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Staying human in an age of automated sales

How can your business take advantage of product led sales automation whilst retaining a human touch?

staying human in automated sales

Automation and the rise of an automated sales funnel has changed the landscape of selling, particularly for B2B technology companies.

Once you’ve got an interested visitor onto your site, they can become a lead, and then become a paying customer – all without talking to a single person. Visitors can come onto your site and find all the information they need. Onboarding processes are largely automated, in most cases a visitor can sign up to your service within a few clicks and can have their problems solved without leaving the product. In fact, IBM are predicting that by 2020 85% of all customer enquiries will be human-free.

Does that mean salespeople are becoming extinct? Not quite.

But their role is changing. Here are some practical steps to help you redefine your sales process and the role of your salespeople in this age of automation.

1. Map the buying process

map the buyer's process, two hands holding a map

Every business is different, so beginning with a map of how your customers find and ultimately buy into your product is an important first step. This provides you with the overview you need to determine where you should be automating and where you should be keeping it human.

Plot your Map:

To get started with your map establish ‘building blocks’ for each stage of the process. David Skok has some great tips on how to build this out. Think about every moment of your customer’s journey and don’t forget about how their experience with other competing products and brands will affect their process.

This map is part of your core sales strategy and is something that any member of your team should be able to confidently explain. It’s not a static document and you’ll need to consistently review and update it as your product and customer’s needs change. Remember to bring in advice and knowledge from your marketing team and customer support team when plotting your map – these teams are becoming more and more in sync and it’s important to get cross-company buy in on something so important.

Mark the roadblocks:

The idea here is to identify any moments that cause friction in the buyer’s journey. These are areas that have the potential to be adapted or improved by product development and automation.

Think of how many times you yourself have avoided something that might be enjoyable or useful just because the process of getting there is such a pain. For example, coming across someone who hates to speak on the phone is fairly common – you don’t want to get stuck on the line for ages or you might just find it awkward.

Difficulties in communicating with your team might be just one example of a roadblock on your customer’s journey. There are many more to consider.

Is your pricing and plan structure simple enough? Or do customers trip over at the last hurdle because they can’t work out which plan is best for them?

Is your messaging really clear on the problems your product solves? Or do customers have to put the pieces together themselves?

Can your customers easily find their way through your onboarding process? Or is it far too easy to get stuck before getting any value out of your product?

Are your customers inspired and engaged whilst on your site? Or do they leave, carry on with their day and forget about your product altogether?

2. Decide who owns each step

two hands up for sales and marketing teams

For each individual step in your map, you can determine whether the action that drives the prospect to the next stage best sits with product automation or a salesperson. This will help you develop a clear flow for the buying process and establish the newly defined role of your sales team.

For each step in the buyer’s journey ask if you can automate this step?

This one is fairly straight forward, is there a way to implement an automated message or workflow to reduce the need for human input? Automation has a lot of benefits and can really simplify the customer’s journey and remove unnecessary delays for your team.

Ask if you should

This is slightly more difficult, and for each step, automation isn’t always the answer.

For example, we use automated prompts to encourage conversations across our website. In fact, you’re about to see one very soon – once you reach the halfway point of this post.

Prompts enable businesses to proactively start conversations with their website visitors. It’s easy to set up Prompts on your own website by enabling GoSquared Assistant and configuring them in the Automation product.

However, once a customer engages with the prompt, or starts a conversation themselves we don’t continue to use automated live chat. This is because we don’t think Chat Bots are right for us or make the most effective sales tool. Chatbots are the live chat equivalent of pressing 15 buttons on your phone to try to get through to the right person – it’s unnecessary, slow, and worst of all – it’s annoying.

By keeping our live chat human we can better serve our current and potential customers.

3. Play to your data’s strengths

a strong hand weight lifting

Make sure that you are using the data you already have to drive your personalisation strategy.

Draw on demographic, firmographic, and behavioural data to develop the “when” and “what” of your messaging and to get clear on “who” it’s going to.

Understand the patterns in your data

Salespeople are, more often than not, naturally emotionally intelligent people. When you move their roles into the online world a lot of this ability is lost – but with a few tools and careful use of data there’s a lot you can learn from people’s online behaviour.

By using a Customer Data Hub or a CRM you are able to collate and view this data in a multitude of helpful ways. A tool like this helps your team to understand patterns in the data that a human eye might not have picked out. However, you shouldn’t entirely rely on technology and automation for this – there are many nuances in human behaviour that can only be picked out by people.

