Should You Bet Your Sales Pipeline on… Bots?

Last night I used Lyft to get a ride to dinner across town.

When I got to the restaurant, I mentioned my name, and the host immediately found the reservation I’d made on their website a day before.

Look, I’m an extrovert. I love people. But when it comes to solving real world problems–getting to dinner or booking a reservation–I’d much prefer to message a business to get what I need, and move on with my life.

As it turns out, I’m not alone. A recent study of 6,000 global consumers revealed that 90% of people would prefer to use messaging to talk to brands. Despite that, most businesses just haven’t caught up.

The most painful example of this is in the world of B2B sales and marketing, where we force people to endure endless forms, cold calls, and annoying emails. For some strange reason, in our effort to win these would-be customers over, we take an approach that puts their needs
last, and our self-serving processes first.

Why do we do this?

As marketers, we’re basically risk-averse. Even though we have clear evidence that buyers don’t like old school B2B tactics, we keep using them because we’re afraid–afraid we won’t be able to drive results, scale growth, and hit goals.

Understandable and all, but ultimately, the process leaves marketing and sales teams vulnerable to one thing: disruption.

Talk to Prospects In Real-Time

These days, if you want to stay one step ahead of the competition, you’ve got to get as close to the customer as possible.

Problem is, the old way of doing marketing and sales makes it difficult to do that.

As our fearless marketing leader, Dave Gerhardt, likes to point out, even if you’ve got a best-in-class marketing funnel, there’s one thing you probably aren’t doing: responding to potential leads in real-time, and having actual conversations with them. Instead, if you’re like 55% of the businesses we evaluated, you’re forcing people to fill out a form and wait days–and sometimes weeks–for a response.

If you don’t understand what’s wrong with that scenario, check this out: Research from Harvard Business Review shows that there’s a 10x decrease in your odds of making contact with a lead after the first five minutes.

What’s that mean for your marketing and sales teams?

What you do in the first five minutes of interacting with a potential lead matters–a lot. And, if you’re not making it easy to talk 1:1 with prospects who visit your site with bots or chat, then you’re missing out on an easy way to fast-track that engagement.

Two Variables Could Change Your Entire Sales Process

From one marketer to another, I want to say, I get it.

You’re out there trying to make magic happen, drive qualified leads to your sales team, and keep everyone happy. You’re tracking more metrics than you know what to do with. And you keep tracking them because everyone tells you that’s how you do marketing today.

But here’s the thing: They’re wrong.

There’s actually a simple reason why your email nurture campaigns get ignored, why no one is converting off your landing pages, and why your sales team’s outbound efforts get no love:

No one shops like that anymore. Even when they’re buying software for a business.

And we have the data to back that up:

90% would prefer to use messaging to talk to businesses and brands.

Wait 5 minutes or longer to engage with a lead, and you’re 10x less likely to make contact with them.

So, what should you to do to shift from your outdated B2B approach to one that’s more business-to-human (B2H)?

Prioritize marketing and sales strategies around the two variables that have the potential to transform your sales process: speed and friction.

To optimize for speed, respond to leads in real-time. Chat and bots in general can help with this in a big way. When people are on your site, having either (or both) gives you the ability to provide an answer to a potential lead in minutes. And, whether you’re using a bot to manage incoming messages or a combination of human and bot, the best tools allow you to integrate chat right into your workflow.

As a rule, aim to respond to your chats in 5 minutes or less. The best chat tools let you run reports that allow you to see who’s meeting the response time goal, as well as identify peak times so that you can staff appropriately.

And, to make it easier for prospects to buy, reduce the friction baked into your existing sales process. You might’ve used these steps to qualify leads in the past, but with the rise of conversational marketing and sales, all that qualification can happen in the background of a quick chat.

Just Make It Easier for People to Buy 

Buyers don’t want to endure old school B2B marketing tactics that put their needs last. They want to shop from businesses the way they shop for consumer goods. The most successful sales and marketing teams understand this, and are leaning on bots and chat to deliver the kind of real-time engagement modern consumers demand.

And hey – if you’re ready to learn more about chatbots and all of the ways you can use them, check out the in-depth guide we built with Sprout Social.

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