Given modern business’s increasingly competitive, omnichannel landscape, customer service, and sales reps must put more effort into all sales process steps – from administrative tasks to relationship-building – to close a deal. Nowadays, B2B buyers have an unprecedented level of choice, information access, and service expectations; businesses strongly feel this in manufacturing, distribution, and supply.
A special report by Salesforce’s research team, “Revolutionizing Customer Service in Manufacturing,” delivers insights from approximately 300 manufacturing service leaders worldwide. One compelling result is that 82% of B2B buyers said technology makes it easier to take their business elsewhere, leading to ultra-competitive industries where exceptional customer service is essential. 71% of manufacturing service teams said they’d focus more on creating better customer relationships over 12-18 months.
Each Customer Service Rep (CSR) serves many customers while also carrying the responsibility of delivering a competitive experience. CSRs face a considerable workload: prospecting leads, liaising with clients, entering and checking sales data, etc. The workload can be overwhelming, particularly if CSRs only have access to conventional, manual processes.
The work can be repetitive, requiring a lot of time and focus. Instead, the CSR team could spend that time on the core aspect of their work: delivering an exceptional experience to every customer.
Manual Process is an Automation Opportunity for Digital Transformation
Rather than viewing this as an unavoidable issue, industry leaders recognize this situation as indicative of a massive moment of opportunity – the opportunity to implement sales order automation, a key element of digital transformation that can lead to significant productivity and efficiency gains. However, for some, there exists some reservation. In a 2020 report, KRC research found that just 2% of companies use automation for sales order fulfillment. Similarly, McKinsey reports that although over 30% of sales-related activities can be automated, only one in four companies has automated at least one sales process.
Many business leaders remain doubtful or unaware of the true potential of sales order automation. This post aims to examine more closely what it is and does; we’ll then discuss the real benefits of sales automation that your business stands to gain post-implementation.
What is Sales Order Automation?
Sales order automation uses AI and machine learning software to process purchase orders and other sales-related documents into a company’s system of record, like an ERP or CRM. Automation is a departure from traditional, manual processing where a sales or customer service rep would need to physically check and input PO data into the company system: a time-consuming, tedious, and error-prone method.
By releasing reps from mundane input tasks, sales order automation allows them to work more effectively on higher-value tasks – such as communicating with customers – and with an increased sense of job satisfaction.
For example, let’s say your company has an eCommerce site, but your customer service and sales reps still receive most purchase orders through email. Your customers will always seek the more convenient buying route, and many still prefer emailing a purchase order instead of using an eCommerce site.
Purpose-built sales order automation software, once implemented, can rapidly and accurately extract that sales data from whatever format the customer chooses to send and automatically enter that data into your company’s ERP system. This automated purchase order processing allows your sales reps to focus on the areas of their work that require a human touch – developing customer relationships, for example, while leaving intelligent software to take care of repetitive data entry.
5 Clear Benefits of Sales Order Automation
Though every business has its unique set of goals and objectives, effective business process automation software can yield several core benefits for your company, irrespective of industry. According to Hubspot, 61% of businesses using sales automation exceeded revenue expectations in 2020, and Salesforce forecasts the adoption of AI into sales systems to grow 118% between 2020 – 2023.
Below, we’ve outlined the five fundamental benefits and business outcomes your company can take advantage of when you embark upon the sales automation journey.
1. Innovate your customer-facing teams while increasing productivity
Repetitive, laborious manual entry tasks are a burden to your business. They take your sales reps away from value-adding activities and can create dissatisfaction among your workforce.
However, with sales order automation in charge of your PO processing, and intelligent software taking care of moving vital sales data into your system, your workforce can align to higher-priority and human-centric tasks. In other words, your sales team will be free to focus on selling, and you’ll see an uptick in productivity levels, improved performance, and better value from each employee. Your CSRs will be more engaged, fulfilled, and satisfied at work, which can only improve employee retention.
As well as allowing a more effective allocation of human resources, sales order automation will give back valuable working hours to sales reps. Customer service and sales reps can put the time they spend on data entry towards developing better customer relationships.
