The world of sales is rapidly developing; the previous methodologies of cold calling and hoping for a connection have almost become things of the forgotten past. No one likes to be sold to when they are busy — not executives and certainly not your customers. In 2019, personalization of all outbound communication is often vital not only to companies’ success but to their overall brand image.
However, taking on the challenge of personalization is not a straightforward matter, especially when your list of prospects spans hundreds, if not thousands, of names. This is where marketing and sales automation can come into play in the form of artificial intelligence (AI)-driven bots, email content management, customer relationship management (CRM) systems and more.
When surveyed, 75% of businesses said they had adopted some sort of marketing and sales automation tools. I’d like to take a closer look at what I believe is driving this uptrend in automation for marketing and sales teams, and the challenges business development leaders face in adapting their business technologically.
Why Automation Matters
Marketing and sales automation gives companies the opportunity to attract, acquire, and retain customers while satisfying their current needs for personalization, care and tailored services. But how exactly?
First, it can help you build up business efficiency by automating internal business processes and reducing routine manual tasks, such as adding leads’ details to a CRM system. Furthermore, it can prioritize potential customers using smart AI-based algorithms that identify lead value, as opposed to working with an alphabetical list, for example. Salesforce Einstein and Predictive Pipeline by InsideSales are just a couple of the tools on the market for this type of predictive lead scoring.
Second, automation supports customer connection. I’ve seen many deals fall through because a customer doesn’t feel connected to or valued by a business. Automation allows companies to maintain a healthy level of interaction without the need to employ countless human resources.
Finally, it invites scalability. While there is very little that can compare to the human connection, there are limits to how many staff a company can reasonably afford and manage. Automation can bring in scalability while optimizing human resources.
When Challenges Kick In
The potential of automation may appear almost limitless, but that’s not to say there are no challenges along the way. For businesses venturing into marketing and sales automation projects, I believe it’s vital to take stock of not only the benefits but also the obstacles that they’ll need to overcome to implement new tools successfully. These challenges and solutions have been born and refined in my company’s own technology consulting practice.
1. Changes In Staffing Requirements
In the long term, you might see a reduction in marketing and sales staff. What you’ll see in the short term, however, is that your business will need to refocus and train staff to handle automation tools specifically. Additionally, it’s likely your business will need a competent software engineer for installation and maintenance.
2. Scaling Issues
Business growth is generally seen as ideal; however, you’ll need to account for it beforehand. More often than not, growth brings in certain fragmentation — of data, tools and teams — which in turn can lead to diminished process visibility and fractured collaboration. I’ve found that planning to avoid this early on and addressing potential discrepancies between marketing and sales reps across organizational units will eventually translate into better customer care.
3. Project Governance
In adopting automation, you may find your current sales leader is ill-equipped to deal with the associated technical questions. This may mean creating a joint leadership team with a technical consultant or retraining the current sales leader to help them develop a better grasp of data architectures, tooling and user buy-in strategies.
4. User Buy-In
The backbone of efficiency in sales automation is user buy-in. Your system may be the most technically advanced, but if it’s not connecting with users efficiently, it simply will not work. To develop an appropriate system, you first need to collect enough adequate data about your end users, their needs and their expectations to be able to tailor the system explicitly to them.
The challenges above are the starting points for your business to consider when you’re implementing sales automation, but they are not insurmountable. To start your journey on the right foot, here’s what companies can do:
1. Plan And Strategize
Before you get started, sit down and plan your quantitative objectives so that you can benchmark your future gains from automation against them. At this stage, your plan should also include all other relevant areas, such as costs, staffing, outsourcing needs, risks and so on.
2. Get To Grips With Big Data
Your automated tools are only as good as the data they work with. Tailoring them to meet the needs of your potential customers will require two elements — qualitative and quantitative data analysis. Your company can and should utilize big data to gain an adequate understanding of your customer base. You can start by conducting a basic sentiment analysis of your brand mentions to seize new opportunities, and elevate up to full-blown omnichannel hyper-personalization. In doing so, you’ll be able to optimize and tailor your offerings to customers’ needs while increasing the efficiency of the automation tools you adopt.
3. Align Your Marketing, Sales And IT Teams
Each team fulfills essential roles within your organization; each has skills and expertise that the other doesn’t have. By strategically fostering a close working relationship between the two departments, you can boost the capabilities of both teams so that your solution effectively assists marketing and sales teams while being technologically reasonable.