Automating Sales Operations Processes
Updated: Nov 3, 2022
An organization runs most efficiently when workers can devote their skills to the areas in which they are proficient. For example, the skills of your sales teams lie in their ability to build relationships with others, actively listen and communicate, and strategically prospect and represent products and services. The skills of sales operations lie in strategic planning, using data to forecast and manage, and specifically targeting buyer personas. Notice that administrative tasks aren’t on either of those lists. Sales reps and operations workers can certainly take on those time-consuming, necessary tasks as part of the job, but there is a technology that exists, so they don’t have to.
Sales order automation has emerged as a helpful tool for businesses that want to streamline manual tasks that are an essential part of the sales process. Tasks such as entering data, validating part numbers, and manually routing orders to the next step are no longer dependent on human interaction but rather use artificial intelligence (AI) for a more touchless process. Sales process automation is the process of automating various steps in your sales process so that your sales reps can focus less on administrative tasks and more on connecting with and selling to your prospects and customers. It also ensures that your sales process is streamlined and uniform.
Benefits of Sales Process Automation
With sales order process automation, your business will reduce the risk of bottlenecked sales operations as a result of human intervention when intervention is not required. You’ll enable prospects to make purchases with little or no human interaction when possible. You’ll also be able to use technology like bots to help retrieve customer orders and data from the customer portals and bring that transaction into ERP without a user touching the order. Overall, you’ll be able to streamline your sales cycle to process more orders in less time and with less user interaction, which leads to faster company growth. Consulting firm McKinsey & Company published research that shows that B2B sales leaders using digital sales have up to five times the growth of their competitors that have not adopted digital sales enablement.
Some of the key benefits of sales process automation include:
Eliminate tedious tasks from sales order processing - Automating your sales order process both frees up your sales staff and helps sales operations handle incoming customer orders with ease. For sales agents, the tedious tasks that were once manual are now automatically processed – enabling those employees to best address customer needs. And sales operations can use the technology to streamline their data extraction and data validation processes from incoming sales orders no matter the source.
Capture data while eliminating risk/inaccuracies – Using smart OCR you would be able to automatically extract sales order data from all order types, including email attachments, paper, EDI, or XML files. No matter the source, your data won’t be lost, and you’ll be able to eliminate data entry errors. These solutions can eliminate at least 70% or more of your data entry/data validations.
Reduce overall costs - Because sales order automation eliminates a significant amount of human involvement in the sales cycle, you reduce the cost of certain processes, such as fulfilling an order. According to an APQC survey of 167 sales order professionals, the group discovered that automation saves businesses between $5 and $15 per sales order. It reduces sales order cycle times by more than 46%.
Reduce complexities and resolve discrepancies- Sales order automation provides automatic checks/validations against data in your ERP and built-in workflow so you can quickly see where processes went wrong and fix the issue. The technology helps you manage complex business rules so you can simplify order entry and fulfillment and easily identify, notify, and escalate exceptions as needed.
Improve visibility - Without the obstacles that come with manual order processing, you’ll gain better, clearer visibility. Because order data are appearing sooner based on the improvements in data extraction and validation, you have visibility sooner in the process as well. Dashboards ensure a visual checkpoint of orders received and make sure the orders pass through every step of the process. Dashboard analytics ensures the order makes it from cradle to grave with visibility on any exceptions in between and any illogical deviations, while also providing the ability to drill down to the order and any actions taken on that order since captured.
Provide superior customer experiences - Perhaps the most significant benefit of all is that you can provide an improved customer experience. Sales order automation enables your staff to get better at their core skill sets. Without being bogged down by menial tasks, sales and customer service representatives can actively listen, build relationships, and perform the strategic aspects of what is going to help with company growth compared to being stagnant and only thinking short term. Additionally, customer satisfaction will be at an all-time high as they will have up-to-date statuses on their POs via email notifications sooner and more frequently as their orders pass through the process.
Kickstarting Your Sales Automation Journey
A recent McKinsey study shows that more than 30% of sales activities can be automated to improve efficiency and effectiveness. However, lack of awareness of automation’s potential, inadequate tracking, return on investment (ROI) concerns and delayed delivery challenges are hindrances to adoption. Many organizations that have overcome these challenges have still struggled to meet automation project targets, with only 50% reporting project success.
