What role does automation play in the lead generation & sales processes?

Focusing on the fundamentals will get you most the way there. Learn what helps you best.

8 min read

Like it or loathe it, sales are the lifeblood of most companies and, at the end of the day, the vast majority of businesses will sink or swim based on their success as a sales organization. 

Even high-performing sales teams close only a quarter of sales qualified leads, with only around 25 percent of marketing qualified leads ever becoming sales qualified leads in the first place. So, for every 100 prospects, good sales organizations can expect to turn just a handful into customers. 

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Companies need to keep the sales pipeline full — a process that is both time and labor-intensive. Little wonder then that the sales and marketing automation sector has boomed more than Brian Blessed in a voiceover booth during recent years, as companies of all types and stripes try to keep the leads flowing. 

According to the latest edition of MarTech’s annual report, from AbsoluteData to Zoominfo, there are now more than 480 tools available within the sales automation, enablement and intelligence category alone. That’s without accounting for the thousands of other tools that enable marketing automation, customer experience, programmatic advertising or even analytics, all of which have significant roles to play in lead gen and sales processes.

Eighty percent of sales and marketing teams now automate one or more of their processes in a bid to generate more leads. With good reason, as more than three-quarters of teams that embrace automation see their number of leads increase. So, why aren’t all sales and marketing teams adopting even more automation tools and processes? Employing more than a couple of these tools takes deep pockets and, although sales and marketing may burn through more budget than other departments, a lack of budget remains a crucial roadblock. As the MarTech 2020 report shows, from mobile marketing, PR and native advertising to eCommerce platforms, website optimization and advocacy programs, sales and marketing are vast landscapes and even huge multinationals lack the budget to cover it all.

So, if you’re new to automation within the lead generation and sales space, how do you know where to start? Like everything in life, focusing on the fundamentals will get you most the way there.

Lead magnets

Creating content offers, such as ebooks, industry trend reports, whitepapers, checklists and videos, can be challenging, especially if done well. And by “done well,” we mean that they should be high quality, and offer content that is genuinely of interest and utility to your potential customers. However, once the hard work of producing these content offers is done, by using lead magnets on your website or advertising — banners that urge visitors to leave their contact details in return for the excellent content — you can ensure a constant and around-the-clock drip of new prospects that are voluntarily and proactively adding their details to your CRM.

Suppose you don’t have a content offer available. In that case, webinars with some of your senior team members who have unique industry insights and knowledge, or even one-on-one consults can also be suitable for lead magnets. 

Email

Despite the rise of collaboration tools, like Slack and Teams, intended to be the nail in email’s coffin, the reality is that more and more emails are sent and received each year. When it comes to filling the funnel, email marketing still works better than cold calling, social media or online ads. This is why more than 80% of B2B marketing teams still use email as part of their marketing mix.

Automating email flows is one of the most impactful ways organizations can increase leads and accelerate the sales process. From marketing campaigns intended to nurture contacts or loyalty campaigns that aim to upsell existing customers, the number of imaginative ways that email automation can be used is almost never-ending. Your automation tool will send ‘preloaded’ emails to leads based on how they respond or don’t respond to the previous email.

Creating a great automated email campaign and workflow requires skill and patience, as you might have to try lots of alternatives before getting it right. However, you should always make sure that you use the personalization options within any email tool that will allow you to address the recipient by name and adapt the content according to their company and even their industry.

Text message

More relevant in some regions than others — for example, text messaging remains popular in the US while it’s died out almost entirely in Europe — but, where it is in use, the text message is a compelling way to connect and deliver sales. Many of the same rules and approaches that apply to emails also apply to text messages, but text messages have a much higher open rate than emails (more than four times higher, in fact), making it more likely that your message cuts through.

Personalized website experiences

From t-shirts and wine bottles to birthday cards and jewelry, if Etsy has taught us anything, it’s that we all like our stuff to be personalized. Applying the ‘rule of Etsy’ to your website could help drive more leads too. Website automation solutions can help with all manner of personalizations.

While personalization makes visitors feel like special snowflakes, which does no harm at all, it also helps you as a company highlight the information that is most relevant to each visitor based on their company size, industry and the problem they’re trying to address, rather than them having to find that information themselves.  

Chatbots

When it comes to surfacing the most relevant information in a way that best suits the visitor, chatbots can also be a potent tool. While the most advanced, cutting-edge chatbots require significant coding chops, many marketing automation tools and website builders offer simple chatbots as standard. With some time spent considering the workflows involved and the touch of a good copywriter, they can be set up fairly quickly and become simple and fast ways to navigate the website.

Marketing automation software

While all of these are examples of automation tools, a dedicated sales and marketing automation solution, such as those provided by the likes of Salesforce, Hubspot, Freshworks and Blueshift, can help bring all of these together and streamline the entire process.

The software will track prospects’ behaviors, whether on your website or social channels or in your emails or even your phone calls. It can assign lead scoring and prioritization to each of those prospects, which is especially useful if you operate a business with a high volume of leads of varying quality. Marketing automation software can recognize if many people from the same company are visiting your website and can even track how they navigate your site and consume your content. 

Significantly for sales teams, SDRs and account managers can automate alerts so that they receive an email as soon as a high-value prospect interacts with your company again or when new inbound leads land in your CRM. Given just how much a timely follow-up call is likely to tip the balance in your favor, this is an invaluable tool that all sales teams should leverage. 

Scheduling

Sales teams spend around a third of their time selling, with the rest of their working week taken up by administrative tasks. Any automation solution that cuts down on the unproductive time and gives sales teams hours of selling back each week has to feature high on any sales director’s wishlist.

With that in mind, scheduling software represents the biggest bang for your budget for every sales team. Around 70% of professionals worldwide believe that poorly organized and inefficient meetings cost them time and productivity regularly. By using a product such as Doodle’s Booking Page, all salespeople can create personalized calendars with available slots pre-allocated. They can be shared on the company website, synced with a chatbot, or even distributed by email. Not only does this save the usual time-consuming email back-and-forth that occurs with all meetings, but it also allows prospects to book a time slot when they’re most eager, without time for their interest to cool.

Scheduling tools also enable hassle-free rescheduling at a moment when many meetings are lost. At the same time, reminders can be automated and even virtual meeting links can be sent out automatically with each invite.

Whereas automation may have once been the future of business, today, it’s very much the here and now. More than half of companies use sales and automation solutions to increase their leads’ quantity and quality. The question then becomes how big a piece of the automation pie you should bite off. 

The answer always lies in impact and return on investment. Look for tools that can reduce overheads, increase productivity or enhance the experience for your prospects. Better still, plump for automation solutions that do all three.

Want to have better sales meetings? We’ve noted some of people’s biggest pet peeves and what you can do to avoid them.

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