In today’s high volume, highly competitive sales landscape, deals need to be made and closed extremely quickly. In order to gain a competitive edge, sales teams and leaders must adapt to important best practices, with each team requiring a clearly defined sales process; a playbook that comprises of milestones and benchmarks for how processes are measured and used – from first prospect to closed sale. In fact, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) has revealed that companies with an agreed sales development process have 18 percent more revenue growth compared to those that don’t.
To guarantee a successful sales cycle, businesses must increasingly have well-defined steps in place that enable sales teams to progress leads in a timely fashion. For example, sales professionals need to maintain a record of each step or stage of the cycle for each individual lead. To make their job easier, they are integrating more and more tools that streamline, track and accelerate each step in the process to secure leads that may otherwise go to competitors.
Data, data, data
Essential to a sleek sales process is accessibility to fast, reliable data. According to HBR, companies that base their decision-making on data are five percent more productive and six percent more profitable than their competitors. This is unsurprising when considering the actionable insight data can provide sales teams. Whether it’s giving them a better understanding of where each lead stands, or directing them to leads that need following up, accurate information provides invaluable visibility into the lead fostering process, enabling sales representatives to make more efficient, smarter decisions.
However, maintaining sales data isn’t easy. As an enterprise grows, sales representatives will increasingly spend time processing leads and opportunities, which can generate a significant amount of administrative tasks. Worryingly, on average, sales representatives spend 23 percent of their time on administrative duties, compared to spending 22 percent of their time doing what they are ultimately paid to do – sell their product or services.
The growing role of automation
Automation has become increasingly key in streamlining sales and data management, which, in turn, enables sales teams to spend more time focusing on building relationships and closing deals. With the automation of manual processes, sales teams can easily access and maintain records that are accurate and insightful. Indeed, automation simplifies the sales cycle, enabling timely data upkeep, visibility and integrity. Data is less prone to error and easily filtered, and all data relevant to the customer is preserved and readily available.
Automating data management can have a positive impact on sales performance from the offset. A recent study found that 79 percent of all marketing leads never close and only 13 percent of all leads are ever converted to opportunities. With the streamlining of data and sales cycles, however, representatives are in a much better position to prioritise their leads. Tools need to serve the user; the best digital solutions are those that incorporate many applications from the sales process. Unifying each stage and streamlining data optimises efficiency. It facilitates task management so teams can better understand their leads and can differentiate the good from the bad.
Ultimately, automation will enable a more efficient workflow within sales teams. Whether it helps segment data by various subsets that require action, creates a more responsive repository of information or simplifies workflow rule colour coding, automation will provide a smoother sales process and create breathing room to help sales teams close deals in an increasingly ambitious landscape.
 Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2015/01/companies-with-a-formal-sales-process-generate-more-revenue
 Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2014/05/an-introduction-to-data-driven-decisions-for-managers-who-dont-like-math
 Pace Productivity, http://www.paceproductivity.com/files/How_Sales_Reps_Spend_Their_Time.pdf