Have you ever wished you could run your small business’s sales effort with the speed, efficiency and closing rate of an international enterprise? Whether your small business has a force of several talented sales professionals to turn leads into customers, or your sales force consists of just one person — you — you can speed up your efficiency and achieve an ultra-high closing rate if you leverage what’s known as sales force automation.
When you hear the term “sales force automation,” your first instinct might be skepticism. You may be wondering, “Isn’t sales force automation just something that giant companies with huge budgets and hundreds of employees use? How could that possibly fit my small business?”
Sales force automation doesn’t have the greatest reputation among small businesses. Many people believe that it’s a cold and impersonal way to interact with leads and customers, assuming that it’s only a tool that large, soulless corporations are forced to resort to because it’s the only way to keep their huge teams organized.
That myth couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is, by automating the most simple and predictable tasks that you or your team spend time on, you can actually create more valuable, personal connections between your brand and your clients than if you performed all follow-up manually and individually.
What is Sales Force Automation?
The term “sales force automation” refers to using a software tool to automate many of the interactions with the leads in your sales pipeline. This might include automatically sending them an email with follow-up information when they submit an inquiry on your website, creating tasks to remind your team to call or email a lead personally, automatically routing incoming leads to distribute them between your team equally or even assigning a lead score that quickly shows your team how qualified each prospect is.
Many entrepreneurs are unsure about the difference between sales and marketing automation. Although you can (and should) use one system for both, they each focus on different types of communications and different goals. While marketing automation focuses on turning people on your list into qualified leads, sales automation is about turning qualified leads into customers for your business. For this reason, it’s inherently more personal - although it is still far more “automatable” than you might think at first.
Why Should I Invest in Sales Force Automation?
Although using automation to facilitate more interactions with leads may seem impersonal, it actually paves the way for more quality, human-to-human interactions between you and your customers. A good sales force automation strategy shouldn’t focus on eliminating all direct conversations with leads. On the contrary, the primary aim of implementing sales force automation should be to handle the least productive and most repetitive tasks that take up your time (and your team’s time) so you can have more quality conversations with the prospects who will benefit most from that personal attention.
By building an automated system that handles all the basics of follow-up for you, you can relax and count on the fact that every lead and customer in your system will be taken care of.
What’s Included in This Blueprint?
This blueprint will prepare you with all the tools and information you need to assess your business’s readiness for sales force automation, implement new tools and strategies successfully, and understand your performance and progress toward your goals.
Inside, you’ll find a roadmap for your journey with sales force automation that spans from thorough preparation to ongoing optimization. This blueprint includes checklists, worksheets, templates and a glossary of technical terms to ease your transition to sales automation.
We’ll begin by discussing how to prepare your business for sales force automation, including planning your customers’ ideal journeys, mapping those journeys, and selecting the right platform upon which to build them. Then, we’ll cover sales force automation tactics, including the reasons they can benefit your business and specific steps to implement them successfully. Next, you’ll learn about personalization and find out specific ways to add more human interaction and a personal touch to each process you automate. Then we’ll go over tips for measuring and reporting on your performance so that you can optimize your automated systems for better and better results over time. Finally, we’ll provide a reference guide that includes definitions for all the technical terms and concepts in this blueprint. Use this reference as you read through each chapter in case you ever need more context or in the future whenever you need a quick refresher or some insight when you encounter a new term. At the very end, you’ll get advice on your next steps and plenty of insight into what order you should tackle all your new action items.
Mapping & Customer Journey Planning
Since a customer journey represents the ideal experience for each lead and customer, it will be different for each individual. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all customer journey. Each lead and customer you encounter will behave uniquely and have different interests and needs. The key thing to remember is that a well-defined customer journey, although dynamic and responsive to each customer, will determine what should happen next in every possible scenario. It’s important that this plan is as thorough as possible, with no gaps for leads or customers to get stuck in.
This is a map of a basic process that occurs when a contact fills out a form to get more information about a product. If someone fills out this form, there’s a chance they might be a qualified lead for your product, so the next thing that happens is a phone call to learn more about where they are. If you decide after speaking with them that they are qualified, then they receive follow-up emails pitching your product. If you decide they’re not a good lead for your product yet but may be later, then they’ll receive some lead nurturing emails with bonus content and more education about your product. After that, they’ll receive emails pitching your product.
This map is pretty basic and does not account for every single possibility. For example, what if they aren’t qualified and never will be? What if they buy it right away when you call them? What if they don’t pick up the phone? What if they don’t buy at all? However, it’s a good starting place to help you visualize the basic process that happens when your contacts take the specific action of filling out the form. After you have that down, you would move onto other actions contacts can take and your response.
This map is a great example of a simple lead nurturing funnel that assigns points to each contact’s lead score depending on their engagement with bonus content in the form of blog articles, then determines each contact’s next steps. At the very top, you can see that this map has only one possible entry point, which is when contacts have not purchased a product at the end of an offer funnel. Since these contacts are not yet ready to buy, they will be put through a longer nurture sequence that provides more information and more value over time to build the relationship.
Each time a contact opens an email and clicks through to read the blog article that it links to, 10 points are added to that lead’s score. After five emails with links are sent (preferably at least a week apart), then the automation filters each contact into the appropriate next funnel.
