What are they doing instead? According to the article, most of a sales team’s time is spent performing administrative tasks, such as data entry, writing emails, and scheduling meetings.
I think we can all agree that there’s got to be a better process. Fifteen years in the field has taught me that the key to boosting sales productivity is twofold: First, find sales tools that increase your reps’ efficiency factor by eliminating some of the busywork they’re tripping over each day. Then, simplify and automate these processes, aiming for the fine balance between a Wild West-style lead grab and blatant overengineering.
SETTING YOUR SALES TEAM UP FOR SUCCESS
Let’s get down to brass tacks. There are two primary ways to ensure that sales teams actually have time to sell:
1) Make sure the right teams own the right tasks. According to a report by Docurated, Marketing departments are held accountable for sales productivity in 52 percent of companies. In today’s world of tools, processes, and specialty roles like demand gen, analytics, and web marketing, make sure you’re leveraging the right talent for the desired outcome. I’m putting it in writing: Marketing is a critical partner to a successful sales team. This means that these folks are your friends, not your enemies. Work with them, don’t fight them.
2) Decrease the time spent on “non-sales” tasks, or better yet, automate them. Don’t fear sales automation; it’s come a long way from the clunky technology sales teams used to cobble together. Modern tools are available in a variety of price ranges and complexity, and there’s truly something out there for sales organizations of every size. Furthermore, delegating via automation does not equal giving up control, it just means you’re working smarter instead of harder.
Maybe your company's organizational structure is not under your control, so you can’t make much of a change to action item number one. But you can certainly take steps to act on item number two, integrating automation into your sales process.
Wondering where to start? I can help. Below I’ve listed four automation tools that speed up your sales process and reduce the amount of time your team spends on tedious busywork. With practice and diligence, these tools will help you convert at a higher rate and move more leads on to the next stage. Before you know it, your team will have evolved from sluggish to successful.
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK: 4 SALES FUNCTIONS TO AUTOMATE
1) Automate your reporting
At AppointmentPlus, my sales team has access to real-time reporting, including all the data they need to be successful—from high-level team results to deal status and rep productivity. Their automated dashboard allows for friendly competition, and ensures that reps are holding themselves and each other accountable. In addition, it saves valuable time—no more manual data pulls, screenshots of charts, or distribution of reports via email. The KPIs are displayed on a TV screen monitor mounted in the sales bullpen but visible to the entire company.
How to get started:
If you're currently keeping sales data in Excel or Google Sheets, automating your reporting won't be easy. You might be able to set something up, but chances are it will get complex quickly. If you're using a CRM, consult the system's support documentation to determine how best to set up an automated email schedule for your reports.
At AppointmentPlus we use GeckoBoard, which is an easy-to-use and reliable way to connect to a number of different data sources. The rest of our sales technology stack consists of Salesforce, HubSpot, and our own software. Each of these platforms is critical in providing different functions for our prospect journey.
2) Automate your lead distribution
Do you manually review every lead, considering which rep will handle that particular prospect the best? Consider this: according to a study by Velocify, contacting a lead within 15 minutes provides the best conversion rate. This means that slow response times caused by manual processes can kill deals. To avoid this fate for your team, use automation to get your prospects engaged ASAP with a clear call to action (CTA), vision, and expectation.
At AppointmentPlus, we rely upon Salesforce and HubSpot to manage the creation and assignment of our leads, and leverage our own online scheduling software application to automate our demo calendar. Using our scheduling API, the prospect can get a demo on their calendar conveniently, immediately, and without timely back-and-forth. After scheduling, we explain to the prospect exactly what to expect next via a thank you page and video, then continue to nurture them via email.
This is all automated on our end, which means that no one has to lift a finger and no leads slip through the cracks.
How to get started:
First, create a standard set of criteria for lead rotation—something more than just a "gut" test. Is your team divided into territories? If so, document the specific boundaries of each region or types of clients that fit into each vertical.
Once you're satisfied with your criteria, use the lead assignment or round robin tool within your CRM to divvy up leads according to your plan. Most CRM systems have made it easy to set-up and manage these rules. Sound like a lot of work? It’s not, compared to the amount of time and worry it will save you in the long run. Unless you enjoy assigning leads at midnight for actions that need to start early the next morning. Then by all means, carry on.
3) Automate lead prioritization
Much of a rep’s time is spent sourcing leads. But once they’ve scored a list of target accounts, how do they know which prospect to call first? Not all leads are created equal: Certain behavioral and demographic characteristics make some much more likely to close than others. That’s why it's crucial that you automate your team’s prioritization process to make sure the best leads get the first follow-ups.
Enter automation, which can offer insight into the prospect’s journey across your content, including whether they’ve reviewed your pricing, inspected your terms and conditions, or downloaded case studies or whitepapers. These are all high-propensity-for-buying activities, so having this information makes a huge difference to a sales team when prioritizing leads. Remember, conversion rates skyrocket when leads are contacted quickly and efficiently.
How to get started:
For best results, try an automated lead scoring system. Assign scores to your leads based on your own criteria, or utilize a system that predicts the likelihood of a close for you. Once you have your scores, create views of leads with the highest scores/propensities to close, and call them first.
If you house your marketing database separately from your CRM, integrate the two to ensure that the best leads pass seamlessly between the two systems. We use LeadSpace as our audience management platform, and it’s made a huge difference in a very short amount of time by allowing us to enrich prospect data and prioritize hot leads.
4) Automate your demo-booking process
While sales reps love to give demos, what goes on behind the scenes to get one on their calendars is incredibly frustrating for them—the back-and forth phone calls, the dreaded reply-all emails, the no-shows. The process involved in booking sales meetings, quite simply, wastes a lot of time. That’s just one of the reasons why the sales team at AppointmentPlus is also one of our company’s best customers. The use of our online scheduling application on our Request a Demo page allows prospects to quickly and seamlessly get a demo on their calendars in less than 35 seconds. It’s a win-win for everyone.
How to get started:
Online scheduling applications like AppointmentPlus let you create custom booking links for each of your sales reps, which in turn can be added to email signatures and lead nurturing campaigns. Our data shows that doing so results in initial interactions with prospects happening seven days earlier, and in closes occurring 15 percent more often than when our reps just collect phone numbers or email addresses.
I’m a firm believer that the technology a sales team uses should complement their already outstanding customer relationship skills. In other words, the right tool for the right job will help the right people get the right results. In partnership with our Marketing team, I’ve been analyzing the metrics related to our sales processes for the last 12 months. By taking advantage of the above tools and processes, we’ve seen our conversion rates increase by 25 to 30 percent, our lead-to-close timeframes decrease from 28 days to 17 days, and our completed demos increase by almost 10 percent. Embracing automation has resulted in a huge ROI; both in terms of dollars and professional satisfaction.