Before sales teams had access to the latest and greatest AI-powered softwares, they had to manage sales and close deals the old fashioned way. Thankfully, gone are the days of manually typing contacts and activities in a CRM and sending email after email or dialing cold call after cold call.
Today, your organization can rely on AI that drives sales force automation (SFA) processes designed to improve your sales team’s productivity by automating mundane, repetitive tasks.
Sales force automation (SFA) is the system of automating portions of the sales process through software. Typically, automation focuses on repetitive, time consuming administrative tasks like analyzing sales performance or managing touchpoints with prospects.
In this post, we’ll dive into the benefits of machine learning and AI features in sales force automation for managers and reps, as well as other departments across your organization.
Before we get further, we should clarify a commonly used acronym in sales and marketing. Sales force automation (SFA) should not be confused with customer relationship management (CRM), or the aptly named CRM, Salesforce.
While both SFA and CRM focus on optimizing stages of the customer lifecycle, each focuses on a different stage and therefore has its own unique purpose. Sales force automation focuses on the sales processes by automating repetitive, time consuming tasks, while customer relationship management focuses on managing existing customer relations to improve a customer’s relationship with a company.
That being said, both solutions work together to inform your marketing, sales, and customer service teams about your potential and existing customers. Once more, AI-powered software helps your team extract the most out of your SFA and CRM processes.
AI-powered SFA helps reps on day to day activities while helping leaders with higher level tasks, ultimately accelerating sales and marketing efforts. Key areas that benefit from SFA include managing sales territories and lead routing, tracking opportunities and lead conversions, optimizing sales forecasting, and even streamlining order fulfillment. Let’s dive into each of these more in depth.
A robust sales force automation process can automate your sales pipeline to help increase your overall productivity. The reduction or even elimination of manual data entries for tracking sales activities and reporting outcomes saves your sales reps hours of time each week. This time can instead be allocated into activities that drive revenue, like nurturing and closing deals.
Automation of data entries also improves accuracy, reduces redundancies, and overall decreases the odds of human error that is often inevitable with mundane data entry tasks.
Reps can save time by automating their meeting scheduling and outreach via pre-scheduled emails and follow up workflows. Your reps still build and maintain relationships with their leads and prospects through multiple and frequent touch points, but are able to focus their time and energy on high value interactions like meetings.
SFA seamlessly integrates with CRM platforms and streamlines communication between members of your sales team as well as leaders in other departments. SFA processes often gather a plethora of sales performance data in real time behind the scenes, allowing sales leaders to see what’s working and quickly adjust what isn’t.
For example, closed-loop funnel reporting allows your sales managers to provide insights to your marketing team on which actions further up the funnel lead to the desired outcomes at the bottom of the funnel. An auto-generated sales report on which MQLS converted into closed deals helps inform which marketing programs are worth the investment.
Further, SFA functions within CRMs align your marketing and sales managers on the most opportunistic prospects through leading scoring. Utilizing the data and identifying patterns of won deals allows your marketing team to communicate to your sales team which leads to prioritize.
Saving time with manual data entry isn’t just a benefit for sales reps – your managers will benefit from more accurate reporting and forecasting when data entry is automated. Further, accurate reporting and forecasting helps your sales managers make a strong impression on your sales leadership team.
Setting activity-focused goals, monitoring leading indicators, and tracking outcomes among top performers allows sales managers to focus their time on writing the sales playbook and optimizing efforts across the team to increase revenue.
This in turn will also help your sales reps to increase their individual productivity rates over time with the help of data-backed leading indicators and dedicated coaching by their managers.
To really emphasize the power of artificial intelligence in your sales force automation process, let’s look at what the status quo was before AI software was available and the improvements the modern era can bring your organization. There are many ways AI in SFA is changing how teams manage sales and close deals, so let’s dive into three examples highlighting before and now with AI.
Data is crucial to informing any sales process, but if recorded manually it comes at a cost — time. Without the right tools, up to 30% of sales rep’s time is spent manually logging activities. There’s also the human factor, where errors or misinformation can be entered by accident.
Still, more often than not, CRM data is incomplete. Even Salesforce themselves “estimates that 91 percent of CRM data is incomplete and 70 percent of that data decays annually.”
People.ai rolled out SmartContacts and SmartMatch to solve the mystery of the missing contacts and to fuel teams with complete, fresh data. When we first rolled out these features, we were shocked to learn half of the contacts sales reps were engaging with did not exist within their CRM.
By integrating with your existing CRM, these AI-powered capabilities not only log activities for each contact, but also create a new contact and associate it with the proper account or opportunity should it not already exist. Recognizing data decays overtime, this feature also self-updates contacts every time new information is found to keep data fresh.
Not only does the automatic synchronization save reps the hassle of manually entering all of those missing contacts, but it also gives them 10%-15% of their time back.
Given that most teams struggle to log complete contact data into CRMs, it probably comes as no surprise few teams invest in relationship mapping their contacts.
Relationship mapping is a visual representation of an opportunity’s internal organizational structure to better identify the roles and influence within the organization. Given that the average B2B buying group involves at least six to 10 decision makers, it’s crucial to understand who within the buyer group is your champion and who may be your detractor.
As an expansion of SmartContacts, People.ai’s SmartMaps is the relationship mapping feature that auto-populates every engaged contact through data automatically captured through normal business activities. It then allows reps to map out the increasingly complex relationships between decision makers within buyer groups.
By knowing the roles of each contact within a buyer group (e.g. champion, budget owner, detractors, etc.) and drawing lines of influence between these stakeholders, reps can navigate and strategize to increase win rates.
Limited by the hours in the day, traditional customer service teams can only physically answer so many calls and respond to so many tickets in a given day. Other barriers for traditional customer service teams include language barriers, accurate and helpful resolutions, and even consistent brand voice and tone.
This meant for high volume centers, some tickets may not get resolved the same day or week unless the organization invested more resources in expanding their team. In other cases, a poor customer service experience due to inadequate resolutions or deviations from brand voice could damage a potential or existing customer relationship with your organization.
Just like other AI-powered software, chatbots are not replacing customer service teams. Rather, they are helping customer service teams work more efficiently while also providing faster, relevant assistance to potential and existing customers.
Chatbots allow your sales and customer service team to do the impossible— provide 24/7 customer support, 365 days a year. Using your existing information, chatbots resolve simple inquiries quickly and can escalate more complex issues to a rep. Because they are using the data your organization already has, the answer provided, as well as brand voice and tone, is alway consistent.
For marketing and sales teams, chatbots can help with the timely assessment of incoming leads. Chatbots can also improve customer experience by accelerating customers to the right information they are searching for— and if needed, connecting them with the right sales or customer service rep.
Perhaps the most important point to emphasize about today’s sales force automation software — and tomorrow’s — is that they are not meant to replace your team. Rather, they are essential tools allowing your organization’s marketing, sales, and ops leaders to focus their team’s time and energy on high yield, high value activities, leaving the mundane administrative tasks to AI software.
From providing more holistic and complete engagement data to improve forecasting, to bridging the infamous communication gap between marketing and sales, the impact of AIs on the future of sales force automation is vast. With 40 patents and counting for features like SmartMatch and SmartContacts, People.ai is investing in the future of AI-powered automation to help fuel your sales team with the right data.