Automation is the future of business. In fact, Gartner predicts that the business value created by AI will reach $3.9 trillion by 2022 alone. But while some industries are focused on employment adversity as automated systems have the potential to replace human counterparts, a majority of these new automated systems will be used to enhance, support, and relieve human workers.
While this is true in all facets of business, it's particularly applicable to salespeople. This role requires a lot of tasks that aren’t necessarily tied to the core skill-set for which most salespeople are hired. By automating these, companies can make more space for their salespeople to build authentic relationships, dominate social selling, and get the results they need.
There’s a caveat, though. As companies sprint to develop new automation tools for every business process there is, many others seem to be in a hurry to implement them. With 2020 on the horizon, more companies than ever before are tapping into automation tools to increase output and streamline their processes.
This is all great, assuming these tools are being vetted, integrated, beta tested within your work environment, and monitored closely for their effectiveness. Unfortunately, the opposite is true for many companies in a hurry to keep up with competitors — tools and systems are forced into place in an effort to get further, faster.
Given that rushed implementations can lead to mistakes, here are 10 issues in particular to avoid when building a sales automation system:
Mistake #1: Automating the Wrong Steps
The first step to building a sales automation system is to determine how your system will be used. Knowing that your sales team will need to manually execute the most essential parts of your sales strategy, you’ll need to identify which sales tasks, if automated, will help them be successful.
Talk to your team and determine which phases of your sales funnel or pipeline are either the most impactful, the easiest, or the most impersonal. Those are the areas you should try to automate with tools and systems. Examples of great sales tasks to automate often include:
Scheduling Calls and Meetings
Picture it: you finally get a warm prospect interested in a demo. You go back and forth on the best days and times in emails, only to find things have changed by the time you sync up again. Even worse, you might forget to schedule a meeting with a prospect entirely and could end up losing the sale.
Fortunately, there are plenty of scheduling tools that automate time-finding, scheduling, invite-sending, and other instructions. Once you get the green-light, send one link and let your system do the rest.
So much of what powers the magic of sales is data. You’ve got lead generation data, data on prospects you’re working through the pipeline, sales performance data, and metrics you might pull for a prospect to illustrate value. The time spent to gather, organize, and communicate that data, however, might not be worth the lost productivity on other tasks. Automation can help.
Salespeople spend huge chunks of their days in their inboxes, sending and managing correspondence. Automating some of your messages with templates can give you some time back. However, if you decide to do so, be sure to keep some other potential mistakes on this list in mind.
Mistake #2: Eliminating the Human Aspect of Sales
When businesses hire salespeople, they’re looking for “people-people” who are inherently social, communicative, charming, and influential. By over-automating on top of these essential soft skills, you’re wasting the resources you’ve invested the most into.
Instead, automate around the key touch points between salesperson and prospect, so that conversation and connection can remain the primary focus for your team.
Mistake #3: Failing to Customize Communications
Empathy and the ability to personalize outreach to suit each prospect are other aspects of being human. People are savvier than ever to disingenuous sales tactics, and they know when they’re on the other end of a mass communication.
As a more customized customer experience becomes the norm, make sure automation enhances your ability to customize instead of detracting from it.
Mistake #4: Making More Work for Your Team
It’s no secret that sales is a lot of work. Sales automation is intended to help salespeople offload unnecessary burdens to refocus and streamline that work. If your automation tools require a lot of babysitting, they’re not doing their job.
Mistake #5: Underutilizing Digital Telephony
Even in our digital era, it's important to remember that for many industries, the phone is still an important tool. When choosing a sales automation suite, look for options that offer the ability to automate phone sales tasks through the latest VoIP integrations,VoIP integrations, including auto-dialing, leaving voicemails, and tracking call metrics.
Mistake #6: Overlooking Technical Concerns
Your sales automation system won’t (and shouldn’t) exist in a vacuum. Before you set up an automated sales workflow, make sure that your system will integrate with the tools you already use — such as your email provider, chat tools, website back-end, and CRM.
Also, make sure that you consider security at every touch point to make sure you’re keeping prospect and company data protected at every step.
Mistake #7: Letting the System Dictate the Strategy
Your sales strategy should guide the target functionality of your sales automation system. Too often, we choose tools and let their limitations, capabilities, and processes dictate how we move forward. Instead, make sure it’s your processes that are steering the ship.
Mistake #8: Setting It and Forgetting It
The allure of implementing a time-saving automation tool can be intoxicating. Software and cloud technology innovations have improved our ability to background-process tasks in all walks of life, from ordering groceries online to sending templated responses to our closest friends.
However, all technology needs to be checked and balanced by the human brain. Make sure to assess whether your system is doing what you need it to do, that there hasn’t been a breakdown in what you expect it to be doing, and that it’s worth the investment.
Mistake #9: Spamming Your Prospects
A great salesperson knows how not to overstep boundaries with prospects by overwhelming them with communications or following up too aggressively. Your tech stack doesn’t. You can manipulate settings and set protocols to control your tools, however. Make sure that your automation system isn’t siphoning too much of your users’ data, sending too many email blasts, or asking too much too soon.
Mistake #10: Not Testing
As with the introduction of any new tool, give your software automation system time to prove its worth. Test all flows, integrations, communications, and outputs before you deploy in real-time. Make sure every follow-up sequence goes where you want it to and that you’re not bogging down the bandwidth or speed of any integrated tools. You'll also want to ensure your team is comfortable working with the system at every step before you implement it into your process.
At the turn of the decade, we can expect a healthy uptick of interest in both automation and authenticity. The key is to balance the two in a way that’s efficient, effective, and easy to use. When you do, you’ll unlock the ultimate potential of your sales team.
Sam O'Brien is the Senior Website Optimisation & User Experience Manager for EMEA at RingCentral, a global UCaaS systems provider. Sam has a passion for innovation and loves exploring ways to collaborate more with dispersed teams. He has written for websites such as BambooHR and Vault.