What is Sales Automation? A Guide for Beginners

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Sales automation is a hot topic for any business that sells — well — just about anything. And artificial intelligence is changing the automation game. It allows machines to take on more and more of the routine tasks that previously ate up big chunks of sales reps’ time.

In fact, sales and customer service automation is the second-most common area where business executives say they use generative AI.

business functions where their operation uses generative AI the most according to executives worldwide April 2023

Source: eMarketer

Keep in mind that sales automation is not about replacing sales reps with machines. Instead, it’s about handing off basic and repetitive tasks to automated tools. This allows sales reps to be more productive. It can also provide greater job satisfaction.

After all, reps want to spend their time selling, not crunching numbers and performing basic data entry tasks.

What is sales automation?

Sales automation is the use of automated tools to complete sales processes and streamline manual tasks.

For example, automated tools can take care of lead-nurturing email sequences and answer many customer questions. These administrative tasks can take up a huge amount of valuable employee time. And they often need to be done monthly, weekly, or even daily.

Outsourcing these tasks to sales automation software increases the productivity of your team. It allows more time for high-value tasks like prospecting and closing deals. And it costs a lot less than hiring a new assistant who happens to love repetitive labor. McKinsey found that it’s possible to automate up to one-third of all sales tasks.

up to a third of all sals processes can be automated Mckinsey data

In the social media sphere, sales automation tools connect the leads, prospects, and customers that come in through social channels with your sales team and your CRM. Sales automation tools don’t replace your sales team. Instead, they allow your team to make the most out of your sales pipeline by focusing on the most valuable elements of their work.

8 ways to use sales automation to grow your business

1. Sales process automation

Sales automation software increases your productivity and revenues. Businesses that use sales automation have reported a 10 to 15% increase in efficiency, and up to 10% higher sales.

That’s because sales and marketing automation tools can tackle important (but time-consuming) parts of the sales process, such as:

  • identifying potential leads through social media listening
  • sending personalized prospecting and follow-up emails
  • scheduling meetings, appointments, and sales calls
  • creating and monitoring proposals and contracts
  • answering initial inquiries and common questions
  • making product recommendations

When performed by humans, all of these tasks take away time from sales reps’ primary job: selling. When you offload the process-oriented work to automation tools and AI, you give your reps more time to do what they do best (and what they love).

You also avoid the potential human errors that happen when reps copy-and-paste messages to customers and prospects. We’d guess almost every sales rep out there has accidentally pasted the wrong name into an email salutation. Or forgotten to follow-up with a prospect in a timely manner. Or missed critical details about a lead’s personal or business situation when creating a contract. Sales process automation tools use templates and CR integrations to avoid these embarrassing errors.

2. Data collection and centralization

Collecting and managing data is crucial, but time-consuming. Sales automation software can take care of your customer and lead data automatically behind the scenes.

You’ll want a tool that integrates with all your lead sources and your customer service software. This creates one unified database that keeps all the important details in one place. That way all departments can build on one another’s efforts instead of stepping on one another’s toes.

This automated integration ensures you always have access to the most up-to-date data and conversations each customer and prospect has had with every member of your team. No matter which department spoke to them last. You can always determine which attributes your sales reps have access to and in which order.

Automating your data entry also ensures you have consistent records, with no duplicates.

3. Lead scoring

Only 10-15% of your leads will turn into sales. To maximize your ROI, you want to focus your efforts on the most valuable leads. Sales automation tools can help you with lead generation and lead scoring. This directs your efforts where they’re most likely to pay off in the sales funnel.

Sales automation tools track every interaction a lead has with your brand, whether it’s public or private. You can learn what they like, what they don’t, and spot trends that help you understand their purchasing behaviors and cycles.

This gives you a valuable, personalized knowledge base on each of your leads. You can identify when it’s time for an automated sales prompt and when it’s time for a sales rep to reach out.

When you connect, you’ll have a detailed profile based on multiple social channels and interactions. You’ll have everything you need to steer your conversation and guide your sales approach.

Your sales automation tools should also allow agents and admins to tag conversations either manually or automatically to prioritize the hottest leads.

4. Lead distribution

Sales automation tools use the contents of conversations to assign incoming leads to the most relevant sales rep. You can add skill sets within the automation tool so it knows which rep is the best fit for each type of inquiry.

Hootsuite Inbox add skill set

Source: Hootsuite Inbox

This makes the lead distribution process more fair while ensuring leads get the most accurate response to their queries.

5. Customer satisfaction surveys

Customer satisfaction score (CSAT) is often thought of as a customer service metric. But it is also a helpful tool for sales automation. It helps you identify challenges in the interactions between your customers and your team. Any ongoing friction is a barrier to continued or future revenue.

A good sales automation tool enables automatic CSAT surveys for both human and chatbot interactions. The results are added to your CRM and provide additional context for future sales conversations.

Hootsuite inbox conducting customer satisfaction survey

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Your sales automation tool should also allow automated CSAT reporting for both the overall team and on a per-agent/rep basis.

6. Order management and tracking

If you use an eCommerce platform like Shopify, automating order management is easy. There are a ton of apps that integrate directly into the platform. These can automate tasks like:

  • generating invoices
  • tracking shipping info and delivery updates
  • recovering abandoned carts
  • managing subscriptions
  • automating loyalty programs.

