I'm Infusionsoft's mad scientist around the visual campaign builder and spend my days creating automated marketing campaigns for the masses. It is literally the most fun I've ever had!. I'm an electrical engineer by trade with a passion for music, skateboarding and life in general; I love being given a challenge and figuring out a solution!
In the previous post in this series, I explained the essentials in setting up and configuring your sales pipeline. In it, you were able to learn the strategy as well as the ins and outs of managing the various stages that help sales representatives generate more sales and serve even more prospects along the way. Now, we’re going to take that a step further by using automation to make the sales experience a unique one.
This is the second post of a three-part series on Sales Pipeline Automation. This one covers more advanced pipeline automation ideas. It’s longer because there’s some email copy you can swipe. At the end of the post, I give you the exact steps to automate your pipeline and write the communications. Later, I’ll share pipeline automation case studies live in part three.
At this point, you should be clear on your sales process and have fleshed out the sales stages you need your reps to use. You’re now ready to automate your sales pipeline. Where do you start?
Clear Goal-to-Goal Management Breeds Easy Automation
In Part 1, I covered the high level idea of pipeline automation and left you with a simple example of sending an email upon moving a new opportunity into the Contacting stage; this stage means we’ve made at least one attempt to contact but we have not reached them, so sending an email makes sense. A pipeline is a tool for goal-to-goal management; the “goal” being a specific stage move (in terms of Infusionsoft’s Opportunities). Sales pipeline automation is all about driving people from one stage to the next. To be effective, the sales stages must be clearly defined and each one symbolic of an important milestone in the process.
If you’ve ever spoken to me about automation philosophy, you may have heard me say, “A sequence exists for the sole purpose of driving someone to a goal, or multiple possible goals. Everything in the sequence should support this.” Pipeline automation is no different. This is actually why I feel that automation of this type is “easy.” When you know what the next explicit milestone is, you can write very targeted messages.
I’m going to give you different example stages and explain how one might leverage automation. My hope is that by going through this, you’ll also glean more insight into how you can configure your own sales stages to build a meaningful (and measurable) pipeline.
Bolstering Initial Contact To Get Engagement
It doesn’t matter what type of business you have, if you have a sales team, the first major milestone in the process is to find out if someone is Qualified. However, getting someone qualified can take many conversations and contact attempts.
How can we leverage automation in this case? For this example, we have three stages:
- Contacting – When someone is in this stage, it means they were identified as a new opportunity and we made one attempt to contact them but we were unsuccessful
- Engaging – When someone is in this stage, it means we have a dialogue going and we are still in the process of seeing if someone is truly qualified
- Qualified – When someone is in this stage, it means we have identified that we hit all four pain points (see linked post above) and it makes sense to move further down the sales pipeline
Here is how you can build the campaign model:
Each of the goals (indicated by the circles above) are configured to trigger when moving into the stage indicated in the name. Each sequence is designed with the assumption that the prospect has not moved to the next stage; if they did, the next goal would be triggered, which pulls them out of the previous sequence.
Inside the Contacting sequence, it contains four emails spread out over the course of a month:
(Click for the full-size image.)
Each of these emails speaks to two specific facts:
- The sales rep has been trying to reach them via phone
- The prospect has not been engaging (otherwise they would be in the Engaging stage)
Let’s see how each of these emails can read:
Contacting 1 – Just Tried Calling You
This email goes out immediately after the sales rep moves the prospect into Contacting, so this just a friendly hello.
Subject Line: missed each other
Body: Hello ~Contact.FirstName~,
I’m ~Owner.FirstName~ with Acme Widgets and I just tried giving you a call at ~Contact.Phone1~ but we must have missed each other.
I was calling to see if our solution might be a good fit for your problem.
I’ll try again in a few days, but I just wanted to give you a heads up.
Feel free to reply to this email too
Have a great ~Date.DayOfWeek~,
Contacting 2 – Can’t Reach You
This email goes out on a weekday morning one week after someone has been moved into Contacting. The only things we know are that they haven’t been moved to the Engaging stage and that the sale rep has been making call attempts (at least they should be making calls). Notice how we leverage the fact this email goes out in the morning by opening with a ‘Good morning’ to make this automated email feel very timely and personal — as if the sales rep actually sat down that morning and wrote it.
Subject Line: still trying
Body: Good morning ~Contact.FirstName~!
