We polled more than 20 founders and sales leaders to hear which sales metrics teams should be using most to set effective goals for its sales reps.
Sales | Nov 5
Kiera Abbamonte on August 28, 2019 (last modified on September 4, 2019) • 14 minute read
Sales automation tools are no different—they can streamline sales activities and help your team close deals faster.
Automation tools can do a lot, and we wondered about the most effective ways to turn sales automation into closed deals.
So, we talked with 38 sales reps and managers to hear how they’ve used automation to streamline their sales process and drive real results.
Before we get into their responses, let’s back up for a minute—what is sales automation software and what can it do?
Simply put, sales automation software includes any tool that helps automate the processes of order processing, contact management, customer management, sales forecasting, or just about any task that salespeople perform.
To help contextualize that definition, we asked respondents what they use sales automation for, and we heard a lot of answers.
A majority of those we heard from said they use sales automation tools to schedule calls and meetings, for workflow management, assigning leads, and more.
Responses to that first question got us thinking, are there sales automation tools that handle all of those tasks or are salespeople using multiple tools in concert?
We found that the large majority said they use between 1 and 3 tools to handle all of their sales automation tasks.
And when we asked about those tools, software like HubSpot, Calendly, Salesforce, and email marketing automation tools were ranked among the most important tools our respondents use.
The top 5 sales automation tools mentioned (by volume of responses) were:
Now that we know what tools salespeople are using, let’s dive into how they’re using them to close deals faster.
“Chat is in real-time, instant, and unobtrusive,” said Pushkar Gaikwad of AeroLeads. “Most of the users who are already on your website don’t want to schedule a call—because their need is right now, and they’re already looking at multiple tools.”
Acquire’s Dhwani Shah added, “Sales bots can help organizations automate pre-sales processes like qualifying leads, data and customer analysis, identifying solutions, and responding to initial customer queries.”
The salespeople we spoke with emphasized the role salesbots can play in the earliest stages of customer communication—and how they can save human reps valuable time.
“Bots can collect all the necessary information about a lead before the first contact with a human. So if a sales rep has all the info, then it’s much easier to communicate about lead’s goals—it’s an easier and quicker way to sell,” said Patrik Dobos of xBotzz.
“The bots are able to nurture the lead, too, sharing interesting information and responding back to questions, as well as scheduling meetings when the rep is available,” David Zeff of Exceed.ai added. “That’s why automation can play a huge role in realigning reps to focus on what matters now, while taking care of what will matter in the future.”
“Segment your leads by stage in the sales process: Prospects (Awareness), Cold Leads (Discovery), Hot Leads (Curiosity / Negotiation), Customers (Closed), and Repeat Customers (Delighted). Using an automated CRM is perfect to manage your inbound and outbound leads,” said Aufray.
Pereira recommended a different approach, saying, “The best way to go about is standardization by niche. We segment the leads as per niches and add them to a predefined automated process.”
“From a marketing perspective,” Online Optimism’s Patrick Rafferty explained, “we use the CRM’s funnel organization capabilities to market directly to prospective customers at each stage in the conversion process. This helps our digital ads and content marketing departments create focussed, specific, and data-driven content that provides value to users and generates good leads.
Jacqueline Phillips of amoCRM noted the critical factor of speed in closing customers: “Everyone knows that the faster you connect with a new lead, the higher your chances are for closing.”
“That’s why it’s critical that new leads are automatically pushed into your CRM, assigned to a responsible user and a task is automatically assigned,” Phillips added. “Instead of manually checking for new leads, your reps will be alerted instantly and can reach out in seconds.”
“The more you know about your lead upfront, the better,” said Kiwi Creative’s Giselle Bardwell. “The beauty of automation is that many CRMs can be integrated with other platforms so that you get a full picture of a lead. We have strengthened this process to be more efficient and valuable so deals are closed faster and clients feel welcomed.”
“In your CRM, you can have an automated dialer call each client automatically, saving you tons of time. Moving from lead to lead and stopping when a human answers the phone, so you can get to your close faster,” explained Monaco.
“By connecting our sales team with prospects that submit a web form or engage on a live chat with an immediate call, we’ve increased our close rate by 47%,” Rolf shared. “Put simply, we’re getting back to prospects faster than the competition, and it’s having a massive impact on our bottom line.”
