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 concept — how it works, its benefits, the sales activities you should automate, and the types of sales automation tools to consider. With this knowledge and the right technology, you can streamline your sales processes and improve business efficiency.
As its name suggests, sales force automation, or SFA for short, is a function that automates various sales processes through 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.
It’s critical to understand that 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 manages leads and customers. Not every function of a CRM includes automation of tasks, although automation features are usually available for certain projects. In contrast, the job of an SFA tool (or an SFA feature in a CRM) is strictly to automate tasks.
Sales force automation technology saves your team valuable time and money, resulting in benefits that include happier sales team members and more cost-efficient business operations.
“The cost of acquiring new customers can be extremely high when companies use outdated sales processes to manage their sales channels,” said Oliver Andrews, owner of website design and SEO company OA Design Services.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 new technology that makes sales easier so you’re not bogged down by all of the above or struggling with what Andrews describes below.
“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.”
While the purpose of sales force automation is to save time and streamline sales processes, it has even more benefits that can boost your bottom line.
- It increases accuracy. The more times you perform a task manually, the more opportunities you have to make a mistake. With SFA, you can 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 human errors.
- It allows your sales team to better use their time. Since your sales team won’t be spending as much time writing out emails and performing repetitive tasks, they can focus more on the essential parts of their job.
- It ensures no lead is forgotten. Leads can fall through the cracks when they’re tracked manually with spreadsheets, calendars, or anything other than a CRM or SFA tool. Sales force automation helps ensure all your leads are accounted for.
- 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. [Read related article: How CRM and the Sales Funnel Work Together]
- It boosts employee engagement and retention. Salespeople often feel more productive when using SFA, which contributes to job satisfaction.
- It reduces the cost of workforce resources. Automating and streamlining repetitive tasks saves sales representatives time and, as a result, reduces overhead expenses.
- It facilitates 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.
Other benefits of workplace automation software like SFA tools include better communication, stronger team accountability and higher-quality work.
If an automation tool can do a task just as well as or better than a human could do it manually, you should automate the task. Below 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)
- Research on leads (auto-population of lead contact information from directories)
- Lead prioritization
- Call logging
- Appointment scheduling
- Call routing to the right sales reps
- Calculations of the cost of acquiring new customers
Using one integrated SFA tool to handle these tasks, instead of multiple tools, is ideal if your budget allows it. Keep reading for our software recommendations.
Sales force automation works by facilitating various sales tasks automatically based on your software settings. To help you get a better understanding of how sales force automation works, let’s break down two popular automation activities: workflows and reports.
With SFA technology, you can create workflows with enrollment triggers to automatically email sales prospects. For example, a workflow for an online clothing store might look like the following.
- Prospect Joe Smith signs up for your email list. An automatic welcome email is sent to him right away.
- Smith does not buy anything within five days. An automatic email is sent to entice him with a promo code.
- Smith still has not bought anything two days later. He receives another automatic email telling him to act fast before his promo code expires.
With a B2B business, a workflow might look like the below.
- Sandi Rose signs up for a demo of your software. An automatic email is sent to her right away with a link to the video demo.
- Rose does not take action, and three days go by. An automatic email is sent asking her what she thought of the demo and if she has any questions.
- Rose still has not taken action seven days after the demo. Another automatic email is sent promoting the benefits of your software. The email features a link that makes it easy for her to sign up for your service.
Just imagine if you had to send all these emails manually again and again; the tracking alone could take several hours. Using automatic workflows instead requires upfront time and effort to set up the proper chain of events, but then frees you to focus on other activities as the automation does its job. [Find out how to use CRM and email marketing together.]
Learning how to send effective marketing emails can help you make the most of your SFA workflows.
Without SFA, your sales management data might be a bunch of overwhelming spreadsheets. As a business owner or sales manager, you need the ability to look at your numbers quickly and easily. You can use SFA to automatically generate visual reports and receive them as often as you like. Before you schedule reports, set up the key performance indicators (KPIs) and CRM metrics that you’d like the reports to show. Use these reports to identify trends and opportunities over time so you can improve your team’s sales performance.
With dozens of sales force automation tools on the market, how do you choose the right 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 so you can experience the software before making a long-term commitment.
To help you find the right SFA tools, we compiled some of our picks for the best CRM software featuring automation capabilities. We’ve listed these below alongside some of our recommendations for the best email marketing software.
HubSpot is a CRM and SFA all-in-one tool. You can use the platform to track the status of your leads, set up workflows to automate lead rotation or send sequence emails, streamline follow-up and more. Learn more via our HubSpot CRM review — but make sure you understand how to choose the right CRM software for your business.
The Salesforce CRM is ideal for ensuring that your marketing, sales and commerce teams have all the data they need right at their fingertips. Enterprise-sized teams will also find the Salesforce Marketing Cloud ideal for creating personalized email marketing campaigns as part of their customer relationship management strategies. Find out more via our Salesforce CRM review and Salesforce Marketing Cloud review.
Though perhaps best known as a project management platform, monday also excels in both CRM and email marketing. You can use the monday sales CRM to build automated workflows that cover your full sales cycle. Additionally, you can use the monday email marketing suite’s customizable templates, schedule views and boards to power dynamic campaigns. Read our monday sales CRM review and monday email marketing review to learn more.
There are two Oracle products you can use to automate your sales force. The first, NetSuite CRM, is ideal for automating workflows across all your sales channels. Using this platform in conjunction with Eloqua, Oracle’s marketing automation platform, gives you drag-and-drop tools for streamlining sales tasks. Our NetSuite CRM review offers a deep dive into what makes this platform so powerful for SFA.
Automating your sales force is one of many business needs for which the vendor Zoho offers a highly powerful, user-friendly tool. You can also use the Zoho CRM to generate follow-up prompts and real-time notifications for your team while maximizing your communication about all things SFA. Read our Zoho CRM review for the details.
Besides the above products, you might also want to consider incorporating a work communication took like Slack, which can route communications to the right sales team members through automated forms, messages and more.
Handing your sales force’s most tedious tasks over to software can benefit just about everyone. Your team will stop spending time on monotonous, uninspiring tasks, making them happier and thus, more motivated and productive. This, in turn, will yield better interactions between your sales team and your current and prospective customers. From there, your whole business will benefit — all with a single software tool.
Max Freedman contributed to this article. Source interview was conducted for a previous version of this article.