Whether by means of generating them, substantial investment is made providing a salesforce with able, willing, and qualified buyers. But how fruitful are the efforts to nurture these prospects through the sales cycle? Many industries such as mortgage, have a long lag between the initial contact and revenue earned, as long as 30 to 60 days. Therefore, it is critical for any company spending money on leads to have ironclad follow-up and tickler processes to keep leads engaged with salespeople.
Sales automation varies by industry, but is based around CRM software (Customer Relationship Management). There are hundreds of options, but popular platforms include Salesforce, Velocify, Vtiger, Zoho, and Highrise. Which tool is best and most right for your business can be a puzzle. Marketing automation on the other hand, is even thornier issue for executives. Complex and expensive, top platforms include Marketo, Eloqua, Accton, Infusionsoft, among others. All other things aside, the correct choices for your sales automation and marketing automation platforms could be a make-or-break for the ROI on your business, and any “top of funnel” campaigns that you are running.
Most larger companies implement a CRM, but not always with best practices for maximum return on the investment. No salesperson can remember every conversation or interaction going back months or years, so without a tool to track them, sales communication takes a big hit. If you already understand the value, here’s a couple best practices to make sure that you’re getting the most out of sales automation:
1. Are leads real time integrated into CRM? Integration, “Post”, Field Mapping, API integration, real-time integration, XML posts, FTP, however named, it’s critical that, as leads are generated or purchased, they be delivered to your sales reps in real-time. If not, a couple minutes delay can cost the sale.
2. Is lead distribution efficient? For sales organizations of one or two, distribution is very simple. Where it becomes much less simple, is in groups of sales reps. There are many problems with the common round-robin process of distribution which doles out leads to a group of people sequentially. Use hunt groups or a weighted distribution to intelligently distribute leads versus the mindless drip.
3. Are leads contacted early and often? Studies show that the value of internet lead expires within the first five minutes of its life. In addition, 90% of sales typically occur after the seventh contact attempt. If your salespeople aren’t, hounding leads, you may as well be lighting your money on fire. Ensure that your salespeople are highly aggressive in both response time and follow-up.
It’s amazing, but many lead based businesses lack marketing automation. Granted, this software is time-consuming to set up, expensive, and often requires specialist knowledge to operate at maximum power. However, this investment pays out a jackpot of increased sales.
1. Is a Drip Campaign used? At very minimum you should have a email newsletter that sends branded messages at predetermined times to remind the lead of your value. This wins mindshare sure while the lead moves through the sales process and potentially loses interest or shops competitors.
2. Is Rules Automation used? Sophisticated organizations use rule-based behavior. For example, a lead doesn’t hit a key checkpoint in the sales process, and triggers a reminder email with content specifically about that situation, such as link to a video.
3. Are multiple marketing messages triggered? Great examples above and beyond email include call center follow-up triggers, automated variable merge direct mail, or audience targeted internet display ads.
4. Are targeted offers used? Another great technique is after a predetermined amount of time, sending a targeted offer with a special price to the customer. This offer is a time sensitive discount or giveaway with strong, direct response copywriting urging TAKE ACTION NOW.
If you didn’t have sales or marketing automation in place, then value of moving forward should be clear. Otherwise, the best practices outlined above should help squeeze a little more return on your lead investment. As a final argument for the proper use of these tools, they are so effective in increasing lead conversion rates and ROI, that some companies have even been able to reduce payroll in their Sales and Marketing departments. With the average salary of a CMO being well over $100,000 year in California, it’s easy to see why organizations need sales and marketing automation. One could argue that for lead generators or buyers, it’s indispensable.