I’m ~Owner.FirstName~ with Acme Widgets and I’ve been trying to reach you and see if our solution might be a good fit for your problem, but I haven’t been able to reach you.
Just wanted to let you know I’m still thinking about you!
Feel free to reply to this email too
Have a great ~Date.DayOfWeek~,
Contacting 3 – Should I Give Up?
This email goes out on a weekday afternoon two weeks after the prospect is moved into the Contacting stage. Again, the only things we can 100% speak to are that they haven’t been moved to Engaging and that the sale rep has been making contact attempts. Since this will be delivered at the end of the day and we are merging in the day of the week, the opening sentence definitely makes this feel less automated and much more human. Also, we are starting to pull away because frankly (in my opinion) if someone isn’t engaging by this point, we need to let them know that it isn’t worth our time to keep chasing them.
Subject Line: do I give up?
Body: I’m about to head out and enjoy my ~Date.DayOfWeek~ evening but I wanted to shoot you a quick email first.
I’ve been trying to reach you ~Contact.FirstName~ to see if our solution might be a good fit for your problem, but I haven’t been able to reach you despite my previous attempts.
Should I give up and take you off my book of business?
Feel free to reply to this email too
Enjoy your night,
Contacting 4 – I’m Giving Up
This email goes out on a weekday morning one month after the prospect is moved into the Contacting stage. This is the last automated email so it needs to be a bit more aggressive because it is still pushing for that goal of getting engagement. It will either get the prospect to finally engage, or not create any surprises if they never hear from you again. People pay more attention to whatever is said after their name, hence merging it right before we say its been a whole month. We also close by merging the date field to retain that human feel.
Subject Line: I give up ~Contact.FirstName~
Body: “Going through my book of business this morning ~Contact.FirstName~ and did you know I’ve been trying to contact you for nearly a month?
All I’ve been trying to do is reach you to see if our solution might be a good fit for your problem
Despite my calls and emails, I haven’t heard back from you.
Unfortunately, I cannot keep trying to chase you down like this.
If I don’t hear back from you I’m going to have to take you off my books. Sorry.
If you are interested, just reply to this email or give me a call at ~Owner.Phone1~.
Have a great ~Date.DayOfWeek~,
I wrote these emails using my own style and voice because that is exactly what an email would sound like if I sat down and manually typed a follow-up to someone. Feel free to swipe these emails, but be sure to modify them to fit your own voice
Remember, automated emails are there to supplement what your sales reps should be doing anyway!
What about the Engaging stage? We’ve moved them and now we need to find out if they are qualified since that is the next stage. You can build a similar structure, but now the emails are speaking to a prospect differently:
- They are actively engaging with the sales rep
- We do not yet know if they qualify to move ahead in the sales cycle
For these emails, you can include some educational blog posts or nurturing materials while also addressing the fact that they aren’t yet qualified. Maybe not using that direct language, but I think you get the point.
To automate your sales pipeline, you’ll need to do the following:
- Define and create your sales stages. Not sure? Here is a link to my InfusionCon 2013 handout on how to do this click-by-click.
- Create the campaign skeleton like what’s shown in the first image of this post.
- Go into each sequence and build the sequence skeleton like in the second image of this post.
Note: Keep in mind how far along the sales process someone is and what their next steps are when building the sequence steps. For example, if you have someone in a Quote Sent stage and the next stage is Quote Accepted, the timing between emails can most likely be shorter compared to the Contacting email sequence above because they are further down the pipeline.
When writing copy for sales pipeline automation, answer these six questions before composing each email or letter:
- What milestone (sales stage) has happened to cause this communication to go out?
- What milestone (sales stage) is next in line to push the process ahead?
- What day/time is this communication scheduled for after they start the sequence?
- What previous communications (if any) in the sequence would this person have received by the time they get this communication?
- Anything I can speak 100% to?
- Anything I should NOT speak to?
After you have answered all questions, you should now be able to quickly write a very targeted and effective automated communication to supplement your sale reps’ activities.
To prove this works, let me give answers for the Contacting 2 – Can’t Reach You email above
What milestone (sales stage) has happened to cause this communication to go out?
We have contacted them at least once and they are in the Contacting stage.
What milestone (sales stage) is next in line to push the process ahead?
To get them in a dialogue and to move them into Engaging stage.
What day/time is this communication scheduled for after they start the sequence?
One week after they start the sequence at 8 AM on a weekday.
