You’ve been really busy but things are starting to slow down. It’s time to drum up some business!
You open up your CRM and… cringe. You haven’t updated your pipeline in weeks. Everything is out of date. Again.
You’ve got a slew of overdue tasks you never took care of and, oh look, you dropped the ball on several very promising conversations.
You fire off some emails to the deals you think might still be lukewarm. Hopefully someone bites, but you aren’t optimistic. You can hear that all-too-familiar voice in your head, “You really need to do a better job tracking your leads.”
It doesn’t have to be this way. This never-ending cycle of neglect and remorse is avoidable.
You can stay on top of all your leads and follow-up with everyone quickly. A pristine pipeline is possible.
You don’t need to do a better job or try harder. But, you do need to invest time into implementing a sales automation strategy for your business. It’s an extremely high-leverage activity that will save you untold time and eliminate so much unnecessary stress. You’ll shorten your sales cycle, close more deals, and everyone that goes through your pipeline will have a more positive experience of your company. A few hours invested now will pay dividends for years to come.
In this post I’ll outline the seven major aspects of sales automation, give you some food for thought as you plan each aspect, and give you some guidance on how to get started.
What’s the goal here?
Sales automation is about creating a system you can depend on to:
- Keep you focused on your best opportunities
- Help you stay on top of your workload and prevent you from dropping the ball
- Minimize time spent on record keeping and time-consuming routine tasks
After you’ve automated your pipeline, you should feel confident that what your CRM tells you to do is exactly what you should be doing at that moment because everything has been prioritized for you. Nothing can slip through the cracks because you’ve got an automated system “watching” and generating tasks for you as needed. All you have to do is open your CRM and start checking off tasks.
You can finally relax knowing that you are investing your precious time exactly where it will have the most impact. You’ve automated everything else, so you’re operating at maximum efficiency. You’ve achieved a perfect balance between human touch and automation and you’ve got systems in place to ensure you’re measuring and improving your pipeline.
This is sales automation bliss. Here are the seven steps to getting there…
1. Automate identifying your best leads
We all know it’s important to use behavior and engagement to identify our best opportunities but, without implementing a scoring program, it’s really difficult to do well.
If your company is getting more leads than it has time to follow up with, scoring isn’t something that “would be nice” to implement, it’s absolutely necessary. There isn’t a better way to prioritize leads.
A well-implemented lead scoring program can analyze all your leads, look at their product fit, their engagement across your campaigns and website, and rank them all in order of their likelihood to convert and become high-value customers. Hundreds of factors can be boiled down to a single numerical value that ranks your leads so you know exactly where to invest your time.
You can increase or decrease a contact or deal score when contacts:
- Open campaigns
- Click links in campaigns
- Visit your website
- View specific pages of your website
- Submit forms
- Reach goals
You can adjust scores on literally hundreds of conditions. For points related to engagement, you can set them to expire so the score is constantly adjusted to keep your hottest leads at the top of the pile. If a contact score dips, you can automatically drop them into a re-engagement sequence and bring them back into your pipeline when their score rises again.
2. Automate deal record creation
It all begins with the deal record — a place to consolidate all your information about a deal and keep yourself organized as you move it through the stages of your pipeline all the way to “Won.”
Again, I urge you to implement lead scoring because it makes automatically creating deal records for your best leads a breeze. As soon as your contacts reach a threshold score you define, a deal record can be automatically created, placed in your pipeline, assigned to a sales person, and a task can be created for them to reach out or an email inviting them to talk can be fired off. It’s beautiful.
It also makes controlling the flow of leads quick and easy… Want more leads? Lower the threshold score. Want fewer but better leads? Raise the threshold score.
3. Automate outreach and follow-up
In an ideal world, you could spend your time personally communicating with every lead who enters your pipeline. For most companies, that’s not going to work.
Outreach is tricky… it’s where you have to carefully balance the efficiency of automation with the reality that it’s not always perceived positively and many people prefer one-to-one communication.