2. Eliminate human error from sales order processing
Everybody makes mistakes, and it has nothing to do with the quality of your workforce; it’s part of human nature. In business terms, it’s never truer or more potentially damaging than when your employees slog through unavoidable mundane tasks or when they have to rush to get through a mountain of tedious work. Manual data entry falls squarely into that category, where human error is practically inevitable.
At best, mistakes in your PO processing are embarrassing and annoying; at worst, they can negatively impact your business operations and reputation. Automation software, especially solutions that guarantee 100% data accuracy, won’t pass data errors through to your other systems. It also runs efficiently without feeling pressure or rushing, so not only is your data input error-free, it’s input at a speed that your human employees cannot match. In this way, sales order automation allows your human workforce to focus on what humans do best and leaves machines to handle the tasks that machines can do best.
3. Improve your operational excellence with quality data
Another upside of 100% data accuracy is that you’ll have complete consistency across your business records. With manual inputting comes the ever-present risk of discrepancies entering your system, which will result in downstream inefficiencies and stumbling blocks in your operations.
The problem with incorrect data is that it usually isn’t noticed until it becomes an issue. So your sales team is pulled between fixing past mistakes, avoiding new ones, and ensuring everyone are on the same page to keep the operation moving forward. Automation software transforms POs with 100% data accuracy, so your sales reps can ensure that their data is correct across the board. The bonus of increased operational efficiency means they can do more and better work.
Data consistency will also have a positive impact on your cross-departmental operations. Sales automation software extracts data into a centralized system of records, meaning that when people from various departments work in tandem, everyone will have had access to the same set of reliable data.
4. Optimize your customer’s experience
With sales order automation giving time back to your sales reps and clearing their workload of onerous manual data entry, they’ll have more time to spend helping your customers.
Whatever form your customer service takes, businesses can’t afford it to be anything less than excellent. Freeing your reps from manual order entry will allow them to focus on the customer experience.
Your business will benefit from reducing manual tasks because customers like to do business with people they know and like. An overworked rep focused on manually processing purchase orders may not find the hours in a day to communicate with a customer. The time saved with sales order automation will ensure your customers feel prioritized by your customer service and sales teams.
We’ve already discussed how sales order automation guarantees data accuracy and eliminates mistakes. While beneficial for internal operations, it’ll also represent a win for your clients. Not receiving your full order or not receiving it on time, experiencing hiccups with billing, or any other problems. Automation software will give you confidence, allowing your business to service customers without mistakes.
As part of their insights project, Gartner asked over 250 B2B customers about their purchasing journey and learned that 77% found their last order “extremely” complex or challenging. Realizing the potential of sales order automation means your business can make things smoother for customers, providing outstanding service, free from errors, whenever needed.
5. Collect essential data from your customers
Being equipped with AI and machine learning, sales automation is a tool that makes your CSRs capable of tapping into a rich vein of actionable and potentially valuable customer information.
When developing sales strategies, reliable data and insightful statistics are essential. They give your team a more nuanced understanding of your customers. They highlight purchasing behaviors to ensure you’re targeting customers’ actual needs and requirements. In this way, customer-centricity becomes essential in your sales strategy, enabling you to use data to direct your sellers toward success.
Why Automation Transforms Your Sales Order Process
Implementing automation software powered by intelligent technology can help create the conditions for new levels of business success by effecting several core benefits to your company’s operations. Automation allows you to delegate repetitive, mundane tasks to a computerized system, which delivers fast results with guaranteed accuracy. It unlocks your CSR’s potential, giving them the space to work on value-adding tasks and improve customers’ backend experience. It also gives you access to actionable customer data insight, useful for futureproofing your sales efforts long term.
Implementing sales order automation does not mean replacing your sales team; instead, SOA is an effective tool that complements the human-centric work they do by eliminating sales order management inefficiencies and helping your company close the digital automation gap.
If you’d like to see the power of sales automation for yourself and discover how it could transform your operations, book a demo to see Conexiom in action.