Last updated: February 23, 2022
Automation is in vogue. Although the vision of a future where robots serve us our coffee in bed and pick up the kids from school hasn’t quite arrived yet, we’re getting there slowly but surely. Piece by piece, our lives are being put on autopilot.
Sales is one of those pieces that robots have already made a serious dent in. And no, we don’t mean those annoying robocalls that you get every five minutes on your phone. We’re talking about software “robots” that automate administrative tasks for sales teams so that they can spend more time actually selling.
If you want to learn more about how automation can fit into your sales pipeline, you’ve come to the right place. Below, we take a look at the basics of what sales automation is and 10 examples that you can implement today to increase sales productivity.
What is sales automation?
SALES AUTOMATION DEFINITION
In its broadest sense, sales automation is the usage of any software to offload repetitive work from humans. This could mean anything from automated sales calls to syncing all relevant customer data into a CRM.
Certain types of automation are more ethical than others. Take automated sales calls or robocalling as an example. Not only is it ineffective, but it can be illegal.
So, when we talk about sales automation, we’re referring to automating tasks like data entry, syncing, and other tasks that won’t make your leads want to throw their phones against the wall.
In that context, sales automation is used mainly to reduce the amount of time that salespeople spend on mindless, administrative tasks and free up time for what they do best: selling. By doing so, it can lead to a more efficient sales team and more sales overall. Plus, it can also reduce the amount of human error that occurs when transferring over customer data or building call lists.
All that said, it’s important to not overuse sales automation. When used in excess, automation can make your sales process feel cold and lifeless. Case in point: robocalling. Generally, you’ll want to use automation to supplement the human touch, not override it.
10 Best sales automations
Now that you’ve got a better idea of what sales automation is all about, let’s take a look at the ten best ways to automate sales processes.
1. Lead generation
Lead generation is the beginning of the sales pipeline, so it’s a good place where to start with automations. There are many ways that you can use software to generate leads in an automated way, such as landing pages and pop-ups with forms, but an increasingly popular option is to add chatbots into the sales automation process.
Chatbots are those little chat windows that pop up when you visit web pages. They’re sort of like virtual sales assistants asking, “can I help you with anything”, just like when you walk into a store.
As you may have guessed, there isn’t actually a real person sitting behind a computer waiting for someone to navigate to their company’s site so they can greet them—that initial message is automated. And then it’s up to you how much of the messages you automate (e.g. depending on the site visitor’s answers) and when you involve a real, live person to hop on and start chatting with the visitor.
So, it’s a good first example of how sales automation can save your company time. The software automates the initial message of a customer-facing chat so that salespeople don’t have to waste time sending out the same message over and over. But when it’s finally time to warm up a lead, they can take over.
Outfunnel-recommended tool to use for automated lead generation: Intercom
2. Lead enrichment
Lead enrichment is the process of filling in the gaps in your lead data. For example, maybe you have an email address, but you don’t have a first and last name. The solution? Lead enrichment. Have a first and last name plus a company name but no email? Lead enrichment can help with that.
As you can imagine, this sort of data entry work can be very tedious and time-consuming. Luckily, there are a number of lead enrichment tools out there that can do the work for you automatically, saving your team’s precious time.
Outfunnel-recommended tool to use for automated lead enrichment: Clearbit
3. Lead, deal and contact creation
When you capture a new lead through a form or any other method, you want to get them into your CRM as fast as possible so that you can start building a relationship with them. However, there’s often a gap between capturing the lead’s information and putting it into your CRM — the type of data entry that’s no fun for anyone.
Automation to the rescue. With the right integration tool, you can link your lead capture forms so that form fills are automatically synced to your CRM. Over the course of hundreds of leads, this will save you massive amounts of time.
Outfunnel-recommended tool to use for connecting forms with your CRM: Outfunnel (duh!)
4. Keeping contact data in sync between tools
One of the most frustrating parts of modern sales is managing contact data across platforms. You want to make sure that all your data is the same and in-sync across all the tools you use.
But if you’re doing this manually, that can mean updating contact data in four or five different programs every time you make a slight change or checking all your data over several times a month to ensure accuracy. In short, it’s a timesuck.
Luckily, data integration tools like Outfunnel, Zapier, or Automate.io can automatically sync up your customer data so that when you change information in one tool, it immediately pushes that change to all your tools. This not only frees up your time, but it reduces human error and keeps your data more accurate.
