Sales Automation 101: Highlights from our talk with Andrei Zinkevich

Our co-founder Jeroen Corthout recently joined Andrei Zinkevich, founder of Getleado, for a Facebook Live session to talk about sales automation.

So, why is sales automation such an important topic?

Well, according to InsideSales.com, nearly two-thirds (64.8%) of reps’ time, on average, is spent in non-revenue-generating activities. Which actually means huge losses for the companies. 📉

Suffice it to say that sales automation is crucial to a business’s success.

Let’s dive into the key highlights from the discussion!

Did you miss the live event? You can check out the replay here. 📹


What sales tasks should be automated and in what way?

To put it simply: anything that does not involve your unique human capabilities should be automated.

There are many things that robots are better at than we are, such as:

  • Pulling data together from email, calendars, phone, etc.
  • Keeping track of full conversations
  • Keeping track of all files you’ve exchanged
  • Creating visibility between team mates in conversations with customers
  • Enriching people and companies with publicly available data
  • Importing email signatures
  • Checking with customers who are going quiet
  • Seeing that you didn’t respond yet to an important email
  • Detecting that a customer is interacting with you a lot
  • Slicing through data
  • Moving data between apps
  • And many, many other tasks that salespeople tackle on a regular basis!

All of these things can take up a lot of salespeople’s time, and the question is, “why?”

It’s not that these things don’t need to happen. They’re important as well, just for different reasons.

And in some instances, non-revenue generating activities can actually indirectly generate revenue.

It’s just that these are not tasks you need your unique human capabilities for. Your empathy, creativity, etc.


What tasks shouldn’t be automated?

After exploring the possibilities of sales automation, this begs the question: what shouldn’t you automate?

One way to explore this is to ask, “what is the unique skillset of a salesperson? Of a human?”

It’s certainly not managing data — or working with computers.

The thing that humans are uniquely good at is dealing with other humans. Understanding them. Communicating with them. Helping them.

When automation goes too far and fails, it’s almost always when this principle is violated.

A few modern examples –

Chatbots: The technology for chatbots and its future applications and potential are really interesting, but the hype around them makes that people ascribe these chatbots capabilities they don’t have yet. 💬

And it makes for really broken experiences.

Sure, chatbots can replace simple forms, but they can’t rise to the level yet of real human-to-human interaction.

Large scale emails, automated social media posts, etc.: It’s much less effort to send the same undifferentiated message to hundreds or thousands using software automation, but if you’re trying to sell something, the rule still is: seek first to understand, then to be understood.

If you’re still thinking of spreading something like an email or another type of message to a large group of people at once, make sure you’re not sales-y. Instead be funny, vulnerable, remarkable — and make a good first impression. 💌

Fully automated CRM: When Salesflare started in 2014, we discovered some companies trying to automate CRM data fully, without needing any user intervention. We quickly figured this was not possible.

You cannot automate everything. Some decisions such as, “Is this a customer? Is there a sales opportunity here? Should this contact really be linked to the account?” are best made by a human.

People like automation, but as soon as it starts making mistakes, it loses its value. 👎

People don’t want to lose that last level of control.

That’s why Salesflare works with suggestions in places where people still want control, and fully automates in other places.

Automation is here to make our lives easier. It’s here to automate robotic tasks. To make us more human. It’s not here to make humans totally unnecessary — at least, not anywhere in the near future.


How can you automate prospecting and enrichment?

Besides administrative work, the two most time-consuming tasks are prospecting and enrichment.

How can you automate these processes?

Prospecting is indeed a time-consuming business, so try to automate the tasks that you find yourself doing routinely.

The parts of your job where you feel like a robot, would maybe better be done by a robot. 🤖

Some examples:

Building lists: if you find yourself manually filling an Excel sheet, you’re probably doing something wrong.

There are so many ways to build lists nowadays, based on all kinds of parameters. Size of company, geography, growth signals, technology used on their site, etc. That should definitely be done with a good software tool. For instance, there’s a ton of possibilities for lead generation using tools on top of LinkedIn.

