Sales operations’ role in sales process automation
May 08, 2019 by Jessica Munday
Most salespeople spend only 15 hours of their 40-hour work week selling (36 percent of their time). What’s taking up the rest of their time? According to Salesforce, one quarter of a sales rep’s time is dedicated to valueless administrative tasks.
Sales operations managers often try to combat this by rolling out “productivity tools.” But these tools tend to inhibit productivity even further by adding more steps to the sales process and making optimization even less of a reality.
“Productivity tools” just aren’t going to cut it. Decreasing the complexity of the sales process and maximizing selling time is true optimization. Sales operations must shift gears and integrate a solution that eliminates steps in the sales process and enhances sales team abilities.
How did we get here?
Between 2011 and 2018, the number of marketing tools out there multiplied nearly 47 times. The landscape went from about 150 tools to almost 7,000 in just eight years and is still on the rise. This same trend is underway in sales.
This is the current sales tech landscape, currently with over 700 tools. In 2015, there were just over 300. Soon sales technology will skyrocket in the same way MarTech has, with thousands of tools adding noise to the sales industry.
Adding a tool to the tech stack means wading through this maze to solve an organization’s specific pain point. Until recently, the only option was to waste hours researching products, talking to vendors and unraveling the complexity to find the right tool or just hope that the first tool they came across was a good fit.
This is inefficient both for the sales operations specialist and the sales team. Sales ops has more productive initiatives to work than finding “the needle in the haystack.” It’s also inefficient for the sales team because these tools are adding more complexity to an already convoluted process.
It’s time to look to the future of automation.
Intelligent sales process automation
It’s time to introduce sales operations to intelligent process automation. It’s likely that operations have already heard of robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI); intelligent process automation is the powerful combination of these two technologies.
The RPA involved in IPA automates repetitive tasks that bog employees down, while AI analyzes, learns and solves problems. This allows IPA solutions to automate complex tasks that waste human worker’s time and augment employee decision making.
This is the future of productivity. According to McKinsey, companies experimenting with IPA are automating between 50-70 percent of repetitive computer tasks, most often with triple-digit ROI growth.
When it comes to what sales can do with IPA, the potential is limitless. Imagine an organization that automated 50-70 percent of the repetitive tasks that sales reps do daily. This means accelerating email creation, eliminating data entry, quickly generating documents and reducing meeting scheduling, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This frees up their day to connect with customers and further drive revenue for their business.
Sales process automation is the highest level of optimization a sales team can achieve, as the only tasks the sales reps need to worry about are directly related to selling.
Larger business shift
Gartner estimates that global spending on RPA technology in 2018 hit nearly $680 million. In 2019 they predict that the RPA industry will grow 57 percent, making it the fastest growing software category. And according to Market Research Future, the global intelligent process automation market will see a compound annual growth rate of 40 percent by 2023.
While market growth means little to sales operations, it shows that this technology is on the cutting-edge and will soon be implemented across organizations and radically transform them. The next era of business is a term Automation Hero has coined “Business 5.0”.
Business 5.0 borrows its meaning from the previous industrial revolutions (see Industry 4.0) but focuses on the development of organizations. We predict that automation will liberate information workers from their computer tasks, allowing them to dedicate more time to work that drives real value for their company. In the coming years, businesses will go through another digital transformation and sales process automation will become commonplace.
Future of sales operations
With the onset of sales process automation, the operations role will need to shift, both in mindset and in knowledge base. Here are some of the changes we see coming:
Move away from short fixes:
Rather than implementing short-term productivity tools to solve existing problems, sales operations will begin thinking about long-term changes for their organization. They must pragmatically implement a solution that can scale with their organization and automate well into the future of the business.
Become technology experts:
Sales operations needs to cut through the noise more quickly and precisely than ever. To do this they must have an excellent understanding of the technology in the market and how it can impact their sales organization. It’s important to understand which features they need and ignore products without the right technology under the hood.
Specialize in systems integration:
It’s critical that any solution is integrated seamlessly into the existing tech stack. Sales operations needs to be knowledgeable on their integration needs and work even more collaboratively with IT for installation, configuration, maintenance, training and support of these systems.
Sales Ops is already the delegated owner of the sales data, now they will need to work on properly collecting, storing, processing and analyzing these huge sets of data through the lens of sales process automation. They’ll need to learn how to build automation flows and manipulate data using their IPA solution.
Ignite the revolution:
It is operations duty to spark the digital transformation for the sales organization. They will need to articulate the long term ROI this technology will bring for the business and influence stakeholders to be on board with this shift. One aspect of this is combating the fear of “automating away” the sales team. It’s important to express that this technology is meant to make sales reps more productive and encourage more human work processes, rather than replace them.