Sales Automation 101: What it is, what it isn’t, and how your website should be driving it
By David Sparks
Every few years, it seems a new fad shows up to “revolutionize the sales process” and a new buzzword drives a new frenzy. Too often, we end up dismissing the “new latest” because it’s just a fad, right?
In the past couple of years, sales automation has become one of those new trends. But what is “sales automation” and how best can you utilize new technologies to improve your sales process?
Today, I want to share with you a peek behind the curtain of the changing landscape of sales. It starts with the buyer’s perspective and how automation is assisting buyers with finding solutions for their business.
Sales automation is changing the way businesses gain customers, but it’s not changing the customer
Today, sales professionals are less focused on “overcoming the objections” they would have found in those calls and letters. Instead, they’re relying on automated sales to provide them with a pool of well-qualified and pre-qualified prospects. Before you deploy sales automation, it is critical that you understand this process does not change the steps the buyer goes through to arrive at a decision.
Just twenty years ago, businesses seeking to advertise to potential customers had to find ways to communicate directly with them. In franchising, that meant print advertising in trade journals, word-of-mouth campaigns, direct mail, and working inbound leads.
Ultimately though, it came down to one factor: by the time the buyer was talking to you, they had decided to become someone’s customer. During the conversation — via phone, letter, or email — the buyer was looking for a reason to not be your customer. Sales automation is changing that. Here’s how.
Sales automation is the first conversation with the customer
When I was in college, one of my marketing professors would frequently say, “Sales is a conversation.” During the sales process, the sales professional engages in a dialog with the prospect to discover the challenges the prospect faces. It’s the sales team’s job to find solutions for the prospect. That’s where sales automation comes in.
It may help if you think of your sales automation systems as a part of your sales team itself. All those components — the chat bots, the email drip campaigns, the website — they’re taking on the initial conversation or, in many cases, conversations that the buyer has with your brand.
The goal of those conversations is simply to provide the prospect with the information they need to determine whether your brand is a good fit for their needs. For franchise sales, this can mean giving the prospect the tools they need to self-qualify for purchasing a franchise. If your brand has a net worth requirement of $1.2 million and the prospect has a net worth of $500,000 locked in a 401(k), they will know they do not meet the requirements.
And it’s not just financial requirements they may not meet, as we’ll see. If your sales automation system is firing on all cylinders, potential customers can answer any number of questions from investment requirements to brand personality to the number of employees they would manage as a franchise owner.
Sales automation technology is a broad category
It seems like every day I fire up my email and find a dozen “latest and greatest” new innovations to help achieve sales automation goals. Technology companies are marketing thousands of tools from AI-generated pay-per-click campaigns to the chatbots that have become ubiquitous in the bottom corner of sales websites.
What about that website, though? What is the conversation it is having with the prospect? Is it attracting the right prospects and providing them with the right information to arrive at their decision? How effective is the message it presents?
These questions provide a framework for you to strengthen your sales automation program, beginning with its single most vital tool, your company’s website.
An effective sales website is the first tool of sales automation
Think about your website the way cities think about airports. When a traveler arrives, they know they’re going to New York and have some basic understanding of the city’s attractions. But do they know which way to go if they want to catch a train to Times Square or hop in a cab to the hotel?
The moment that traveler steps off the gangway and into the terminal, they’re bombarded with information. If the information is managed well, they’ll know the direction to walk for the train station. If it’s managed really well, they’ll learn about events happening in the city that might interest them during their visit.
Your company’s homepage is the start of the conversation prospects have with where they’re going – both on your site and with your brand. You need clear sign posts directing them to the content that matters most to them.
That means your site’s homepage needs to signpost potential buyers into the portions of the sales funnel that are most relevant to them where they are in their sales process. To that end, there are some vital pieces of information to include in the body of your homepage. Namely, answer the big three questions for each visitor who is checking out your brand:
- What is your business?
- How much does your business cost?
- How do I get started with your business?
By answering these questions, you’re providing prospective franchise owners with the means they need to get started from where they are. Perhaps they already know your core business is a QSR emphasising tacos and they’re seeking to find out how much they need to invest. Maybe they are a high-net-worth individual for whom the initial investment is not a question. They’re already ready to take the next step and they just need to know how.
See how this is a conversation?
Assessing your sales automation conversation
Earlier, I already suggested some questions to ask yourself about your company’s website. The answers you discovered provided you with the framework to begin digging into the effectiveness of your sales automation. Now, it’s time to look closer at how that conversation takes place and how it starts.
Think of the last phone call you had with a prospect. You probably asked some version of, “So how can I help you today?” This open-ended question is designed to provide you with the means to assess their interest level as well as the suitability of your brand for them.
Once you have their answer, you know where to begin. “Let me tell you a little about us” might be how you start your answer, but the next sentence you say is tailored to their answer. You could say, “We are an affordable franchise opportunity,” or “Our core business is serving tacos.”
Your homepage needs to begin the very same conversation and it also has to continue it in the same fashion. So when you visit your homepage, does it do that? Does it provide ways for them to find the answer to the question in a similar fashion to the way you would answer it? If the answer is no, then your site is breaking your sales automation system.
Overcome the fear of information to produce good leads
When I’m working through a site visit or discovery interview with a new brand, I frequently get asked some version of “How much information is too much?” This question preys on an age-old fear that providing a customer with too much information before they’re talking to sales associates will give them too many reasons to bail.
While that may have been true to some extent in the past, today the answer is, “There’s no such thing as too much information.” The reason is simple and straightforward.
The questions buyers ask may not have changed, but their responses to the answers they get have. They’re coming to your website in their moment of need, another “old way” sales term. At that point, that individual prospect has decided, on some level, they will be someone’s customer. They’re looking for reasons to be yours or to be not yours.
If your website sales automation is doing its job, if you’ve tailored the content on that site to address that first conversation, then what you’ll receive are leads that have self-qualified and overcome most of their own objections.
Sales automation tools are just that — tools
I saw an ad for a sales automation platform that promised to “replace the sales team” with a single-subscription service. I shook my head because sales are still, ultimately, a personal decision with a person at their heart.
When you’re assessing sales automation, you definitely need to make sure you’re providing your prospects with a conversation on the website. The bells and whistles are important too and that means flashy videos, interactive chatbots, text-from-computer links, and email drip campaigns.
Ultimately, the decision to become a part of your brand will be one that relies on a human relationship. Your website’s primary goal is to be the first conversation in that relationship.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing a little more about sales automation, particularly about the larger role video should play in the sales process and how persona marketing can help ensure your brand is reaching the right audience.
Reach out and start a conversation
If you’re interested in learning more about how to get a franchise development breakthrough this year, reach out and start a conversation. Fill out an inquiry form on this site, type a question into the chatbot, or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be in touch with you shortly.