Sales Automation for Services: An Overview
Updated: May 29
What are Software Services?
Software companies offer services to customers to aid in the adoption and ongoing use of their software. A great services experience will ensure that users are getting the most out of their investment. Services are also pivotal in keeping customers happy and lead to higher renewal and retention rates.
Software services are especially critical to enterprise software companies as their solutions tend to be more complex. Customers will need assistance in implementing a software solution, connecting it to their systems and workflow, training on how to use the software and ongoing support to make sure their experience is successful.
Where Do Services Fit
Services can be attached to an initial software purchase or during renewal. They can also be offered in the form of ongoing Advisory, Managed or Education services. During the typical services sales process, multiple conversations will occur with the Customer to understand their goals, challenges, systems, processes and workflow. This conversation may be led by Sales, a Sales Engineer, Customer Success, or a combination of several groups. To ensure a smooth experience for the customer, it is imperative that all service offerings are fully defined, resources from both sides are understood and that pricing is clear and transparent. “What am I paying for vs. what do I get for free” is a consistent theme. Having clearly defined value statements around services is key.
Once the goals are defined, the Services & Sales teams need to correctly scope the opportunity, organize the appropriate services for the Customer and fully define the price, duration and resources necessary to deliver the work.
The Quoting Process
Although automation is pervasive in the software sales process, this is not the case for services. Standardized CRM and Configure Price Quote (CPQ) technologies built for products cannot handle the variability and complexity of services. Therefore, a software company will typically manage their services selling process through complex spreadsheets and Word or Powerpoint templates.
Spreadsheet: Most software companies build and maintain one or multiple spreadsheets to act as both a repository of services offering information and as a pricing and human capital calculator. Each tab could represent an offering, displaying information about the service itself, its price, duration, resources required and the software or features it pertains to. The spreadsheet will also have inputs in which a Services team member can add information such as quantity, duration, discount and delivery location. Finally, those inputs will be connected to another tab that maintains the pricing and resource logic that displays an output. For example, I need a Technical Account Manager for 1 day a week for 3 weeks. It therefore costs “X”.
Word and PowerPoint: Once a Services person has added all of the appropriate variables and generated their output in Excel, it’s time to copy that information into a Word or PowerPoint template. These templates are stored either on an employee’s hard drive, in a cloud drive or a sharing service like Microsoft Sharepoint. Once the appropriate template has been located, the output from Excel is copied into the template manually. All updates should be carefully made as to ensure the accuracy of the Services quote and the Customer’s information. Once the services person is satisfied with the document, it is sent for approval.
The Approval Process
Approvals are typically handled in one of two ways, via email or through an existing CRM process. The path of the approval process can depend on the type and complexity of the services. For example, a simple training session or 10 hour block of consulting time passes through with no approvals. However, a $500,000 implementation across multiple geographies may need approvals from the Head of Services, Sales, Customer Success or even the CFO. Email is the most common approval method, but is difficult to track and not the best way to keep records.. Some companies will leverage their existing CRM systems to obtain approvals. Once the approvals are complete, the Sales or Customer Success person will upload the document into their CRM opportunity record.
Getting to Signature
Once an SOW has been approved, it is ready to be sent to the Customer for review and acceptance. A Customer will either sign the document, or return via email with feedback and comments. Feedback and comments typically come in two forms:
Changes to the scope of work or pricing
Changes to the legal T&Cs
Some software companies employ document management software to manage these changes, while other process changes manually. At some point all discrepancies have been worked out and the document is signed. This final document is then uploaded into a CRM and sent to finance or an ERP platform. It may also then be loaded into a Professional Service Automation platform for services delivery if the software company has such a system. This marks the completion of the “selling process”.
Sales Automation For Services
Your colleagues, customers and partners expect a modern digital experience for doing business. This should be true for services. Services automation can replace the manual processes associated with the creation and management of services offerings, the configuring and quoting of services opportunities, the generation of appropriate engagement documents and the approval process. It should also fit into your overall business workflow and connect to CRM, ERP, PSA and other tools already employed by many companies to run their business. Specifically, a robust automation process should impact the areas that create the greatest bottlenecks:
Discovery: Employees, customers and partners should be able to search for content digitally. They should not have to burden the services team with repeated requests for information and conference calls. The digital information should also be continually updated and correct, minimizing errors, misconfigurations and misquotes.
Successful companies will not only catalog and display their services digitally, but they will be able to create customer journey maps online that allow both employees and Customers to find the right outcome for their needs based on the specific problems they are looking to solve. “Don’t sell services, sell solutions.”
Quoting: Quoting should take minutes and be driven by data collected during the discovery phase. Using automation Sales, Customer Success and Services personnel should be able to configure and quote services using simple web objects such as radio buttons, check boxes and dropdowns. Data should automatically be pulled from a CRM to pre-populate Customer and product information automatically. Displayed data and choices should be limited so the process is simple and clean. A customer-facing version of this quoting process can also be created, dramatically accelerating the sales process.
Document Generation: Once the configure and quote process is complete, selling documentation should be auto-generated in seconds. A company’s proposals, SOWs, HLEs, MSAs, slide decks and other content needs to be hosted in the automation platform and connect to all of the decisions made during the quote process. All logic and decision-making for what goes into the document needs to be handled through the automation system, eliminating the need for manual intervention and errors.
