What is Sales Order Automation? Why is it important? Sales order automation (SOA) streamlines manual, time-consuming, yet necessary tasks in the sales process, enabling the sales team to focus on where they can add value to the sales process rather than spending this time on data entry and administrative tasks that take little or no skill.
Automating the tasks also ensures they are completed – there is no concern about a salesperson neglecting to enter data or to pass the right data along to the next step in the process. It also enables prospects and customers to learn about products and services and to make purchases in a convenient manner, with little or no human interaction, for a more streamlined and productive sales cycle.
The automation technology itself continues to evolve. Today’s sales process automation tools are much more advanced than those of a few years ago, taking over more of the administrative sales tasks with increased speed and providing an increasing amount of insight from any automatically captured data.
When properly implemented, the impact of implementing sales order automation can be dramatic. According to consulting firm McKinsey & Company, business-to-business (B2B) sales leaders using digital sales have up to five times the growth of their peers that lag in digital sales enablement adoption.
Sales Order Automation Basics
SOA is the ability to remove friction and latency from the traditional sales process by moving the process from the top of the sales funnel – awareness (initial knowledge about the product or service) to purchase – as quickly and efficiently as possible, but also with added human intervention when and as needed to facilitate and eventually finalize the sales cycle, and deliver the best prompts to trigger future sales.
As such, sales process automation can automate many sales tasks that are essential in leading prospects through the buyer’s journey from awareness to interest to consideration, all the way to the final purchase. At each point along the way, SOA tools are designed to remove any friction that would stall the process so the customer is efficiently moved to the next step in the process, skipping steps completely if unneeded, and bringing in the human salesperson as needed.
While older SOA tools didn’t add too much value in terms of salesperson productivity because they required extensive manual data entry, today’s sales process automation tools automate not only the capture of structured data, such as a customer’s past purchases from the company, but also unstructured data such as words in spoken or written communications.
By tracking all elements of the sales cycle, SOA can reveal insights to demonstrate what processes and strategies have worked on a historical basis, and the effectiveness of different sales techniques with demographic groups, and in different regions, and during seasonal sales campaigns.
With SOA, the organization can automate many of the salesperson’s tasks including:
By saving hours on these mundane, time-consuming tasks, salespeople can instead spend their time helping prospects and repeat customers close sales.
Additionally, by automating processes such as order entry, payments, order tracking, reordering (including automated periodic purchases) and other routine, easily digitized processes sales process automation empowers customers to service themselves, involving the human salesperson only when required or desired.
Sales Order Automation Enhances Customer Service, Boosts Sales
On the consumer end, SOA tools include:
Such automation is critical in today’s eCommerce-dominated economy. According to a recent MIT Technology Review report, with just a single element of SOA – chatbots — Alibaba, the Chinese version of Amazon, enabled the company’s Tabao site to handle more than 93% of customer queries in 2017, which would have otherwise required 83,000 human agents working around the clock.
As a result, the use of SOA enables companies to deploy salespeople to those areas where they can make the difference between an initial or repeat sale rather than spending their time on routine, repeatable process that not only can be automated, but also that customer and prospects prefer to have automated.
While the efficiencies SOA enables for simple retail eCommerce purchases such as a book, it is becoming increasingly important for sales of more complex products such as cars, financial products and services, or for sophisticated B2B products. In these instances, the buyer journey can often entail a longer sales cycle, more research and/or touchpoints. SOA can support these requirements, along with one-click capability to connect with a human sales person– either through a live online chat or via a subsequent phone call or email.
SOA becomes more critical for companies with high repeat sales. According to McKinsey, after the initial sale, 85% of those who lean toward human interaction for at least part of the initial sales process prefer automated interactions for subsequent purchases. Customers also prefer automated processes immediately after the initial sale for tracking, returns, etc.
Customers value SOA the most when they enable quick purchases, customer self-service capabilities, pricing and product information, including the ability to automatically adjust pricing as customers select/deselect different options or features.
Millennials Prefer Frictionless Purchasing Enabled by Sales Order Automation
SOA is particularly effective when attracting and for repeat sales with the digitally native millennial generation, which is becoming increasingly important in terms of purchasing power. According to Accenture, millennial shoppers today buy $600 billion annually, a figure expected to grow to $1.4 trillion by 2020.
Millennial purchase power is being felt in the enterprise as well. Some 73% of 20- to 35-year-olds are involved in product or service purchase decision-making at their companies, according to one study, with one-third identifying themselves as the sole decision-maker for their department. And about half of all B2B product researchers are digital natives, a number that’s increasing every year, according to yet another survey of buyers.
But even with older clientele and more established business processes and established supply chains, SPA produces measurable benefits. Established tools and parts suppliers such as Grainger in the U.S. and Zoro Tools of Japan have seen double-digit increases in sales thanks largely to fast, transparent, informative sales automation processes, which have helped boost complete online sales and automated delivery, and even helped contribute sales with human interaction at a distribution location.