There seems to be an unending list of buzzwords that make the rounds when it comes to digital marketing. Not all of them are just catchy, however, some of them have real meaning for those willing to take the dive.
Sales force automation is one of them, so sit up and pay attention. We’ll show you what sales force automation is, and how it can benefit your company!
Table of Contents
- Defining Sales Force Automation
- The Benefits of Sales Force Automation in Action
- What Are the Downsides of Sales Force Automation?
- Developing an SFA Plan
- SFA and Your Business
Defining Sales Force Automation
SFA is simple to understand: it’s the use of interconnected software to take care of parts of the sales process. It can be one system, or done through many systems, depending on the specific needs of a company.
SFA is usually focused on taking care of administrative and redundant tasks, creating an environment where sales staff can focus on generating more sales and revenue instead of dealing with repetitive tasks that any sales job brings with it.
The Components of a Sales Force Automation System
You can break things down further within sales force automation as well. SFA isn’t one thing: it’s the build-up of automated systems for sales staff.
Some of the components that are common features of SFA are the following:
- Activity Alerts-At the bare minimum, some programs put into place alerts on customer actions. Knowing where your customers are in the process is a big step up, especially when you link together an entire team’s accounts to make progress more transparent.
- Automated Actions-With a well-built funnel for things like e-mail marketing, you need to keep track of many variables. Did the lead respond? When? Did you already send them a follow-up e-mail? Focus on automatic actions is a large part of SFA, and a good set helps boost sales.
- Overseeing the Sales Pipeline-It’s never a bad idea to know where your potential customers are in the sales process. This saves time and keeps everyone on the same page when it comes time to know which action to take next.
- Automatic Scheduling-Being able to schedule an appointment without another human in the way makes the user’s experience with your company better. It’s also a good way to avoid double-booking meetings with customers.
- Qualifying Leads-If you have the sales data to know which leads are most likely to convert, you can use it to make sure those leads stick out. This is especially important for companies with a low conversion rate but many leads, allowing your sales team to focus on those who are going to buy rather than wasting time.
- Assigning Leads-All salespeople have their strengths, and you can use a program to assign leads automatically based on pre-set criteria. It ends up being a lot faster than a call or e-mail when implemented properly.
- Generate Reports-Many programs are available that will automatically generate reports for you to look over. The data is important and having it generated automatically saves time for your team. The generated reports make it much easier to move ahead.
At this point, there’s a program for almost everything. Forming an efficient SFA plan is usually more complicated than just paying for a single SaaS program. Take the time to learn what tasks are burning up the most time in your office, then focus on those components before broadening your horizons.
SFA vs. CRM
If you’re here, then you’re most likely familiar with customer relationship managers, or at least the idea of them.
There’s a difference between these two phrases that some miss.
CRM is usually focused on the post-sale side of things. Customer service, retention of clients, and other activities that take place after the initial sale are the emphasis. It pulls together the data you have on the customer and makes it easier to take the next action.
Sales Force Automation, on the other hand, focuses on the before-sales process. Tracking your leads through your funnel, for instance, or making sure that a customer is approached in the right way for their demographic. Essentially, it’s the pre-sales help to CRM’s post-sales assistance.
The Benefits of Sales Force Automation in Action
Salesforce automation is all about convenience, but most business owners have enough familiarity with software to cast a doubtful eye.
After all, programs tend to increase workload when not implemented properly.
The cool part is that no one is claiming it’s a miracle. It’s still a system of sales, and it still has its ins-and-outs. The big thing is to understand exactly how it benefits the businesses which choose to go down this road.
Reduced Administration Time
A sales team is hired to sell, but a considerable portion of their time often goes into administrative tasks around the office. These small chores, like processing orders, add up to a lot of busywork that can be handled by outside programs.
Reducing the amount of time required for your team to do less busywork is one of the easiest things to accomplish with SFA. Whether it’s just adding intelligent alerts or making large portions of the process fully automated, the end goal is simple.
Keep your sales team selling, rather than keeping them bogged down with paperwork.
Quicker Responses and Less Human Error
Time is often of the essence when it comes to communication with our customers. About a decade ago, the average response time for a business’ page was almost 2 days.
Automation or not, that was plain laziness. Or, rather, it was people who didn’t understand just how much immediate responses can guide a potential buyer. They’re particularly important in B2C sales, where a customer is likely to just keep moving if they don’t get an immediate response.
A well-implemented Sales Force Automation will notify the right people that their response is needed, keeping things on the customer’s tight schedule.