“We used to manually email each new lead, and then play the back and forth game over email, trying to find a time that works for everyone. Now with MixMax, it happens automatically without our sales team having to do a thing,” David Jackson of FullStack Labs raved.
“When a potential new client completes the contact us form on our website, an automated email goes out to the lead with a link to our MixMax calendar where they can view availability and schedule the first sales meeting,” Jackson explained. “Once they book the meeting, it shows up on everyone’s calendar and reminders go out via email.”
Brian Casey of Ironpaper said they take a similar approach, “The best way that we’ve used sales automation with our clients is to create meetings immediately when a lead expresses interest. The biggest benefit of automation is capitalizing on interest immediately when a lead self-discloses they’d like to move forward in the purchasing process.”
And Casey has seen immediate positive results, too: “We’ve seen a drastic decrease (across multiple industries) in the number of leads who submit a form but don’t actually end up speaking to sales.”
Paul Fairbrother of AdEspresso recommended using sales automation tools together here—specifically Calendly and Zoom.
“Calendly integrated with Zoom is great for booking sales calls. Calendly allows you to automate the call booking process and is essential for dealing with multiple time zones. When Zoom is integrated with Calendly, that means a meeting link is automatically generated when the prospect books.”
Speaking of integrations, we heard from several sales pros that the key to using sales automation effectively is to blend a handful of tools together.
Alex Thackray of Leadfreak says they use:
Those tools, when used together, cut Thackray’s average sales cycle from weeks or even months down to a handful of days.
“For prospecting,” Alex Birkett of Omniscient Digital said, “I use a combination of Mailshake (for outreach), Voila Norbert (to find emails), and HubSpot CRM (for workflow management and deal stages).”
Editor’s note: Need a better way to see sales and marketing data all in one simple dashboard? Download this free HubSpot Mktg & CRM System Health dashboard to view qualified leads, marketing performance, sales activities, and more.
“We have very strict criteria for what qualifies as a prospect and a fit for our company,” Birkett added, “and using these tools to automate the outreach process, we can put all of our actual time and effort into closing and servicing the clients we have.”
“Create a mobile notification to alert a sales member anytime their prospect opens the decision-phase email. That’s the exact moment you want to reach out and answer their questions,” advised Autumn Sullivan of Big Sea Co.
“Our mission was to contact a new prospect within 15 minutes of their original conversion,” Eric Melillo of COFORGE said. “So, we consolidated a few workflow steps and standardized our qualification criteria to reduce initial overhead. Then we were able to get the lead assigned and sent via text message to a rep for the initial prospect touch.”
That automation led to some pretty stellar results for COFORGE: “More than 90% of new prospects remarked on how quickly we contacted them. It bolstered their confidence in our agency work ethic—which led to a 4x increase in proposals and a 20% decrease in our average new-lead-to-deal-won sales cycle.”
Shane Barker of Shane Barker Consulting recommended automating real-time notifications, too. “Use automation to send messages to sales reps every time a user takes a specific action. For example, every time someone downloads gated content, signs up for your newsletter, or takes any other action on your website, sales reps will be alerted.”
“When sales reps reach out too early,” Andrea Moxham of Horseshoe + co. explained, “they damage the relationship with the prospect. Identifying the criteria that indicate a lead is ready to talk to sales is an excellent way for marketing and sales to get on the same page and also ensure you’re sharing the right info at the exact right moment with your leads.”
Garrett Genest of Kudos added that “qualifying leads the traditional way costs time, and tends to result in a proportion of leads falling through the cracks. Automating the qualification process, so that leads are pre-qualified prior to being passed to sales, is a great way to shorten the sales cycle.”
“We’ve cut our number of sales calls with unqualified leads from 60+ per month to nearly zero, simply by automating that initial qualification step,” said Genest.
“You can create and schedule a Facebook ad or campaign as you normally would, but with the marketing API, you’re allowed to attach a lead generation form to the ad. This means that the standard ‘Learn More’ button can be linked to a customizable form instead of a web page,” Steve Yanor of Sky Alphabet Social Media told us.
Yanor explained that lead gen forms work because social media users are hesitant to leave the platform to view your landing page—so a lead gen form cuts out that extra step and a little bit of friction.
“We’ve seen some amazing results from these lead gen forms because they solve the issue of how to close on a lead produced by a remarkably beautiful ad done in Instagram Stories.”
