By Ivan Kot, Itransition
Compared to enterprises, SMBs live in their own universe of priorities, challenges, needs, and opportunities. As a rule, their universe operates on tight resources, which makes the adoption of new technologies, such as sales automation, seem taxing. Let’s reflect on the major automation barriers, missed opportunities, and ways to get automation up and running for SMBs.
Why Do SMBs Say No To Sales Automation?
Sales automation technologies are often associated with high costs and complexity, affordable only for big enterprises. As SMBs usually have tighter budgets, smaller operational margins, and lower liquidity, sales automation might be a no-go in terms of:
- High entry barriers. Sales automation adoption requires advanced skills for the system configuration and deployment, as well as big up-front costs consisting of a yearly subscription, consulting fees, new specialists’ salaries, and so on.
- Payoff. SMBs expect poor or uncertain returns on their investment into the technology, which can be one of the most discouraging factors for decision makers.
- Training. Automation is perceived as something that adds to the overall complexity of digitization, adoption included. Instead of selling, sales reps have to learn how to use the new system while being unsure of the outcomes.
- Agility. Smaller companies need to adjust their processes much more frequently than enterprises. For this reason, SMBs require a system to be able to adapt to changes without additional expenses, like complex integrations and training.
What Do SMBs Miss By Saying No To Sales Automation?
In many cases, automation makes sense when there’s the need to streamline multiple processes, sync activities of numerous people and teams, create conditions for collaboration, and so on. This need might be not present in small companies, so automation doesn’t usually come up as a priority. However, as business gravitates toward customer- and employee-centricity, SMBs can realize that they lose multiple game-changing opportunities.
Automating Repetitive Operations
No matter the company size, each sales rep is responsible for such tasks as data entry, follow-ups, quote and invoice generation, and more. All of these consume precious time, taking it away from the actual selling activities and increasing the risk of errors. Automation can take these tasks off sales reps’ shoulders while ensuring no lead or deal is missed, data stays consistent, and customers get satisfied with a smooth experience. This way, automation can save sales reps’ energy and compensate for scarce resources in small companies.
Data becomes an asset for all companies of all sizes. While sales agents can make projections using certain metrics and formulas, it’s next to impossible to get instantaneous and accurate sales forecasts without data accumulation and processing automation. AI-powered forecasting makes use of all the data accumulated by the company, and through user-friendly visualizations suggests if it’s going to reach its short-term or long-term goals, there is any unusual market activity worth looking at, or a new experiment is working out.
When sales managers need to talk to their customers by phone, it doesn’t matter how big your company is — if you need to transcribe a call, you need to find time for it. Naturally, it’s possible to take notes during a call but you risk missing important cues or will have difficulties with deciphering your scribbles. Of course, it’s possible to record each call but it will mean you should find time for the extremely time-consuming re-listening and transcription.
Meanwhile, automation technologies powered by speech recognition and natural language processing can log, record, and transcribe calls. The technology also can react to certain keywords and provide sales reps with relevant information during the call. As a result, it’s no longer necessary to get distracted to take notes or re-listen to the entire call. What’s more, call records and transcriptions can serve as the training material for new sales reps and insights for sales managers.
Small business can mean a smaller customer base but not fewer customer channels and touchpoints.
By reaching out to a business via different channels, customers do two things. First, they share their data with the company; second, they demand personalized and consistent experience at any touchpoint. It means that every business should gather customer data across their channels to truly know and understand their customers and sell intelligently.
Automation technologies can help collect, organize, and analyze customer data, such as behavior, demographics, preferences, communication, and purchase history, as well as provide sales reps with powerful tools for relevant advising, personalized selling, and upselling.
Field Work Facilitation
Regardless of the company size, sales reps who need to work in the field particularly appreciate technologies that allow them to access necessary data on the go, enter data or open reports by voice commands, inquire data to get quick insights, and so on. Otherwise, without such automated options, sales reps would have to act based on incomplete data, fail to demonstrate accompanying materials, or risk forgetting important facts.
What SMBs Should Look For In A Sales Automation Tool
There’s a strange phenomenon with SMBs and automation. Though SMBs are less likely than enterprises to automate, when they do automate, their success rate is higher. It can be because smaller companies are less constrained by rigid business processes so they can react to new opportunities much faster.
So, if SMBs feel they are ready to get started with sales automation, they should look for the tools with the following options:
- SaaS services with monthly subscription options
- Transparent pricing with the possibility to pay only for the utilized functionality
- A possibility to upgrade or downgrade when the need arises
- Product demos and training programs
How The New Normal Affects SMBs
The pandemic adjusted B2C relationships greatly — customers have shifted to online purchasing, and there’s a high probability that they will keep their online purchasing habits in the future. What does it mean for SMBs?
It means they need to speed up their digitization, particularly if they operate offline. When existing and potential customers are online, companies need to be ready to meet them where they are and offer them what they need.
Under these circumstances, to adjust to the new normal, SMBs have to rethink how they operate and build new technology-based business models. According to Salesforce’s report on small business trends in 2020, about one in three businesses that had less than half of their operations digitized before the pandemic say that the pandemic has accelerated their digitization initiatives.
About The Author
Ivan Kot is Customer Acquisition Director at Itransition, focusing on business development in verticals such as eCommerce, Business Automation, and cutting-edge tools such as blockchain for enterprises. He began his career as a developer, taking different positions in both web and mobile development projects, and eventually shifted focus to project management and team coordination.