Those who did not engage with any of the articles and, therefore, have a score that is less than 10, will be placed on a re-engagement sequence to check for any positive signs of engagement before being removed from the mailing list.
Leads who engaged with one or two of the articles will be placed on another nurture funnel to increase their engagement and lead score to a higher level before being sent another offer.
Those who engaged with at least three articles and earned a lead score of 30 or higher will be added to a new offer sequence since they showed positive signs of interest.
A funnel like this is especially effective if each of the blog articles and emails are focused on specific problems, topics or interests that are unique to leads who would be a good fit for your product. One of the reasons this is a very effective funnel is because there is no possible way for contacts to fall through the cracks — no matter what they do or don’t do, they’ll be sorted into one of three possible categories and receive follow-up appropriate to the level of engagement and interest they’ve displayed.
Putting It On The Map
Once you’re ready to create your map, the steps in the following section will make it easy to get started. Keep in mind, this map should look like a flowchart that clearly indicates how contacts flow through your database. You don’t have to use the same icons or shapes used in the example maps above, just keep your shapes and icons consistent so that you can refer back to your map later.
You can use a mapping tool like Lucidchart, or you can draw these out by hand on a large sheet of paper or whiteboard.
Identify all possible triggers that move leads into the “sales qualified lead” category. Connect each one to the follow-up that should happen next.
Add all of your core products to the map. Connect the follow-up process after each purchase to any retention, onboarding or upsell funnels for expansion products.
Researching Sales Force Automation Tools
If you’re considering adding sales force automation into your business, before you dive in and commit to any one provider, it’s smart to do your research so that you can make the most informed decision and choose a tool that will fit your business’s needs.
However, the process of researching the many sales force automation tools available can be a bit overwhelming. To make it easier for you, in this blueprint we’ll cover what to look for and questions to ask before you commit.
The first thing we recommend doing before you start shopping for a new tool or toolset is to take an inventory of all the tools you’re currently using.
To get a handle on what you have, what you need, and what you don’t need, complete the chart below. Consider any tools you may be using in the following categories:
You may be surprised to see how many features you’re paying for but not using. Ask yourself:
How many of the tools on your list do only one thing for your business?
How many features do you have access to from multiple tools?
What additional features do you need that you don’t currently have access to?
Do you see any clear opportunities to replace multiple single-point solutions with one integrated platform for sales force automation?
Making Your Shortlist
Once you’ve identified which features you rely on and which ones you’re missing, it’s time to make a shortlist of vendors to research.
As you research vendors, you should only place a product on your shortlist if:
It provides a core functionality that your business does not have, but needs.
In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, “Email remains a significantly more effective way to acquire customers than social media — nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined. That’s because 91 percent of all U.S. consumers still use email daily, and the rate at which emails prompt purchases is not only estimated to be at least three times that of social media, but the average order value is also 17 percent higher.”
Finally, email presents an advantage because it is highly scalable. Unlike phone calls, you and your team can send a virtually unlimited number of emails to clients. And that’s not just in the form of email blasts where all your contacts receive the same message at the same time (which we can’t say we ever recommend doing). You can have specific email messages automatically delivered to customers and leads at just the right moment, right after they’ve performed an action or after a specified duration of time. There is no other kind of personalized follow-up that is as scalable as email.
When it comes to marketing ROI, there’s a clear winner. Email is the way to go if you want to acquire more customers and nurture them into larger sales at scale.
When Should You Send Follow-Up Emails?
Now that you’re convinced (we hope) that following up via email is essential, you may be wondering just where to start. You don’t want to bombard leads in your pipeline with constant emails, but you also don’t want to under-do it, since consistent follow-up is key to earning a sale.
Here’s a simple rule for when to follow up: Begin a follow-up process whenever a contact initiates some form of communication with you. This might include filling out a form to join your mailing list, opting in for a free download, filling out your “contact us” form, or even giving you a call.
The follow-up process you will use doesn’t necessarily have to be different for each form of contact initiation, but it does have to be different depending on the level of their relationship with your brand. Leads fall into three basic categories:
This is the phase where most new contacts begin. When you gain contacts via your content marketing or advertising efforts, they remain unqualified until they take a further action to indicate their interest in your product. You would use lead nurturing efforts to move them out of the unqualified category and into the marketing qualified sphere.
Marketing Qualified Lead
A contact becomes a marketing qualified lead when they take a positive step that indicates interest in your product. For example, if they fill out a form to request a free trial, an informational call with you, or buy an entry-level product, they would be considered a marketing qualified lead. Contacts in this category deserve personalized follow-up from someone on your team. New contacts can jump straight into this category if they enter your database for the very first time by taking a step that indicates strong interest in your product, such as filling out a demo request or buying an entry-level product.
Sales Qualified Lead
A lead in your pipeline becomes sales qualified after they’ve engaged directly with someone on your team. This might include having a phone conversation or an email exchange. After interacting with this contact, you or your team should be able to make a call about whether they’re ready for your core (or expansion) product, whether it would be a good fit for them, and when they’ll be ready to buy (if they aren’t today). After identifying a sales qualified lead, follow-up should be scheduled at regular intervals until the contact becomes a customer or is no longer interested.
