Automation in sales and marketing should be about improving the ability to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time via the right channel.

Automation or repetition of more generic, higher volume tasks is more likely at the early stages of engagement and lead nurture and then post sale around delivery. More personal, higher value (and higher cost) sales tasks and activities can then be undertaken with qualified leads to close the sale.

The first challenge facing most companies is that processes are often not well defined. And in sales, often large portions of the sales cycle are not defined at all. Put five salespeople from the same company selling the same goods to the same market into a room and within 15 minutes you will hear ten different sales processes described. Business Process Management typically hasn’t penetrated every corner of the business, and the sales department tends to be the last wilderness to tame. This is largely due to the lack of useful tools to implement BPM automation within the dynamic world of solution sales.  Most attempts end up hurting rather than enabling the sales process.

But once the tool set problem is addressed; you can get to the work of defining the processes.  For each solution you sell and for each market it’s sold into; create a methodical list of major and minor steps that lead to effectively qualifying a lead and then the steps to provide the highest probablity of successfully closing those qualified leads.  When a sales process is well done at the end of the sales cycle you should stand alone as the only choice.  Any business you stand to lose should have been disqualified long before the decision is made.  If this didn’t happen, go back to the steps in the process and figure out what went wrong.  Either a step is missing or needs to be broken down or clarified or the sales person missed a step.  Either way constantly go back and review learn from each sale; won or lost.   The competition and market are not standing still.

A company that does a good job of defining both marketing communications and the sales process and supports this with an effective tool will set up their sales force to succeed.  This environment makes it much easier to manage the predictability of the sales funnel and thus manage the business. Taking the time to define the process well allows the whole team to concentrate on executing the process while building rapport through customer centric selling which leads to closing more good business.