Seventy-one percent of companies say closing more deals is their number one priority for sales, according to Hubspot's State of Inbound Report. Yet many organizations are still following outdated sales processes.

It's time to step into the future and embrace sales automation.

Sales automation streamlines your sales process and ensures your team is focused on the right opportunities and isn't wasting time on routine or tedious tasks. The more you can use technology to automate your sales process, the more time your team will spend actually making sales.

In an interview with Martech Advisor, Tiffani Bova, global customer growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce, said, "The collision of speed, technology and customer experience is challenging sales organizations of all sizes to do a hard reset on what they have done in the past to improve sales performance."

Doing what you've always done won't get you the results you want moving forward. You need to adapt your processes to changing mindsets and practices. Here's where you should focus your automation efforts within your sales process:

1. Outreach

Whether you're calling, emailing or visiting in person, keeping in communication with your clients and prospects eats up a lot of your time, leaving room for little else. But following up on a lead is one of the most important tasks for a sales rep.

In fact, 80% of sales require at least five phone calls after meeting for the first time, according to The Marketing Donut. But remembering and trying to fit in those five phone calls can be a real challenge when you're trying to balance a number of clients.

On her blog, motivational speaker Patricia Fripp writes, "It is not your client's job to remember you; it is your obligation and responsibility to make sure you are unforgettable."

To streamline your client communication, invest in a system that will manage it for you. Look for a customer relationship management or CRM system that allows you to make phone calls and send emails directly in the system. This way, you won't have to log your communication; the system will do it for you, and you'll have a complete record of your communication with each client to reference in the future.

2. Lead prioritization

You know you need to stay on top of all of your contacts, but with so many to manage, it can be overwhelming. But by automating your lead prioritization, you won't have to worry about making sure you follow up on all leads.

Your system should choose the leads to contact for you. Through a lead scoring system, you can set rules that will prioritize the most important leads. The lead scoring program will analyze all of your leads and their engagement and rank them based on their likelihood to convert.

When you go to contact a lead, you'll also get a clear picture of their history with your company and past communication, which will allow you to better communicate with them.

"You can see from prospect tracking what stage a prospect is within the funnel, and from that you can determine what vernacular and language you should use as you talk about your product," said Phil Simpson, regional vice president of sales at Salesforce in an interview with Salesforce's Pardot team. "And you can pre-empt any roadblocks or rejections by seeing how they interact with your web properties."

3. Lead distribution

When a lead comes in, it can sometimes take awhile before the sales manager sees it and assigns it to a sales rep. By the time the rep follows up on that lead, it could be too late.

Skip the middleman and let your CRM system rotate leads instead of your manager. That way, the manager can spend more time coaching reps and helping to close deals.

According to Gartner, companies that automate lead management see a 10% or greater increase in revenue in just six to nine months. By automating your lead distribution, you're not only saving time - you're also earning more money.

Leads shouldn't be distributed at random. Instead, set up criteria that make sense for your organization, such as assigning each rep to a specific territory or region.

4. Reporting

Research from Hubspot finds 40% of sales reps still use informal means such as Microsoft Excel or Outlook to store their lead and customer data, and 32% are spending an hour or more on data entry each and every day.

Reporting is crucial to your ongoing success and continued improvement. But if you're spending too much time generating reports and not enough time making sales, your priorities need to be rearranged.

Your CRM system can set up automated reports for you. You can even schedule them to be sent to your email every day. That way, you'll have a daily reminder of your progress and it'll be simple to show leadership how you're doing when they inquire.

5. Final steps

Once you've made a deal, it's time to tie up any loose ends, including contracts and payments. Make these processes simple by using automated software such as Docusign and PayPal. Instead of having to chase down the customer's signature or dealing with checks and invoices, your systems will handle it all.

When looking for a CRM system, look for one that can integrate with other forms of technology you're using. But above all, make sure the system suits your needs, the needs of your sales team and the needs of your business.

In an interview with MarTech Series, Marketo CEO Steve Lucas said, "My advice would be to ensure the platform that you choose can scale to meet the demands of your organization, is open to fit into your current and future technology systems and enables your teams to engage uniquely and authentically with every person."

Have you automated your sales process? What technology did you find useful? Share your thoughts in the comments below: