Sales Force Automation (SFA) Guide for 2024
Last updated January 22, 2024
Sales reps are extremely busy people. They’re expected to manage entire databases of prospects while simultaneously hunting down leads, logging customer and sales information, and trying to keep on top of their quotas.
When your sales reps barely have time to breathe, why would you make them engage in painstaking tasks like data entry or manual mass email campaigns?
That’s what SFA (sales force automation) is for.
In this guide, we’ll give you a comprehensive overview of sales force automation and explain its extraordinary benefits for your sales team and your company.
What is sales force automation?
Sales force automation (SFA) is a tool or software platform that any of the daily tasks expected of sales teams. SFA technology reduces sales teams’ workloads by automating non-revenue generating tasks such as data entry and writing emails.
These repetitive tasks steal precious hours away from your sales teams, reducing their ability to connect with customers and engage in productive sales activities. SFA aims to return those hours to your agents, giving your team more time to do what they were hired to do—create relationships and convert.
What is the basic objective of sales force automation?
In a 2018 study of more than 720 subjects, it was found that sales reps spend only about 35.2 percent of their time actually selling. The rest of their time was split between emails, data entry, call scheduling, and internal meetings. While some of those additional tasks are necessary for your business to run, most of them are just time wasters.
SFA works to increase your team’s efficiency by automating these tasks. The goal is to provide your sales reps more time for selling and relationship building—which makes sense. Salespeople bring unique skills to their work and the hours they spend on tedious, unskilled tasks are a waste of company resources.
What is a sales force automation example?
Sales force automation streamlines the entire sales process, but one of its key jobs is automated data management. A great example of this is inbound lead management and organization.
Companies frequently receive prospect contact information through their websites—people sign up for a newsletter or put in their contact information to access demos, trials, and other materials. Without SFA, your sales team has to sift through that data to create complete client profiles and qualify legitimate sales candidates. With SFA, you can automate lead profile-building and qualification so that your team only receives relevant data in a list of SQLs that are ready for outreach.
Why is sales force automation important?
Simply put, using SFA saves time and increases revenue. In one internal study, Zendesk found that 2 out of 3 sales teams saw a return on investment in the first six months after implementing sales force automation, and over half of sales orgs surveyed reported double-digit revenue growth after automating sales processes.
SFA simplifies your sales team’s schedules, ensuring that they have as much time as possible to actually connect with leads and customers. When you remove tedious tasks from teams’ daily workflow, sales targets become easier to hit, and morale increases.
Primary components of sales force automation
Each sales force automation platform will come with a variety of features, especially if it’s a tiered SFA with multiple price points. However, there are core functions that all SFA software should have built in. These include:
Contact management is the process of storing and managing your customer contact data. With a single automated contact management system, your contact information is organized and updated in real time, allowing anyone on your team to access customer details any time. Additionally, when a salesperson leaves or joins your team, you don’t risk losing contact information that was stored on any individual devices.
Prospecting is the process of finding possible customers to reach out to with sales opportunities. Prospects can come from prospecting tools or from qualifying leads, but either way, they have to be found efficiently. SFA uses automated communication tools to contact and further qualify prospects, leaving sales reps the time to build relationships with those who reply.
Lead generation is all about using marketing to find prospects for your sales team. Many lead generation tactics involve reaching out with huge nets and then qualifying the list down until you have a solid number of promising prospects. SFA helps your team cast consistent nets with automated emails and follow ups. SFA also helps you sort and qualify the leads you find.
Sales pipeline management is the process of mapping out your selling methods, recognizing opportunities for adjustment, planning for growth, and strategizing tactics for closing. It’s a bit like having a travel itinerary for a trip.
A pipeline management tool helps teams engineer detailed but flexible selling journeys for all of your buyer personas. It also acts as a travel diary, which you can read over after the trip is done and pinpoint where your plans went awry. That information helps you plan for a more successful journey next time.
Lead scoring tools rank your leads and prospects on a company-specific scale that analyses their hypothetical value to the company. This lets your sales team work through leads in order of priority rather than randomly selecting ones that might pan out.
Lead tracking keeps tabs on where your leads come from, whether they move forward, and if so, where they are in the sales pipeline. Tracking leads is crucial for sales reps because it allows them to create appropriate followup timetables with the right support materials.
Lead nurturing is what your sales team should have the time to focus on with the use of an SFA. Nurturing is the process of developing and maintaining positive relationships with leads and prospects through every step of the buyer journey. Emphasis on lead nurturing not only increases sales, it also increases customer loyalty and the likelihood of referrals.
When a new lead enters the pipeline, they need to be assigned to a salesperson with time to devote to them. Comparing your reps’ schedules to figure out who has room is exhaustive, if not impossible. SFA automatically monitors how many clients your reps are working with, then passes new leads to the rep with the greatest availability.
Sales and activity tracking
As your team members guide new clients through the initial selling process, it’s helpful to see exactly what step they’re on and what comes next. Having a speedy sales tracker lets reps prepare adequately and in a timely manner, reducing lag time between interactions.
Use a SFA tool to sync to your email and know exactly when prospects open, click, and reply to emails. Then save time by responding with auto-populating, personalized email templates that allow relationship building at scale:
If your sales team is reaching out to hundreds of leads and prospects, it quickly becomes overwhelming to dial, log calls, and keep track of which leads are moving forward. SFA gives your sales team contact management tools as well as auto-dialer features so they can keep moving without getting lost in the shuffle.
