Sales Automation 101

We are inundated with a wide range of very fancy sounding words in this high tech world and “Automation” is certainly one of the most popular ones. But what exactly is automation and what does it mean in a sales context? That question alone is bound to spark a lot of debate! But, quite simply, automation refers to taking manual tasks and processes and making them automatic. As an example, think of a coffee machine that can be set to make coffee for you when you wake up in the morning. This technology automates your morning coffee process. Sales Automation refers to the automation of sales processes, tasks and workflows – most commonly referred to as Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

I don’t have the time nor would I want to bore you with all the ins and outs of CRM, but when we bring this to a Business to Business (B2B) sales measurement and management tool discussion, the term CRM sparks a lot of emotion in business. It is either loved or hated.

This is because, typically, the people who design and administer CRM love it for all that it can potentially offer to business, while those who use it typically find it difficult to use and more of a burden than a value add. And seeing as it is the users that determine the success of CRM, many businesses fail to get their CRM to work. Or they think it is working, but they are missing the big picture. But why? Why is CRM such a difficult thing to master, when really, it should be easy? There are 3 main reasons.

Why current Automation (CRM) doesn’t work for sales

1. Too much “clutter”

Sales management and measurement get lost in the “clutter”. As CRM has developed over the last decade, more and more functionality has been built in to cater for “Enterprise Wide” requirements. Think of the following example; a sales person loads a lead onto the CRM, so that he and his leaders can track and manage that lead. The lead is worked until it is won and that prospect is now going to do business with the said company. Now finance want to know what the deal value is and what products or services will be billed for, and over what period. Next, procurement need to know quantity of product, so that they can manage inventory.

In terms of streamlining business, it is smart thinking that information loaded into the CRM by the sales person be fed to finance and procurement respectively (in the case of the above example). But finance and procurement have their own systems and their own measurement metrics that they need to adhere to, so that they can meet their KPI’s. So to truly “streamline” business and get the sales data feeding into the rest of the organisation, CRM companies build other departments’ (in our example, finance and procurement) into the sales management portion of the CRM.

The end result is that there are so many mandatory fields, requirements, and workflows just to achieve one thing in the system that the system no longer looks anything like a sales management and measurement system. Sure, the sales management and measurement functionality is there, but good luck figuring it out! To the poor sales person, just logging into the system causes no end of frustration and anxiety, never mind adding any type of value. So what started out with good intentions to “streamline business”, has resulted in it being broken at the very start – sales!

2. Complexity and expense

As a side effect of 1 above, catering for “Enterprise Wide” and “everything you can think of stemming from sales” creates enormous complexity to the basic functioning of the CRM. One change to one area of the CRM affects all the others. It has become so complex that you need to employ a highly skilled company or team to manage your CRM. Business is continually changing and evolving, so the CRM is always one step behind, and many businesses cannot justify their spend in CRM.

3. Failure to adopt

The ultimate result of 1 and 2 is that sales people fail to fully adopt the benefits that CRM can bring to their lives and rightly so. Technology should bridge the gap between people and their desires, not aim to create new desires. Sales people want to achieve their targets, so technology (CRM) should help them to do so. They don’t care about anything else and as a result they will put minimal effort into all the other nonsense being asked of them. Seeing as business starts with sales, it’s most likely that the rest of the enterprise will not be getting the full value of the CRM.

The Cure – Automate SALES!

When I started this article, I said that it is smart thinking to get business units to share information and streamline processes. But all business begins with sales… Let’s move away from “CRM” in all it’s broad terms and its talk about “Enterprise Wide”. Let’s rather talks specifics – Sales Automation. Start by automating sales using the technology to move sales people towards their desires – achieving targets. By doing this, you are setting your sales function up for success. Once you are doing that to the best of your ability… Then you can start thinking about the rest of the organisation.

But how do you actually do that? If you haven’t already, read this post on Sales Processes. To automate your Sales Processes, you will need to find an automation tool (yes, they are usually called CRM) that caters for your detailed and specific Sales Processes, and makes them easy to follow and employ. The right Sales Automation tool will guide your sales people though the sales process, helping you to win more opportunities, reduce sales cycles, increase opportunity value, and decrease training time and cost. You should be able to use and administer the system easily, by yourself, should you desire.

If we were to put this into practice and use a basic example; let’s say the second stage of your sales process is to meet with a client, and that stage has now been completed. Part of your process is to send minutes of the meeting to your prospect, and to let your project team know that you are working on this opportunity. Automation in this case could remind the sales person to send the minutes (as a task in your CRM) and once complete and ready for the next stage, automatically send a notification to the project team containing the details of the opportunity. Apply this to your entire sales process, and you can make magic happen!

This type of automation opens up a new world of sales analytics and reporting, which I will be talking about in our final post on the 4 pillars of a powerful sales function.

martin-profile-picHi, I’m Martin, founder of Rapid Sales Growth. Sales Automation is one of the hardest parts of sales and one of the easiest to get wrong. That is understandable, given the amount of tools on the market promising amazing things without knowing your business. I know Sales Automation well and would be happy to help you navigate the CRM minefield. Reach out to me at any time for an obligation free chat. My number is +27 10 005 5321, and my email is Martin@RapidSalesGrowth.com. Or simply fill out the form below and I’ll get in touch with you. Chat soon, Martin.

 

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