human resources, and supply chain, giving a comprehensive view of business operations. This holistic perspective is crucial for informed decision-making. It becomes especially important in sales, where understanding customer trends and inventory levels is key.
An ERP system makes your business run smoother by doing a lot of the heavy lifting automatically.
For example, let’s say a customer places an order. The ERP system kicks into action by checking if the product is in stock, setting up the delivery details, and updating the inventory levels all by itself. This automation means less hands-on work for your team and fewer mistakes, like selling a product that’s actually out of stock.
An ERP system also helps sales in looking after your customers better. It keeps track of what each customer likes and buys, which lets you tailor your conversations and offers to each customer’s taste.
Plus, it gives your sales team up-to-date information about how well products are selling and what’s going on in the market. This means your team can make smart, quick decisions about selling strategies.
PIM stands for Product Information Management, a system that keeps all your product-related data in one place. It serves as a single source of truth for all product information, making it easier for sales teams to access accurate and up-to-date details.
This means everyone in sales, whether they’re working online, in a store, or directly with customers, has the same correct information about what you’re selling.
For instance, when you’re launching a new product, you add all the details about it in one place. As a result, it automatically updates everywhere–on your website, in your online product catalog, and even in product selection and configuration tools.
This saves a ton of time, your staff would spend on updating each platform separately. It also means your sales team can confidently speak with customers about the product, knowing they have the latest information.
If you want to learn more about this solution, head over to our dedicated article, What is a PIM system and why do you need one?.
Product selection and calculation software
A product selector is an extremely helpful tool in a pre-sales process. This is particularly true for businesses with lots of different products or complex offerings. We explain this in more detail in What is Product Selection Tool? article. In short, this software helps to pick the right products for each customer, matching their specific needs and requirements.
If you’re in a technical and highly regulated industry like HVAC, you understand the importance of performing accurate HVAC products and system calculations. Getting it right ensures you meet industry rules and achieve the best performance.
When a customer is putting together a new system and needs certain parts, our software makes it easy for them and your sales team to find the best choices fast. Instead of flipping through catalogs by hand, the software quickly finds and recommends the products that match the project’s requirements.
Moreover, the true strength of this software lies in its advanced calculation and visualization features. When users input their specifications, the software calculates and visualizes industry-specific data. It presents interactive graphs that demonstrate how different products perform under varying conditions. This feature allows users to clearly see the impact of each choice, enabling more informed decisions.
Product configuration software
This software is extremely useful for businesses where products or services need to be tailored to specific customer requirements. It’s a dynamic component in the sales automation system. Plus, it adds excitement to the buying process but also helps customers feel confident in their choices.
The key strength of product configuration software lies in its ability to guide sales reps and customers through a step-by-step customization process. It ensures that all the necessary components and features are considered. This results in a product that perfectly matches the customer’s needs and preferences.
Advanced visualizations mean customers can see what their customized product will look like as they’re skipping through different features.
The best part? This software makes the whole process much simpler and faster. It automatically works out the price for each custom choice, so there’s no need to calculate it manually. This means less chance of making a mistake and quicker service for the customer. They get their custom online quote fast and know it’s accurate.
If you want to learn more about this digital tool along with learning how we helped our clients through real-life examples, read our insightful What is Product Configurator? blog post.
CPQ means Configure, Price, Quote. This system is tailor-made to simplify the quoting of complex products and services. It’s a must-have for businesses dealing with a variety of configurations and pricing structures in their sales.
One of the key advantages of automating quotes with a CPQ system over traditional methods like Excel is its ability to simplify quoting of advanced products. The CPQ software vs Excel comparison reveals clear outcomes: while spreadsheets can be cumbersome and prone to errors for complex quotes, CPQ streamlines this process, ensuring accuracy and efficiency.
Automating quotes keeps your pricing consistent. CPQ makes sure every quote follows your pricing rules and discount policies. It helps keep your profits steady and keeps you competitive in the market.
Additionally, CPQ systems play a pivotal role in guiding potential customers through the crucial decision-making stages of the sales funnel.
If you’re keen to dive deeper into how this solution works and its benefits, don’t miss our dedicated article What is CPQ Solution? where we explore this software in more detail.
Chatbots are AI-driven assistants that can handle a range of customer interactions, from answering basic inquiries to guiding customers through product selections.
They’re especially useful in engaging customers the moment they visit your website or online store, providing instant responses to their questions. This immediate engagement helps in capturing and retaining customer interest, which is so important in a competitive sales environment.
Moreover, a smart tool like chatbot can gather essential customer data during interactions, such as preferences and requirements, which can be used to personalize future communications or recommendations.
For example, a chatbot can qualify leads by asking specific questions and then directing high-potential leads to the sales team for follow-up. This efficient filtering saves time and ensures that the sales team focuses on leads with the highest conversion potential.
Online B2B portals are changing the way sales work by giving customers more control. These B2B customer portals bring strategic advantages and are exactly what today’s businesses expect–the ability to do things quickly and independently.
B2B portal software provides customers with useful information. With a few clicks, users can find out everything about a product, including detailed descriptions, availability, pricing, and support materials. Having all this info helps them make better buying decisions and usually means they’re happier with what they buy.
If a business client needs to order some products from you, instead of calling or emailing your sales team, they simply log into your online portal. Here, they can look through your product catalog, pick what they need, customize their choices if needed, and place their order. They can even keep track of their order as it gets ready and shipped. This setup speeds things up for your clients and reduces the workload for your sales team since they don’t have to manually handle each order.
