Automate Your Sales Process: 3 Best Ways to Smash Efficiency!

April 2, 2018 Bobby Edmundowic

While an earlier post talked about automating the sales process with bots, this article shows you how you can take control of your sales data, documentation process, and contracts to get started with sales automation.

You want to speed up your sales process. Who doesn’t? After all, faster processes mean shorter sales cycles, quicker time-to-revenue, and less waiting on cash flow.

Yet, when we talk about improving sales processes, there seems to be a reflexive eye roll whenever someone mentions “efficiency.

As a sales pro, you know the pressure of trying to stay competitive in a sales landscape that changes faster than the weather, and how it puts all attempts at actually being more efficient toward the bottom of the priority list.

All Manual, All the Time

Of course, if yours is like most sales organizations, a great majority of that process is all done by hand.

You sift through huge volumes of customer records in your CRM trying to decide who to call first. You craft proposals, quotes, and RFPs as brand new documents from scratch and make redline edits by hand, each time. And you route each version for approval via email—again manually—until finally everyone agrees and the deal is done.

In this era of hyper-personalized and high-touch customer interactions, how can a sales team reasonably expect to beat competitors to the punch?

How can sales deliver a superior customer experience if they’re constantly bogged down in time-consuming and repetitive manual tasks?

You know you need to do something to shorten the sales cycle. But you don’t have the luxury to think about what greater efficiency looks like—let alone implement a plan for it—when the quarterly quota clock is ticking.

How Efficiency is Really Achieved

Here’s some news for you: despite its buzzword popularity, efficiency is still the “open sesame” of sales. It unlocks whole new worlds of buyer possibilities, revenue opportunities, and growth.

While the concept and the goal won’t change anytime soon, how you go about achieving it will. And automation is the key to making that change.

Integrated, intelligent automation tools enable end-to-end sales acceleration by:

1) Taking manual, repetitive work off your plate and turning it into easily replicated, automated workflows, and documents.

2) Giving everyone access to the same detailed, cross-referenced, up-to-date customer and account data—for use in every call, quote, proposal, contract, upsell, and renewal

3) Putting the power of contract generation squarely in the hands of your sales team, where it belongs—rather than relying on legal to handle it and risking a protracted interruption in deal momentum.

The result is that your team spends more time on mission-critical activities and actual selling. This means less time on the stuff that trips them up, bogs them down and gets in the way of their sales goals.

In the spirit of achieving real and measurable sales efficiency, here are 3 steps you can take to automate your sales process.

1) Audit Your Current Data Management System

Focus on your data first. Your sales team relies on data for everything from updating customer records and forecasting pipeline to initiating quotes and proposals. Without data, there is no deal.

Take an inventory:

  • How many systems do you currently use to house your data?
  • How many steps does it take to make an update so that it appears everywhere, across all systems?
  • What’s the amount of time needed for data entry every day?
  • How many sales deals in play—and at what stages—can you track at a given time? Or can you track deals at all?

If your data is poorly managed, you can expect that other business processes and outputs will be negatively affected.

If you can’t quickly and easily find what you need, if the data hasn’t been updated properly, or it has to be maintained in disparate legacy systems, that’s trouble. You’re going to waste inordinate amounts of time that could be better spent on revenue-generating activities.

Here’s how automating your data optimizes the sales process:

It gives you visibility into all aspects of the sales ecosystem.

Visibility leads to more insight, which is necessary for managing the pipeline and improving sales forecasting. You know exactly which deals to prioritize and how to close them to make the biggest impact on revenue targets.

It increases user adoption of your CRM.

When you can see all data clearly in one, easy-to-understand view, your team is more likely to use and update the CRM with confidence. It becomes a go-to tool that enables deals rather than hinders them.

Dos and Don’ts in the decision-making process:

1) DO earmark the current programs or systems that don’t add value and should be reconsidered.

2) DON’T advocate for purchasing additional software that can’t integrate with your existing CRM.

