The second annual “State of Sales” report shows that process automation is expected to grow by a whopping 115% in the next three years. At first glance, this is terrifying. After all, we’ve all heard stories and jokes about being replaced by robots and computers. With the rapid growth and capability of AI, is that truly becoming a risk?
Thankfully, research and experienced sales experts assure us that the answer is no. The reality is that especially when it comes to sales, there are some tasks automation just doesn’t handle well. That isn’t to say it can’t do plenty, but it doesn’t replace the human touch.
Yet, automation still has its place. The State of Sales report also noted that in an average week, a sales rep spends 64% of their time on non-sales related tasks. Automation used wisely can free up more of this time for actually selling.
So, how can we use sales automation wisely? As the old adage goes, sometimes it’s simpler to explain how not to do something. Here are some common mistakes made that we must learn to avoid in order to get the optimum use out of sales automation.
Sales automation can be a huge time-saver, but automating the entire sales process is never recommended. Aja Frost at Hubspot warns, too much automation makes you come across as “robotic and soulless,” and that prospects simply don’t respond well to constant automation.
Trish Bertuzzi, President and Chief Strategist at The Bridge Group, laments that “we are automating the human [element] out of the sales process.” The lack of human connection often comes across as unfeeling, and too much automation can even make you look lazy and unprofessional. So, don’t get over enthusiastic and automate everything.
Automating the Wrong Pieces
There are so many incredible automation options that it can be tempting to automate parts of the sales process unnecessarily. For instance, automation can assist you by generating lists of potential leads based on custom criteria. However, if you choose to automate all your emails to these leads with an identical impersonal template, sending follow-ups automatically without regard to who has actually responded or not, you may end up embarrassing yourself.
Make note of which parts of your sales process would benefit most from automation, and focus on those. Maybe your sales team is spending an inordinate amount of time conducting surveys or analyzing data. There’s even software that will help you book meetings. AirSembly recommends using “the guiding principle of doing the 20% of effort that generates the 80% result.”
If your automation strategy is too complicated for sales reps to understand and use to their full advantage, you need to re-evaluate your use of automation. AirSembly explains that “as automated tasks increase in complexity, they actually become less reusable and less agile as a whole.” Sometimes, automating a task will actually make the process more complicated, which defeats the purpose of automation in the first place.
An over-complicated automation strategy increases the odds of some kind of error, human or otherwise. (Yes, even computers can make mistakes, especially when you’re asking them to do so much at one time.)
Matthew Brogie of Repsly warns that “it is easy to get caught up in the glitter of every feature a solution has to offer,” but it is important to keep in mind that “simplicity equals both lower cost and lower risk of failure.”
When it comes to automation software, there is an “adoption curve” for all the sales reps involved. Reps must be trained to use the software correctly and to its full potential. Lack of communication could result in misuse or neglect of the software, which would really be a shame if your company has invested in automation.
Cutting-edge as it may be, automation can’t really help if reps don’t know how to use it well. Be sure to invest in automation that is intuitive and easy to use, so that the adoption curve isn’t as steep and your reps can truly save their time.
It seems obvious, but the sheer amount of choices when it comes to automation solutions can be overwhelming. It is tempting to invest in the biggest and best software, even if its more than your company could ever need. It’s also frustrating to invest in software that doesn’t meet your automation needs in the first place.
Repsly recommends creating a list of the major issues you’re looking for automation to solve, and be sure the solution you choose addresses at least the top three. That way, you’re still getting the results you need without paying for bells and whistles you probably won’t ever use.
Don’t Hate, Automate! (But not too much)
Automation is a wonderful sales tool when used within reason. Be sure that you are assessing the risks of automation so that you can get the results that you want, and spend more time making sales.