These three categories will help guide you as you begin to create your own follow-up funnels. Each time a contact initiates communication with you, you need a way to identify what category they’re in, then respond with the appropriate follow-up. For example, it would be a bad idea to start sending personalized pitches and asking for a chance to “hop on a quick phone call” to sell your product to a person who had simply opted in for a free ebook. Likewise, you’d be missing an opportunity if you didn’t offer to have a personal call with someone who signed up for a free trial of your main product. The golden rule is that your follow-up communications should match the level of the relationship that the contact has with your brand.
A quick note about the difference between B2B and B2C companies: The line between marketing qualified and sales qualified can get very blurry. If you are selling directly to consumers, you may be able to sell your main product line without personal attention and follow-up from a member of your sales team, especially if your product is inexpensive.
Post Sales Call Follow-UpAfter you get a chance to chat with a potential customer on the phone, no matter what the outcome of the conversation is, you should always follow up soon after to thank them for their time and send a summary of what was discussed. As long as the call didn’t result in a firm “not interested,” it’s also a good idea to include next steps and a set time for the next time you will check in with them. You can use merge fields to automatically populate this information by having your team fill out a form at the end of the call, then automating an email like this one to go out later:
Follow-Up Email Examples
With your follow-up strategy mapped out, now you can figure out what to put inside each follow-up message. If you’re already a great copywriter, this part won’t be difficult. For everyone else, it can be challenging to know what to say and how to say it. This section includes some example emails for different follow-up occasions that you can tailor to fit your business. Although we don’t recommend copying them verbatim (you want your leads to feel like you’re speaking directly to them), they will be a good starting point to ease that writer’s block and guide the content of your messages.
Post Opt-In Email: Welcome/Delivery
This is the first email that a contact receives when they opt in for your newsletter, free ebook, or for any other reason they may enter your database. The purpose of following up here is to welcome your new contact, introduce them to who you are and prepare them to receive more emails from you in the future.
The image on the right, is an example of an email that we use at ONTRAPORT for this purpose.
Post Sales Call Follow-Up
After you get a chance to chat with a potential customer on the phone, no matter what the outcome of the conversation is, you should always follow up soon after to thank them for their time and send a summary of what was discussed. As long as the call didn’t result in a firm “not interested,” it’s also a good idea to include next steps and a set time for the next time you will check in with them. You can use merge fields to automatically populate this information by having your team fill out a form at the end of the call, then automating an email like this one to go out later:
To use an email like this successfully, ensure that whoever performed the call filled out some information in an internal form at the end. There are several merge fields in this email that you would need to format, and we suggest using dropdown fields to ensure that the variables match the sentence structure in the email. For example, for the merge field [main biz challenge], you could have your team select from the following:
Generating new leads
Each of these possible answers is formatted to fit into the email copy seamlessly. Of course you might add many more to fit all possible scenarios. This is an easy way to make automated follow up personalized without spending lots of extra time.
Long-Term Sales Follow Up
It’s important to remember that most of your qualified leads won’t be ready to buy your product right away. This is why following up over time is crucial for closing the sale — you want to remind them frequently of what you have to offer so that when they are eventually ready, your business will be fresh in their memory. Here’s an example of how you can follow up with a lead who has been in the pipeline awhile without taking action:
What Is Task Automation?
Task automation is a system that triggers an assignment for you or someone on your team to perform a specific task. The task itself takes the form of an email message sent to the individual who is assigned to complete it. The body of that email will include specific information about what to do. Each task is connected to one contact in the database, meaning that the task’s outcome affects that contact’s next steps. Task messages can also include merge fields with any information about the contact in question pulled straight from their contact record. Each task message has a link for the assignee to click when the task is complete, which automatically reports back to the system so that further automation can be based on the outcome of the task.
To help your rep have a better conversation with that lead, you’d also include merge fields that correspond with all the information that was included with that form submission. You would also define all the possible outcomes of that call, which might include: “Had Call: Qualified Lead,” “Had Call: Unqualified Lead,” or “Could Not Reach: Try Again.”
With all of that information included, here’s what that task message to your rep would look like:
Why Use Task Automation?
Now that you understand the basics of how task automation works, you may be wondering why it is useful. Maybe you think that individual follow-up should be completely flexible, meaning that you or your team should just handle follow-up on a case by case basis. Or maybe you’re wondering why you should use up your team’s precious time performing individual calls when they have so many other things to do?
Either way, task automation still makes sense for your business, and here are a few reasons why.
Some Follow-Up Tasks Deserve to Be Done in PersonEven though it makes sense to conserve your team’s time as much as possible by reducing one-on-one interactions with the help of automation, there are still some interactions that are just much better when you can provide individualized attention to a lead. Sometimes potential customers just need reassurance that your product will fit their exact use case, or they have a question that needs a human answer. By strategically using your time to connect with leads who need to speak with a person before buying, you can definitely increase your sales.
You Can Make Sure No One Falls Through the CracksIf your team does follow-up slightly differently every time, there’s a high chance that human error will factor in at some point. Relying on any individual person to remember which leads to follow up with, and when, is a recipe for disaster. The last thing you want is for a warm lead, who you paid money to generate and spent time to nurture, to be forgotten because of inconsistent follow-up. Task automation solves that problem by specifying what needs to happen next, while still allowing room for individuals on your team to make each interaction unique.
