Sales Automation Tools can be very effective but lead some salespeople to rely on them almost entirely.
This is a mistake because sales automation is supposed to help the sales process, not be the process. It’s only a tool and sales should focus on skills to improve real performance like analyzing, qualifying, and closing quality deals. This is especially true in high-end B2B and Enterprise sales.
In this article we look at the place of sales automation in sales and why sellers should focus on skills rather than tools. We’ll touch on automation’s place in sales, when not to use it, and what skills sales should develop.
THE PLACE OF AUTOMATION IN SALES
Sales automation has a place in the sales process, but it’s obviously not the solution to qualify and close quality deals. Automation is great for things like improving efficiency and performance when it comes to mundane tasks. These include things like managing documents, reporting, and crunching numbers for forecasts. It is also great for scheduling meetings and helping to find and research leads. But when you have to set priorities between improving sales automation tools or working on the teams’ skills, it is significantly more important to improve skills. In fact, companies that invest heavily into educating and training their sales staff and only a small portion of tools like automation more often get better sales results.
The rule of thumb is that if a task is internal, it is mostly okay to automate it. But it’s when people start using sales automation outside the company that things can start to get ugly. Here are some areas where sales automation falls short:
Lack of authenticity: Sales is about creating a human connection. Even the most advanced sales AI simply can’t connect with humans as other humans can.
Sends robotic emails: We are bombarded by automated emails, and we’ve become good at spotting them, and so have email spam filters. Getting an automated email can feel disrespectful because it seems that to the vendor you are merely a number.
Email mistakes: Besides robotic emails, automated emails are also rife with mistakes. We’ve all received a “Dear [name]…” email at some point. This means that either the system incorrectly populated data or whoever created the email didn’t pay attention. Few things make people close emails faster than “Dear [name]…”.
SKILLS SALES SHOULD DEVELOP
Sales automation is only a tool and should be treated as such. When sales automation is seen as a magic pill to increase sales, productivity suffers. That’s because often more time is spent on the system than on selling. These systems can make salespeople worse at selling because they are not honing their skills.
To improve enterprise sales, sellers should focus on developing skills:
As mentioned earlier, sales are about establishing human connections. It’s also about psychology. Have you ever heard of an AI psychologist? That’s because machines can’t see (not yet anyway) into the human psyche and tap into people’s needs and desires. They can’t use these to solve problems.
I’m not suggesting that salespeople become psychologists. Sales coaching and training can teach some techniques that can help to understand people better. These skills enable you to create better connections with potential customers. It helps you to identify their unique needs and sell them solutions.
Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, can help a lot to create connections. EQ is the ability to understand, manage and use emotions to empathize with others. This helps you to establish meaningful connections. What’s more, researchers have discovered that EQ can positively affect sales performance. A study published in the International Journal of Business and Society found that this improvement comes from the ability of sellers with high EQs to adapt their behavior appropriately to facilitate sales. The great thing about EQ is that it is a very teachable skill.
What can you now
One of the best techniques to get to know someone is to ask questions and listen. Many people just wait for their turn to speak instead of paying attention to what the other person is saying. By doing that they can miss important details and cues.
Complex sales conversations
In his book ‘The Brain is Wider Than The Sky’, author Bryan Appleyard explains how simple solutions don’t work in an inherently complex world. The same applies to sales. The goal of automation is to make sales simpler, but many B2B sales are complex and very specific. In cases like this, simplicity doesn’t sell because complex problems most often require complex solutions. This is especially true if you are selling a complex product.
The irony is that sales automation solutions are themselves complex systems that require expertise to integrate. Not only that, recent studies show that companies name the lack of expertise as the biggest challenge when using automation.
Correctly dealing with complexity and selling appropriate solutions is a skill that salespeople often lack. The good news is that it can be developed. Things like understanding the nuances of both the product you are selling and the problem it is made to solve for the customer, and also how to identify the level of complexity. Remember, not all problems and solutions are complex. The customer may simply think it is.
What can you now
One of the first steps toward identifying solutions to complex problems is to understand the complexities of the product you are selling. Study all its features and how they provide solutions.
More effective emails
Robotic and mistake-riddled emails sent by automated systems are bad for sales. Automated emails can be effective when used as a draft before the manual finish. But they’re not nearly as effective as personalized emails.
Putting a little effort into emails can lead to substantial gains in sales. So why don’t more businesses do it? Personalizing emails takes time, and salespeople often have very little of it. But through practice, working smartly, paying attention to details, and using tools like templates effectively, the time it takes can be reduced to a minimum.
Having a human connection is also important. The better you understand the person you are sending the email to, the easier it is to personalize it. Sales training and coaching can help you to acquire and develop these skills.
What can you now
Write an email to a friend, then try to write different personalized versions of it to send to two or three of your other friends. See how easy it is to personalize an email when you know someone well? Notice how much quicker it was to write the two or three emails compared to the time it took you to write the first email.
Sellers can develop these skills through effective sales training and coaching.
I recently had a conversation with the technology director at a big company. He told me that the problem with some software is that it is written by people who have no experience in the field that the software is intended for. Engineers who can sell can be very successful, but most software engineers can’t. The result is a system that does the job on paper but doesn’t take into consideration what makes a salesperson better at sales.
The bottom line is that CRM Tools don’t sell; well-trained sellers do! Salespeople should spend less time reporting and more time with customers. And how can they improve the sales productivity out of those interactions with the customers? By doing the following:
- Understanding the purpose of each interaction.
- Acting and delivering correctly during each interaction.
- Listening to the customers.
- Actively helping the customer to identify their challenges (aka Identify Pain in MEDDPICC)
- Helping the customer analyze the consequence of their challenges (missed market opportunities, missed revenue, excessive time to complete tasks, excessive costs, risk, etc.)
- Measuring all of the above.
- Understanding the customer’s processes, including those for deciding and purchasing.
- Understanding and analyzing the customer’s priorities, criteria, and preferences.
- Influencing the customer through analysis and education.
- Becoming the trusted advisor of the customer through all the above.
- Measuring the potential gains.
- Showing the proof of the gains.
- Making a proposal that includes a clear business case with ROI or payback period.
- Showing the client evidence of what every day of status quo is costing them.
- Negotiating it if needed.
- Closing the deal.
Oh wait, did I just describe some of the skills that sellers need to execute their job? Oh cool!
Now you tell me. Which one of the items listed above can be automated?
Did you say none?
Then why aren’t building these skills your NUMBER ONE priority? Why are you focusing on automating low-level tasks?
Looks like you are missing the big picture, focusing on developing sales skills. Sellers need education, training, coaching, and mentoring. Sales Enablement, Sales Coaching, Sales Mentoring, Sales Courses, and Education is what increase their performance, not entering data into a form.
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