What Is Sales Automation? (+Brand Examples)

Mike McEuen Mike McEuen  |  October 31, 2019

Automation can be a contentious topic in sales.

Some believe its a crucial part of scaling growing teams, while others fear it will replace salespeople altogether. Whatever side of the fence you land, the truth is: sales reps need help.

An in-depth study found that reps only spend ~36% of their time actively selling. While the rest of their day is spent in internal meetings, doing admin work in CRMs, and navigating all their tools. This trend is only compounding with high growth sales development teams reporting 5 or more tools in their stack, according to TOPO.  

Sales automation: explained 

So what is sales automation, and how can it help your team?  

Some of the benefits sales automation can provide are: 

  • Increasing the productivity of reps
  • Reducing the amount of missed follow-ups
  • Standardizing how data is entered in your CRM
  • Improving the accuracy of sales pipeline
  • Speeding up response time to customers
  • Aligning team messaging and communication
  • Providing greater visibility into rep and team performance

How to evaluate sales automation software

The truth is there's not a one-size-fits-all software that will solve each one of your business needs. Instead, you want to think about creating a suite of solutions that best compliment your end-to-end sales process. But with over 500+ sales technologies available and growing, how do even start the evaluation process?

There are two lenses to evaluate automation: for your reps and for management. 

Evaluating for sales reps

Before thinking about automating anything, it’s crucial to define all the stages in your sales process: from initial prospecting, to closed-won customer, and beyond.

If you map solutions against the stages of your sales pipeline process it makes the evaluation process easier, and helps reveal which pieces of technology are crucial at your stage, and which ones you should evaluate at later stages of your company's growth.

Let’s walk through some examples where technology can enhance each stage within a rep’s pipeline. 

1. Prospecting 

It’s harder than ever to reach new customers, whether it’s a rep’s email trying to stand out against ~125 other business emails per day vying for a prospect’s attention, or knowing that it now takes 18+ phone calls on average before connecting with a buyer.

Enter sales intelligence software that helps curate everything from someone’s job title, contact info, recent social activity, and company milestones and provides them in an easily accessible way so sales development reps can send tailored, relevant messages to people and companies who are the best fit for your product or service.

Common software examples are products like LinkedIn Sales Navigator for social insights, Clearbit for company data (employee size, revenue, industry), and ZoomInfo for contact information (such as email address and phone number). Many of these solutions integrate directly with your CRM, and can automatically enrich leads with deeper insights. 

2. Engagement 

Sales engagement are the interactions between sales reps and buyers or customers; whether they are calls, emails, social media interactions, or in-person meetings. 

Sales acceleration software helps reps create more meaningful conversations and helps ensure nothing falls through the cracks – whether that’s creating a set of timed messages known as cadences, automatically creating tasks to follow-up, tracking email and phone activities in your CRM, dynamically changing email signatures to unify sales and marketing efforts. Best-in-breed technologies are helping to alert the sales development rep or account executive into accounts with high engagement via Slack, email, and SMS alerts.

Some examples are InsideSales for sales outreach playbooks, Mixmax for email tracking and workflow automation, or Sigstr for themed emails signatures.

3. Qualification 

Just because someone is interested in your product or service, doesn’t mean they are a great fit. It’s important to only focus active deal cycles with companies and people that fit your Ideal Customer Profile.

To help streamline the qualification process, there is predictive lead scoring software to help reps understand which companies are worth reaching out to, while meeting scheduling software can help increase RSVP and meeting show rates for your SDRs, and conversation intelligence apps that can automatically record calls and provide insights into better discovery questions.

Some examples are MadKudu for lead scoring, Calendly for scheduling meetings, and Gong to automatically calls and provide insights into conversations. 

4. Proposal and negotiation 

After an initial fit is determined, it’s up to the account executive to properly convey the value of your product or service, and get your future customers excited.

