How AI Is Changing Outbound Sales Automation in 2024

Updated On: July 12, 2024
11 minutes read
How AI Is Changing Outbound Sales Automation in 2024

Let’s be clear. If you’re doing outbound sales and still heavily relying on repetitive manual tasks, you’re doing something wrong. If you and your sales team are spending hours researching and writing individual emails to prospects, the ugly truth is that you’re quickly going to fall behind your competitors. It’s not that you’re doing anything wrong per se – it’s just that the numbers simply can’t compare.

According to Operatix, an outbound SDR books an average of fifteen meetings a month, of which only twelve will actually be completed. That might not seem too bad on its own, but when you consider that most outbound engines consist of tens of SDRs, all being paid handsomely for performing repetitive tasks by hand, it starts to sound majorly suspect.

Outbound SDR Chart

From Operatix's SDR Metrics Report

So it should probably come as no surprise that implementing outbound sales automation tools produces compelling results indeed. Hubspot’s research shows companies that invest in AI and automation software report a 10-20% boost in sales ROI; of the top sellers, 80% use these tools on a regular basis. 

These companies aren’t just saving time (though 49% of them say that’s the single biggest benefit). They’re also improving communication and allocating more of their most precious resource – the energy of their employees – towards higher-quality, more challenging tasks. 

Outbound sales automation isn’t going anywhere, clearly. So it’s probably best if you understand it as deeply as possible. Let’s take a closer look.

Key Components of Outbound Sales Automation

social media post scraping

Lead Generation and Scoring

Widely considered every rep’s least favorite job, lead generation and qualification is the bedrock of every successful pipeline. But it’s repetitive, it’s boring, and it’s dangerously prone to human error – just try sending an email to a mistyped address and see how far it gets you.

All of these factors make it the ideal task to be automated. By setting out predefined criteria, outbound sales automation programs can gather, organize, and score leads at a scale that humans simply can’t compete with. 

Drafting and Sending Personalized Email Sequences and Follow-Up Messages

Before too long, we’re going to have to retire the phrase “the human touch”, because recent advances in AI have made those lines a whole lot blurrier than they used to be. Using a range of high-tech features, automated sales software is more than capable of developing personalized cold emails and follow-up communications based on customer behavior and preferences. Social media post scraping, for example, makes it possible to get instant insight into a prospect’s mindset and gather intent data at scale, while technographic data can be gathered to see what tech stack they’re currently using. 

And thanks to the increasingly multi-modal nature of these programs, it’s possible to automate the task of following up across several different channels. It’s not just email: social media platforms, text messages and even phone calls can all join the party, saving even more time for sales reps and radically increasing workflow efficiency.

Automate Repetitive Administrative Tasks

Data entry. Meeting scheduling. Updating CRM records. To know them is to loathe them, but these dull admin jobs are an essential element in any successful sales engine. Thankfully, we might not need to dread doing them ourselves for much longer.

Due to its repetitive nature, this kind of busywork is a prime candidate for automation. There’s little to no independent reasoning required. In most cases, it’s a tick-box exercise where the only criterion for success is not getting anything wrong. And even the best sales professionals make mistakes, especially when they’ve been doing the same task for hours – but machines don’t.

Optimizing the Sales Process

Email Campaigns

Workflow Automation

When it comes to optimizing a sales process, there’s no better place to start than at the workflow level. There are a number of different ways automation can be employed, but the most common include automating repetitive tasks (like the ones mentioned above) and designing more efficient, AI-friendly workflows from the ground up. 

For example, if a company knows it’s going to be using outbound sales automation software, there’s no reason to train its reps on tasks like data entry or CRM updates. Instead, the workflow could be crafted to work with the AI – effectively using the result of its busywork, double-checking for errors, tweaking personalized cold emails, and so on.

Are you ready to try sales automation on the cutting edge? Check out how Ava can automate 80% of your outbound cycle. She frees up your sales team’s time to focus on the most important thing – closing deals!

Lead Generation and Management

Outbound sales automation software can – and will – revolutionize the way you think about lead generation and lead management. Forget about painstakingly scouring LinkedIn, Google, and other sources to compile a list of prospects. Just set the program up with your ideal customer profile (ICP) and let it do the heavy lifting for you.

