Everything you need to know about Automation in Sales and Marketing.
In the Sales and Marketing industry, Automation has come a long way from its humble beginnings of being an email-management tool to its present-day avatar of an end-to-end workflow management system. Today, automation is an AI-driven methodology that not only automates tasks and workflows of sales teams but also helps them to make sales predictions and analyse trends, through which they can keep refining their sales strategy. It’s no surprise that companies that have adopted automation generate 16% more leads compared to those that haven’t.
But still, companies have not tapped into the full potential of automation, either because they lack the awareness of automation’s potential or they just don’t know how to plan for its adoption. In this article, we will discuss both these issues and also discuss the scope and limits of automation. So, let’s begin.
Benefits of automation
Automation is not just about automating the generic, repetitive tasks of your workflow. It’s much more than that. The main benefits of automation in sales are as follows –
1. Increased productivity, as time saved from manual work is better utilized in focusing on the things that matter.
2. Quick completion of buyer’s journey due to faster turnaround, which in turn leads to increased customer satisfaction.
3. Analytics and data-based reporting help in assessing the performance of campaigns and enables course correction.
4. Customer’s behavioral data helps in predicting the interest of prospects and customers which helps in reducing churn.
5. Centralized database and shared information eases the handover process of a lead from marketing to sales or within the team.
Automation in practice
So now we know the benefits of automation, the question that comes next is – What are all the areas in sales in which we can integrate automation, and what does automation look like in practice? Well, to put it simply, automation can be implemented in any or all steps of the sales funnel. In other words, it can be integrated at different levels in the buyer’s journey to quicken its progress. Following are the main categories of tasks in sales that can be automated –
1. Resource allocation – for planning the allocation of manpower; budget calculation; to calculate timelines of a campaign.
2. Prospecting – prospect search and profiling; sending auto-email invites; managing sign-ups; freebies distribution.
3. Pipeline management – lead qualification; lead scoring; lead nurturing; streamlining tasks at each stage of the buyer’s journey.
4. Customer management – automatic proposal generation; signing off; support and incident resolution; chatbot implementation; auto-generation of feedback requests.
5. Inventory management – triggering alerts at each checkpoint; invoice generation; payment reminders; contract auto-renewal.
6. Reporting and analytics – Campaign performance evaluation; data analysis; report generation; insights generation and forecasting.
7. Talent management – standardizing training for new hires; managing a knowledge repository; job postings.
Automation adoption strategy
A well-thought-out strategy for the adoption of automation is the deciding factor behind its success. Although there are many robust CRMs available in the market today that are capable of managing the workflow from end-to-end, it’s the stepwise adoption of automation that makes the biggest difference in efficacy. Let’s see the sequence of steps that you can take to adopt automation in the best possible manner –
1. Clean-up – Examine all the present activities and processes of your sales team and classify them as per their usefulness. Remove the slow and unproductive processes from your system. Tweak the workflows to remove inefficiencies in the system because you don’t want them to get replicated in the automated system.
2. Start small – Prioritise those activities which are easiest to automate first or repetitive in nature and require minimal human intervention. Abstain from automating the complex or critical tasks in the beginning.
3. Refine and revise – It will take some time for people to get acquainted with the changed workflows. Give them time to get familiar and test the changes. Be alert and proactive to spot any unwanted effects or results. Revise the workflows if needed. Get IT support to mitigate the issues asap.
4. Scale-up – After several iterations of gradual integration of automation in your system you can scale up and include the biggest and crucial tasks in the automated workflow. Do keep in mind that not every kind of task can be automated. The end result will be a hybrid environment in which all the administration tasks will be automated while the critical decision-making tasks will be partially facilitated.
Limits of automation
Not everything can be automated and not everything should be automated. There are some limits of automation that should be known beforehand to avoid disappointments in the later stage. These limits are discussed below –
1. If your workflow is already flawed then the same flaws can seep into your automated workflow. Automation does not guarantee better results, it just replicates and propagates your working style albeit in an efficient manner. Before adopting automation, having a clear buyer’s persona, and proper segregation of responsibilities are a must.
2. People are quick to sense an automated email with generic content even if it contains their name. The quintessential human nuances in a message can not be replicated by AI. Hence creating a genuine connection with a prospect might be difficult. Similarly, relying solely on the cold-calculated approach of AI to win all your deals will only lead to disappointments as deals are ultimately signed between humans, not machines.
3. The most critical tasks will always require human supervision, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. As of now, general AI has not reached its peak potential and thus can not be relied on to make key decisions without any supervision or cross-examination. So, human dependency is not going to go away any time soon.
Although automation is a time-intensive process and may require a redesign of your current sales system, it is worth the effort because it is the single biggest factor that has the potential to increase your sales productivity at a phenomenal level. Complete end-to-end automation may not be possible anytime soon and neither it should be your ultimate aim. The ultimate aim of automation should be to create a symbiotic system wherein human intuition is complemented by machine’s competence to achieve the best results.