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    When Should You Add Automation to Your Sales Process?

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    Sales automation is often touted as a route to greater sales efficiency. Companies like Salesforce and hundreds of smaller point solutions promise to save your salespeople time, if you only spend more money and increase the complexity of your sales stack with their automation tools.

    I’ve been pushing back, because too often we try to use automation to solve human problems. A large portion of what passes for sales and marketing automation is essentially just regulation-compliant spam.

    This is bad for salespeople, because it pisses prospects off and can ruin otherwise promising opportunities. It’s bad for everyone, because it floods our inboxes with irrelevant communications.

    Yet, if you’ve been watching our product blog, you might have noticed that we here at Membrain have recently released automation to our existing customers. So you might be justified in wondering–what gives?

    When You Should NOT Automate Sales Processes

    My overall stance on automation hasn’t changed. Too often, we’re rushing after automation and avoiding the more important work of assessing our strategy, process, management, coaching and other human elements of how we sell.

    Automation is a great complement to a complex B2B sales system when it supports the humans who are selling.

    In particular, there are four sales process areas I believe you should never fully automate:

    1. Complex communication
      It might be more efficient to place an automated robocall triggered by a step in your sales process, but if your customer has questions, concerns, or just wants to talk to you about the complexity of their situation, that robocall is only going to annoy them.
    2. Business value conversations
      In complex B2B sales, how you sell is how you differentiate your offering. Salespeople who can have valuable conversations about business will become trusted advisors, and will make more sales. You simply cannot automate these business value conversations.
    3. Emotional competence
      No matter how logical we think we are, humans ultimately make decisions based on emotion. Your salespeople must be able to connect emotionally with the customer in order to consistently make profitable sales. You can’t automate emotional competence.
    4. Coaching
      You can create systems that trigger coaching content to be delivered to your salespeople based on context, but you can’t use automation to replicate the important coaching conversations that salespeople need to be having and expect optimal results.

    Further, any part of your sales process that is not aligned with your sales strategy, or that involves human emotions or complexity, should not be automated. Automation will only amplify the problems in your system, and aggravate the human emotions that impact decision-making.

    When is Sales Automation a Good Idea?

    While sales automation can certainly create toxic loops of valueless interactions and land your company in the permanent spam file, sometimes sales automation can actually improve your salespeople’s ability to connect with the customer.

    Sales automation can be an excellent component of your sales system when:

    • It takes routine non-value-add tasks off your salespeople’s plates so they can focus on the human aspects of their jobs
    • It helps prevent routine tasks and communications from falling through the cracks or causing problems due to human error
    • It serves up valuable resources and templates for salespeople to customize, saving them time without eliminating their valuable human contribution
    • It automates tasks that already rely exclusively on data for decision-making
    • It helps you clean up your data and categorize information

    Sales automation is a great complement to a complex B2B sales system when it supports the humans who are selling, rather than attempting to replace them. It’s also most useful when it’s part of a well-designed and strategic sales system, and not just tacked onto an already poorly functioning system.

    In other words, it can be an asset and an amplifier of your success, but it won’t fix all your sales problems by itself.

    What Membrain’s New Automation Tools Can Do

    We gave a lot of thought to the development of Membrain’s new automation tools. We wanted them to be an asset, not a liability. We wanted them to help your sales team sell, not just add bells and whistles so we could say we have automation tools.

    And we wanted them to meet the criteria above, so that they support your salespeople instead of trying to replace them.

    Some of the features of our new automation tools, which are included in our active pipeline module, are:

    • Automatic prospect assignment
      Assign new leads based on territory, size, product interest, and much more, and even add randomization to keep it fair.
    • Automatically archive or renew account growth projects
      If your account management runs on a regular cycle, such as annual, you can automate the shutting down of the previous year and set up for the new one.
    • Data clean-up and categorization
      Set up filters to manage your data based on existing data points.
    • Automate email flows
      Set up customizable sequences to stay in touch and help your prospects and customers based on their needs and where they are in your sales process.

    You can find more information about our new automation tools on our product blog. The automation features are currently in early access and will be officially released later this year. We're very excited to be able to offer this, as it means our product now offers more valuable automation tools than you will find for the price anywhere else, all within the context of our human-centered, process-focused workflows.

    George Brontén
    Published January 11, 2023
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn