How to Debug and Automate Processes in the Sales Department by@dtymoshenko

How to Debug and Automate Processes in the Sales Department

The Sales department is the only one in the company that makes money. Automation is the transfer of routine tasks from humans to robots or software. It only reduces operational costs and increases the speed of a process. If the processes in the Sales department are weak, you just teach the machine the weak processes. In this article, we will analyze: how to find processes for automation. When it should be implemented and when it will only do harm. When you are confronted with the fact that you have not fulfilled your plan, you will only have to roast everyone.
Dmytro Tymoshenko HackerNoon profile picture

Dmytro Tymoshenko

ex - CBDO Osmi Pro | Brand-strategist | Business coach

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The Sales department is the only one in the company that makes money. It is logical that every management seeks to maximize its productivity. One way to achieve this is with automation. 

Often, automation is perceived as a magic panacea that immediately boosts all processes to the sky and allows you to dump all the problems on the machine.

But is it so? In this article, we will analyze: 

  • how to find processes for automation
  • the checklist for the preparation of automation
  • when it should be implemented and when it will only do harm

Let's start with the last one.

When is sales department automation needed?

Automation is the transfer of routine tasks from humans to robots or software. But the software performs only the set of tasks that you teach it. Therefore, automation does not directly increase metrics. It only reduces operational costs and increases the speed of a process. If the processes in the Sales department are weak, you just teach the machine the weak processes. 

So, you can only automate a process when it works well in manual mode. If you can't build an analytical dashboard in Excel, it's too early to think about Power BI. You can't automate a process that you can't draw using BPMN markup. There is no need to complicate the functionality of the software if you are not happy with the MVP version.

How to find processes for automation

In many Sales departments, revenue is the only metric they analyze. You made a profit — well done, everybody gets a bonus. If you didn't, everybody gets reprimanded. But this approach is fundamentally wrong, since revenue is a lagging metric. Whether it exists or not is an accomplished fact that can no longer be influenced. When you are confronted with the fact that you have not fulfilled your plan, you will only have to roast everyone in the department.

To increase the effectiveness of the department, you need to understand leading metrics. That is, the metrics by which you can tell in advance whether there will be revenue or not. It makes sense to automate the business processes that influence the leading metrics.

To do this, you need to make a list of all the metrics of your Sales department: from lagging to leading. How to make this list: take a metric and ask “What other metric affects it?” and write down the answer. Then you take the metric you wrote down and ask again what affects it, and so on, until you reach the final metric.

Here's an example:

Main metric: revenue — how much money the Sales department brings in. What affects it?  Conversion — the number of calls ratio to the sales number. Conversion is high — the department is efficient. What affects conversion? Response SLA — the time in which a manager calls back the client who submitted an application on a website. 

In this example, the response SLA is the final metric. 

One online school conducted an experiment and measured the effect of callback speed on conversion rates. The results are impressive: if a client is called back more than 3 minutes after leaving an application, the conversion drops by 2 times. In cases of 7 minutes after submitting the application — 2 times less than the previous figure; that is, 4 times less than the original conversion.

Leading metrics may include the following:

  1. Time on the line. The norm is 2-3 hours a day. If managers spend 30 minutes a day on the line, they are underloaded and can process more leads.
  2. The number of calls per day. For sales in online schools, the norm is 60-70 calls. If they call less, you need to look at the number of conversations that took place and the time on the line.
  3. The number of dialogues that took place. The norm is 30-40 per day.
  4. Percentage of dialogs that took place. It is calculated this way: divide the number of dialogs held by the number of calls. It allows you to understand the quality of traffic and the amount of fraud.
  5. Average dialog time. It is calculated this way: the time on the line divided by the number of dialogs. It allows you to understand how much time a manager spends on processing one client. You can compare the performance of the best and worst managers to understand how much time is worth spending on dialogue.
  6. The number of follow-ups. That is, how many times a manager needs to talk to a client to bring him or her to a deal. It allows you to understand the optimal number of calls a client needs to make a decision.
  7. Time spent on one client. It is calculated this way: the number of follow-ups is multiplied by the duration of the dialogue. As a result, we understand how much you need to talk to a client so that he or she buys. Again, you can compare the worst and best managers. It may turn out that the best ones communicate less with clients, so the rest don't need to draw out the conversations either.
  8. Percentage of compliance with the script, in general, and at each stage, in particular. It allows you to see if your script is working. And if you know exactly what percentage of conversion your script gives, and managers do not follow the script, you can predict how this will affect the overall conversion of the funnel.

