Sales reps want healthy pipelines that are full of businesses – and lots of them.

However, trying to do too much without the right mix of people and technology can lead to business being wasted.

To help sales reps increase productivity in today’s “socially distant” sales environment, many companies are taking a fresh look at workflow automation. When used properly, workflow automation helps employees get more done and close more business with less.

Here are six best practices for using workflow automation to optimize your sales pipeline.

1. Avoid automation (for now) and support your pipeline

Workflow automation is defined as the use of technology to reduce or eliminate the manual aspects of a business process. It’s not a magic solution to fix all of your sales problems. Indeed, workflow automation coupled with a poorly designed sales pipeline can make a bad situation even worse.

To illustrate, let’s assume that a company’s sales pipeline for its Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) consists of four phases:

  • Must be analyzed
  • Value Proposition
  • Price offer
  • Won (or lost) closed

The company’s salespeople reliably move their opportunities from level to level, but businesses consistently get stuck in price quotes. To accelerate business speed, the sales manager designs a complex workflow that includes numerous tasks and emails so that employees can carry out the necessary follow-up activities. Despite the best of intentions, this approach is likely to fail because it does not address the basic problem. Employees don’t need any more emails in their inboxes. They may find it difficult to distinguish between offers that are on offer and those that are already listed and require follow-up. In this case, adding another stage to the pipeline (e.g. “Quote Follow-up”) can be more effective and help employees structure their work with fewer distractions.

Key question: Does the sales pipeline in your CRM accurately represent your sales process? If not, it’s time to make some changes.

2. Gather a list of your sales pipeline bottlenecks

Let’s assume that your sales pipeline is aligned with your CRM. Automation can now begin, right? Maybe not. Here’s why.

Although creating workflows in your CRM should be relatively easy, it consumes scarce resources. With sales teams leaner than ever, you don’t have unlimited time to configure an unlimited number of automations. You need to be selective and only create automated workflows that add tangible value to your business.

Slow down and make a list of the current bottlenecks in your pipeline. If you can’t think of any, watch out for the following warning signs:

  • Processes that require significant data entry
  • Things that keep getting stuck in the pipeline
  • Processes that require manual coordination with third-party systems
  • Data silos

Take away key: Create a shared document or Kanban card to record your bottlenecks in the sales pipeline. Share the list with everyone involved in the sales pipeline and crowdsource ideas.

3. Know what your CRM can do

You don’t have to hire an expensive CRM consultant to understand how your CRM automation works. Read the automation documentation from your CRM provider (see, for example, Insightly’s Automation Guide). As you immerse yourself, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What CRM records (i.e. leads, contacts, etc.) can be used to trigger an automated workflow?
  • Can I use multiple criteria (e.g. bid amount, deal status, etc.) in my CRM when creating automated rules?
  • Can actions be scheduled to take place later instead of immediately?
  • What are the different types of actions (such as sending an email, updating a record, etc.)?

memory: Don’t forget to check that workflow automation is included in your current CRM plan level. If it’s not included, do a basic ROI analysis to see if it’s worth the cost of upgrading.

4. Rank your biggest pain points

Now is the time to sequence your bottlenecks to decide what to automate first. Remember, you want to identify the one that will have the greatest impact on your sales pipeline but will also be easy to implement (given the capabilities of your CRM as described earlier). There are numerous ways to do this, but I suggest keeping it simple:

A hit

Large = 1 point

Medium = 2 points

Small = 3 points


Small = 1 point

Medium = 2 points

Large = 3 points

When using Insightly, you can use tags to assign an impact and a size rating to each item. Then use your project Kanban board to drag and drop cards into a logical order. Use a golf-style scoring method to give preference to cards with low scores (i.e., large impact, small size).

Bonus tip: If there is a tie between two or more cards, seek feedback from other stakeholders in the sales pipeline. After all, you want to shop for the automation you are building.

5. Automate one sales workflow at a time

Note that there is one workflow in the heading – not several.

Don’t try to automate too many things at once, especially if this is your first attempt at automation. There are enough choices to build a single workflow. Distributing your focus will only decrease your ability to think strategically and clearly.

For discussion, let’s say you’ve identified inbound lead automation as the initiative with the highest impact and the least effort. Your SEO and paid advertising will pay off and generate more inbound inquiries. However, you lack a scalable system to handle the influx. You want to automate the following steps to retain more inbound leads and reduce manual effort:

  • Immediately send a welcome email to the lead
  • Assign a follow-up task to an SDR
  • Send a second email a few days later

If you’re an Insightly user, check out this helpful guide on how to configure an automated workflow. Before making any adjustments in your CRM, however, you should graphically represent your ideal workflow. Use descriptive words to explain exactly what you want to happen. Here is a simple illustration:

Use your diagram as a guide for implementing workflow triggers and actions to help you achieve your goal. Turn to it often, especially if you feel like you’re lost in the weeds evaluating workflow criteria.

suggestion: Test your workflow to a limited extent before rolling it out across your entire sales team. During the test, you can assign automated tasks to yourself instead of your SDRs. With this approach, you can make final adjustments and make sure everything works as intended.

6. Use data to measure success and plan your next step

The automation of workflows should have a measurable impact on your sales key performance indicators (KPIs). In an example with in-depth lead automation, you can expect noticeable improvement in one or more of the following areas:

  • Inbound lead email response rate
  • SDR appointments with incoming leads
  • MQL to SQL ratio for inbound leads

Use data from your CRM to track desired and actual results. If you notice very little change (or a change for the worse) after a few months, it may be time to make some adjustments. Also ask the users for their input. What seems to work What makes your life easier? What, if anything, created new challenges? Look for ways to improve and continually refine the workflows you have created.

Insightful tip: Insightful dashboards help you visualize your data so you know what to optimize and what to automate next.

You can use CRM automation to scale your sales pipeline

Automated CRM workflows play a crucial role in creating a more scalable sales process. Secure your existing CRM pipeline, understand your vendor’s capabilities, and use data at every step of the process to create workflow automations that have an impact.

Read on about CRM workflow automation to see what it can do for your business.

To learn more about Insightly CRM’s advanced workflow automation capabilities, request a free demo and see how you can better equip your sales team.

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