Let’s face it. The sales landscape has changed. Technology has enabled and empowered today’s customers and as a result, they are totally in control of the sales process. This means that the quality of the customer experience is a determining factor in whether a sales organization succeeds or fails.
Consider, for instance, that more than half of customers (54 percent) are likely to switch brands if a company doesn’t make an effort to personalize communications with them, and half of customers will consider switching brands if a company doesn’t anticipate their needs.
Today’s connected and educated customers also expect salespeople to be available at any time to provide immediate, direct and tailored responses. Spending too much time on activities other than selling is no longer an option for sales teams. They must be enabled with tools and processes that maximize efficiency and productivity, and focus on customers and driving revenue, or they risk falling behind.
Time Spent Not Selling
It’s no secret that salespeople spend a lot of their time doing activities outside of selling. In fact, close to just 36 percent of sales reps’ time is focused on the primary sales function, according to CSO Insights.
A large number of hours instead are spent on non-revenue-generating activities, like manual and administrative tasks, and many of them stem from the processes required to generate documents.
Consider the following:
- The average sales rep spends more than 50 full days away from core selling activities each year (Domo).
- For sales teams that see ineffective internal processes as their top challenge, 22 percent identified lack of time for face-to-face selling, and 45 percent identified excessive administrative tasks as the main reasons (Salesforce).
For sales teams to become high functioning and more successful, and ultimately focus more on providing the customer-centric experience required to meet customers’ needs, less-impactful activities need to be minimized.
The reality is that a good part of this manual work comes from the document-generation process, as salespeople must produce and send numerous documents throughout the sales cycle. It’s inevitable that if documents are created manually, there likely will be problems. Following are a few common problems that result from the manual document generation process:
- 1. Inconsistent document formatting and branding: When salespeople generate and distribute documents themselves, it’s virtually impossible to ensure that the documents will have a consistent look and feel in line with a company’s branding. Unfortunately, when documents sent to prospects and customers are inconsistent in look and branding, it erodes a company’s brand integrity and can detract from a company’s image and reputation.
2. Poor visibility into document status: Documents that aren’t stored in a central repository and can’t be tracked can lead to compromised visibility. Imagine this scenario: An individual sales rep keeps what he thinks is the latest price book on his laptop and uses that information to generate quotes manually. Then he drops his laptop while running for an Uber, leaves the company, or goes on vacation for a few days.
During that time, a question from a customer comes up regarding a recent proposal. Was a proposal sent one week ago? Or was it two weeks? Did it contain the new pricing structure? Sales teams often need to answer questions like these quickly, and finding the answer can be challenging. Searching through sent emails and local computer drives can be challenging, time-consuming and unreliable when a central repository doesn’t exist.
3. Copying and pasting: While it may seem obvious, copying and pasting to create document content wastes valuable employee time and introduces errors. Most often this is done when there is an existing document template or an old version of a document that sales is copying and pasting into to create a new document.
This process is slow and laborious, and any time a sales person creates a document manually or transfers information into a template by hand, there is a chance for error. Document formatting can be lost or altered, text/characters might be omitted, or peripheral text might be missed. Errors can cause delays in the sales process, which is frustrating for both sales and prospective customers.
To help solve all of these problems, sales teams need a process that automatically can produce a document — whether it’s a Word document, Excel spreadsheet, HTML email or other type. In turn, document generation can address several pain points in the sales process:
- 1. Eliminating manual copying and pasting of information into a new document: Here a template or templates are created beforehand and used when a document is developed. This eliminates the need to copy and paste, preventing the errors that inevitably occur when done manually. This leads to considerable time savings, as generating a document takes a single click of the mouse.
2. Creating brand consistency: Irregular documents with inconsistent branding become a thing of the past with the help of document generation. Instead, template versions can be managed and often predefined, ensuring the correct and current version is distributed to customers.
3. Gaining more visibility into documents: Many document-generation solutions simultaneously save a copy of the document directly in the organization’s CRM, enabling everyone on the team to see the date and time the document was created and sent, as well as reference the document contents, allowing for more visibility across departments and organizations.
4. Optimizing the sales process: Document-generation technology is a key piece in creating a streamlined sales workflow, or one requiring minimal manual and administrative interventions from sales reps.
Shorter Sales Cycles
Integrated solutions typically offer an easy way to configure and provide a seamless, highly professional front-end experience for both reps and customers.
More importantly, companies that effectively streamline sales processes increase their company revenue at more than two times the rate of all others, year-over-year. These companies also shorten the length of their sales cycle, while others experience longer sales cycles, according to the Aberdeen Group.
Document generation plays a central role in the sales cycle and has to be taken into account when planning how sales enablement can empower sales teams and lead to sales process optimization and efficiency.
Through the support of document generation, automating manual processes will give time back to the sales team and allow them to focus on the most important aspect of selling: directly engaging with customers and prospects.