Having a first touch: That’s not to say you should start to randomly spam people with undifferentiated emails. As mentioned before, that’s the wrong way to go about automation.

Instead, think up friendlier ways to get in first contact. Try to connect with the audience.

A LinkedIn post, a cool blog article, a funny story…get it out there. See whether people like it. Interact with it.

If you’re going to email people, fine, but make sure it’s not like any other email you’ve ever seen in your inbox. And that you set out to start a relationship, not to sell something. 🤝

Creating touch points: There are so many ways to stay in touch now before someone in your audience turns into a good lead.

Keep building that relationship through Facebook ads, engagement on social, in groups — find out what works best for your audience, and where they want to engage. Then head there. 🏃‍

Enrichment should be fairly easy to automate. Pull some data from the FullContact or the Clearbit API. Talk to some other APIs.

On the CRM level, many CRMs say, “you can integrate with Clearbit if you like.”

You go to the Clearbit site, enter your credit card details, set up the integration. Why make it so complicated? 🙅‍

We’ve built it all into Salesflare and included it into the plan, because we believe it’s so basic and you shouldn’t waste time on setting up these things yourself. Users then also benefit from a tighter and more intelligent integration.


Lead scoring best practices

Lead scoring is traditionally done in two directions:

  • How interesting is the lead to us?
  • How interested is the lead in us?

Obviously, you can set up some general system that does some scoring on the interest levels in the two different directions:

  • How interesting is the lead to us?: How big is the company? Am I talking to the person in the right role? Are they growing?
  • How interested in the lead in us?: Are they opening our emails? Clicking on things? Visiting our site? This second part is called “hotness” in Salesflare, and it even alerts you about your hottest leads.

But if you’re looking at what really will turn your lead into a deal, for SaaS companies it’s most often on a whole other level. There are other parameters that can much better predict whether it’s going to be a sale and whether it’s worth spending your time on it or not. ⏳

It’s this North Star metric that’s so popular nowadays. For Slack, it’s how many messages are exchanged in a team. For us, at Salesflare, it’s about the amount of customers created. Its predictive value is obviously way higher than whether people open your emails. 📬

That doesn’t necessarily mean that one metric can capture all. But it’s good to think about what it means to engage a lead enough to turn it into a deal. Measuring it. Improving it.

That’s what real lead scoring is about. 👍

And of course you should sync it to your CRM. Filter your customers based on it. Focus your efforts on the right leads.

It’s a new way of qualifying leads.

It doesn’t fully replace the old way of qualification, of deciding what leads have a good chance to turn into deals, based on the presence of a budget, whether you’re talking with the right authority, whether they are in need and have definite timelines or not (otherwise known as good old BANT qualification).

But it is a more thoughtful way of thinking about it related to your product or service and more often focuses on a customer’s success than on generalized sales criteria.


Your sales automation toolkit

When it comes to finding the right tools for your company, there are a lot of cool tools out there, but it’s more about what you’re trying to do and why.

It’s important to not lose track of the human factor. And to always “do things that don’t scale” first. Be fully human first, and only then hand part of that job to robots.

If you find out your audience is on Facebook, or on LinkedIn, or they are best reachable via email, we have playbooks for all of that on the Salesflare blog.

These guides go into how you can leverage data and tools to connect with your audience more efficiently and maybe even more effectively. 💪

But first, really talk to your audience. Connect with them. Understand them. Don’t jump into automation or into tools. Do it all first, until you get tired of it.

Then you can stop and think, “what if I automate this part?” 🤔

And you’ll know exactly how to do it in a way that doesn’t break the real human experience.

Let’s not use automation to create more robot communication and end up drowning in it. Let’s work towards a more human world, in which we can focus and spend more time on our humanity. 👫


Thank you to Andrei Zinkevich for having us for the Facebook Live session! It was an insightful and fun hour packed with great discussion. 😎


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