Everyone who’s ever worked on or with a sales team has at least one story of how they missed a big sales opportunity because of a failure to follow up. Here’s a classic example.

An important lead for a very large deal asked your rep to circle back with her after she wrapped up an event so she could continue the dialogue at a later time. The rep put a reminder to call her on a personal calendar and then was out sick the week the follow-up was requested. Before you even realized what happened, the lead chose to buy from your direct competitor.

No matter how professional your team is, sales reps are only human, which means they sometimes make mistakes. You’re busy running a business, and you don’t have a ton of time for oversight. The last thing you want to do is micromanage your sales team, but how else can you make sure they aren’t losing out on opportunities because of inconsistent follow-up?

There is a better way, and it’s called sales force automation. Even if your sales “force” only consists of one or two people (maybe even just you!), you can make life a whole lot easier for both your team and your leads by automating crucial pieces of the sales process. This involves using technology to standardize the interactions that you have with prospects and leads so that nothing is forgotten and oversight is simpler.

Automation is a tool, not a threat

One of the most common objections entrepreneurs have to automating the sales process is that it will make their sales efforts less human — taking away one of their biggest advantages. Being able to provide a personal, human experience for every customer and lead is what gives many small businesses their competitive advantage, and business owners fear automation could diminish that.

There are several reasons why automation is a tool for your business, not a threat. First, a good automation strategy should never replace all human interaction with automated experiences. Instead, it should focus on making those human interactions better by automatically sending relevant information to sales reps so they are prepared to have the best possible conversation with leads. Second, automation saves your team time so they can focus on building connections with your clients and leads rather than repeating simple, time-draining tasks.

The key is to use automated “tasks,” a system that tracks which steps should be taken for which leads and when. At the right time, the individual on your team who’s assigned to take care of the task is notified. If he or she doesn’t complete the follow-up task after a set amount of time, the system can notify you (or anyone else) so the appropriate steps can be taken. Voilà — an efficient solution to the problem of inconsistent follow-up and oversight challenges.

Task automation allows your team to prioritize the most valuable connections with leads, generate more revenue for your business, and build stronger relationships with customers. Read on for more specific examples of how you can reap the benefits of task automation.

Prioritize your team’s most important follow-up conversations with tasks

With automated task management, it’s easier for your team to prioritize the most important interactions so they can focus their efforts where it counts. Instead of guessing which client or lead to call, wasting time creating call lists, or searching through emails, they can work from a list of tasks assigned to them.

You and your team have limited hours in the day to follow up with leads and, odds are, you spend a good chunk of that time trying to figure out who needs follow-up and when. For example, say you want to follow up exactly one month after every discovery call with a qualified lead. To do this, you’ve got to keep track of every conversation you have — maybe on a spreadsheet or a calendar — then remember to book a follow-up call a month later, or look back to see who you talked to 30 days ago to make a list of calls for the day. This is inefficient at best, sloppy at worst.

Task automation can solve this problem neatly. If you assign every lead you qualify on a discovery call to a long-term follow-up campaign that includes task reminders for your team to follow up at the right time, it eliminates the guesswork of trying to figure out which leads you should call on any given day. It also assures that no leads are ever forgotten, maximizing your chances of making the sale and boosting your revenue.

Use forms to automatically trigger tasks

Automation can trigger a new task whenever a form in your system is filled out. This has obvious applications for following up with new sales leads who come in through your website, but you can also create forms dedicated to collecting and inputting contact data. Use this tool to follow up consistently with individuals your team meets while they’re traveling or at live events.

To do this, simply create an internal form that your team can fill out on the go, even from their phones or tablets, that includes details such as contacts’ info, where they met, what their business is, or notes from the conversation. That form will automatically assign a task to the same rep who filled out the form to follow up on their conversation a week later. This maximizes the value of your team’s travels or time at live events and makes it easy for them to correctly prioritize every single follow-up task they need to perform.

Increase your revenue by connecting with leads and customers more consistently

Task automation definitely makes it easier to prioritize the right follow-up tasks, but it also creates many opportunities for you to boost your bottom line.

One way it can do this is by making sure that you and your team never miss out on an opportunity to capture your lead’s attention. According to an article by the RAIN Group, several reasons businesses may be missing out on lead opportunities include failure to nurture leads, not integrating various marketing tactics well or inefficient decision making. It can take significant time and resources to create a strong relationship with a potential lead, and if your team isn’t sure which deals to go after and when, you may miss out on key opportunities.

A relevant example would be if your sales model revolves around contracts and bids, perhaps if you’re a building contractor or a specialized consultant. A simple way to increase your revenue in this case would be to create bids for more qualified leads, and do it as fast as possible at the right moment.

