Here’s a cliche for you: every customer is a unique, special individual, and needs to be treated as such.
But like all cliches, this one has some truth to it. Building a relationship with your customers is arguably the most important element in succeeding as a business. However, as your business grows you find that prospecting leads, encouraging conversions, and nurturing customers can take up an inordinate amount of time.
That’s why you need to automate your sales process.
As great as it is to have an innovative idea for a product or service, your startup will ultimately live and die based on your ability to create a repeatable sales process. A clearly defined sales process that can be repeated time and time again to convert leads into paying customers will drive consistent revenue growth. It will power-up your prospecting, supercharge your email follow-ups; and ultimately build your business automatically.
In this article, I’ll show you how startups can build sales processes by implementing some of the tried and tested practices used by experts and develop a repeatable sales process that gives their sales team the tools they need for lasting success.
Let’s get started.
1. Increase the Quality of your Leads
A recent survey from BrightTalk found that 68% of B2B professionals cited “increasing the quality of leads” as their top priority. In the same study, 59% of those surveyed also cited this as their biggest challenge.
At first glance, this might seem slightly surprising. Surely every business knows who their target audience is, and therefore what counts as a “lead”. Well, yes and no. In reality, not all leads are created equal. And you should not spend huge amounts of time chasing after leads who might be interested in your products but who will be extremely hard to convert into sales.
This is where marketing automation comes in. Before you venture in this, consider the white lies about marketing automation first. Using a quality automation platform – like MailShake – you can build a system that will automatically segment your leads. This allows you to easily see which potential customers it is worth devoting extra resources too, and which are unlikely to be worth your time and money.
There are many approaches to building a system like this. A popular method, for instance, is to segment leads according to five categories: need, interest, decision timeframe, budget and authority role. You can assign a score to each of these categories, and then add them together to arrive at a “lead score”. Ranking leads by this score will show you exactly which leads are likely to lead to conversions.
It’s also important to be consistent with your approach. If you’ve spent the time developing a scoring system for your leads, don’t limit the implementation of this system to just your email outreach. You can also work with cookies to apply the same metrics to website visitors, and target your follow-up materials accordingly.
2. Budget Your Sales Funnel
Sales funnels are another conceptual tool that most successful startups will already have in place. If you don’t, you should. Sales funnels are a crucial tool in allowing you to build technological and marketing processes that seamlessly turn leads into conversions, and conversions into repeat customers.
However, many startups will define the stages in their sales funnel, and then stop there. As a result, they have little to no idea how the various stages of their sales process are impacting on their overall budget for digital marketing. This is important, because ultimately your sales process should not be measured by its raw efficacy (i.e. the number of conversions it produces), but rather by its efficiency (i.e. how much profit it generates for a given level of investment).
This is another area of your sales process in which automation can help. By automatically tracking the success (or failure) of the various parts of your sales funnel, you can easily see which parts of your process need work, and which are working efficiently. This means that you can target incoming revenue and business grants on the parts of your sales process where they can be most beneficial.
3. Iterate Your Processes
Remember that creating a sales process is not an event, but a process. In other words, your sales processes need to be constantly adapted to both the needs of your customers and market conditions.
At first glance, the idea of having a highly adaptable sales process would seem to cut against the idea of automating this. In reality, though, automating you sales processes in the way we’ve discussed is critical in improving your agility, because automation will give you more time to look at where you are succeeding, and where you are not.
There are two important considerations when it comes to achieving this agility. One is that any automation tools you use should be able to constantly return data on the success of the various parts of your sales funnel. These data can then be used to tweak your sales process in order to get your emails opened and read, or to improve your graphic design so that it connects more directly with your target audience.
The second principle here is to make sure that your automated sales processes are sufficiently adaptable to be able to deal with changing market conditions. We’ve seen a lot of lay offs and companies shifting roles and responsibilities between staff members to adjust these conditions. We saw the importance of this during the recent COVID-19 pandemic, where many companies came across as deeply insensitive because they let their automated email marketing systems run.
This is an extreme example, of course, but it can be used to illustrate a broader truth: if you update any part of your sales funnel, this should be reflected in all of your other marketing materials. In terms of automation, this means that you should choose an automation platform that gives you granular control over every aspect of your marketing.
4. Automatic Nurturing
Automating your marketing and sales processes is not just about generating leads, or converting these into sales. You can also deploy similar automation techniques in the service of nurturing customers after they have made a purchase.
Many startups can get slightly obsessed with the idea of generating leads and conversion rates, especially during the first few years, and can forget about the value of repeat customers. This is a mistake: research from Harvard Business School has found that even a 5% increase in customer retention can increase profitability by 25 to 95%.
In practice, automating your nurturing strategy relies on two processes. One is being able to collect information on your customers before, during, and after their purchase. This process relies on some of the techniques we’ve mentioned above, including lead scoring and web analytics. This data acquisition should be geared toward further customer segmentation, which will then allow you to personalize follow-up communications to your most valuable customers.
With tools such as Exceed.ai you can ensure every lead is automatically followed up on, nurtured appropriately, and is well qualified with AI two-way email conversations. When a lead is qualified and ready to talk to a human, the AI Intelligent Rep books qualified meetings directly on your rep’s calendar.
The second step in automating your nurturing processes is to ensure that you are engaging customers across as many media as possible. As a bare minimum, you should aim to collect a (working, active) email address for all of your conversions, because email is still the most trusted medium for marketing communications. You can then use this information to deploy automated, customized email marketing that aims to develop the existing relationship you have with these customers.
The Bottom Line
Automating your sales process has some imminent and obvious benefits. With an automated system, you will spend less time (and money) doing the kind of drudge work that can be easily performed by a computer. Because of this, automation will have an immediate impact on your bottom line.
However, this is just the beginning of the benefits that automation provides. By automating your processes, you are ultimately giving yourself more time. And that means – to return to the cliche with which we started this article – you can focus on what really matters: building a relationship with your customers. This, when it really comes down to it, is why the most successful marketers are maximizing the potential of automation.
Guest Post by Nahla Davies
Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed—among other intriguing things—to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony. You can find her on LinkedIn.