Automation preparation checklist

  • Make a list of lagging and leading metrics that affect the result of your sales team.
  • Measure and describe these metrics (it is important to understand your current position).
  • Conduct a cycle of experiments, affecting each metric in turn. So, you will understand what its reference value should be. For example, you will see that managers who spend more time with clients are more successful. Or vice versa — managers who spend less time on dialogue are more successful. Only an experiment will help to find the optimal time of dialogue. And so it is with each metric.
  • Measure the impact of each metric on the final result. This will help prioritize metrics for improvement.
  • Improve your metrics in the sequence defined in the previous step.
  • Describe each metric to make it clear which business processes it consists of. Create or improve a set of instructions, regulations, and checklists.

The last step before automation — forget about “good” and “bad”, or “hot” and “cold” leads.

A “hot lead” usually means a lead that already wants to buy: there is a need, desire, time, and money; a manager just needs to kindly send a payment link. But when it goes the other way, managers start crying and telling you that the leads aren't hot enough. If I hear something like that, I realize that the Sales department just doesn't work very well.

I fundamentally do not accept the concept of “hot” and “cold” leads. The “temperature” of a lead cannot be measured, the only criterion here is the manager's opinion. And this is a subjective criterion. A good manager will have a lot of hot leads, while a bad manager will complain that all the leads are cold.

Leads can only be targeted and non-targeted.

A targeted one is a lead that meets the initially agreed upon, specific criteria that distinguish it from a lead that does not fit your product. 

A good example: 

A Ukrainian online school sells a course called “Sales Director”. The target lead for this course is a person who works as a commercial director, sales manager, head of the Sales department, or business owner. A product manager who applied for this course is a non-targeted lead. It can be hot, cold, or whatever; one thing is important — it is non-targeted. If you failed to sell the course to him, it's bad, but not critical. But if a manager can't sell the course to a targeted lead, that's a problem.

By the way, a high percentage of targeted leads is one of the KPIs of the Marketing department of this online school. This is how the whole system works to bring in and close targeted leads.

Instead of a summary: cases

You can automate almost anything. But in these two cases, according to experience, it is most useful.

Automation of lead validation

There are voice bots for this. It is super useful if you have an overabundance of leads. For example, you do a lot of registrations for a webinar. I worked with the bot. This is not an IVR bot that works like this: “press 1, if this; press 2, if that.” K-Call mimics a person and recognizes answers. From my experience, 97% of leads were confident that they were just talking to a manager.

I also know about the bot. According to reviews, it is even smarter; it can integrate with your CRM and set tasks for itself. For example, if a lead says: “Call me back later”, the bot finds out when the “later” is, sets itself a task for that time, and calls back at that time. Personally, I have not tested how it works yet, but I will definitely try it at some point.

Automation of processes in CRM

For example, auto-setting of tasks, auto-closing of tasks, auto-transfer by stages, sending emails or messages to WhatsApp. Such automation is done with widgets if CRM supports them, or through custom development — but it's more expensive. It saves a couple of seconds every time, but the manager's life becomes much easier. 

But again, automation is not a panacea. It helps to reduce the cost and speed up already running processes. If there are no processes, or they are bad, automation won't help — fix your processes first. The main success factor of automation is transparency, specificity, and tangibility of all processes and metrics, as well as their preliminary translation into written form as instructions or regulations.

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