Having a huge number of prospects in your sales pipeline is fantastic, but it can prove a challenge for your sales team to keep them all straight. Task management features in SFA act like bookmarks between conversations so that sales reps can keep each buyer's journey straight.
Sales data includes sales reps’ quotas, inventory movement, budgeting, and cycle tracking, among other relevant sales information. SFA (combined with your CRM) keeps this data organized and accessible so that forecasting and reporting are simple and efficient.
Sales data management is key to running your company, but it’s also heavily weighted towards busywork. It’s much better to leave data gathering and analysis to automated software so that your sales team can focus on increasing their numbers.
Sales forecasting is the practice of estimating future sales revenue. By looking at historical data via a sales dashboard, the current status of your pipeline, and market trends, your SFA automation tool can provide a picture of what to expect in the future.
It isn’t going to give you perfect numbers, but with accurate enough data already in your system, you should be able to allocate your resources correctly when planning your growth strategy.
Sales analysis and reporting
Your managers need to have a clear understanding of how their teams are performing. Accumulating and organizing that kind of information every day from each salesperson is not an efficient use of anyone’s time. SFAs use real-time metrics to automatically produce reports. Your managers can then use those to determine if methods need to be tweaked for further improvement.
The benefits of automating sales processes
All companies understand that time is money, but it’s rare that we get to see that phrase in action quite as clearly as we do with SFA. Automating your sales processes is not just convenient: it boosts sales.
Being human is the key to a successful, empathetic salesperson. On the other hand, being human comes with its downfalls. People can forget deadlines or get flustered when unexpected events turn their plans upside down. People aren’t machines, and they can’t be expected to operate like one.
Sales force automation acts as a support system for your sales team. It handles the repetitive tasks that drag down your sales team’s energy and morale.
SFA also lets your sales team keep their eyes on their goals instead of on tedious administrative tasks. Those tasks still need to get done—but relying on human labor is inefficient, and puts you behind the competition.
SFA captures consistent, accurate data. When people are forced to repeat manual tasks over and over again, it’s easy for errors to slip in. Even the smallest mistake in data entry can have big consequences down the line.
Automating manual tasks helps prevent those errors from being entered into your system. With an SFA, you can be sure that your sales team is working with the most accurate and up-to-date information available.
Without SFA handling time-consuming tasks, your salespeople are left with only so many hours to devote to selling. Taking those tasks off their plates frees up your sales reps’ schedules so they can pay closer attention to their customers.
More time with prospects allows your sales team to discover more opportunities for cross-selling and up-selling. In addition to pursuing newly qualified leads, this new time means that sales reps can also improve their skills with training and coaching.
Faster response time
When a lead finds your company and reaches out, you have a better chance of making the sale if your team responds like lightning. Letting a lead wait around gives them time to look up your competition and reconsider your company.
If you wait too long, by the time one of your agents finally has a moment to reach out, the lead may already be engaged in talks with someone else. By automating time-consuming and focus-draining tasks, SFA software gives your sales reps time to respond quickly to incoming leads.
What is the difference between sales force automation and CRM?
SFA shares a fair amount of overlap with customer relationship management, or CRM.
The two software platforms get confused with each other because they often have shared elements, such as contact management functionality and lead management tools. Despite these overlaps, each system is actually designed to optimize a different stage of the customer lifecycle.
The purpose of your CRM
The main function of a sales CRM is to improve relationships with existing customers. While CRM platforms may include features intended to help with new client acquisition, their main purpose is to keep your current customers happy so that they continue purchasing from you.
CRMs analyze data like purchasing history, previous complaints, and customer interactions to give you a bigger picture of your customer experience. Following a sequence of CRM process steps allows your sales team to anticipate customer needs and pinpoint their specific requirements.
CRM for small businesses is especially helpful for new companies who rely on word of mouth to attract new customers and establish loyalty.
The purpose of your SFA
Automation for sales forces is designed to streamline the process of acquiring new clients and leading them successfully through the sales cycle. While there are still elements of relationship-building involved, there’s a huge difference between building a new sales relationship and maintaining an old one.
Consumers today are more informed than ever before. They have a wealth of information and options, which means that they’re coming to the sales process in a much stronger position than they did in the past.
Salespeople need the time and flexibility to adjust tactics, retrieve information, and provide solutions. Sales force automation puts your sales reps in the best place to meet this new breed of customer by giving them the power of information, accuracy, and speed.
SFA + CRM = A winning combination
Integrating SFA functionality with a CRM combines the benefits of both platforms. That allows you to accelerate the acquisition of new clients and maintain healthy relationships once they’ve been established. Having all of your customer information on a single platform further increases your team’s productivity and efficiency. SFA and CRM are a winning combo that will boost your company’s bottom line.
Try CRM sales automation for free
Zendesk offers a free trial for businesses interested in test driving sales force automation tools. Zendesk Sell offers powerful features like prospecting tools, contact management, power dialer, lead management, and email automations to streamline your process and boost sales team productivity.
Request a demo and see how Zendesk SFA can transform your sales process today.
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