Outfunnel-recommended tool to use for keeping customer data in-sync across tools: Outfunnel
5. Sales emails
Even though there are lots of ways to reach your leads nowadays, email has remained one of the most cost-effective channels around. That’s great news because email is one of the sales channels that can be automated really well.
You can use sales outreach tools like Mailshake or Quickmail to set up cold emailing campaigns, nurture leads with drip campaigns, and more. The most effective sales emails are ones that are set up as sequences based on your contacts’ actions, responses, and data that lives in your CRM.
It’s up to you how simple or complex you want your automated email setup to be, but outreach tools like the ones mentioned above can also help you automate follow-ups so that you can be sure a lead never slips through the cracks.
Outfunnel-recommended tool to use for automated sales emails: Quickmail
6. Lead prioritization
Time is a limited resource. Every day, salespeople have to decide which leads are the warmest and put the colder leads on the backburner to thaw.
Modern sales tools offer lead scoring to automatically detect which leads are the warmest so that salespeople don’t have to put in any extra time to figure it out. As such, lead scoring takes the guesswork out of lead prioritization.
Historically, lead scoring relied a lot on firmographic data, but these days, behavioral lead scoring is probably most useful. Here’s an example of how it can work:
Outfunnel-recommended tool to use for keeping customer data in-sync across tools: if your CRM does not offer lead scoring, then Outfunnel’s lead scoring software is an easy one to get started with.
7. Scheduling meetings
A recent Calendly study found that people send an average of 7.3 emails to schedule a single meeting.
If you’re still scheduling meetings over email, simply start using Calendly or any similar scheduling tool to cut out the back-and-forth.
Calendly provides your leads with a calendar that displays what times and dates you’re available for a call. Just keep your schedule updated, and your leads can simply select a time. When they do, you’ll get a notification saying that you have a call booked. No discussion needed.
But it gets even better. Integrate your scheduling tool with CRM to get a true sales automation boost.
Such integration will sync new contacts over to your CRM automatically, along with info from all custom fields. Additionally, you can have the new events recorded in the CRM as activities. (Brazen pitch: Outfunnel offers the following integrations exactly for this: Pipedrive-Calendly, Copper-Calendly, Airtable-Calendly, and HubSpot-Calendly. Coming soon: Salesforce-Calendly.)
Outfunnel-recommended tool to use for scheduling meetings: Calendly
8. Conversation intelligence
Ever wonder how your Amazon Alexa can turn on the lights for you or Siri can look up Jeff Bezos’ net worth for you? These programs use a technology called natural language processing (NLP) to make sense of what you’re saying.
But NLP isn’t just for consumer products — it’s for sales too. Salespeople can use tools like Gong, Avoma, Otter, and Dialpad to transcribe their sales calls for future reference. These transcripts are usually searchable, so you can easily find important information.
Plus, Dialpad not only gives you transcriptions, but it analyzes your calls and gives advice on what you can do to improve.
Outfunnel-recommended tool to use for scheduling meetings: both Gong and Avoma look good (but we haven’t actually used them… yet).
In the same vein as other types of sales email automation, you can automate your user onboarding process. Instead of having to manually send over email confirmations, introductory emails, documentation, etc., you can set up a software to do it for you, freeing up more time that you can use to spend on selling.
Outfunnel-recommended tool to use for automated onboarding emails: Sendgrid
Invoicing is an incredibly necessary, but tedious task — without it, your company would never get paid. Luckily, it’s also the perfect place to add some automation as there’s no risk that your invoices will lose their human touch — they’re just invoices, plain and simple.
If you run a subscription-based business, such as a SaaS company, then automated invoicing is standard practice.
For others, there are many integration options for connecting your sales CRM and accounting software. Such integrations can make it easy to create and send invoices right from the CRM, spare you from endless email communication with the accountants. For example, Quickbooks and Xero offer direct integrations with most CRMs.
Outfunnel-recommended tool to use for automated invoicing for subscription-based businesses: Chargebee
The sales process is filled with lots of tasks that can be automated. Luckily, it’s easier than ever to automate such parts of your sales process.
With so many different kinds of automation software available, sales teams have no excuse not to start catching up with the times and saving time on the more menial parts of their jobs. Sales automation doesn’t just free up time, but it improves sales productivity and reduces human error, too.
Ready to automate how data is shared between your sales and marketing tools? Give Outfunnel a go today with a 14-day free trial (no credit card required). Works with Pipedrive, Salesforce, Copper, Airtable and HubSpot CRM.