For you, these portals are handy in gathering data on customer preferences and behaviors. You can see what customers are interested in, what they’re buying, and how they’re shopping. This information is key to understanding market trends, customer needs, and how well your products are doing.
Success cases: 5 sales process automation implementations
Businesses across various sectors have already begun to use sales automation to transform their operations. Here are five real-life business examples that showcase successful implementations of sales automation solutions:
#1 Advanced car configurator
For a car dealer, an outstanding buyer experience means more sales. For one of our clients, we’ve built a PIM system and an advanced web and mobile car configurator to create one single source of truth and automate sales tasks.
The car configurator allows customers to interactively customize their car choices, significantly enhancing the buying experience. Users can play with various features such as color, engine size, interior options, and extra accessories and see how the visualizations and price change in real-time.
Most importantly, the software ensures nothing is missed. The result is that the final product is exactly what the client wants from what’s available.
This leads to a more engaged and satisfied customer base but also significantly streamlines data management for sales staff. Moreover, the system is integrated with the client’s CRM, enabling efficient handling of customer preferences and orders. Sales reps can now see each lead configuration on-screen.
#2 Ecommerce platform with PIM system
Continental Fan Manufacturing, a producer and distributor of industrial ventilation products, faced the challenge of meeting growing demand in a highly competitive global market. To streamline their operations, we designed and developed a comprehensive eCommerce platform integrated with a PIM system and eCatalog.
The move to an online platform brought products closer to customers and significantly enhanced the speed and efficiency of the quotation process.
Our solutions transformed the company’s approach to product management and customer engagement. The new eCommerce environment accelerated sales cycles and allowed for easier product selection. Continental Fan Manufacturing can now meet industry demands more effectively and stay competitive in markets across North America, Europe, and Asia.
#3 Product selection and calculation software
KITO Armaturen GmbH, a leader in explosion prevention solutions, faced challenges in effectively presenting and managing its extensive product range. To address this, we developed a custom online product selection tool that revolutionized the manufacturer’s sales processes.
This tool allows users to navigate through the vast catalog, performing detailed product calculations and selections based on specific project requirements. It features capabilities for selecting and sizing flame arresters and valves, supported by dynamic calculations and interactive graphs for a comprehensive understanding of product specifications.
The solution also works on mobile devices and allows users to switch between different languages and units. This flexibility simplifies the product selection process and has expanded KITO’s global reach by appealing to a wider range of customers.
#4 Online catalog and product selection software
For BAKS, a manufacturer of cable route and installation systems, transitioning to digital solutions was crucial in boosting customer engagement and streamlining sales. Right Information developed an intuitive online catalog and product selection software that mirrors the extensive range of BAKS’s products, previously only available in bulky printed catalogs.
Our tool makes it much easier for customers to navigate through thousands of items. We’ve also added advanced features like dynamic calculations and interactive graphs. The customers and sales engineers can now see simulations of product performance under various conditions, which helps them make informed buying selections.
By providing real-time updates and customizable options, BAKS can cater to specific customer needs, leading to increased satisfaction and a boost in sales. The company can now reach customers in remote and previously untapped markets.
#5 Custom platform with CPQ and PDM capabilities
A Scandinavian manufacturer of heating and cooling systems faced a unique challenge with their legacy desktop-based configuration software. For this client, we’ve created a new digital Product Data Management (PDM) platform coupled with an advanced CPQ system.
This project involved building a system to handle the company’s wide range of products. Its products had numerous components and millions of possible combinations.
The CPQ system we developed takes all these options and quickly puts together accurate sales quotes. It figures out the cost for each combination of features, allowing the sales team to give customers fast, personalized quotes.
Our new platform makes the whole process of configuring products and creating quotes much smoother. It helps the sales team work faster and more accurately when making proposals.
The system also makes it easier to manage all the product data, adapting to different needs and changes in the market. This big change improves how this client works with their complex product lines and helps them respond better to what their customers want.
Future trends: what is next for sales process automation?
Sales process automation is expected to evolve in exciting ways. Here are key trends to watch:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are set to play a more significant role. Introducing custom AI agents into this domain will transform the way production, sales and marketing teams operate. This technology is designed to think and act independently, which is a big step from the usual automation, where all functions are pre-programmed.
- Voice-activated assistants and conversational AI are expected to become more prevalent in automating sales tasks. This technology will streamline customer interactions and order processing and provide instant responses to queries, enhancing the overall customer experience.
- Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technologies are likely to revolutionize product demonstrations and customer interactions. These tools will offer immersive experiences, allowing customers to explore products virtually before making a purchase decision.
No one knows what the future will bring. However, emerging technologies and changing market dynamics are shaping new trends that will surely redefine how we sell.
Automation is here to provide faster ROI and allow your operation to become more competitive. Sales process automation makes businesses more efficient and customers satisfied. It takes away mundane, repetitive tasks and uses modern technologies to drive better business outcomes.
The precision and speed of automated systems eliminate human error, ensuring a higher level of accuracy in customer interactions and data management.
Investing in modern digital sales solutions is a win-win experience for you and your customers.
Right Information has experience in developing all solutions mentioned throughout this guide. If you’re looking to transform your sales process with automation, contact us today to discuss how we can tailor a solution to meet your specific needs.
- What is sales automation?
- Sales automation benefits and drawbacks
- How sales automation software can improve your business
- What sales tasks and activities could be automated?
- How to get started with sales automation?
- Best sales automation tools for effective operations
- Success cases: 5 sales process automation implementations
- Future trends: what is next for sales process automation?
- Key takeaways