Understand when it’s the right time to engage?

We’ve already mentioned the importance of timing in sales, but it really is crucial to get right. You wouldn’t go in with a hard sell to a first-time visitor browsing one of your blog posts. Equally, if someone is visiting your pricing page for the 10th time this a clear indication its time to reach out and see if they have any unanswered questions that are stopping them from committing.

One thing we don’t need to lose by being online is the ability for real-time engagement and sales. There are so many live chat tools out there, including our own, which allow you to reach out to visitors whilst they are in the context of your website – the equivalent of a salesperson coming over to you in a physical store to ask if you ‘need any help’.

Work out if you can segment your customers for better personalisation?

Depending on your customer’s demographic and the number of customers you have it might not be possible to have individually personalised sales funnels.

This doesn’t mean that customisation isn’t for you, it just means that you’ll have to find the best ways to segment your customers into helpful groups. This could be done on the number of website visits someone has made, the pages they go on, or the organisation they are from.

Once a customer enters one of these segments you can use smart groups to push tailored messaging to them. It won’t be exactly personalised, but it will be a lot more accurate than sending the same messaging out to all customers.

4. Keep it real

thumb up thumbs down keeping it human

People buy from people. This doesn’t change even in an automated workflow so keeping a truly authentic voice throughout is vital.

Leverage the human input

The focus should be on how your automation makes things easier for the customers, not how it can save you time. Done well, it will do both – but it’s clear to a customer when the focus is on cutting costs or saving time, and they don’t like it.

Encourage your sales team to spend time each week evaluating and perfecting the automated process. What can be added, what can be taken away? Can the wording or messaging be changed so that it feels fresh? Can you add in another layer of segmentation and personalisation?

Don’t be a company that pushes away its customers and holds them at arm’s length trying to avoid any real interaction. Instead use automation as a way for your customers to get quick questions answered fast, and to get hold of a real person in the easiest way possible when it’s needed.

Automation is only as good as the input

Remember that the output of any automation tools can only ever be as good as the content that was inputted in the first place.

Brush up on your copywriting skills and learn how to create great, snappy, sales messaging. You could also hire in these skills if that’s an option available to you. The copy that goes into these automated messages are some of the first, if not the first, interactions that a visitor will have with your product and with your team. It’s important to get it right.

Real-time impact

Being able to act and respond in real-time to complex questions is something that fully automated sales funnels struggle to do.

Even though we can create a map of our customer’s journey, not every customer will have the same experience and many will go off-piste. Even with weekly reviews, this process will never be entirely perfect. People’s habits, behaviours and needs change all the time and no two people are the same. This isn’t something we can control, but we can prepare for it.

Make sure there are adequate chances for a lead to take their own path. Add in ‘get out’ points where a lead can easily contact a salesperson if they choose to.

This mixing up of automated systems with human input is a great way to leverage more impact. By having your sales team jump in at the right moments you are able to take advantage of the power of real-time sales.

5. Iterate and Optimise

hand holding a spanner

Building automation into your sales workflow is not a “set and forget” strategy, especially for the first pass. You’re looking to constantly refine your process to provide a more seamless experience for the prospect. In turn, this will unlock more time for your salespeople to focus where they need to.

Look for salespeople who appreciate the power of data

Any successful sales team is powered by its foundations – the people. Having a variety of skills in any team is important and one trait you should look for is an appreciation of data.

Your team should always be on the lookout to spot insights and opportunities to make automation more effective. Remember that more effective automatic doesn’t always mean more automation – it can also mean less. Knowing when to stop using automation tools and switch back to manual is a critical part of any sales funnel.

Leverage their expertise

Leveraging your sales team’s knowledge of customer behaviour and industry nuances is vital in creating and honing any sales strategy.

Your sales team know how to speak the language of different customers in different industries and at different stages of their journey. Use this expertise to add a human, personalised feel to your automated messaging. Combine this expertise with data-led customer segmentation and you’ll see incredible results begin to emerge.

We have over a decade of experience in helping people just like you to grow their businesses. If you’re curious about how you can use your data to personalise your sales journey reach out to us and see if we can help.

Written by
Beth is our Head of Growth. She likes to write about customer behaviour, creative strategy, and, well, growth.

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