Your sales automation tools also allow customers to track their own orders by interacting with a chatbot at any time of day. If there’s a complex problem that requires human intervention, the chatbot will refer the conversation to a human sales or customer service rep, so you maintain high CSAT scores.

7. Upselling

When a potential customer expresses interest in one of your products, they may be a good target for additional or premium product recommendations. An automated sales chatbot powered by AI (like Heyday by Hootsuite) can understand and recommend what a customer is looking for.

Heyday by Hootsuite dashboard

For example, say a customer asks about an entry-level service. The chatbot could ask clarifying questions to understand whether the offering is appropriate for their needs. If it’s not, or if add-ons would make the service more effective, the bot can make those recommendations. If the query is complex or large, the bot can refer the lead to a member of the sales team.

8. Reporting

Manually creating sales reports is nobody’s idea of a fun way to spend an afternoon. It’s a big job that can require sales reps and managers to gather data from multiple sources and waste time on data entry.

Sales automation tools can automate the sales reporting process. They include graphic components like charts and graphs that make the reports easier for everyone to understand at a glance.

Get data on important KPIs like qualified leads or new subscribers whenever you need them.

add a new report using Hootsuite Inbox

Source: Hootsuite Inbox

Plus, you don’t need to wait until the end of a sales period to understand what’s happening with your sales team. Sales automation tools offer real-time reporting so you can see what’s happening live, at any time.

Individual reps can check in on their own performance. Meanwhile, managers can access team-level reporting to keep everyone motivated and on track.

The best sales automation tools for 2023

Hootsuite

You might already know Hootsuite as a full-featured social media management platform. But it also offers an extensive array of sales automation functionality. One of the most valuable features within the main Hootsuite dashboard is the ability to set up social listening streams. This is a good way to watch for conversations related to your brand and identify prospects.

But the most important tools for sales automation live within Hootsuite Inbox. This unified social inbox bridges the gaps between social media engagement, sales, and customer service through:

  • Automated message routing and filtering
  • Auto-responses and saved replies
  • Automatically triggered customer satisfaction surveys
  • AI-powered chatbot features
  • Automated tracking of all prospect interactions with your brand on social media (across your accounts and platforms)
  • Automated response time and CSAT tracking and reporting

Hootsuite inbox also allows sales reps to add notes to customer profiles. These auto-update your CRM through integrations with tools like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.

Salesforce

Salesforce is a top-rated CRM that is highly customizable for your business needs. It allows you to automate repetitive processes like email campaigns, approvals and data entry.

With Salesforce you can search and view leads, opportunities, accounts, contracts. When integrated with Hootsuite, Salesforce can identify and capture new leads from social channels.

Adobe Marketo

Marketo’s lead management features are triggered by real actions to help you understand what a prospect is likely to do next. You can create custom, real-time lead-scoring models to ensure your team is honed in on the prospects who are most likely to buy.

The robust data and lead management tools allow you to nurture prospects and qualify potential buyers automatically before your sales team invests their valuable time.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Source: LinkedIn Sales Solutions

LinkedIn Sales Navigator helps you find prospects using customized, targeted search tools. There’s no need to constantly log in and perform manual searches. Instead, you can set up a custom search filter and get email alerts when there are new profiles that match your results.

You can get alerts every day, every week, or every month, depending on how often you want to fill your funnel. You can then manage your leads within the platform, or integrate them with your CRM to access additional sales automation tools.

Microsoft Dynamics 365

Microsoft Dynamics unifies your sales and social marketing data. You get detailed insights about your customers and prospects. It uses artificial intelligence to predict customer intent and match your sales team with the highest quality leads.

Through an integration with Hootsuite, Microsoft Dynamics allows you to create leads and opportunities from social posts directly in your Hootsuite dashboard.

SugarCRM

SugarCRM overview

Source: SugarCRM

SugarCRM offers AI-powered lead conversion and opportunity-close predictions. These keep your team focused on the best available leads. Real-time alerts provide important updates on key accounts, with data drawn from multiple sources. This includes social platforms.

When integrated with Hootsuite, SugarCRM allows you to pull in data directly from social posts. Full text search helps you find the smallest details in your database.

Shopview

Shopview integration with Hootsuite

Source: Synaptive

Do you use an ecommerce platform? There’s likely an available Shopview integration to connect your store to your social networks via Hootsuite. Shopview integrations facilitate social media sales automation. They allow you to share products to your social networks. You can filter products by collection and keyword, with multiple shop support.

You can also see all orders in your Hootsuite dashboard in real time.

Find your relevant Shopview integration in the Hootsuite App Directory:

Heyday

Heyday waterproof headphone options

Source: Heyday

Heyday is a conversational AI assistant, designed to support your customers at every stage of their shopping journey. Heyday helps customers find the products they want, answers FAQs, and provides order updates. It can also support your sales team, by capturing leads and collecting data. It integrates with all your messaging channels to support customers everywhere.

Save time selling on social with automated responses, smarter workflows, and friendly chatbots — all in the Hootsuite Inbox.

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Turn customer service conversations into sales with Heyday. Improve response times and sell more products. See it in action.


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