When you want to generate an estimate for a customer, what process do you follow? Do you open Excel and start entering prices? Do you take out a product catalog and start flipping through pages? Do you call down to accounting to see if that customer gets any special discounts?
If quoting looks like a lot of looking things up and writing things down, your business probably has a manual sales process—what some in the tech world call a “legacy system.” You’re not alone—1 in 3 companies selling business-to-business (B2B) use manual sales processes, as well as over two thirds of small businesses. These traditional methods have stuck around for a reason—they’re cost-effective and work fairly well for small businesses with simple sales processes.
But what if you want to grow your business? What if your sales process is getting more complicated? Well, that’s when manual systems stop supporting your sales cycle and start slowing it down. We’ve already looked at how automated processes can push you forward—let’s take a look at the ways your manual processes might be holding you back.
Over-complicated tools limit scalability
While many manual systems still incorporate some pen and paper, the digital age means most businesses do use some kind of technology to supplement their manual process: tools like Microsoft Word and Excel, cloud storage technologies like Dropbox, or electronic signature tools like DocuSign or Adobe Acrobat.
Often, SMBs will add tools for specific tasks when they need them, resulting in a complex network of technologies where one sales rep will need to navigate Gmail, Word, Excel, Dropbox, and DocuSign all for one quote.
Scaling up these distinct systems into a cohesive network is very difficult and takes a lot of time and money. Training employees for so many different systems means a lot of training time and purchasing multiple product licenses for larger teams can add up unexpected expenses. SMBs can end up paying exponentially more for six manual programs doing different things than they would for a system like Salesforce or HubSpot, which offers much of the same functionality in one platform.
Inaccurate data loses companies revenue and trust
Have you ever sat in front of an Excel spreadsheet and just entered information for an hour? At some point, you start to zone out—and that’s when problems arise. Human error accounts for 70 percent of lost or inaccurate data for SMBs and that problem grows exponentially the more data that people are responsible for.
Data entered manually is prone to errors and inconsistencies, which might go unnoticed until a customer is paying 20 percent less than they should be for a product or service—which puts your company in an awkward situation. If you fix the error, the customer might resent being charged more than expected; if you don’t, you lose 20 percent of that sale and maybe future sales with the same customer.
Missed decimal points or extra zeroes can add up quickly. Awkward or disappointing conversations with customers can add up even faster. Either is a blow to company growth.
Poor information visibility limits decision-making
How many customers are responding to your cold call or email campaigns? How many quotes are generated incorrectly every month? What is your best-selling product? What’s your worst-selling?
Having detailed information about customers’ likes, preferences, and dislikes is integral to making good business decisions. If cold calling only works 3% of the time, then your sales reps shouldn’t be spending time on it. If two products are often purchased together, you might close more deals by bundling them and offering a discount.
Manual processes can make it difficult to get the answers to these questions, especially as companies grow. Data entry is a low priority for sales reps and without good record-keeping, important information about sales data can get lost, hampering decision-making and impacting revenue.
Manual processes exist for a reason and on a very small scale, they can do a lot of good. But as businesses start to look into scaling up their operations, the seams start to show. Mounting training costs, inaccurate data, ignorance of customers’ preferences and buying habits—all of these get more complicated the larger a business grows and only promise more complications down the road.