The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works of most organizations this year. Businesses that were hoping for double-digit growth rates have instead been reduced to fighting for their very survival.
As much as everyone hates it, an economic downturn is already here, and so are mass layoffs across the board. Small businesses are the hardest hit. As a small business owner, this means that your fight for survival is going to happen with a dramatically reduced workforce.
How does one go about handling your sales function when there are not enough people on board? In this article, we will give you a primer on what sales automation is, and how it can be used to improve organizational productivity, and consequently, sales.
What exactly is sales automation?
Many organizations look at sales as a numbers game. The more people you reach, the higher the number of warm leads you build. This directly influences the deals you close and the revenue you make.
Unfortunately, in this race to reach more prospects, sales reps often miss out on the fundamentals - personalization, clarity in communication, and perseverance.
Sales automation help SDRs retain these fundamentals even as they scale up outreach. There are several sales automation tools that cater to very specific business requirements like building a targeted prospect list, sending personalized cold outreach, tenacious follow-ups, and tweaking the process based on performance.
What this means is that sales reps no longer have to blindly call a company for an appointment simply to meet their numbers. They can now automate the process of shortlisting based on specific criteria. Also, SDRs do not have to reach a gatekeeper - automation tools can find the right email address for a task and help you reach them - and this maximizes response rates.
In effect, sales teams can use automation tools like chatbots, email validators, script optimizers, and process automation tools can save hundreds of precious hours each week by focusing on what matters, leaving the rest to software applications that automate the process.
Why sales automation is not a panacea
“Garbage In, Garbage Out” is a concept that is popular in computer science and mathematics to imply the relationship between input and output. Put simply, what this means is that the quality of output received depends on the quality of input.
This is applicable to sales automation as well. Earlier in this article, we had talked about the use of automation to build a targeted prospect list. Now, this is only possible if the inputs are clearly defined. If your sales rep is not clear about the industry or designation they want to reach, then no amount of automation tools can help them meet their targets.
Every business and function has its own “North Star Metric”. This defines the metric that best defines the core value of your offering. As a sales professional, your North Star metric is the number of deals closed. So if you are not meeting this target with automation in place, it is time to tweak the inputs.
Creating a process flow
Sales automation is very straightforward when it is the sales rep who directly executes these automation tasks. This is true in case of setting up outreaches, creating follow-up workflow, and so on.
However, this is not always the case. In many cases, the automation is handled centrally because of two reasons. One, to ensure that the function head has access to the automation tasks, and two, to avoid duplication of tasks.
Creating a process flow can be helpful under these circumstances. This can be both top-down or bottom-up.
In a top-down approach, the sales head owns the automation tasks and passes on ownership to individual sales reps subsequently. A good example of this is the use of sales bots that initiate a discussion with prospects - when a prospect expresses interest to discuss further, the task is delegated to an SDR to take it forward.
A bottom-up approach is where individual SDRs have ownership of the automation tools - yet, the decision making itself is centralized at the top so that there is no duplication. The tasks go through an approval process after which they can be handled by the SDRs themselves.
Cold calling scripts and email templates are a good example of this. Although individual SDRs are free to create their own templates, the approval process is mostly for compliance purposes.
The economy is going to take a while to recover and the pre-Covid days are long gone. Businesses have to adapt to the new normal which, among other things, includes lean workforces that rely on automation to improve productivity.
Author Bio: Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of free business apps and resources. The Hubbion Media Placement Services has helped dozens of businesses be featured on some of the highly followed TV and print media channels.