2) Calculate Time and Resources Spent on Manual Document Creation

Next, think about how you create documents.

Sales has to produce significant amounts of “paper” on a weekly and even daily basis. No part of the sales process exists without some accompanying document. Be it a quote, a contract, a product update, or something else—that needs to be drafted, reviewed, revised, or signed.

Take an inventory:

  • How many programs—or other people—do you have to involve to create one document?
  • How long does it take to generate each document?
  • What’s the percentage of errors that occur with manual document generation?
  • Do you currently have a consistent, branded format for each document type? Or does anything go?

When you add up all the time you spend creating documents and then compare all if this against the time you spend selling? The result is sobering.

How automating documentation optimizes the sales process:

It increases accuracy and consistency.

When you can produce consistently formatted and branded, error-free documents using updated data and pre-approved legal clauses every time, it completely removes the need for manual work.

Replicating routine documents, in many cases with one click.

A templated system lets you populate fields with information directly from your CRM—with just a click or two of the mouse. You can use the extra hour you would have needed to generate a document from scratch to follow up with the buyer instead.

Dos and Don’ts in the decision-making process:

1) DO list the document types that are generated the most; it will help you make the case for speeding them up with templates.

2) DON’T assume you can keep some manual document creation. A mix of manual and electronic will only lead to more confusion and inaccuracies.

3) Uncover Delays in Your Contract Process

Finally, take a close look at contracts.

When a deal is in the home stretch, sales knows all too well this is where it can slow down the most. Why? Because the role of legal is to oversee every detail of every contract before approving. And also to guard against costly liabilities that can come with poorly drafted agreements and difficult negotiations.

And that takes time.

Take an inventory:

  • Who can create sales contracts in your organization?
  • What’s the typical lifespan of a contract from creation to final signature? Is it hours, days, or weeks?
  • What are the number of unique contract clauses legal has to maintain and that you have to know about?
  • On average, how many deals fail to close because of lengthy or complex contract processes?

Traditional contract management requires hours! It’s often a closed-door ordeal fraught with version control and redlining issues—effectively trapping sales in a blind waiting game.

Deals stall, and sales is left with the frustrating task of trying to revive them or save them altogether.

How automating the contract lifecycle optimizes the sales process:

It gives sales the ability to create and track every contract.

Creating contracts is a natural extension of the sales process since sales has access to all the buyer data. You can create the contract quickly, then get a real-time view into its status. That too on your own time and terms—without involving legal at all.

It digitizes legal oversight.

Digital oversight takes the clause guesswork—and legal’s legwork—out of the equation. For each contract you create, you can save time by selecting from a pre-approved clause library, avoiding confusion and re-work.

Dos and Don’ts in the decision-making process:

1) DO also provide legal’s input about their own daily processes, and the time and attention required for the sales team alone.

2) DON’T underestimate the power of transparency. Leadership can see exactly where contracts fail and what business processes need to improve to enable growth.

Key Takeaways

It’s not enough to say your sales process needs to become more efficient. True end-to-end sales acceleration happens when you automate. To get started:

1) Clean up your data.

Find out which programs add the least value and can be tossed out. Use the data in your CRM as the single source of truth for faster, easier integration with an automation solution.

2) Overhaul your document processes.

Take note of the many documents you have to create and re-create. Compare the speed of a templated system to the older, slower, manual way your team is used to working.

3) Take charge of your own contracts.

Understand where and when your sales contracts typically get hung up. Empower your sales team to create and track contracts as a regular part of their process.

Intelligent automation—combining machine learning with automated processes—provides seamless integration with your existing CRM and systems. It takes the data that’s already there and uses it to speed document generation, streamline contract negotiation, and create top-to-bottom transparency.

More importantly, it eliminates all the slowdowns, hiccups, errors, and gaps that come with too many disparate software programs and outdated manual workflows. This keeps your sales team competitive and gives them more time to focus on the customer.

The post Automate Your Sales Process: 3 Best Ways to Smash Efficiency! appeared first on Sales Hacker.

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