What previous communications (if any) in the sequence would this person have received by the time they get THIS communication?
An initial ‘I missed you’ email when they first got put into the stage.
Anything I can speak 100% to?
The sales rep has not yet spoken to this person. We aren’t sure if our solution is even a plausible fit for their problem. (And we aren’t even sure if there is a clearly defined problem yet, either.)
Anything I should NOT speak to?
The sales rep leaving a voicemail (because we can’t guarantee this happened). Anything beyond this part of the sales cycle (demo, etc.). And that they have seen any previous emails.
Now, compare those answers with the actual email copy. Do you see how we were able to succinctly incorporate each of those elements into the messaging?
Whew! This was a huge blog post and since you made it this far, give yourself a high five!
What This Means For You and Your Business
Once you have automated your pipeline, you will immediately reap the benefits. Primarily, by having your sales reps properly work opportunities (Print out this PDF and give to each sales rep so they ARE working them properly), there shouldn’t be anyone slipping through the cracks. Plus, they should be able to work their pipelines faster because everything is in one place; no more digging through notes or emails to figure out what needs to happen next.
From a management perspective, you’ll be able to finally pull meaningful reports on your pipeline and identify bottlenecks with ease. If most leads drop off after the Contacting stage that means there is a different problem than if most people fall out after the Qualified stage.
Above all, the automation allows your sales reps to build solid relationships with their prospects and this should directly impact the bottom line by increasing conversions. And who doesn’t like more money?
Where Do You Go From Here?
If you have a sales pipeline you want to track with Infusionsoft, just go set this up! Again, if you missed the basics, read my earlier post on this.
I know it might take a bit for all this to soak in. I’m pretty active with comments, so if you have any questions or get stuck somewhere, please let me know in the comments below.
Photo Credit: tim_d
Sales and marketing automation is a beautiful thing. A well-structured campaign can build long-lasting relationships with prospects and customers with minimal human intervention.
However, for companies with sales teams and a clearly defined sales pipeline, automation can either greatly enhance the experience or make your company look amateur when it comes to its CRM usage.
This is part one of a three-part series on Sales Pipeline Automation. This one covers the high level idea of pipeline automation and ends with a simple example that you can implement. I’ll publish more advanced pipeline automation ideas in the second part of this series.
Recently, I was blessed with the chance to speak at InfusionCon about sales pipelines using the Opportunity module. This part of Infusionsoft is the most powerful piece (in my opinion) because it eloquently blends the CRM, automation and e-commerce features into a single tool for the sales rep that is easy to use.
As a result, “working an opportunity” is always a manual process for two reasons. First, the sales rep needs to be personally accountable for their own pipeline. Second, to generate meaningful sales reports for managers, the rep must be using the tool correctly, which means they must be touching the system.
After my talk, the audience felt really comfortable with setting up, using and reporting on their sales pipelines. However, there was a big demand for more insight into how to employ good automation around the pipeline.
So that is what I’m here to talk, er write, about today.
I had a full 60 minutes to teach Opportunities, so doing a complete soup-to-nuts blog post on them would be unrealistic. What I want to focus on is the automation aspect. To do that, I need to explain where automation comes into play and how it should be used.
How Does an Opportunity Work?
At the conceptual level, an opportunity accomplishes two very important tasks for a sales rep:
- It keeps track of where someone is in the sales process by using sales stages; you can think of a sales stage as the 10,000 foot view of where leads are in general.
- It manages the follow-up that needs to happen by tracking the Next Action Date/Time.
With this, a sales rep can look at their pipeline as a whole and see how many people are in the different stages and know exactly who they need to talk to today (those people with a next action date/time of today).
When Does Automation Come Into Play?
A defined sales pipeline is intended for sales reps to help guide prospects through the different sales stages. The ‘goal’ when ‘working an opportunity’ is to get someone moved into a sales stage further down the line.
Hence, automation is triggered when a sales stage move occurs. Since an opportunity is merely a tool for the sales rep:
“Automation should be used to supplement what the sales rep should be doing anyway.”
Read that line out loud just so you can really internalize it:
“Automation should be used to supplement what the sales rep should be doing anyway.”
One more time:
“Automation should be used to supplement what the sales rep should be doing anyway”
Here is an example: Let’s say a prospect has been identified as a legitimate sales opportunity. The first step is to call them and find out if they are qualified. If the sales rep calls the prospect but doesn’t reach them, they are supposed to send an email letting the prospect know we tried to reach them.
