Can High Performance Sales Behaviour Be Automated?

Everyone knows about sales force and marketing-based automation and the benefits it can provide to sales-related behaviours. In fact, Gartner projected that Australian businesses invested $2 billion in Marketing and Sales-related automation tools in 2018 alluding to the notion that there is no question as to whether there is merit in automating sales process. I do, however, think the real question lies in not if but “how” substantial is the expected increase in performance by automating processes. And, is human element still necessary in sales?

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Let’s take a step back and look at what makes a high-performance salesperson. In my opinion (which is perhaps biased as I come from a sales background) a good salesperson has the following attributes:

  • a timely operator
  • high quality of work and engagement
  • cost-effective to the business
  • repetitive by nature

I think that everyone would agree that these, amongst other qualities, are typical behaviours of a high performing salesperson. But how can automation assist sellers operate at higher levels of performance?

1. SPEED​

A key attribute leading salespersons possess is the fast-paced manner at which they operate – the speed with which they action leads and opportunities as well as their response times to those clients throughout the sales cycle.

Because we are all human, we can all appreciate that no matter how good we get at doing ‘things’, we will organically get to a point of stagnation where we simply cannot do things quicker. And this is where automating activities and behaviours may be able to assist an already high performing salesperson increase their overall performance.

Example:
I’ve just had a successful meeting with a prospect that wants a proposal for a particular product offering and they want this back ASAP (as all customer do). How long is it going to take me to construct that proposal? Days? Weeks?

Wouldn’t we want to put in place automation that will help me auto-generate and hyper-personalise that proposal to the customer’s specific needs?

Automation increases speed:

Automated processes allow me to get that proposal back to the client in a manner of hours (not weeks), ultimately keeping the customer engaged and enhancing the overall customer experience.

2. INCREASED QUALITY

Salespersons to an extent consider themselves lucky as a large portion of the quality-based standards in usable sales collateral is put into the hands of the beloved Marketing teams, who ultimately rule branding and content guidelines. This, however, does not mean that even the highest of performing salespersons can’t slip up when producing quality collateral for an opportunity.

Example:
Have you heard of the simple concept of “Copy and Paste Methodology”?

The copy and paste methodology is an ancient concept that sees a traditional salesperson take the last presentation, proposal, contract etc. that they sent to a similar opportunity and retrofit that to the new client. As you can imagine, this leaves room for human error whereby you’re mid-presentation to the customer, you flick to the next slide and you realise you’ve forgotten to change the customer’s name on the next slide.

Automation safeguards quality:

To avoid the utter embarrassment this would and DOES (so I’ve been told …) cause, let’s alleviate this pressure from our sellers by implementing processes to automate and hyper-personalise sales-related document generation.

3. COST

Having an experienced salesperson who can proficiently juggle multiple sales-based tasks at once is certainly a skill that takes time to develop. It often takes years of experience and ultimately reduces business costs both indirectly and directly (time is money).

Because we are, yet again, only human, it’s also important to recognise that we can only juggle so many tasks at once before naturally a decrease in the quality of work starts to creep in.

But what if we can automatically process tasks that would normally add up on a salesperson’s tasks list as mundane sales activities? This would allow salespersons to focus their time on what really matters….selling. (McKinsey and Company state that a seller can increase their time selling by 15-20% by implementing chat bots to triage prospective customers).

Example:
I must tackle an email follow-up to a list of opportunities that I am currently working on. I have a large pipeline, so it can be quite challenging to stay on top of all follow-ups within a sales cycle; it takes up a lot of time and resources to properly execute accordingly.

Automation saves time, which consequently saves cost:

By simply automating these processes and workflows a business can cut costs firstly in relation to time, and potentially even by alleviating the need to have a sales admin executing these tasks, This in turn will increase the overall performance and productivity of a sales organisation.

4. REPETITION

We can probably agree that repetitive behaviours are the crux of what makes a salesperson successful. Some of these more repetitive tasks include follow-ups, sending relevant content, generating sales-based collateral, proposals and many more. As illustrated by Gartner, we know that sellers spend about 30% of their time performing sales-related tasks that are not ‘in front of the customer’ (like the examples above). So, wouldn’t it make sense to assist a seller increase their productivity by automating some of, or even all of these processes?

Example:
I need to send a proposal – but I have to make sure I change the recipients name, company details and the date – then I’ve got another email follow-up, followed by sending a monthly update to current customers and logging a few calls and emails from the past week.

I think the concept of automating follow-ups and emails is one of the simplest that highlights how a seller can increase their overall performance.

Automating repetitive tasks is a blessing:

Automating repetitive sales-related tasks so that

  1. There is no room for human error (e.g. forgetting to follow up with a client), and
  2. Giving more time back to your sellers to do what they have been hired to do, which is be in front of new and prospective clients.

The concept of automating follow-ups and emails is one of the simplest that highlights how a seller can increase their overall performance.

What about ANALYTICS AND AI?

One of the most convincing arguments for ‘To automate or not to automate’ is related to the benefits an organisation can gain from implementing modernised systems with embedded analytics and artificial intelligence functions.

Through extensive research, Forrester noted that 94% of sales and marketers can’t quantify resonance levels between their content and customers. This means that majority of sellers today don’t know whether they’re sending their customer the right content at the right time. Furthermore, 74% of content that is delivered to a customer is not relevant to them.

What analytics and AI can do, is provide in-depth insights into what content resonates with clients, therefore allowing sellers to use those stronger pieces of content to their advantage more often.

With artificial intelligence modern systems can use predictive analytics to suggest to a seller what content may be relevant to their opportunities to keep their customers engaged and assist in pushing any given opportunity through the pipeline and through to the final close – a priceless tool for any seller looking to increase overall productivity and performance.

I think the famous Bill Gates’ quote encapsulates the essence of the role automation plays in high performance sales: “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”

In short: YES, there is most definitely a human element that is necessary in order to achieve a high level of sales performance, however, automation can certainly assist and improve the overall quality and efficiency of the sellers’ work that may be difficult to achieve with merely traditional methods.

Would you like to know more about predictive content and sales enablement technology?