Nicolas is CEO of the AI inbound conversion platform Chili Piper, that has thrived on a 100% remote work culture since its founding in 2016.
As businesses embrace automation, it’s important to understand how sales representatives will be affected. As a cofounder of an SaaS platform, I see how conventional methods of sales will soon become obsolete as employees begin to modernize and refine their tactics.
As we enter post-pandemic reality, a downturn in the economy, and, in tech, businesses are reassessing resources to take advantage of new tools designed for greater efficiency. They’re phasing out legacy sales and marketing tactics to optimize workflow and help businesses thrive in what many refer to as the “new normal.”
Inbound sales development representatives (SDRs) have long been a backbone of the sales team. But if they’re to thrive in this new reality, their role must evolve. In a full-employment economy, people are quick to look for new opportunities. As companies worry more about decreasing valuations, they’re trying to counter that with increasing efficiencies.
When time is of the essence, automation allows businesses to redistribute resources more efficiently. Let’s explore the advantages sales teams get through automation.
Giving Time Back To Your Sales Team
If a sales representative is stalled with busy work, they’ll likely be too busy to perform a crucial aspect of their work—building positive, meaningful relationships with customers.
Freeing sales teams from repetitive tasks allows them time for work that requires greater critical thinking and insight. They can better manage and prioritize their responsibilities while helping the company reach its goals. Alleviating mundane tasks with automation can empower sales reps to convert more leads into clients.
As more companies embrace a customer-centric model, automation can offer streamlined experiences to build long-term loyalty and allow sales representatives to redesign and redistribute their time to offer more personal experiences to the customer.
Capturing Leads Faster
Apps that make use of automation and machine learning can capture leads faster and more efficiently than traditional inbound SDRs. Technological improvements in the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) can open doors for sales experts.
I find that noting the inherent benefits of AI is essential at a time when companies are trying to mitigate as many risks to sales pipelines as possible. According to a study by Aberdeen, companies that implemented a form of AI into their services saw 3.5 times the annual improvement in customer satisfaction.
Moving forward with a “straight-to-meeting” imperative greatly streamlines the inbound process for prospects. Research by Velocify notes that 391% of leads buy from the company that responds to inquiries within the first minute. Automating the meeting scheduling process to instantly connect with a “warm” lead increases conversion.
Another essential aspect of the sales process is trust, especially since consumers are wary of sharing personal data. By devoting more time to engaging closely with a prospect, sales reps can better accommodate a lead’s questions to more quickly convert them to a paying customer while building brand reputation in the process.
Getting Started Using Automation
I find that traditional methods of responding to inbound requests often can’t compete with an automated approach. Because SDRs can’t match the speed and accuracy of an automated process to qualify, route and book inbound prospects, the likelihood of lead conversion for an inbound SDR is low. By embracing automation within the workflow, SDRs will see greater ROI and boost the company’s bottom line.
So, how should organizations start automating their processes? They must first assess the current sales cycle and understand where it’s lagging. Are there gaps in prospect response times? Are SDRs inundated with too many manual processes? A needs analysis will determine where automation can be most useful, especially since each stage of the sales cycle requires a full understanding of organizational goals. Here are some best practices to guide leaders considering automation integrations.
No need to automate everything. I find that automation works best when there are constant streams of data for systems to work with. Smaller businesses likely have fewer inbound leads, which would make automating the sales process less effective.
Quantify inbound data. Assessing volume of leads and data involved is a good first step. How many inbound leads are you getting per day? Is qualifying them overwhelming? If your conversion rate of qualified lead to qualified held meeting is less than 60%, it’s time to consider automation because you’re leaving revenue on the table.
Keep the human touch. Automating too much of the sales process can look robotic and lifeless for prospects, especially if canned responses and automatically triggered interactions are overused. This is where the human element shines. Customers primed for a sale will want to close the deal with a live human, not a machine.
Don’t overdo the human touch. It may seem contrary to the above, but companies sometimes add unnecessary steps for buyers to navigate. A buyer doesn’t want to talk to an SDR who’s only there to “qualify them.” If a buyer is ready, put them in a buying conversation instead of making them jump through hoops.
Identify which processes to automate. The rule of thumb is to automate more mundane tasks, like data entry, over late-funnel messages to qualified leads. A proper CRM can help SDRs manage a downstream lead with a personal touch.
The right sales automation solution can be a huge revenue booster. But businesses should also understand the less obvious challenges associated with proper implementation. The first involves staff. Businesses may have to refocus and train–or retrain–employees to handle new automation tools while considering growth over time to minimize data fragmentation. SDRs need full transparency into potential leads, the channels they flow through and which are primed to convert. Finally, a full view of how customers and end-users respond to automation will better fulfill expectations in the long run.
Most importantly, ensure your process enables buyers over anything else. The buying experience speaks to the customer experience, so optimize it. Ask yourself, are inbound SDRs enhancing your buying experience better, or are you doing it because you think you have to?