It Makes It Easier to Focus on the Best Leads and PrioritizeYou and your team have limited hours in the day for following up with leads and, odds are, you can’t always do it all. You might even struggle with knowing who needs follow-up when. If your strategy includes 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, they can go through a list of tasks assigned to them automatically, in order of the most important to least.
How to Get Started With Task Automation
Setting up task automation in your business may seem complicated or intimidating at first glance, but it’s not necessarily as hard as it seems, especially if you’re prepared with all the information you’ll need before you get started. To create your first automated task, just follow these steps.
Identify the Task Trigger
What happens that lets you know that the task needs to be completed? The task trigger might be when a contact fills out a form on your website, when they visit an order form page without purchasing, when they buy a product or even when they click on a link in an email. There might be more than one possible trigger for the same task. Just be sure to consider all possible scenarios in which the same task needs to be performed.
Define the Task
What needs to happen before the task can be counted as complete? It’s important to specify everything that the task assignee needs to do before marking the task complete to ensure nothing is forgotten. For example, if a call task results in leaving a voicemail, does it count as complete? Remember to include any information that the assignee will need to complete the task, for example the contact information of the person they need to call, by adding those merge fields into the task message.
Define All Possible Outcomes
Determine What Happens Next for Each Outcome
Once you’ve got a list of all the task outcomes, you’ll need to decide what should happen to the contact when each task outcome is selected. For example, if the task outcome is “Had Call: Unqualified Lead,” maybe you will put that person through a lead nurturing funnel to give them more information about your product until they are ready to buy. Don’t leave the next steps undefined for any outcome; that’s how leads wind up falling through the cracks.
Once you have all of this information, setting up the task is simple, and you won’t need to be worried about leaving anything out.
So that you can better understand the big picture, here’s a map of a simple task automation system:
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.
With lead scoring, you can quickly judge how hot a lead is to save even more time and focus even more on the leads that matter most
What Is Lead Scoring?
Lead scoring is a system by which your contacts are ranked automatically in response to a particular action they take or if info in their contact record meets a set criteria, all of which is determined by you. The resulting score is used to prioritize your contacts and pinpoint how far along they are in your sales funnel.
For example, you could set it so that your leads get 10 points if they visit a tracked link to your sales page, 10 points if they open an email you sent, and 10 more points if they list their job title as “CEO.” Then, you can use automated rules to take action once they reach a threshold score. In this example, you could make it so that whenever someone reaches a lead score of 30, an automated task is fired for your team to give them a call.
Why Use Lead Scoring?
If you’re unclear on the value that an automated lead scoring system would have for your business, there are several benefits that it provides:
Either way, task automation still makes sense for your business, and here are a few reasons why.
You’ll never have to guess whether an individual contact is ready for sales attentionWith a system that’s constantly monitoring your leads’ engagement across a variety of channels, and calculating their overall score based on the lifetime of their relationship with your brand, you’ll always know exactly where they are — and you’ll never have to guess and hope you get lucky.
You’ll never waste time searching through all of your contacts to find a list of hot leadsIf you’ve ever made a push at the end of the quarter to meet an ambitious sales goal, you’ve likely experienced the frantic feeling that comes from searching through lists of contacts to try and find people who might be ready to buy. Plus, if you get it wrong, you could damage your relationship with leads by being too pushy, too fast. With lead scoring you’ll know which leads to focus your sales efforts on.
You’ll know which leads to focus your nurturing efforts onJust as lead scoring makes it easy to find leads who are ready, it can also help you identify leads who need a little more special attention. You can easily find a group of your least engaged leads, which makes it easy to get them onto the appropriate nurture funnels and improve their score steadily over time.
You’ll be able to automate follow-up immediately for leads based on their scoreNot only does lead scoring give your team a great indicator of each lead’s readiness, it also makes it easy to automate dynamic customer journeys that respond to each lead’s score. Instead of having to manage each lead’s progression through all of your follow-up funnels, you can move leads from all the way from point A to point Z automatically based on their score.
How to Set Up Lead Scoring
To start scoring 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 be automatically triggered for you or your team to follow up with them. A task consists of a message, delivered to any email address you choose, that includes relevant information about that customer pulled from your database and instructions for what to do next.
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.
Sold on the idea of lead scoring but still not sure how to get started? Download our free worksheet “Setting Up Your Lead Scoring System” to get up and running easily.
How to Set Up Your Lead Scoring System
Step 1: Determine What a “Hot” Lead Looks Like
Step 2: Assign Scores for Explicit Information
Explicit information is the information leads provide to you when they fill out a form. On your form, you might ask for information such as their position within their company, the size of their company, their geographic location, age or any other details that you know make a difference in whether someone ends up purchasing from you.
Then, for each data field you have, identify which value is the best indicator that you’re dealing with a hot lead, then assign points to that value according to how important a factor it is. For example, if you sell surfboards and know that people from California are more likely to buy them, you can assign a higher point value when “California” is selected as the person’s home state. Or, you may sell life coaching services and know that people in their 30s are more likely to use your services, so you assign a higher value to the “30-39” age range.
