It’s funny… in recent years I’ve noticed that when startups talk about marketing automation, they tend to see it in a positive light. But when they talk about sales automation, it’s almost always a negative thing.
When we hear the word “automation” in the context of marketing, we think of AI chatbots, software that schedules social media posts, and email platforms that help us engage our customers. Essentially tools that improve our relationship with our customers.
But when we hear the word “automation” in the context of sales, we think of annoying robo-dialers and email spam.
So, I found myself wondering if sales automation has officially gone out of style.
Are we trending towards doing sales the manual way again, for the sake of the personal touch, or are there sales automation tools available that can actually improve our relationships with our prospects? Let’s break it down.
We’ve all tried dumb cold calling or dumb cold emailing at some point — meaning we were working from a list of unqualified leads, where we had little reason to believe that they might be interested in our product.
Needless to say, this doesn’t work. It converts poorly, hurts your reputation, and everyone’s sick of spam.
But, prospecting automation isn’t always a low-quality thing anymore. The best lead gen companies continue to gather deeper data on millions of contacts and companies, which allows sales teams to generate highly-customized lead lists and reach very specific audiences.
So, instead of burning through 100s of leads that are unlikely to convert, there are several lead gen platforms these days that can actually improve your conversion rates through better targeting.
Cold email automation
No one likes receiving cold emails from senders who haven’t put any effort into targeting the right people. That’s because no one wants to hear about a product or service that is completely irrelevant to their business.
It’s so easy to send the same email to 1,000 people, and that’s why many companies use the “spray and pray” approach… which is why email automation gets a bad rap.
However, it’s important to remember that people don’t mind being pitched if the pitch is relevant to them.
Email automation is a useful tool. It saves countless hours of a sales rep’s time. But it’s how you use it that determines whether it’s a net positive or net negative for your business.
If you’ve targeted a very specific list of niche prospects that fall into the same category, it’s possible to craft a single cold email that feels relevant and personal to that entire audience. So, when used correctly, email automation will still drastically improve your sales performance today.
CRM & data-entry automation
When people think of sales automation, they usually think of the previous two categories, but there are many tools available today that focus on reducing or eliminating the tedious, repetitive, manual tasks that reps have to do between direct sales activities — which when combined can take up to 20 hours per week, per rep.
The idea here is to let machines do what machines do best, and let people do what people do best.
If you have tools that eliminate data uploading, sorting, spreadsheets, and manual note-taking from your sales process, your reps can focus all of their time on writing high-quality email copy, facilitating introductions, and improving the way they communicate your product to prospects.
The former activities don’t improve your sales results, whereas the latter activities do. So the data-entry stuff should not be done by humans, whereas the communication stuff should.
Good sales automation is about finding the right balance
On one end of the sales automation spectrum, you’ve got cheap, low quality, unoptimized spray and pray with very little audience specification. It’s the low-touch, brute force approach that is easy to scale but performs poorly and hurts your reputation.
On the other end, you have high-touch, super customized research and personalized outreach that takes a long time and doesn’t scale well.
But there’s a huge gap between the two poles that many startups seem to ignore. Sales automation is evolving. It isn’t the low-quality approach that it used to be, and if you find the right balance and the right suite of tools, it can improve your sales outcomes as well as your relationships with your prospects.
Just remember to only automate the low-value, repetitive tasks that will never improve your bottom line, no matter how well you do them. This will buy your time back to focus on the high-value, communication-related tasks that can make the difference between success and failure.