What Is Sales Automation? [Definition & Examples]
Is your sales team burnt out and lacking the ambition to sell?
It might be time to switch things up and try more innovative and efficient processes.
Like, sales automation.
What is sales automation?
Sales automation involves using software, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and other digital tools, to streamline and automate sales tasks that are typically manual and time-consuming. It helps managers and sales reps manage and streamline their day-to-day responsibilities.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- How automation can help increase sales productivity.
- How to start automating the entire sales process.
- Why automation platforms can’t replace a personal touch.
- How real-life businesses automate B2B sales, with examples.
Let’s get started 👇
Why is sales automation important?
On average, two-thirds of a sales representative’s time is spent on non-revenue-generating tasks.
That’s hours and hours you can free up with sales automation.
Automating the sales process allows your team more time to focus on important tasks like:
- Eliminating manual data entry for more worthwhile conversations with potential customers.
- Scoring and qualifying sales leads for higher conversion rates.
- Tracking, monitoring, and improving customer relationships.
But it’s not just your reps who benefit from automated sales automation. The entire company can reap rewards like:
- Automating tasks and storing data for more uniform and accurate processes.
- Increased productivity and performance.
- Reduced churn with faster sales funnels and response times.
- Increased opportunities with automated calendar management systems and workflow management tools.
- Staying top of mind at every stage of the buyer journey via automated sales funnels.
Not only can sales automation streamline your B2B sales process for more conversations, better client relationships, and improved sales data, but it eliminates tasks that slow your team down.
How to automate the sales process?
As a sales leader, you should know what your reps do regularly and what can be automated.
Don’t assume anything, though.
First and foremost, speak to your team. You might find that you can add some not-so-straightforward and tedious tasks to the list.
The number one goal of automating sales is freeing up your sales team’s workload so they can focus on selling.
But how does automating the sales process work?
There are four main components to sales automation:
Look familiar? You’ll find these same stages in most sales funnels; automation is all about simplifying them.
1. Awareness stage
You can automate lead magnets, social posts and ads to capture the attention of your total addressable market and assist in creating more awareness around your brand.
Most importantly, your content must encourage prospects to fill in a form. Once they do that, you can use sales content automation technology to store their information in your CRM and enter it into an email campaign.
Depending on what they gave their contact data for, you can personalise and schedule lead automation campaigns to suit every step of their journey moving forward.
However, you can also risk negatively impacting your brand reputation with sales automation.
“People often overthink brand reputation. When you run a campaign, don’t worry too much about annoying a potential customer because three months later, they normally won’t remember you.”
“Having said this, ensure you don’t contact a prospect you’ve annoyed twice. If you reach out again, it could damage your reputation. This is why having an exclusion list and a good sales operations team to manage it is important.”
“Keeping organised and maintaining your CRM hygiene will prevent this from happening.”
Sales automation solution to increase brand awareness:
If a prospect entered their email address to download a whitepaper, it stands to reason that they are keen to learn more about that specific topic. A lead nurture campaign will give them more of what interests them while creating awareness for your business.
2. Consideration stage
Once a lead has shown interest in your product or service, you’ll want to automate the sales process to ensure you stay top of mind as they research your competitors.
Using an outbound sales automation system, you can segment your prospecting lists to speed up and personalise campaigns. This way, buyers are sent relevant emails or texts at various stages of their journey.
How automatic sales help brands stand out from competitors:
During the consideration stage, automate welcome emails that share information showcasing how your product can benefit your buyer or solve their pain points.
You can also automate alerts for your reps to call interested prospects once they’ve read an email.
3. Decision stage
The decision stage is one of the most important stages of a buyer’s journey. With automated sales processes, you stay on top of your prospects’ actions.
You can set up activity tracking and alerts that sync with your CRM to ensure you engage with prospects when it matters most. Plus, you can schedule calls and book meetings in advance so your prospects know when it’s time to give feedback.
They’ll have reviewed all their options, spoken to sales reps, and attended sales demos. Now it’s time for them to choose, and sales automation technology can help you lock in the deal.
Example of sales automation to facilitate making a purchase decision:
This is done via scheduled reminders and outreach, such as pricing, product checklists, and case studies. Bots can also be used to help guide users to sign up for a paid plan at the end of a trial.
4. Action stage
This is when your prospecting pays off and your customer signs on the dotted line.
Without sales automation systems, this step can be time-consuming. And hot leads can get lost in your CRM.
Sales order automation is one of the most efficient ways of managing sales reps’ time. It’s as simple as setting up automated billing and sharing value when and where possible.
Sales automation vs personalisation
There are two kinds of people:
Those who hate automation and those who swear by it.
But can a balance between the two be found?
“On LinkedIn, you see two types of content from sales “influencers”: those who preach automating everything and believe sales is a numbers game, and those who hate generic messaging and say you should personalise everything. I sit in the middle.”
“I think automation can be great, but you have to be thorough. You hear all these horror stories about people sending an email saying ‘Hi FIRST NAME’ to thousands of people.”
“But even when you don’t make mistakes, sending the same email to thousands of people can be problematic. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to sales automation. You have to segment.”
“There will be different sections of people within your ICP, and you must contact them differently. You should split them by job title, industry and also sales triggers.”
“I would say the main benefit of sales automation is the ability to reach out to long lists of people. The difficulty is keeping it authentic.”