Step 3: Assign Scores For Behavioral InformationBehavioral information tells you the actions someone takes — such as visiting your website, clicking a link from an SMS message or opening an email — after they’ve completed a form and become part of your ONTRAPORT database. The database can track these actions, and you can assign point values to the actions depending on their level of importance to you and their likelihood of leading to a sale.
Step 4: Set Up Lead Score DegradationNew activity is always more valuable than old activity. That is, a person who visits your website and clicks on your links today is more likely to buy from you now than someone who took those actions three months ago. You can set up score degradation to automatically decrease (or degrade) a contact’s lead score every day. For example, you can set the total score of a lead to degrade 3% daily so it is easier to see the actively participating leads.
How to Automate Next Steps Based on Lead Score
Once you know how many points your leads can accumulate, figure out how many points are needed to indicate that a lead is ready for individual attention.
Working with your sales team, you will need to determine a score threshold with which to run automation. For example, once a contact has reached your predetermined score threshold of 100 points, you can set a task to notify your sales team to have a conversation with the lead or to automatically email these leads with a call-to-action. This all but guarantees the most qualified leads are targeted at just the right time.
You might also want to automate additional follow-up processes that occur when leads reach lower thresholds to keep developing their relationship with your brand. Here’s an example of how you could set up several lead score thresholds with different next steps when each one is reached:
What Is Lead Routing?
Lead routing lets you automatically assign contacts to people on your team for follow-up. Once you’ve created a lead router, you can add contacts to it whenever they enter the database or take any other action that you can run automation from. Once a lead is added to a lead router, it then distributes the leads to your team according to the settings you’ve chosen.Lead routers come in two different types: Round Robin and Weighted Random. A Round Robin lead router will evenly distribute leads to each of the users who are in the router you create. This way, everyone ends up with the same number of leads over time.
A Weighted Random lead router assigns leads to users by percentage. You could set it so that a certain user in your account receives 50% of the incoming leads while two other users each receive 25%.
If you want to control the way leads are routed more specifically, such as if you want to route all the leads from California to one specific person, you can use any data that you’ve collected about leads to control which person they are routed to. To do this, you would simply create multiple lead routers, one for each person on your team. Then, you would use automated if-then rules to assign contacts to specific lead routers based on the data in their contact record.
Which product they’re interested in
Why Use Lead Routing?
There are a few big reasons you may want to consider adding lead routing to your sales automation strategy.
You can make sure each lead talks to the best person possible.You can re-route leads to a particular person on your team with the expertise to help a client in a specific niche, making sure than incoming leads don’t experience the frustration of getting passed from person to person.
You can save the time of manually assigning leads to your team and improve fairness.If your team is competitive, you’ve probably dealt with the occasional conflict about lead distribution. A lead router removes the hassle of deciding how leads should be split up and keeps things fair for everyone.
You can assign leads to accommodate each person’s skill level or scheduleIf you’ve got new sales reps on your team, they might need a little time to get familiar with your product and your team’s processes. While they’re getting started, you can use a weighted random router to give them a smaller, more manageable portion of your total leads. You can also adjust the lead distribution if you have someone working reduced hours.
You can dramatically decrease your team’s first response time.By giving everyone on your team a manageable number of leads and keeping their incoming lead flow balanced, you can make sure that no one gets backed up and that leads aren’t kept waiting for a reply.
How to Set Up Lead Routing
When should leads be added to the router?
Example: When a form is filled out
Will you distribute leads based on data in their contact record? If so, what fields?
Example: Yes, State
If you are using data from the contact record to distribute leads, you will need more than one router. What will you call each router, and which members of your team will be on it?
Example: Lead Router, CA (John & Sarah); Lead Router, NY (Mike & Jackie); and Lead Router, Other (Jason & Melissa).
Will you use a Round Robin or Weighted Random lead router? If you are creating multiple lead routers, what will you use for each?
Example: Lead Router, CA - Weighted Random; Lead Router, NY - Weighted Random; and Lead Router, Other - Round Robin.
If you are using one or more Weighted Random lead routers, what will the distribution percentages be?
Example: Lead Router, CA - John = 25% and Sarah = 75%. Lead Router, NY - Mike = 75% and Jackie = 25%.
After the previous chapter, you should now be well-versed in the tactics you will use to add automation to each part of your sales process. If you want to, you can automate nearly everything that happens in your pipeline — but don’t get carried away. Automation is a wonderful tool but, like any tool, it has a particular use. You wouldn’t use a hammer as a screwdriver, would you? Things like sending emails to every lead or manually distributing leads between your team are things that humans shouldn’t do, and they are areas where automation and software can be incredibly helpful and effective.
However, there are still many things in your business that humans should do. In addition to that, even the automated communications that your business sends out should still include a personal touch. Read on to discover why humanizing your interactions with leads is critical for growing your business.
Balancing Automation With Human Interaction
Why is it so important not to lose the human element when automating your sales processes? There are a few reasons.
People buy based on relationships.When leads are evaluating your company, one of the things they are paying attention to is how you make them feel. Although they’re also evaluating the facts like your pricing, product details and more, they are also scoping things out to make sure they want to do business with you. That decision is made on a personal level, but you can increase your sales rates by being friendly and personable with each lead to let them know you’re listening to them and you value their time. People need to feel heard, understood and appreciated to become loyal customers.