Julian Marcuzzi of Predictable Revenue had this to say about finding the best way to close deals faster via sales automation tools: “In terms of tactics, it is all about sequences and content. Dial those in and test the hell out of them. Don’t copy what you’ve read in a book—you need to identify what works best for you and your solution.”
“Autoresponder series and automated email follow-up and support have proven to work extremely well for us,” said Srish Agrawal of A1 Future Technologies. “This can often start with a simple lead generation or free report given away on the site, then the autoresponder series will follow up with more emails, offers, support, and opportunities over the next several weeks while building trust in the process.”
Evan Harder of Hello Marketing Agency says they often see sales organizations missing this vital piece of automation: “We see so many sales teams writing and rewriting versions of the same email to prospects, without ever testing or tracking what’s truly effective. Figure out what offers generate the most interest and create templates so you can save your time and money”
“Email drip campaigns are especially impactful for B2B organizations, who have a long sales cycle, to close deals more efficiently. Once the customer signs up for a trial or is in talks with internal stakeholders around the buying decision, drip emails help to keep the product top of mind,” explained Anne Fairfield-Sonn of CiBO Technologies.
Tim Brown of Hook Agency says that’s why they went all-in on automated nurture campaigns for their content marketing: “We drip out key bits of useful content in the form of soft follow-ups to continue giving value without always consciously thinking about it.”
It’s about understanding “what kind of content are prospects going to enjoy 2 days after submitting a contact form, 5 days, 10 or 15 days later, and asking How can we give so much value that they can’t help but associate our company with that value creation?” Brown explained.
“We’ve seen people respond directly to those emails, reference them in our sales meetings, and be more engaged and informed during our first few weeks of discussion before they become a client.”
“Once a presentation is made,” Sean Dudayev of Frootful Marketing explained, “you have a limited time to close your customer before they forget all about your product or service. An automated follow-up process ensures that every salesperson on your team follows the science of your system without fail and allows greater opportunity to turn an engaged shopper into a customer.”
Nicole Suther of Human Marketing recommended setting up a follow-up sequence specifically for unprovoked website visits: “When a visitor returns to your website without being asked (ie. they didn’t click on an email or ad to return to your site), that means your business is top of mind for them. Set up automation for your sales team to follow up with that lead.”
Dudayev added that they saw pretty stellar results after implementing their automated follow-up sequence.
“Once we implemented this on our team, we saw a near 10% increase in deals closed within two weeks of the sales presentation. The clients that I‘ve implemented this system with all saw leads close faster and at a higher rate. Not only that, but there was less time spent chasing down leads that weren’t interested, which saves your salespeople time and energy to pursue leads that are willing to buy.
BOOM Marketing Agency’s David Balogh emphasized how important it is to lay out your whole sales process before you start automating anything—that way you have a clear picture of which steps can best be automated to help move deals faster. “The most important thing is to plan and define your sales process first, before even touching any software or tool.”
“As soon as you know this information (and you can see it visually), you’ll be able to define smaller steps inside every stage. These are the manual tasks and automated workflows which you have to perform for every deal. The more tasks you can turn into automated steps, the better and faster your sales process is going to get,” Balogh explained.
And Balogh’s team has seen the results to back up their method: “I managed to reduce the time I spend working on deals by more than 70%, our capacity grew to 1.5x, and thanks to the processes the quality of our work also increased.”
Editor’s note: Looking for a way to visualize your entire funnel? Download this free HubSpot Mktg Funnel dashboard to view each stage of the sales cycle with conversion rates and more.
Anil Kaul of Absolutdata explained how artificial intelligence, such as NAVIK Sales AI, can enable sales automation tools to do even more of the traditionally manual, human-powered aspects of selling.
“Effective AI-powered sales tools provide two things: (1) Clear action recommendations, not just insights, customized for each individual salesperson based on rich data and (2) recommendation rationale as to why a recommendation was made, to provide the salesperson with spot-on talking points relevant to a specific contact.”
“AI accelerates the sales process,” Kaul explained, “by sifting through mounds of data to find timely opportunities likely to close soon, and empowers the salesperson with points that will motivate a purchase.”
Sales automation tools can do a lot to shorten the sales cycle and takes leads through to conversion faster—but only if you put them to work effectively. By leveraging some of the use cases our sales experts outlined, you can turn sales automation into more closed deals.
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