Approvals: Once the appropriate documents are generated, they should follow pre-defined approval logic rules. These rules can be driven by existing approval workflow located within a CRM or other application, or they can be hosted in the services sales automation platform. Either way, a quality solution will support multiple approval workflows that can follow different paths depending on the size of the opportunity, it’s geographic location, the type of resources required to deliver the services and the products that the services are connected to.
Changes/Edits: Completed documents can now be sent to the Customer for review and signature. However, if revisions are required, the platform should have a simple and digital way of adjusting services, pricing, timelines, milestones or other important information.
Downstream Processes: At the conclusion of your selling process, final documents need to be placed into the correct platforms for record retention and downstream work. This includes automatic upload to your CRM, ERP/billing systems and your PSA or work management solutions.
Is Automation Right for You?
To understand the impact automation can have on your business, you should consider the monthly quantity of services opportunities that pass through your business, the materials and assets you use to support those requests and the effort it takes to process those requests successfully. Specifically, you should quantify:
Other custom documents
In addition, companies also need to consider the:
Effort and process to create services
Effort and process to maintain and approve services for sale
Steps in workflow to move a Customer discussion about services into the final sale “quote to cash”
Average turnaround time in all of these processes
Number of people involved in all of these processes
Who Should Be Part of the Automation Discussion?
The alignment of goals and objectives surrounding the automation of services sales should include the following individuals or teams:
Professional Services: PS executives and their teams need to drive the standardization of services, accelerate delivery and identify revenue growth opportunities in a rapidly changing environment. Therefore, PS is typically the driver of the automation process.
Sales: Sales leaders are tasked with driving new business in software AND services. Coordinating both can be hard and that is why they will want to be part of the transition to automation.
Customer Success: CS is responsible for developing customer relationships that build retention and loyalty, leading to high renewal rates and upsell opportunities. CS wants to increase velocity and automation can simplify how new opportunities are quoted and sold.
Sales Operations: Sales Ops teams need to Increase sales productivity by simplifying processes and implementing sales automation tools. Reducing bottlenecks will make the sales machine go faster. And, as the buyer of tools and technology to turbocharge sales, they are a critical voice in this process.
CFO/Finance: CFOs aren’t just responsible for managing the company’s finances. Often, their teams are pulled into negotiations, budgeting and approvals of medium and large services opportunities. This makes their participation critical in the services sales automation process.
Legal: The proper control and maintenance of “legalese” within SOWs, Proposals, MSAs and other selling documents makes it important for legal to have view and edit rights.
The Transition to Automation
If you are ready for automation, it is critical that you organize ahead of time. We recommend these initial steps to prepare you for the journey:
Build a Team: It is imperative that key stakeholders are part of your discussions early in the process. We mention some of those key roles above, but there may be other employees who have a vested interest in automating the services sales process. We suggest you map out everyone that touches services within your organization and label them as either “Creators”, those who build and manage service offerings and “Consumers”, those who will use the automation tools to sell services. It’s likely that Creators will lead the automation transition, while Consumers will be your end users. Keep this list handy as you schedule the work. Once you have your team mapped out, make sure all of the members are in agreement that a transition to services sales automation is right for your business.
Review of Services: As stated above, most companies already have defined services offerings located in Excel or Word Documents. We recommend that a team of services specialists confirm that all of the offerings are correct and receive signoff from senior management on the following:
Service Name, Description, Type (Professional, Managed, Educational)
Price, discounting rules, Currency, Country
Location (onsite, remote, both)
Duration (how long to deliver)
Delivery Resources (role, skill, cost, location)
Documentation templates (Proposals, SOWs, HLEs, etc..)
Integrations (what systems should your automated services sales process connect to)
Digitizing Offerings: Once you have clearly defined and approved your services and related content and logic, it is time to place them into a services sales automation platform. A platform like WorkRails can make it easy to transition services information and processes into a digital experience. Usually a Professional Services or Sales Operations team member will lead this effort. It is their job to coordinate and approve all of the content moving from spreadsheets and Word documents into the system. Steps will include:
Build Services Templates that create the foundational structure of your offerings and house the base logic and variables of a service.
Build Services Items that can be configured by employees, customers or partners
Connect Services Items to document content so that Proposals, SOWs and other selling materials can be automatically generated
Design a front-end Services Experience that helps your employees and Customers configure the appropriate package of services for their needs
Connect the Services Experience to your CRM and other important systems to close the loop at a company level
Sales automation for services can have a broad and dramatic impact on both your services and software business. Although each company is different, we have observed some universal success metrics that apply across the board after the implementation of automation.
Reduce Sales Cycle: Company’s should see a dramatic reduction in the time it takes to move an opportunity from start to signature.
Increase Team Capacity: By eliminating multiple manual steps, automation will give back time to your Services, Sales, Customer Success and other personnel.
Increase Services Sales Rate: By implementing services sales automation and eliminating wasted time, companies will sell more services.
By simplifying your process through automation, you will save time, decrease hassles and increase transparency around services.
If you are interested in learning more please contact us at email@example.com