Making leads feel special increases testimonials and referrals.By creating a memorable, personalized experience for leads and customers, you’ll make them feel a connection with your brand that will leave them more likely to share your offer with their friends or even share positive reviews and testimonials about their experience.
Personalization can increase your customer retention and loyalty.Creating a relationship with leads before they even become customers can pay off later in terms of retention and customer service. Since every new customer has a connection with a member of your team, they’ll know who to reach out to if they have any issues. If they want to cancel, you can make sure that their assigned representative gets a chance to talk to them first. And finally, since your team can do a better job of qualifying and selling to leads in a one-on-one setting, you’re more likely to bring on customers who are a better fit and less likely to leave.
Adding a Personal Touch to Automated Messages
Spending more time one-on-one with leads and customers isn’t the only way of making their experience feel more personal — you can actually build the element of personal touch into your automated communication systems.
Giving select leads and customers the opportunity to chat with you directly is a strategy to be used in moderation. Since the only way to scale is to hire more people, it should be reserved for the biggest opportunities only. With that in mind, here are some truly scalable ways to make your automated interactions with leads more personal.
Idea 1: Use Video to Introduce Your Team
Film a short but fun intro video with each person on your client-facing team. In the video, have them introduce themselves, share some fun facts and show off their unique personality. You can use these intro videos in the first email you send new leads to introduce them to the sales rep they’ll be in touch with once they book a call on someone’s calendar, or as a link in each team member’s email signature. The best part is, you can use automation to make sure each new lead receives the intro video at the right time.
How to Automate It
To automate this, you’ll want to add incoming leads to a welcome funnel that includes the introduction video within the very first email. To set this up, you would create a different welcome email for each member of your team with their video on it. Then, you would use Rules to send the right email, depending on the contact owner determined your lead routers or other rules. This is a good option if you want to personalize the email body to include a unique welcome message from each team member.
Idea 2: Mail Thank You Notes
Nothing is more personal than a handwritten message. You might think that automation technology is antithetical to this; however, the software actually makes it much easier to send handwritten thank you notes to the right leads at the right time, plus it will speed up production of these notes by sending the right information about each lead to the person who will write the notes.
For example, you might want to send thank you notes to leads after you have a sales call with them to thank them for their time.
If you use task automation, it’s easy to add a task outcome that triggers a new task to your assistant (or the sales rep) to write a handwritten message — without any guesswork about what the message should say.
In the body of the task notification, you would include a template for the thank you message with merge fields that pull in the contact’s information so the person writing the note knows what to include.
Add a task outcome that subscribes the contact to a thank you note fulfillment list. Set the fulfillment list to fire weekly or monthly (according to your preference), then make sure it includes all the relevant customer information that your note-writer will need. In the body of the fulfillment list delivery email, include the thank you note template that you want your note-writer to follow.
You can also automate this process using integrations with services like MailLift and Thankster, which will create handwritten messages on your behalf and mail them directly to your contacts.
Idea 3: Follow Up With Thoughtfully Curated Content
A good way to show leads that you’re listening and you care about their challenges and interests is to send them content that will help them achieve their goal. However, they may not pay attention to content in their email inbox unless you go out of your way to make it personally relevant to their situation.
You can ensure that each lead receives the most relevant follow-up content by grouping all of your content into categories that correspond with the most common challenges your leads and customers face. If you collect data about these challenges, either through a form that leads fill out or during one on one calls you have with them, you can use that data to make sure the content you send them matches their interest or problem. For each content category, you would create a funnel of several follow-up emails that deliver related content and explain how it connects to their unique situation.
How to Automate It
To make sure your follow-up content always reaches the right audience, and can be delivered using automation to save your team time, you would want to assign each lead in your funnel to a follow-up category, perhaps after your first phone conversation with them. You could then sort them by using a custom field that updates their particular challenge to one of your categories, or use task outcomes to assign leads to follow-up funnels on the most relevant topic.
Just remember when writing your follow-up emails to be as specific as you can be based on what you know about each lead, even while keeping the message body generic enough that you do not appear to be making assumptions about your prospect’s interests, or worse, confusing them with someone else.
Maintaining The Balance Between Automation and Interaction
With all three of the strategies discussed above for adding personality to your sales force automation, it’s important to keep balance in mind. Adding a personal touch to every communication with every lead is important, but be careful not to over-automate interactions that should happen in person — the key is to add personality elements that scale so that you can create more positive human-to-human interactions for each lead.
After you’ve implemented the tools and strategies that you’ve learned, the hardest part of sales force automation will be over — but that doesn’t mean you should just close the book on it and move on. Like any other system implemented in your business, sales force automation requires ongoing reporting, key performance indicator (KPI) measurements and optimization.
The only way you’re going to know for sure whether or not your new systems are working is if you measure their performance day by day to track the change over time. That way, you’ll also be able to spot problems and solve them quickly before they get out of hand.
Unless you’re measuring performance at regular intervals (daily, monthly, quarterly, etc.) you’ll have a hard time optimizing, that is, making your systems perform better and better over time. Without regular reporting, you won’t be able to tell the exact effect of each change you make. You also won’t have a well-established baseline to compare your results to.
