Skynet was a fictional digital network built by a company called Cyberdyne systems in the 90’s thriller, Terminator 2. The story unfolds after Skynet goes rouge and spouts a robot uprising against humanity. The huge hit was fascinating in part due to the concept it was tackling – Artificial Intelligence (AI). In those days, the concept of AI was hard to fathom. Now, “the not too distant future” we all loved in Terminator 2 is unfolding and becoming a reality in our lifetime. That’s an equally exciting and terrifying thought!
“Robots” are taking over many jobs, including certain sales jobs. For instance, look at retail and the effect that eCommerce is having on retail sales jobs. Where you used to need to go into a store and speak to a sales person to find what you are looking for, you can now find all the info you need on your desired product and purchase it online – in many cases a better experience than going into a brick and mortar store. I speak more about this topic in this article, which addresses what types of sales jobs exist, and which ones will fade away. But in this article, I will be addressing some of the smartest ways you can use technology to significantly improve your sales performance and why you need to consider them.
Robot uprisings aside, there are some really powerful ways that we can now automate even the most intrinsic of sales functions. When considering automation in the sales space, we need to consider; “which sales tasks are mundane and repetitive?” and “can we automate these tasks?” I will be covering 3 critical sales functions, namely prospecting (looking for new business), managing opportunities identified through the prospecting process, and closing deals.
Arguably the hardest part of sales – creating opportunities from nothing. There is a lot to be said about prospecting, so to keep this brief, I am going to focus on automation tools here. The prospecting automation I am talking about here is cold emailing (emailing prospects who don’t know you and aren’t expecting to hear from you). Let’s consider the types of cold emails that exist, and their response rates:
|Email Type||Function||Description||Response Rates|
|Spam||Many to many||Email client that send many emails on behalf of many organisations||0.1%|
|Targeted||One to many||One person sending emails to many others||5%|
|Tailored||One to one||One person sending one email to one person||10%|
As you can see, tailored, one to one emails have the highest response rates. This is because a tailored email takes a lot of time and effort. The more time and effort, the better the response rates. So automating tailored emails in such a way that you can send it to many prospects would be an ideal approach to prospecting automation. But before get into the automation portion, let’s briefly cover what is required to make a powerful prospecting email (it’s probably nothing like you would have expected):
Subject: This needs to be a provocative question, no more than 3 to 5 words.
Intro: You need to show your prospects that you have done research. And I mean proper research. Talk about something they have done, and ask their opinion on something. (2-3 lines)
Positioning: In this section, you need to position your business by briefly sharing some of the successes your other clients have had. (2-3 lines)
Call to action: To close off, you need to be up front and ask the prospect if anything you have said is worth a discussion. (1 line)
The entire cold email just invites your prospect to read a little further with each line, until they get to the end, where if you have done a good job, they will consider responding. But this is just the beginning. You need to follow up on your emails with specific timing. You will most likely only get a response on your second or third follow up. So if you do not follow up, you aren’t even doing half the job!
With this in mind, it makes sense that you can “templatise” these type of emails, to create targeted emails that you can send to many prospects automatically. The key is to keep it as personal as possible; send it from your email server; and ensure that you follow up timeously. Enter prospecting automation. Using a tool such as Woodpecker, you can create these targeted email templates, and load them for sending to multiple contacts. Woodpecker will even send your follow up emails for you. All of this from your own email server, as if it is coming directly from you. Some of our clients are getting up to 15% response rates using this method!
Let’s say that you are now creating lots of opportunities because you did such a good job on your prospecting automation. You have only just started the sales process. With more leads than you are used to dealing with, you need to be able to track them so that you know how much income you can expect over what period, and to ensure that you do not drop the ball (to name a few benefits). You need a CRM. I know, CRM’s have a bad rap, I have spoken about this to death. But using a new breed of CRM, for example, Pipedrive, you can visually manage your pipeline simply and efficiently.
Pipedrive is really cost effective, and simple to use. It uses a modern principle of sales management called activity management, which means it prompts you to take the next steps (activities) required to progress deals. Not only will it make your life easier, it will also help you to win more deals.
Closing Deals (Win):
There is a lot of sales work involved in winning deals, so closing of deals will never be automated entirely. But there are mundane tasks associated with closing deals, for example proposals and presentations. Not only are they mundane, but they are so crucial to winning deals. If you or one of your sales people send out a dodgy proposal, it could jeopardise the entire deal and waste all the hard work getting it to that point. Why not use tools such as GetAccept and PandaDoc to build templates for your proposals?
These tools not only help eliminate mundane tasks, but they also eliminate a lot of risk for your business (chances of sending dodgy proposals are greatly reduced) and give you insights into what your prospects are doing with your proposals (these solutions track your proposals and tell you what your prospects are doing with them).
If we just look at these 3 methods to sales automation, you could take it one step further and get all of these solutions to talk to one another. Using a combination of built in integrations and Zapier, you can automate the entire sales process. Let me use an example to illustrate;
Let’s say you send many emails using Woodpecker. When prospects respond positively, Zapier can then create a lead for you in Pipedrive. As you progress the lead through your sales process and get it to proposal phase, GetAccept or PandaDoc can automatically send proposals to your prospects. All of which can be tracked, measured and monitored. That is a lot of time saving, and efficiency created!
The benefits to automation for sales are undeniable. Apart from the time saving, efficiency and increase in sales performance, with the automation comes access to new information about your sales process, which you never had access to before. That information is the secret sauce to sales performance. And with the rapid advent of technology, it is becoming more and more affordable, meaning that any business can automate their sales processes.
As incredible as the automation technology is becoming for sales, it does come with a warning label. The technology needs to be governed, measured and controlled at all times by all those that use it. Without the proper controls and parameters in place, the automation technology will not produce the results you require, and in some cases, as in the Cyberdyne Systems fable, can do more harm than good.
Hi, I’m Martin Lamberti, founder of Rapid Sales Growth. Have you considered automating mundane sales tasks, but don’t know where to begin? Do you need help procuring lead data? Automation has been a large part of my career for more than ten years now. I know the pitfalls many businesses face when going down this road, and might be able to offer you some pointers. Reach out at any time, let’s have a coffee and chat.