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What Is Sales Force Automation?

Marisa Sanfilippo
Marisa Sanfilippo
at Fortune Web Marketing

Sales force automation can improve your sales team's ability to engage with new leads and boost customer satisfaction.

When you hear "sales force," the first thing you may think of is Salesforce the company. While Salesforce is a top customer relationship management (CRM) software platform that can be used for sales force automation, in this article we cover sales force automation as a whole – how it works, its benefits, the sales activities you should automate, and the types of sales automation tools to consider.

What is sales force automation?

As its name suggests, sales force automation, or SFA for short, is a function that automates various sales processes, made possible by software tools. SFA can be part of a CRM system or a function of separate tools that are specifically designed to automate select sales tasks.

SFA and CRM are not the same thing. A CRM is a tool to support sales and marketing efforts to track buyer journeys, identify revenue opportunities, provide customer support, and more. In other words, CRM software tracks, organizes, and nurtures leads and customers. Not every function of a CRM includes automation of tasks, though automation tools are usually available for certain tasks. The job of an SFA tool (or an SFA feature in a CRM) is strictly to automate tasks.

What are the benefits of sales force automation technology?

"The cost of acquiring new customers can be extremely high when companies use outdated sales processes to manage their sales channels," said Oliver Andrews, owner of website design and SEO company OA Design Services. "Also, a salesperson may have to log in to various tools, including email marketing software, just to track the status of their reach with a potential customer."

Sales force automation is part of that new technology that makes sales easier.

"It is difficult to track potential customer behavior without the help of integrated software," Andrews told Business News Daily. "If you're not tracking activity in real time, you may be missing out on potential sales. The longer you take to follow up on leads, the worse your sales team performs."

In summary, the purpose of sales force automation is to save time and streamline sales processes, but it has even more benefits that can boost your bottom line:

  1. It increases accuracy. The more times you perform a task, the more opportunities you have to make a mistake. Do something once or twice, such as setting up an email sequence, and then copy it over to your next campaign once you're satisfied with it. Automating the campaign, thus saving yourself the manual repetition, reduces the chance of errors.

  2. It allows your sales team better use of their time. Since your sales team won't be spending as much time writing out emails and performing mundane tasks, they can focus more on the essential parts of their job.

  3. It ensures no lead is forgotten. Leads can fall through the cracks when they are being tracked manually with spreadsheets, calendars, or anything other than a CRM or SFA tool. SFA helps ensure all your leads are accounted for.

  4. It fosters smart sales forecasts. Smart sales forecasting analyzes past sales records, checks the current sales database and, along with a ton of pipeline opportunities, gives your sales team insight into upcoming opportunities. In addition, SFA enables you to get better leads from your existing customers by analyzing their past sales patterns and generating custom campaigns.

  5. It boosts employee engagement and retention. Salespeople often feel more productive with SFA, which contributes to job satisfaction.

  6. It reduces the cost of workforce resources. Automating and streamlining repetitive tasks saves sales reps time and, as a result, reduces overhead.

  7. It allows quick responses. When a lead fills out a form on your website and has to wait to be contacted by a sales rep, they might get impatient with the lag time. With SFA, leads can be contacted instantly.

What types of sales activities should you automate?

If an automation tool can do a task just as well as or better than a human could do the task manually, you should automate the task. Using one integrated SFA tool instead of multiple tools, if your budget allows it, is ideal. Here are some of the sales activities that SFA technology can automate:

  • Lead nurture emails with workflows
  • Data entry such as product name and price (with autofill)
  • Reports
  • Research on leads (auto-population of lead contact information from directories)
  • Lead prioritization
  • Voicemails
  • Call logging
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Call routing to the right sales reps
  • Calculations of the cost of acquiring new customers

How does sales force automation work?

SFA works by offering you the option to automate various sales tasks. To help you get a better understanding of how sales force automation works, let's break down two popular automation activities: workflows and reports.

SFA: Workflows

You can create workflows with enrollment triggers to automatically email sales prospects. For example, a workflow for an online clothing store might look like this:

  1. Prospect Joe Smith signs up for an email list. A welcome email is sent to him right away.
  2. Smith does not buy anything within five days. An email is sent that entices him with a promo code.
  3. Smith still has not bought anything two days later. He receives an email telling him to act fast before his promo code expires.

With a B2B business, a workflow might look like this:

  1. Sandi Rose signs up for a demo of your software. An email is sent to her right away with a link to the video demo.
  2. Rose does not take action, and three days go by. An email is released asking her what she thought of the demo and if she has any questions.
  3. Rose still has not taken action seven days after the demo. Another email is released promoting the benefits of your software. The email features a link that makes it easy for her to sign up.

Just imagine if you had to send all these emails manually; the tracking alone could take several hours.

SFA: Reporting

Without SFA, your sales management data might be a bunch of overwhelming spreadsheets. As a sales manager, you need the ability to look at your numbers quickly and easily. Use SFA to receive visual reports as often as you like. Before scheduling reports, set up key performance indicators that you'd like the reports to show. Use these reports to identify trends and opportunities over time. 

Sales automation tools to consider

With dozens of SFA tools on the market, how do you choose one? The best way to determine which solution is ideal for your company is to learn as much about each tool as you can. When possible, schedule demos and take advantage of free trials.

HubSpot

HubSpot is a CRM and SFA all-in-one tool. You can track the status of your leads, use workflows to automate lead rotation or send sequence emails, streamline follow-ups, and more.

SendGrid

This communications platform has the capability to send transactional and marketing emails automatically. You can set automation triggers to send prospects personalized emails.

Alfred

This all-in-one Twitter, LinkedIn, and email automation platform promises to be simple to use, safe, reliable, and a timesaver for sales teams. You can use it to create multiple campaign sequences and to engage prospects with connection requests, messages, profile views, and more.

ConvertKit

With ConvertKit, you can build a path for your subscribers by sending them through more than one workflow at a time. You can also utilize visual automations and logic to determine the path your subscribers take.

Leadfeeder

Learn which visitors go to your website and what they look at when they do. With Leadfeeder, you can also get email notifications when your target clients visit your website. When a lead revisits your website, Leadfeeder will automatically update your CRM with that information.

Leadiro

Leadiro is a B2B customer data platform that's best for automated lead generation, providing a regular source of qualified leads. You can filter the tool's data for various metrics and see how to target leads that are relevant to your business.

Slack

Recently acquired by Salesforce, Slack routes communications to the right sales team members through automated forms, messages and more.

Which SFA tools are you considering?

Image Credit: RicardoImagen / Getty Images
Marisa Sanfilippo
Marisa Sanfilippo
Business News Daily Contributing Writer
See Marisa Sanfilippo's Profile
Marisa is an award-winning marketing professional and contributing writer. She has worked with businesses large and small to help them drive revenue through integrated marketing campaigns and enjoys sharing her expertise with our audience.