One balanced strategy is to personally reach out on the first touch but, if the lead doesn’t respond, they’re dropped into an automated sequence of 3-4 follow-up emails. As soon as the lead responds or indicates interest, you can end the automated sequence and bring a salesperson back to the deal for personal communication going forward.
With this approach you invest human time into leads that are actively progressing and then rely on automation to warm up lower-quality leads until they are sales-ready.
4. Automate task creation and reminders
There are two types of tasks you need to stay on top of:
- Responding to your lead & their requests
- Proactive activity that moves the deal forward
With ActiveCampaign, you can create a task:
- When a lead replies to an email you’ve sent
- When you complete other tasks so you have perpetual next actions driving things forward
- When a contact completes a target behavior (Goal)
The proactive, deal-driving outreach can be built into your pipeline so that as a deal progresses, the tasks needed to move it forward are automatically created.
As you’re working on implementing sales automation, pay attention to the “No scheduled tasks” category of your CRM. These are red flags indicating weak spots in your sales automation that need to be addressed with some problem solving. Open up each of these deals and consider:
- What would move this deal forward from here?
- How can I trigger that task to be created automatically so that similar deals don’t end up here?
5. Automate pipeline movement
Each of your pipeline stages is a bucket you place leads in until they take a step forward, deeper into your sales funnel. When they take that step forward, there is probably a notable event that takes place. This event can automatically move the deal forward to the next stage so that your deal records are always exactly where they are supposed to be in your pipeline. This way it’s kept in sync without requiring your time and attention.
Third-party apps are a great way to move deals through pipeline stages:
- Appointment scheduling solutions such as Calendly and Acuity can move deals when demos, consultations, and calls are scheduled.
- Document signing solutions like Docusign and ApproveMe can move deals when documents are read, signed, and returned.
- Payment solutions like Paypal, Stripe, Shopify, and Woocommerce can move deals when payments are made.
Use Zapier’s “Update deal” action to move deals through stages with events from over 700 apps.
6. Automate next steps
A deal being marked as “Won” can automatically begin the customer onboarding process. Other teams in your company can be notified, the deal can be moved to a different pipeline, webhooks can be sent to other apps, and tasks can be created and assigned.
When a deal is marked as “Lost” you can begin a drip sequence of win-back emails to stay top of mind with the lead should they need your solution in the future.
7. Automate optimization
Leads are entering your pipeline and dropping off at various stages. Do you understand where that happens and why?
Pipelines are processes and, like any process, they should continually be optimized for efficiency, conversion, and customer experience.
Our Goals feature makes it easy to track your conversion rate for each step of your sales process so you can identify where drop-off is occurring and investigate. Simply place a series of Goal actions into an automation that is triggered by a deal being created. Each Goal condition should be the movement to a new stage of your pipeline.
With these Goals and our handy new Goals report, you can see exactly where your leads are dropping off and patch holes in your processes as needed. For every constraint on your pipeline, there’s a way to relieve it (or troubleshoot it if the solution isn’t obvious).
- Leads not signing contracts? Add some automated reminders.
- Leads not responding to your initial outreach? Test out some new approaches to sparking the conversation.
- Leads not following through on purchasing after they say they will? Ask them for feedback on why and adjust accordingly.
Get started now…
Hopefully this post has your head spinning with sales automation possibilities for your pipeline. If so, I hope you’ll use that creativity and motivation to start mapping out your automated sales pipeline right now. It’s one of those things that’s incredibly important but all too easy to put off.
If you don’t have a pipeline to manage your opportunities, I hope you’ll sign up for trial account and test out our CRM. It’s an intuitive, stream-lined tool that’s easy to customize for any business. By having your CRM tied to your email marketing & marketing automation, you can share data between sales and marketing processes and automate many routine activities you’d have to do manually otherwise.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section. I’ll be sure to respond.