But the magic doesn’t stop there. High-end automation software will also pre-qualify the prospects on your lead lists by bounce-testing leads, assessing them against your ideal ICP, and ranking them by priority. As a result, by the time your reps start interacting with them, they already know where to focus most of their time and energy. And with automated enrichment, by the time salespeople interact with the potential customers in their sales pipeline, they’ll already have a wealth of data to draw on.

Email Campaigns and Sequences

Here’s a statistic so ridiculous that it sounds made-up at first. According to research carried out by Ascend2 RPE Origina, running A/B tests on your emails can increase ROI by 82%, from 23:1 all the way to 42:1. A/B testing is just one of several weapons in any outbound sales team’s arsenal – and sales automation software is capable of performing those analyses all on its own.

A/B testing isn’t the only way email automation can enhance marketing efforts, though. It can set up, run, and optimize entire outreach campaigns. By drawing on a wealth of customer preference data, sales automation programs can personalize every aspect of the email outreach process. Automated email playbooks can be generated based on what content those customers are most likely to respond to, for example, while real-time email sequences make it possible to interact with each ideal customer at the perfect moment based on past behavior.

Enhancing Sales Team Productivity

AI Powered Automation

Roles of Sales Reps and SDRs

So far, we’ve focused on the technical nitty-gritty behind what automation software is actually doing. But we haven’t discussed the elephant in the room yet. What happens to the reps and SDRs who all of a sudden find they’ve got nothing left to do because it’s all been automated?

Well, that’s not quite the case. Sure, sales team members won’t be as busy with time-consuming, manual tasks like lead scoring or churning out follow-up emails. Instead, they’ll be devoting their energy towards high-value sales engagement activities that only they can perform.

The actual art of selling – the cold calling, the back-and-forth, the push-and-pull, the cat and the proverbial mouse – is all still firmly the domain of humans. And because they don’t need to waste time on manual busywork, reps and SDRs will be able to hyper-focus their sales efforts on the tasks that ultimately bring in revenue for their organization. 

There’s still a place for traditional sales reps, sales managers, and SDRs. But their role is going to look drastically different from how it used to – more productive, more challenging, and ultimately more rewarding.

And for companies, the potential for improvement is just as significant. Every manager has wished they could make a dozen copies of their best-performing rep and populate the entire team with them. Well, that’s pretty much possible now, with the ability to replicate the strategies of top-performing salespeople, streamline them, and circulate them across the entire team. By making the most of an automation platform, every BDR can be turned into a top-performing sales rep, radically increasing productivity and efficiency across the board.

Sales Engagement Strategies

According to a 2023 study carried out by Belkins, cold email reply rates range from as low as 2% in some major industries to as high as 10% in others. Which is less than ideal, given that the ROI for emails can be as high as 45x. So increasing response rates should obviously be a matter of high priority for any team looking to optimize its sales funnel, schedule more meetings and fill up its pipeline with high-quality potential deals.

ROI by Industry

From Litmus' ROI of Email Marketing Infographic

Fortunately, automation can help out here as well. Machine-learning powered outbound sales technology makes personalized outreach possible at a scale humans simply can’t compete with, allowing forward-thinking sales teams to ramp up their volume without needing to sacrifice the individual touch that can often make all the difference.

In a similar vein, consistency, frequency and optimal timing are all elements of the outreach process that can be automated with ease. The potential for ultra-precise segmentation gives every single email the best chance of reaching its ideal customer, while detailed analytics and comprehensive A/B testing functionality makes it possible to improve the overall process in real-time.

Leveraging Technology for Sales Success

Lead Generation + Management

AI-Powered Automation

We’ve already discussed how that outbound sales automation technology is capable of personalizing sales outreach communication at scale. But we haven’t actually discussed what that looks like in practice – and what better real-world example than Artisan’s very own AI BDR, Ava?

Ava’s capable of scraping prospects’ social media posts in order to update her customer profiles with the most recent personal data. For instance, imagine you’re a B2B SaaS company selling HR payroll software. Your ideal customers, in this example, are startups that have just raised funding. Ava, thanks to her Crunchbase integration, will automatically be able to identify startups that have recently raised rounds, enroll them in a workflow, and be the first one in their email inbox with a hyper-personalized message.

Now picture that same process happening constantly, across every single prospect you’re working with, without your reps needing to lift a finger. If that’s not a game-changer, we don’t know what is.