An automated sales process doesn’t mean that you should forget about personalisation.
You can automate manual tasks for a smoother sales cycle and improve customer satisfaction. For example, Michael says:
“We use surveys to find out the pain points of our prospects. This kind of thing can be automated. We leave them a poll, and they must click the relevant button.”
“When we follow up on their pain point, we personalise. This means we can send relevant case studies and research before contacting them. Automation can save you time but can’t replace a human touch.”
A lot of this personalising sales automation comes down to data. B2B data is the first thing you need to get before you can automate successfully. This is where a tool like Cognism comes into play.
Cognism automates the prospecting process with unrestricted access and data views to quality GDPR data.* What’s more, users can verify potential contacts with Diamond Data®.
Book a call with a data expert to discuss how Cognism can help your team beat quota 📞
Once you’ve done your prospecting, you must segregate your list and ensure everyone fits your ICP. Many people start out automating by getting really excited by the number of leads they find. They’ll get on the phone with these leads and realise they’re not a good fit. This is an example of automation actually taking up more of your time if you’re a salesperson.
People automate to get many results, but this isn’t worthwhile if you’re not getting the right results. You must still qualify the leads and understand your total addressable market to get the most out of automation.
Find out how the sales automation process can help personalise your targeting in this informative video👇
Your CRM is arguably the most important sales automation integration. Combining it with the sales process can create a better customer experience. This allows you to:
- Build customer relationships throughout the buyer journey.
- Access sales data and campaigns all in one place.
- Assign lead scores.
- Create consistent and timely messaging.
- Remind reps when and who to contact.
- Set sales trigger alerts.
- Create accurate reports.
Here are five tips for combining CRM and sales automation:
1. Structure your data
Firstly, be sure to store all your B2B data uniformly across teams. This will ensure that anyone using your sales automation or CRM software can make the best sales or marketing decisions.
Secondly, it’s a good idea to check that all your data is accurate and GDPR compliant; use a sales intelligence provider like Cognism to ensure accuracy and compliance. Evalian did, and they achieved a 67% opportunity win rate from outbound sourced deals.
2. Start lead scoring
To speed up qualification, score your leads based on predefined criteria.
Integrate lead scoring with your CRM and automation system. This software will collect information on your leads and offer a score based on how likely your sales representatives will convert them.
3. Integrate your website
Every time a user browses your website, they generate useful data. This data can be used for automated sales inside your CRM.
What are the benefits of this? You can see:
- What pages a prospect has read.
- How long they spend on a specific page.
- How often they return to your website or bounce off to another.
Your reps can take advantage of this data, using it to personalise outreach to your website visitors.
4. Get rid of duplicates
While your CRM and B2B sales automation tools are different, they can both have similar functions. Just ensure that your team isn’t overlapping tasks.
For instance, customers won’t be pleased if they’re sent the same email twice in one day because their information has been duplicated on both platforms.
5. Personalise your messaging
Sales automation gives you deeper insights into how your customers think. Use this to your advantage by personalising your messaging for them. Micheal’s advice is:
“The messaging salespeople use must become more personalised to break through the noise. This is the main consideration with sales automation.”
“Can I still look like I’ve done my research? Can I still make this look personalised? If it looks automated, people won’t respect it as much.”
Get this right, and you’ll increase your conversion rates and build a stronger relationship, leading to referrals, reduced churn, and increased customer lifetime value.
“The goal is to make it seem like you’re 100% personalised, even if it’s 100% automated. You have to research and think about which steps you can automate and which steps must be personalised.”
“I do around 50/50. Our first touch is an automated survey. The middle steps are usually quite personalised. The end is an automated message asking for feedback.”
“We use automation to reach out and start new conversations, but as soon as we get a response, we personalise. I think this is the best way to do it.”
“The final feedback step has been working wonders for us. People react well to a salesperson asking for genuine feedback. You can end up with great suggestions and conversations that lead to deals.”
Sales automation examples from real brands
Effective sales are made up of many repetitive tasks, which is why brands swear by sales automation - here are some popular examples:
1. Sales intelligence
Prospecting is time-consuming. Reps must research, track down prospects, and reach out to them. And then comes all the data capturing. Many major sales teams, like SalesDRIIVN, use sales intelligence solutions like Cognism to automate this part of the sales process. This cuts down prospecting time, builds the sales funnel and gives them more confidence knowing their calls will go through to the right people.
2. Email automation
There’s a lot more to sales than cold calling. With outbound sales automation, reps don’t have to remember to follow up, qualify leads, and send them content that helps increase conversions. Email automation tools like Sendinblue allow you to schedule outreach so you never forget a lead.
3. Team management
The better sales and marketing align, the better your sales. By automating sales management with tools like Monday.com, you can monitor campaigns, gain valuable customer insights and automate tasks to keep everyone aligned.
Keen to find out more?
👉 Here’s a list of 20 popular sales automation tools 👈
Automate your sales process with Cognism
Cognism makes sales easier by minimising manual research, admin, and dialling incorrect numbers - activities that can easily take up 63% of a rep’s time.
Look at how Localz used Cognism to identify more relevant contacts, increase engagement with their emails and reduce bounce rates after just days of onboarding!
Ready to test our contact data? Try Cognism for easy sales automaton with 25 free leads 👇