To increase win rates, each step of the buying cycle should be mirrored to an opportunity stage in your CRM, screenshare and video software should be used to better convey value, and proposals should be centralized and tracked by technology––opposed to burdening reps to keep track of everything in a spreadsheet.

A few solutions to check out is Salesforce to keep track of leads, Zoom for reliable screen sharing, and PandaDoc for easy proposal tracking. 

5. Closing the deal 

Now comes the fun part, and the fruit of your labor: inking the deal! This can be a nerve racking time, especially if the end of quarter is near. To help make this process smoother, there is some great software which can help new customers e-sign their contract from their inbox, update your boss and team of your close, and automatically update the record in your CRM.

To get a sense of potential solutions, check out DocuSign for signing contracts online, Troops to celebrate with your team on Slack, and Zapier to automate all the data collection.

6. Post-sale handoff

Think your job as a rep is done after a contract is signed? Think again. Often one of the biggest reasons for customer dissatisfaction is a poor hand off between an account executive and the customer success/account manager. Nailing the handoff is crucial to generate referrals, testimonials, and contract renewals. 

To ensure a smooth experience, there is a great technology to share notes, create tasks and share playbooks across teams, and see engagement insights by company.

Some examples are Dooly to automatically log detailed notes in your CRM, Highspot to apply cross-department playbooks, and Groove to share account-based insights.

Evaluating for management

While reps test and evaluate software by how it improves their day-to-day tasks, sales management and operations need to think more holistically about team alignment, productivity, customer experience, and reporting.

There are 3 major categories to consider as a team. 

1. Reporting and data cleanliness

In order to set revenue targets, quotas, and evaluate performance it’s important to have a clean, and trustworthy CRM instance. Forcing reps to fill out every field and continually update deals, contacts, and tasks can be an uphill battle; and more data entry means less selling time.

Instead consider adding lead intelligence software, like Lusha, to your sales stack that can automatically create new leads and accounts in your CRM, while filling out all the crucial fields. Then, consider bolting on data quality software, like Cloudingo, that can automatically clean up duplicate lead records with differing data fields.

Once your data is in a great place, it’s worth considering business intelligence software, like InsightSquared, that can easily reveal performance trends by market segment, team and rep – which make forecasting more accurate and saves you from hours spent in spreadsheets.

2. Lead scoring and rotating

With aggressive sales targets, it’s tempting to assign all marketing and sales development rep generated leads to account executives. However, it’s important to focus rep time on the companies and people who are a good fit for your product or service, so they can ensure they can be attentive to customer needs during the buying experience. 

Predictive lead scoring software, like Infer, can ensure your reps are assigned accounts which have a high likelihood to close. While account management software like LeanData will ensure that reps receive new accounts fairly, and no one reaches out to a company someone else is actively working. 

3. Sales acceleration and alignment

Building repeatable, predictable pipeline should be the North Star for any sales leader and head of operations. However, it can be very hard to create sales excellence across a growing team of individuals.

In order to increase engagement within target accounts, align messaging, and speed up deal cycles consider adding sales engagement software, like SalesLoft, where messaging cadences and templates can generate more demos scheduled for your reps.

Bringing it all together

While it’s tempting to chase the next shiny tool, it’s important to crawl before you run. Automation can skyrocket productivity and free up more selling time for your reps, but it requires process to be figured out upfront. Otherwise, automation can amplify and exacerbate issues within your sales funnel. Start with mapping and defining your sales stages as a team, then find complementary solutions that align with your goals. 

A vertical to general automation is robotic process automation software, RPA. See how this emerging technology could soon become a part of sales automation and processes beyond 2020. 

See the Easiest-to-Use Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Software →


Mike McEuen

Mike is the Director of Marketing at Mixmax. He has over 10 years of experience building revenue engines at Fortune 500 to seed stage companies in the B2B space. When not creating marketing campaigns, he enjoys exploring new trials with his pup and going to concerts.

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