The real beauty of AI-powered automation lies in its ability to continuously learn and improve. Predictive analytics, powered by the constant stream of data the software is taking in, makes it possible to discover trends, make informed predictions about future performance and tweak your current strategy for the highest probability of success. And because it’s all powered by AI, the entire process can happen at as large a scale as you need it to.

Integrations and Functionalities

The modern business world is hyper-connected, so it only stands to reason that sales software should be as well. And as any SDR will be able to tell you, the sheer amount of business tools available these days is nothing short of staggering. Email marketing software, CRMs, data integration suites, analytics programs – the list goes on.

With such a smorgasbord of tools being used on a daily basis, it’s vitally important that outbound sales automation software can integrate with all of them. Switching seamlessly from prospecting software to updating your CRM of choice, drawing on analytics reports to inform cold email outreach: it all works together, and it all just works.

But none of that means you should need to completely redesign your existing strategies in order to implement automation technology. The best software will automatically hook into your existing CRM, automatically trawling through your existing insights and re-engaging qualified leads that have gone cold. Next, it’ll update your CRM with ultra-precise, bang up-to-date details like method of engagement, behavior data points, additional insights, and so on.

All of this helps optimize your process and increase your results, and it all happens on auto-pilot, freeing up dozens of hours of manual work that can be redirected towards actively selling instead.

Ready to step into the future of outbound? Check out how Ava automates 80% of your outbound cycle.

Measuring and Improving Sales Performance


Key Metrics and KPIs

One of the biggest advantages provided by sales automation tools is their ability to process huge amounts of data.

  • Conversion Rates. By analyzing conversion rates at scale across your entire funnel, automation can help identify speed bumps and suggest strategies for fixing the problem, saving you dozens of hours of manual analysis in the process.

  • Sales Cycle Time. Automation can spot the points in the sales cycle that accelerate it the most and help you prioritize them in your process. 

  • Lead-to-Close Ratios. When you use automation to analyze your lead-to-close ratios, you get far deeper insights into areas for optimization thanks to the sheer depth and breadth of the data being mined.

Continuous Optimization

Not unlike those sharks who never stop moving, if a sales team stops optimizing its process, it’ll fall behind its competitors. Thankfully, outbound sales automation software allows you to improve as you go across the board.

With automation, software will be able to automatically set different campaigns, run tests, and implement improvements based on KPIs and ideal results. We’re essentially entering a new paradigm of continuous and automatic optimization, where sales reps don’t have to manually set and adjust campaigns anymore, and where every major decision throughout the outbound sales process is made based on huge treasure troves of cold, hard data.

A Look Ahead to Emerging Tools and Technologies


AI and Machine Learning

AI and Machine Learning is poised to radically disrupt the current sales landscape – the advantages offered by automation are just too much of a game-changer to ignore. For example, take Ava, Artisan’s AI BDR. She’ll be able to automate 80% of a human BDR’s workflow, make her own autonomous decisions, brief you on upcoming meetings, reach out to new prospects, and keep everything meticulously updated in her CRM. By using cutting-edge technology to analyze, implement, and continuously optimize at scale, forward-looking organizations will find themselves at a distinct advantage over any of their competitors who haven’t yet integrated automation into their processes.

Enhanced CRM Capabilities

As AI continues to improve day-by-day, CRMs are becoming more powerful than ever. Some of the most exciting features include natural language processing, sentiment analysis, real-time decision-making, and even truly sci-fi concepts like recognizing faces or voices via biometric analysis. For a sales rep using the CRM of tomorrow, the workflow is going to be almost unrecognizable. Instead of manually entering lead data and moving the process along by hand, they might simply talk to their software instead, asking for specific insights, the latest updates on their deals, or guidance as to what they should focus on next.

The CRM will be able to suggest the best way for the rep to spend their time based on the current state of the pipeline. Maybe it’s the perfect moment to reach out to that prospect from a couple weeks ago, because sentiment analysis of a recent Tweet has revealed they’re particularly unhappy with their current solution. Or maybe it’s time to strike while the iron is hot on a few new leads, because past insights on leads in a similar industry indicates they respond best to a quick invitation to a product demo. 

The possibilities are endless; the potential, staggering. To sum it all up in plain English, it’s an exciting time to be in sales – and the future’s only getting brighter.

Experience cutting-edge sales automation firsthand. Hire Ava and she’ll immediately launch a lead generation campaign just for you, focusing all her efforts on high-quality leads and quick results.

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