How to Calculate Your KPIs
In simple terms, your sales connection rate refers to the total number of incoming leads you are able to connect with to have a sales conversation. This refers to the first call with each lead and is only for leads who have requested more information or taken a positive step to indicate interest (marketing qualified leads). This is also referred to as a new “opportunity.”
The simplest way to calculate your connection rate is:
To get your total number of opportunities, you’ll need to get clear on what triggers would result in a contact being counted as an opportunity. This is usually when they fill out a form, but your trigger might be different. Maybe you are reaching out to leads when they click on a sales page or when they accumulate a given lead score. As long as you have the criteria clearly defined for what constitutes a new marketing qualified lead or opportunity, you’ll be able to measure it.
Here’s an example. Say you had 100 leads fill out your form to request a call last week. During that week, you were able to contact 67 of those people. Your connection rate was .67, or 67%.
A few things to keep in mind:
It’s important to know how effectively your team is converting leads into customers. Your closing rate is the best indicator of this. This number refers to the conversion rate of your sales conversations with customers and tells you what proportion of those conversations are successful.
Use this formula to calculate your closing rate:
This number should be calculated for your team as a whole, but also for each individual on the team to track their job performance.
Tracking this number on a daily basis is also a wise practice because it allows you to catch problems quickly.
Average Time to Buy
Do you know how long on average it takes new customers to purchase your product after entering your database? To find this number, track the number of days between the date each contact was added and the date they became a customer. Your sales force automation platform should be able to easily track and display this number for you.
Tips for measuring time to buy:
Net New Customers
This particular KPI is relevant if you bill customers on a recurring basis for a monthly service or subscription. Since every customer who cancels means that you have to acquire one new customer just to avoid losing ground, it’s important to minimize cancels while maximizing your number of new customers.
To calculate your net new customers within any time period, use this formula:
If automated follow-up emails are a big part of your sales automation strategy, you should regularly be tracking the rate at which leads are engaging with your messages. There are two main metrics to focus on here: open rate and click-through rate.
Your open rate refers to the percentage of recipients who opened your email. It’s calculated this way:
How to Optimize and Test Your Automation Strategy
One of the best arguments for implementing sales force automation in the first place is that doing so will allow you to measure and optimize so that you can understand the effect of any changes you make and steadily improve your systems over time.
Here are three important ways that automating your sales processes makes accurate testing and efficient optimization possible:
By making your processes consistent, you can compare apples to apples.Without automation, your follow-up processes may happen differently every time, so you can’t make accurate comparisons that reveal the effects of making a specific adjustment — your data would be confounded by all the other variables that were also different. When you automate your follow-up process so that it always happens the same way, you can actually see the result of making a specific change to it.
You can establish baseline stats and measure long-term improvement.It can take a while to collect enough data to gather meaningful insights. With sales force automation in place, you can automatically collect data over time without having to pull the numbers yourself every single day. Then, after you’ve collected enough data, you can compare your results over time.
You can see which specific element of your follow-up system resulted in change.Your follow-up process likely involves a large number of steps, including phone calls, email messages, web forms and more. In addition to being able to see the effect of implementing the system as a whole, with reporting on each individual element you’ll be able to see which pieces of the puzzle made the biggest difference. Did one specific web form get an astronomically high conversion rate? Does one of the emails in your long-term nurture sequence result in more calls scheduled than any other? Sales force automation can reveal key details like these.
The Importance of Accurate Testing
You want to know what’s working and what’s not working with your sales follow-up strategy, right? Guessing based on anecdotal evidence or fuzzy memories of last year’s numbers isn’t going to cut it. You need cold, hard facts, and you can only obtain those by running tests that are accurate.
Essentially, testing automatically splits your audience evenly across multiple versions of your emails, landing pages or processes to measure performance side-by-side. There are two primary ways to split test: A/B testing and multivariate testing.
With A/B testing, you test just one element on one page at one time. For instance, you could test page performance based on the color of a button: red or blue.
With multivariate testing, you can test more than one element at a time, including all possible combinations of those elements. If you wanted to test two different email subject lines and two different calls to action in one message, you will end up with four different versions to account for the multiple variations of those elements.
Each has different benefits and purposes, but both give you valuable insight into the performance of your sales team while allowing you to increase conversions in real time by improving the quality of your strategy.
Running all tests at the exact same time
Statistical confidence is a figure that measures the confidence you can have that your test would yield the same result if repeated. Statistical confidence increases as the data sample size increases — the more data you have indicating that one version of a page, email or process performs better, the more likely it is that thing will continue to be the winner in the future.
Here are a few places online where you can find a statistical confidence calculator:
With these rules in mind, you can begin running your first tests to improve on your baseline metrics. For example, let’s say that you have automated a process for following up with new leads who request a call with your team. To get them to schedule a time for their call, you send two different versions of an email, one with a list of all the available times in the next week and one with a simple link to view your rep’s calendar and select a time. You want to know which one results in a higher connection rate, so you’ll need to set up a split test where half of your new leads receive email A and the other half receive email B. Then, after collecting data for a few weeks, you would put your results into a statistical confidence calculator. Once the confidence level was acceptable, you would conclude which version was the winner and use that for all of your new leads going forward.
