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If you’ve never heard of chatbots — or don't think you've ever engaged with them in any way by now — you’re probably one of those people that doesn't spend much time online. Or perhaps you've never even realized when you were actually engaging with a chatbot. That's because chatbots are virtually everywhere. Today they're being used more and more to improve the customer experience in a pretty big way. 

In the recent State of Chatbots 2018 report, the general consensus is that both consumers and businesses are happy with using chatbots as a sales and service tool. Why? Because they help prospects get answers faster, remove friction, increase lead flow, and give sales an entirely new way to sell. It's a no-brainer: chabots should be a part of your sales workflow. 

B2B sales is a complex process — and your business website is central to that process. Whether you use it to rise to the top of search results (SEO) or as a means of building and maintaining customer relationships (blogs and content), your website is a key piece of the sales process. Unfortunately, our research found that many consumers find websites hard to navigate on their own, typically only visiting a meager 1.7 pages before going elsewhere. And knowing just how critical business websites are in the sales process, they must be able to provide consumers with the information they need — and in as easy and engaging as a way possible – to help them make an informed purchase decision.

Chatbots have actually helped overcome this pain point because they can help answer simple questions immediately, providing the value consumers seek from your brand experience. This has quickly made chatbots an important tool for lead generation, as they have been shown to remove friction along the customer journey and drive increased customer value.

Friction can be the death of any sales process. The less friction there is between the information and content you provide and a consumer's ability to engage with it, the more likely you'll be able to generate meaningful leads that actually convert into real (and paying) customers. Typical customer journeys requiring consumers to visit websites and fill out forms can create unnecessary friction. Companies like Segment.io and Ipswitch have started using chatbots to smooth out the process — and it's become, perhaps not surprisingly, their number one source for lead generation. The benefits are numerous: they can be instantly deployed, help consumers answer questions in real-time, proactively surface relevant content, and entirely remove the need to fill out forms. In fact, after Ipswitch added chatbots to their sales workflow, they successfully generated a massive $2.6 million in additional pipeline in just seven months! 

And while lead flow and lead generation are critical parts of the end-to-end sales process, the buck doesn't stop there. Selling is just as important — and chatbots can play a big role here as well. One of their key benefits is knowing — through machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) — when to bring an actual human into the conversation with a consumer. Our research shows that many consumers found chatbots to be the fastest way to get connected to a real person who could answer more detailed questions or provide some kind of service. In other words, this allows consumers to get instantly connected to the right sales person, enabling them to move through the purchase journey a lot faster.

Here's why this is important. The content on your website obviously needs to do a lot of the heavy lifting. But even so, the sales team must be able to get involved earlier in the customer journey to help overcome obstacles that your website and content can't always achieve on their own. Chatbots can bridge this gap.

Chatbots today are supported by highly sophisticated algorithms and automations that allow them to be used in more personalized and context-relevant ways. Whereas traditional live chats are typically used more for support and service, chatbots are being intelligently deployed to handle specific situations guided by pre-programmed talk tracks. Check out the example here.

 



Based on my own customer data, this chatbot knows what company I work for and can leverage the CRM to learn more about how I've engaged in the past. This then allows it to prompt me with specific sales actions: ask a question or schedule a demo. If I choose to “ask a question,” for example, there's a good chance I'll immediately be put in touch with the right person who can answer all of my questions. This is a perfect example of how chatbots can almost instantly minimize friction and create a better overall customer experience.

 

Chatbots in action

 

So, now that we've sold you on the benefits of using chatbots to supercharge your sales process, here are three ways to get the most out of them:

  1. Use your CRM and the lead status, or lead score, to know when and whom to deploy a chatbot to as well as what to have them converse about. For example, if you know that the number one piece of content moving buyers to the next stage is X — and they haven’t seen it yet — enable your chatbots to proactively get that content in front of them.
  2. Make sure your sales and business development teams are properly trained to chat. They must be able to identify when it's the right moment to engage with a consumer and be equipped with scripts that allow them to answer the most frequently asked questions consistently, set up demos in real-time, and more.
  3. Empower your chatbots to take the place of forms. This will help remove friction caused by the form and allow the chat-based conversation to be your primary method for collecting important customer information (i.e. name, email). When integrated properly into a sales workflow, chatbots can automatically drop new leads (from these conversations) directly into your automation tool.

Long story short: the benefits of chatbots for lead generation and sales is obvious. When integrated intelligently into your CRM and marketing tech stake, they can take your sales efforts to the next level and actually help you close more business than ever before. We've seen it work with a lot of brands already — and we're certain it will be a game-changer for you, too.

To learn more about the future of sales, check out the SlideShare below to see how you can improve your sales team's performance through a greater alignment with sales and marketing.

 

The Future of Sales from Salesforce