Why sales automation is important and how does it benefit various departments within the organization? When to invest in automation? And how to ensure that the project and change management would run as smoothly as possible. This and much more was discussed in the episode with Stephen Clements, Sales Operations Manager at Basware. Keep reading to find out the answers or follow the link to access the full podcast.

This and much more was discussed in the episode with Stephen Clements, Sales Operations Manager at Basware. Keep reading to find out the answers or follow the link to access the full podcast.

Sales process automation uses technology to make your business to be hyper-efficient and as productive as possible. In organizations where people are focused on revenue, influencing revenue, or optimizing costs, sales process automation has a drastic impact on not only the sales department but also departments such as the IT department, marketing department, finance department, product department, and others.

Why sales automation tools are important?

Automation tools help us grow our business, support our prospects and customers, and track our interactions. They also provide us with reports and insights into what is going on so that our sales teams can be efficient in their daily tasks and engage with customers at the right time.

Sales automation tools are also important for product organization: they help us define our product and service offerings, ensure we are offering them in a controlled and standard way, and manage exceptions through approval processes. Sales use these tools to manage their time, create quotes and contracts for customers, set up billing data further downstream, and pass sales cases to delivery teams with reliable data they can trust. The finance department uses this data to build profitable contracts according to the required details. This helps us do more with fewer resources, reduces manual, repetitive tasks, and allows us to achieve more within the allotted timeframe.

Automation tools influence the work of sales operation, IT, backend, and finance; but there is one department that needs to be highlighted in particular: human resources, specifically the recruitment process. If you are recruiting salespeople and you have metrics and KPIs in place that will help your applicants envision their success path confidently. We should make sure that we streamline the recruitment negotiation process too so when it comes time to sign a contract with bonuses, HRs are aware of what they need to do to achieve their goals – especially if they are new to the industry.

Basware utilizes its sales automation tools in such a way that our commission model is embedded within them, which helps guide our salespeople into selling effectively. It is different from having them work for you – that is where onboarding becomes important. Onboarding our salespeople, it is not just about equipping them with phones, contact lists, and paper, especially in a high-tech industry like ours. We must make sure our tools are user-friendly enough so they can access all the necessary information quickly and easily – enabling them to do their job efficiently from day one.

Sales are your front end – it is important that they are educated on your product range, pricing, and history so they can accurately represent your company. There is no way you can cut the piece of education, but you can optimize and simplify it with the sales automation tool. You have all of the predefined elements ready for the sales employees, such as LinkedIn messages, emails, scripts, and knowledge base.

What solutions is Basware using?

At Basware we are using Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SAP CPQ, and SAP CLM as our core sales tools. We also use complementary tools like Showpad and LinkedIn Sales Navigator to help us further.

The CRM system helps us keep track of customer interactions, so our customers don’t feel ignored. SAP CPQ lets us produce quotes quickly and accurately, while CLM streamlines contract negotiations. Showpad is great for sharing sales assets with customers in a branded way, plus it helps us gain insight into how customers interact with the material. And, of course, LinkedIn Sales Navigator assists us in finding leads and targeting the right accounts. All these things are very important for our sales process.

We should also keep in mind that tool implementation is a continual process in response to the needs of our clients and the market.

How get the finance department support?

The resources that go into the tools must be justified. The sales operations team is a key player here, providing support not just to the sales teams but also to other departments such as finance, product, and billing. It’s a team that bridges the gap.

Basware initially sold its procurement platform as an on-premise installation but has since become a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company. This meant introducing new automation tools and processes and altering its business model to develop in the right direction. About six or seven years ago, we began transitioning to the cloud and the SaaS model. This major change means focusing more on our customers’ needs, staying engaged with them, and addressing any concerns they may have. It has been a long process, but now Basware is mostly a SaaS business with few remaining on-premise solutions.

The snowball effect of digital transformation and automation has shown that if Basware changes, so must its customers, partners, and distributors – all of whom are now using our sales automation tools. This move has enabled us to give our reseller partners access to our quoting tool, allowing them to hand over quotes that they generate themselves – something that was not possible until recently.

When to invest in the project? How to choose the correct tool?

The best answer would be to do it when it is vital for your business – when continuing without it starts becoming detrimental. For instance, employees might be leaving if they don’t have the tools for their job, resulting in unhappy customers who may potentially switch to a competitor. Additionally, operational inefficiencies can also be costly; manual processes often carry a risk and mistakes can happen easily. This is when you should start investing and thinking about how to resolve these problems.

At Basware, we were using an in-house tool for our quoting process that had been in use for a while, but it was becoming detrimental to our business as we risked losing employees and customers due to operational inefficiencies.

We had amassed a lot of “technical debt” over the years, making development and maintenance tough and leading to frequent downtime and errors. As a result, our quoting process was disrupted, leaving customers and salespeople frustrated as they struggled to get quotes out on time. That was the catalyst for us to invest in a project that would automate processes and address those inefficiencies. We began researching the different vendors by creating an RFP, narrowing down the options, conducting demos, and speaking to other customers before finally settling on the right one. From when we got approval to begin until we signed the contract, it was roughly a year and a half – showing that choosing a tool is only half the battle; starting the project can take up about just as much time.

What to consider before, during and after the project implementation officially starts?

1. Make sure that you are clear on your pinpoints, have that core project team together, and that all relevant stakeholders involved in the project are on the same page.

2. When working with an implementation partner for the first time, establish early the ways of working, figuring out how you are going to gather requirements, do the development, and release things.

Basware started our cooperation with CLARITY Labs in 2019. We followed their recommendations to keep it simple at the beginning and work on more complex things later. The best advice we got was to start small and simple, as it is very easy to get quite excited about all the different possibilities. But we should remember that there is a timeline and a certain amount of scope that can be done within the initial project.

3. Consider how your internal processes need to change. You are changing the tools, and also changing your internal processes. Think carefully about how those processes need to change and who they affect.

4. Keep your users informed about what’s going on while the project is happening. Not only let them know when we are going live, but also where we are with the process, what is expected from them, and how to manage any good transitional periods between using an old solution and a new solution.

The Bottom Line

Investing in sales automation tools gives you the way to reap the benefits of digital automation transformation in your company for many years. Having the right solution by your side will not only boost the number of leads and make the sales process significantly easier, but it will also ensure that you are offering the products and services in the most efficient and error-free way possible.