Tips for Improving Common Sales Force Automation KPI Issues
It’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll get sales force automation 100% right the first time you implement it; most businesses go through a process of iteration to gradually improve the way their system works. So what should you do if your KPIs are chronically lower than where you need them to be?
Here are some troubleshooting tips for improving some of the most common KPI challenges that businesses new to sales force automation face.
Poor Connection Rate
Is your team having trouble getting in touch with leads, even those who indicated their interest? Poor connection rate can be caused by a number of things, but the place to start is with your lead routing and task automation. Are incoming leads being routed to the right person immediately? Are your team members receiving notifications about each new lead? If not, work on the system you’ve set up to make sure that your team knows when there’s someone new they need to reach out to.
Another issue that may be causing this is if one member of your team is overloaded with tasks. Check and see if anyone on your team has fallen behind on their follow-up tasks and, if they have, consider adjusting your Weighted Random lead router to reduce their flow of new leads.
One other thing you might try is asking for better contact information on the form your leads fill out. For example, maybe you can add a field for their office phone and their cell phone so you can try multiple numbers before giving up. Or, ask them to tell you what time zone they’re in so you can call at a time that makes sense for them. You can even ask them to select what time of day they’d prefer to hear from you from a dropdown menu.
Poor Conversion Rate
Maybe your problem isn’t with connection, but with conversion. Even though you’re able to get leads on the phone, you and your team aren’t having success turning them into customers. Before you blame this on your team’s sales skills (which could be the issue), there are a few things you’ll need to rule out first.
Before you try anything else, re-evaluate what’s triggering these calls. If your team is calling every time a lead’s score reaches a set threshold but these leads are not converting, then you need to either adjust the score threshold or your scoring system. If your team is calling every time a lead purchases an entry level product, your leads still may not be ready to hear from them.
Focus on any improvements that can be made to your lead nurture process before your sales calls take place, and consider adding some extra time and extra valuable content before encouraging contacts to have an in-person interaction with you.
Finally, it might be a good idea to test your offer. Poor conversion rates could just be a factor of an issue with your product or with your pricing. If you can afford it, test what happens to your conversion rate when you introduce a new discount or an additional value-add.
After trying all of these tactics, if nothing has worked, then you might have a training issue on your hands. You and your team might need to work on developing strong sales skills to improve your conversions.
Too Long to Buy
Does it take your leads forever to become customers? Depending on the price and commitment level of your product, this might not be surprising. If your offer is risk-free and a low financial commitment, but even the most qualified prospects take almost a year to buy, you may have a problem on your hands.
To decrease the average time until a contact’s first purchase, there are few things you can try. First, focus on improving the quality of your lead nurture process. You might not be reaching out to contacts frequently enough, or the engagement rates on your messages might be too low. To fix that, you’ll need to work on writing more engaging sales copy, with a special focus on better email subject lines.
Another issue that may be causing leads to languish in your funnels far too long is poor segmentation. If your contacts are receiving poorly targeted messages with irrelevant content, even if they’re very qualified they still won’t take action. To solve this problem, focus on the leads in your pipeline with the highest lead scores, and look at what they have in common. Try creating a new funnel specifically targeted to them, and see if you can get some solid conversion rates from that.
To fix the problem long-term, make sure that you are filtering poor leads out of your pipeline earlier on with smart lead scoring practices. Don’t waste your efforts on people who are a poor fit or who never engage with you. Figure out which marketing sources are responsible for your poor quality leads, and either adjust or reduce your marketing efforts on those channels. Likewise, identify which marketing sources bring in the most leads who do convert, and then increase your efforts on those channels.
A conversion occurs any time a customer or lead responds positively to a specific call to action, for example, opting in on a landing page, making a purchase after an offer email, or becoming a customer after a sales call.
Also called a web form, allows a visitor to your page to enter data into a collection of fields that is automatically sent to your database when submitted.
A predetermined series of events or interactions with a customer or lead intended to guide a customer or lead from point A to point B.
A measurable value used to indicate the success of your business, of a process, or of an individual employee; reveals progress toward a goal or rate of success at a specific objective.
A potential customer for your product or service who has shown interest and shared his or her basic contact information with you to allow for potential follow-up.
Congratulations: you’ve made it to the final chapter of the Sales Force Automation Blueprint. By now, your mind is probably overflowing with ideas on how you will implement the things you’ve learned, but you may be wondering what to do first. With so many opportunities, where should you begin?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember that the process of implementing sales force automation in your business won’t happen all at once. Here’s a roadmap that you can follow to start making progress right away and keep working steadily toward the goal.
Your First Steps to Sales Force Automation
First and foremost, begin with a clear map of your customer journey. Make sure that you have mapped both the customer and lead experience the way it is now (so that you can begin by automating the processes that are working for your business) and the way you want it to be in the future. Use the tips for mapping found in chapter one to stay on track. When your map is completely fleshed out, then you will be ready to move forward.
Next, you’ll need to choose a sales force automation platform and get set up using the method outlined in chapter two. Finally, once you’re up and running, focus on implementing one strategy at a time. Here is the order in which we suggest working: