Sales Automation for Smaller Businesses

If you are a smaller business, can you still benefit from Sales Automation?

Most articles about Sales Automation walk through working with a large list of sales leads (say 10,000) but don’t address those businesses that have smaller lists.

Also, larger businesses typically have a team of Sales Associates working under a Sales Manager, whereas in your smaller business you may have only one sales person or maybe the sales person is you. So, what can Sales Automation do for smaller businesses?

This article will start with an introduction and use those larger list examples, but will then continue the discussion to examine the case for smaller businesses.

Since Sales Automation utilizes your Sales Funnel, let’s first make sure we are all on the same page regarding what a Sales Funnel is.

The Sales Funnel

The Sales Process is often depicted as a funnel, where for a given potential customer, the journey starts at the wide top and ends down at the narrow bottom. Each time you look one level lower in this funnel, some people from the higher group are gone, leaving you with a smaller number of leads, but presumably ones who are also better prospects than those who are dropped.

The top level encompasses every sales lead it can, but with a lot of bad leads mixed in alongside the good.
A lead can be bad due to an invalid email address that will bounce. Or the email address is valid, but the person was just a ‘tire-kicker’, with zero chance of actually buying from you (although you don’t know that yet).

Some people are just starting to do R&D on a product or service, and in the end will realize that what you offer just isn’t a match to what they are looking for.

Among these are hidden the real sales leads, people who very well might buy from you. As leads drop down the funnel, ones which are bad for various reasons drop out, leaving the won jobs to flow out at the bottom.

Sales Automation (Large Lists)

Now we are ready to discuss Sales Automation. We will start by discussing working with large groups as other articles do, but then we’ll extend the discussion to what Sales Automation can do for you if your list of Sales Leads is smaller.

Suppose you purchased a list of 10,000 email addresses (whether that is a good approach or not is a different discussion). Sales Automation can help you separate out the good from the bad.
Suppose that you define a sales pipeline with these status levels:

You start by sending an email to all 10,000 people. It is easy to picture that a computer can detect when the email bounces back from a given address, categorize it as ‘closed – invalid’, and remove that address from the active list.

If you are using a program that includes a tracking code in the email, your program can detect if the recipient opens the email, and can detect if they click on a link in it. This same program will have you add tracking code to your company’s marketing website as well. So now you can detect if the email recipient visits your website, not just from clicking in your email, but for future visits where they just remember your website address and type it into their browser. When your program sees that the recipient has a valid email, that they open your emails and visit your website, it can advance them to the next stage in your sales ‘pipeline’.

Using these methods, you winnow down your list of sales leads. From the original 10,000, perhaps 1,000 had email addresses that bounced, leaving you with 9,000.

Out of those 9,000 ‘Validated’ emails, perhaps 1,000 are active (opening emails or visiting your website, and your program changes their status to ‘Qualified (active)’.

At this point, you either may you continue the process in an automated fashion or you may have sales people get involved.

If you have a Sales Team, the software can automatically assign leads to them based on different rules. One approach is ‘round robin’ where it randomly picks one of the Sales Associates. It may also take into account how many active leads they are working with. For a team, the reports may also compare the performances of the Sales Associates.

For an automated approach, you continue to send your Qualified leads a series of emails, and these emails stop when the lead eventually buys, or when a maximum time limit has passed. Later in the email series, you may let more time pass between emails.

For the manual approach, your sales people contact the lead by phone, and/or set them on an email campaign. If enough time passes without a response, eventually the lead is left on a long-term email campaign and are taken off your sale peoples working list.

Sales Automation can provide some help with moving leads between stages by defining goals and then moving the lead when your sales person marks a goal as complete (Examples: Phone call, in person consultation, provide quote). This saves them the effort of first marking the goal as complete and then changing the stage for that lead.

Admittedly, the area where Sales Automation shines the brightest is at the top of the sales funnel, eliminating bounced email addresses, and advancing leads that show a sign of interest.

Sales Automation (Smaller Lists and Smaller Sales Teams)

You may collect a smaller number of leads and in a more manual fashion. Perhaps you give seminars or have a booth at a show, asking people to write their email addresses on paper, which you then add to your system. You may also see some traffic from the Contact Us page on your website.

Sales Automation can still save you some time by detecting when someone gave you a bad email address or if you had a typo when you hand entered it.

Compared to a purchased list of emails, you might consider your leads as entering in the middle of the funnel. If they took the trouble to enter their info into your Contact Us page or if they both attended a seminar, they probably have a higher level of interest.

You probably won’t have a need to compare Sales Associates to each other, but you’ll still want to make use of the reports on Win/Loss rates.


When you are choosing software or deciding how to implement it, you’ll need to consider which parts of the above reflect your situation. Do you deal with a huge number of sales leads, while knowing that only a sliver of them are serious leads? Even for small businesses, there is a benefit to some level of automation.