To capture the benefits of sales automation, sales leaders must first recognize that, while anyone can deploy sales automation and capture its benefits, those with standardized sales processes in place and co-located/centralized sales support functions usually capture bigger benefits from automation and see impact faster than their peers. This is because their costs for data integration, technological deployment, and change management are lower.
Prioritize use cases- A team of digital transformation consultants quantifies the automation potential by subtask and prioritizing use cases across the entire sales function; best-in-class solutions can help complete this task in a few weeks.
Implement prioritized use cases- This involves comprehensive process review and mapping in prioritized areas. It is typically conducted in three steps:
Eliminate activities that don’t add value from the consideration
Standardize processes with co-located sales support and consolidated data repositories
Automate manual, time-consuming, and repetitive tasks
Pursue ‘Quick-Wins’- Research suggests that most successful companies take an iterative approach, creating a pilot to test and refine new processes, starting with the most promising and least critical applications. Automation teams should work closely with sales reps and sales support staff to make sure their experience and expertise are reflected in the system, both to create buy-in and hedge against risks.
Choose capabilities over deadlines- Sales automation can offer consistent productivity improvements but also can become unsustainable if implementation outpaces capability. Invest in tailoring your automation’s capabilities, building to the needs of each key role. The global consumer electronics firm tracked skill development at a person-by-person level rather than being overly fixated on development timelines while building its automation center.
A well-defined communication and onboarding plan should be charted out focusing on the outcomes and change agents should be deployed to ensure a seamless experience for your sales teams. Change management involves training reps and managers; tracking impact via key performance indicators (KPIs), time saved, or the monetary value of bot-enabled customer conversion; putting in place appropriate incentives, and communicating with all relevant stakeholders.
Key Sales Workflows Which Could Be Prioritized for Automation
The sales machinery is a complicated engine, often comprised of intricately woven processes that help the team function to their ability. Automating the entire sales engine might seem daunting, but it would not be the case when you can identify and prioritize key sales processes which would help you kickstart your automation journey.
We have compiled a list of three key processes which could help you get started.
RFI / RFQ Processing – Automation would help you enable seamless collaboration among different teams to ensure fast and correct responses to Requests for Information/Requests for Quotation.
Support multiple inquiry channels - Via web form on website/portal, direct through agents or chatbot
Digital workflow configured to your unique processes - Whichever way you process RFIs/RFQs, you can digitize it
Automated emails and logic-based routing of inquiries - Make your workflow even smarter by automating repetitive tasks
B2B Order Processing – Automating this workflow would boost customer satisfaction by empowering your clients, sales agents, fulfillment /logistics staff, and accounting team with a seamless ordering/reordering process.
Direct online ordering from B2B customers & sales agents- Via web form on your own website/portal or even via chatbot
Real-time tracking from order placement to billing- Never miss any detail and monitor each order’s status
Automated reordering based on contract/schedule- With auto-fill of customer details for convenient and accurate reordering.
Franchisee Reordering – By automating the franchisee reordering process, you can ensure that your franchisee channels are selling at their full potential by providing easy, accurate, and timely restocking of products.
Know the stock levels across franchisees - and plan logistics according to orders placed.
Forecast production & distribution based on sales volumes - Never miss out on opportunities just because you’re out of stock.
Automated reordering based on contract/schedule - With auto-fill of customer details for convenient and accurate reordering.
QuickReach: Supercharging Your Sales Automation
With automation, everybody wins. Customers will benefit from the faster turnaround. Companies will benefit from higher sales-force productivity. And sales reps will experience greater job satisfaction because automation lets them focus on what they love: delivering value to customers. But delivering this value isn’t easy, long-drawn, expensive, and complicated.
With QuickReach, the no-code platform you can now make the software fit your sales operations (and not the other way around). QuickReach helps you manage your entire sales operations in one platform that seamlessly blends processes, people, and systems – removing the struggle to cobble together different tools.