You can do this by automating tasks that prompt sales reps to pursue a bid and provide the information they’ll need to create the strongest possible bid. These tasks may be triggered when leads reach a certain lead score (see the final bonus tip at the end of this article) or when leads take an action, such as requesting a product demonstration or submitting a pricing query. Whenever this happens, a task can be assigned to someone on your team to prepare a bid based on all the relevant information that lead has already shared with you, conserving your time and resources and allowing you to put your best foot forward with qualified leads.

Avoid missing out on opportunities by automating follow-ups

This technique may also be used to increase revenue by decreasing online order abandonment. What happens if leads visit the order form for your product, fill it out halfway, then are interrupted by an urgent phone call? They might remember a few hours later to come back to your page and finish their order — but they also might forget. There may also be a reason they abandoned your order form halfway through. Maybe they got cold feet because they were confused about your pricing model or what the product includes.

The solution to this is swift follow-up. By triggering a task when contacts visit the URL of your order page but do not follow through with their purchase, you can call them a few hours later to see if they have any questions or need assistance. You’ll be able to answer any of their objections, quell their fears about the value they get for the price, and remind them to follow through with what they started. It’s an easy way to avoid missing out on potential sales, and it can seriously boost your revenue with very little extra effort.

Strengthen customer relationships to increase loyalty and retention

Effective sales teams do more than just connect with leads. If you don’t make it a habit to check in on your customers and continually provide them with more value, you’ll be missing out on opportunities to strengthen customer relationships. By prioritizing tasks and conversations that help customers get the most out of your product, you can increase your sales by turning temporary customers into long-term, loyal customers.

For example, let’s say that you’re a consultant who wants to maximize the experience for new clients after you begin your first new project together.

You can provide an optimal post-purchase experience with automated task follow-up. You might establish a series of tasks to check in with clients and see how things are going at fixed points (e.g., after the first milestone is met or after your first deliverables are submitted). By staying in touch proactively, you can make sure customers are satisfied with the progress you’re making together and find opportunities to expand the relationship. This is guaranteed to improve your retention by providing clients with more value.

Stay in touch with your customers

Do you sell a subscription product where customers are charged at regular intervals for your services? If so, task automation makes it easy to minimize lost customers (and lost revenue) by automatically initiating a conversation with customers who cancel. You can set up a task to be triggered when customers choose to cancel their subscription to your product and end recurring charges to their card on file. Then, you can call or email them to try and get more info about why they chose to leave. It may be possible for you to bring them back at this point but, even if their decision is final, you will learn valuable information about their experience that you can use to improve things going forward to increase your retention, maximizing your monthly revenues by reducing customer turnover.

Bonus tip: Combine task automation with lead scoring

What if you knew which of your leads were the most likely to buy today? If all you had to do was give them a call to convert them into a customer instantly, you and your team would drop everything and do it, right? That’s the idea behind lead scoring.

To score your leads, you’ll need to identify the signals that leads send when they’re ready to make a decision to buy. To identify these signals, look at the data you have about your customers and see what they have in common. Do many of them have a similar job title? Do most of them come in from a certain lead source or referrer? You should also look at trigger behaviors. Maybe visiting your sales page, downloading a lead magnet or performing some other kind of behavior tells you that a lead is ripe for follow-up.

Once you know these details about your customers, you have the info you need to find more people like them. With a lead scoring system, you can assign points to each of the trigger behaviors performed by your leads or based on data about themselves that they provide to you via your forms.

Once their score has broken the threshold that you set to qualify them as a great lead, you can have a task automatically triggered for you or your team to follow up with them.

For example, say that you assigned leads five points for visiting your sales page, 10 points for downloading a lead magnet, and five points for clicking on one of your offer emails. If a lead reaches 20 points, it’s time to give them a call. So, you could create a rule with the following logic: If a contact has a lead score value of 20 points or higher, then assign a task to [team member email address] to call them and offer the product.

By combining these two powerful tools – lead scoring and automated tasks – you can find your hottest leads and follow up with them when they’re most ready to buy. It’s an easy way to increase your sales numbers every month.

Now, it’s your turn.

Who says that automation can’t lead to more valuable human interactions? With the right strategies in place, you can make sure that you’re maximizing both your revenue and the experience for your customers and leads.

Have you tried any of these task automation tactics? Tell us about how it went for you in the comments section below!

About Megan Monroe
Associate Editor Megan Monroe is a graduate of Santa Barbara’s Westmont College where she studied Philosophy and Communications. After working for several local small businesses (where she gained firsthand experience with the frustration of manual segmentation and follow-up), Megan joined the Ontraport Growth Team. When she isn’t writing marketing copy, social media posts or educational guides for entrepreneurs, she enjoys taking advantage of the Central Coast's amazing wineries and cooking without following a recipe.