Another thing to remember is that human error often plays an effect on the bottom line of a company. A lost note on someone’s desk may mean missing a potentially loyal customer. A forgotten call may cause a potential buyer to look elsewhere.
Sales Force Automation can only do so much to prevent human error, but it’s a definite win in the fight against human nature for many companies.
Lowering costs is important, and wise implementation of SFA can decrease the cost you’re paying per conversion of a paying customer.
It largely depends on the program, and implementation, you’re going with but an emphasis on hotter leads is one sure way to get there.
Many salespeople, even great ones, spend their time on customers who eventually won’t buy. While it’s unavoidable in some cases, automation of your list will let you know who’s more likely to buy at the end of the day.
Focusing your efforts reduces extra expenditures, and a tighter focus on converting customers means less time spent courting those who aren’t buying what you’re selling.
More Sales Data and Easier Implementation
Sales data, apart from your lead list, is one of the biggest assets that your company has. It helps you figure out who is buying when they’re buying, and how to approach these prospects in the future.
You may even find out that you’re not hitting your target audience, but instead lucked into a different niche.
Don’t underestimate that data. The problem is the time taken to pore over it as it comes in, to analyze it and find the patterns you’re looking for.
Most businesses have some form of going through all of that data in the form of spreadsheets or programs. But that’s not the end of it, the right programs will help you sort through the information automatically and let you draw wise conclusions.
Granted, you’ll still need the skills to analyze it in most cases.
On the other hand, implementation into your sales pipeline is much, much easier when you’re working with some level of automation. You can even take things one step further, having the implementation work automatically from your pre-selected parameters.
What Are the Downsides of Sales Force Automation?
So, we have an impressive, time-saving measure here with the potential to increase conversion.
It surely has a downside, right?
Well… it does. Specifically, it has two major disadvantages to be aware of before you begin to implement a plan.
Using sales force automation software can be hard for smaller outfits, most of the programs implemented are pay-by-month SaaS services after all.
You may just be paying one monthly bill, or you may be paying a half dozen depending on what you’re planning on automating.
The edge you’ll gain from using a SAF plan is small enough that it may not be worth the cost if you’re not already working with considerable sales volume. You should carefully weigh the effects on your revenue before you get started.
Not every team has someone who’s a technological wizard just waiting in the wings.
And while these software pieces are made to create an easier workflow, they still take someone who can implement them properly. For a small company that may require bringing another person onto the team if no one has the prerequisite skills.
You’ll also have to deal with all of the usual software problems. Bugs, regular maintenance, unexpected updates. All of these will have a much larger impact if there isn’t someone there to take care of it.
It takes a good bit of work to make for less work, unfortunately. While many programs are very easy to use with an average level of technological proficiency, others aren’t. Or the more advanced options you want to take advantage of may take more tweaking and talent to handle well.
It’s not a deal-breaker for most people, but you should be aware of the limitations from the outset.
This is where a software curated platform such as onetool comes in handy. Onetool offers a variety of sales-related software at a discount. To take it even further, onetool simplifies your user management. And best of all, you only get billed with one invoice, regardless of how many apps you or your team subscribes to.
Developing an SFA Plan
Approaching SFA should be goal-oriented, as opposed to simply having a goal of automation.
It’s up to you to decide which programs are the best to automate parts of your business. If you look at the list of “SFA components” above, you probably have a few in mind that are particularly important.
You should develop a plan as you look over the various services out there.
A small team may benefit greatly from just having automated sales e-mails and sales pipeline tracking. It may seem small-scale, but it keeps everyone on the same page and makes sure that human error in outreach is less of a factor.
The more extensive a plan you’re working with, the more expensive said plan is likely to be.
An extensive SFA plan may also end up with CRM software as well, the two are often linked when you’re looking at services. That’s not a bad thing in the slightest, and you should take full advantage of whatever you’re paying for.
It’s also a good idea to seek out a consultant who has more intimate knowledge of the SFA process from the ground up.
If not, then you should build a plan from the ground up. Start with where you’re building your lead list and move through to the final sale, and get input from those involved along the way for the best results.
Automate the things which take the most time or cause the most stress first, then work into tweaking the process to make it smooth.
Adaptability is key to any implementation of SFA.
If things don’t work out properly, don’t try to force them to. Look for a solution, or an alternative if there is no viable solution to be had.
Stay agile, and you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits.
SFA and Your Business
Chances are that your business will benefit from sales force automation, but you need to implement it properly for automation to shine. There’s far more to the entire process than can be included in one small article, but the basics are enough to get moving.
If you’re prepared to level up your company, then why not start with some automation? It’ll give you more time to do the things you love and take away some of the hassles that come with the business.