Since the sales rep should be sending the email anyway, this is a great opportunity to automate the sending of that email!
How do I Build a Campaign to Automate the Sales Pipeline?
Glad you asked! Since pipeline automation is based on sales stage movement, we first need to define what the stages would be. For this example, lets assume the opportunity is created in the ‘New Opportunity’ stage and the next stage is ‘Contacting’. Contacting means that we have made at least one attempt to contact them but we were unable to reach them.
[Defining the sales stages is a whole different topic which I may cover in another blog post if you want-- let me know in the comments!]
The campaign for this would look as follows:
You’ll notice the little yellow person in the lower left of the goal. This indicates the goal type is a Stage Move goal. To change a goal’s type, just double-click on this little icon and select the type you want. In this case, I chose the phone goal icon because it’s symbolic for this piece of the sales process.
If you double-click on that goal, you’ll see that I have configured it like so:
This one is pretty obvious, but the goal is satisfied once the sales rep moves the opportunity into the contacting stage. This reiterates the beginning of this post when I was talking about how an opportunity is just a tool for the sales rep and how they must always manually interact with it.
As far as the Contacting sequence itself, here is what lives inside:
You can see it’s only one email that goes out immediately as soon as someone is put into the sequence; which happens once the stage is moved.
Now, rather than having the sales rep waste their time after a leaving a voicemail to later send the same email that everyone always gets, it happens automatically!
How do I Write Email Copy to Supplement What My Sales Reps Should Be Doing?
Frankly, I feel that writing email copy for sales pipeline automation is the easiest type of copywriting because it’s hyper-focused around where someone is at in the sales process, so it can be very targeted. Also, the email should come from the sales rep (in most cases) so it doesn’t need to be fancy. Actually, a ‘fancy’ type of email may completely ruin the suspension of disbelief that the email was actually sent by the sales rep!
The best type of automation is when people cannot tell it is automated
Here is what I wrote for the one contacting email:
This may be the first time you are seeing ‘Owner’ merge fields. These are simply fields that relate to the sales rep who is assigned to the opportunity. It doesn’t matter how many different reps you have on the team, every lead gets the same email, which is “sent from” the sales rep that they are working with.
What About Using Tasks in These Automated Sequences?
By setting the Next Action Date & Time, you populate the opportunity on the user’s calendar. By creating a task, this will also populate on the user’s calendar. If you use both opportunities and tasks, this can cause a prospect to show up twice on the calendar which can be confusing.
I see this ALL the time too!
I recommend this approach: If a lead is a true opportunity, stick to using the Next Action Date & Time for everything and avoid using Tasks & Appointments. This will prevent redundant entries on your calendar.
If it helps, think of an Opportunity as a ‘rolling task’ since it stays on your calendar (until it is closed) and the action date just gets updated each time.
There are few instances I’ve run into where it is ok to use both tasks and opportunities together. You’d want to do this is when an secondary action needs to happen in addition to the primary next action.
A great example of this is when I used to do coaching heavily — I would set the Next Action Date & Time for the next coaching call, however I might also need to send them a GoToMeeting invitation prior to the coaching call. In these cases, I would create a task that says ‘Send GoToMeeting Invitation’.
Even though they would show up on my calendar twice, the invitation is a one-off activity while the future call itself is part of the opportunity process.
In closing, sales pipeline automation is designed to bolster a sales rep’s activity and save time from repetitive actions. In the second part of this series, I’m going to cover more advance pipeline automation concepts, such as a sequence that contains a series of emails based on a stage move that is driving towards another stage move.
So what do you think? Has this tutorial helped you understand more about how opportunities work and how you can leverage automation to make life easier? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Photo Credit: nicolasnova
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Individuals have to report their income and you need to make sure that you’ve collected all the necessary paperwork so you or your affiliates don’t become an unsuspecting target of the IRS. This isn’t difficult if you have Infusionsoft. Here’s a tutorial on how to automate this process. (more…)
Imagine if you could pull a list of all your prospects, who have downloaded a specific report and are interested in a particular product. How targeted do you think you could make that message? You might be familiar with tags already. You’ve heard Jordan Hatch discuss tags on his Mastermind Webinars. You heard about tags being used to launch Follow-up Sequences from the Campaign Builder.
If you’ve ever tried to wrap your head around how tags are used in your business, you’ll love this post. (more…)
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