I’ve finally been able to put my finger on what makes sales and marketing alignment so elusive.
It isn’t that our personalities clash too much, or that we’re not willing to collaborate.
The underlying issue is that the system we have in place — where Marketing is focused on generating leads and Sales is focused on closing those leads — makes it easy for the two teams to blame one another in the event a goal isn’t hit.
Marketing will blame Sales for not following up with leads fast enough, while Sales will blame Marketing for sending over bad leads in the first place.
The Good News: AI Has Arrived
And our Drift bots are on the front lines helping to make it happen.
Here’s a quick excerpt:
Wentworth approached a friend who suggested he try a chat tool called Drift, which would ask a visitor initiating a chat, “What brought you to RapidMiner today?” The visitor would respond, and the Drift bot would provide one of seven potential follow-up answers. For example, a visitor might say, “I need help,” and Drift would send him or her to the support section of the website.
The Drift bot now conducts about a thousand chats per month. It resolves about two-thirds of customer inquiries; those that it cannot, it routes to humans … “It’s the most productive thing I’m doing in marketing,” he said.
As AI continues to make sales and marketing teams more productive, closer alignment will follow.
Specifically, there are three aspects of AI that are helping to pull sales and marketing teams together.
1) AI provides a better way to learn about your leads.
(above: screenshot of LeadBot in action on the RapidMiner homepage)
Knowledge is power. And thanks to AI, sales and marketing teams have become more knowledgeable about their leads than ever before.
Ultimately, those longstanding debates over lead quality were the result of sales and marketing teams not knowing enough — there was a lack of insight around who their website visitors were and whether or not those visitors would be a good fit for the product.
Sure, you had lead forms. And analytics software. But those tools collected information passively, and they failed to reveal those deeper insights you can only glean from having actual conversations.
To quote that recent HBR article:
Every day, Wentworth reviews conversations people have had with Drift. “I’ve learned things about my visitors that no other analytics system would show,” said Wentworth. “We’ve learned about new use cases, and we’ve learned about product problems.”
This is the strength of an AI agent that can elicit information like a person, rather than an analytics tool that simply finds patterns in the data it collects, like a machine.
2) AI can help you convert more leads.
Prior to using Drift, the RapidMiner team had used a different (AI-less) chat solution on their site.
But as the HBR article revealed, “its salesforce was overwhelmed — and spending a great deal of time — sorting through the chat sessions to find potential customers. It was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.”
AI gave RapidMiner that ability to find that needle in the haystack.
Specifically, RapidMiner uses our intelligent LeadBot to separate website visitors who are likely to buy from those who aren’t.
As a result of this intelligent qualification process, the leads that RapidMiner’s marketing team end up sending to the sales team have a much higher probability of converting compared to the baseline.
^And that makes sales teams happy. (And when sales teams are happy, marketing teams are happy.)
Of course, this doesn’t just apply to the world of messaging and live chat.
As HBR reported, the Conversica AI assistant is able to send emails to leads and then interpret their responses to determine lead quality. One of Conversica’s early customers, Epson, was able to increase qualified leads coming from email by 75% within 90 days of implementing the AI.
To quote Powers again:
Clearly, it’s worthwhile for companies to test AI-powered chat or email tools to see if they can convert more leads, and improve their understanding of what customers want and need.
3) AI can scale being helpful.
As we say all the time here at Drift, helping is the new selling.
We believe the role of sales and marketing is to serve as a resource and to educate potential customers around best practices.
It’s not about pushing a product on people, it’s about helping people see if your product would be a good fit for solving the problem they have. It’s about being available to answer questions.
Of course, you can’t always be around, 24/7, to answer questions and respond to leads. And that’s been a thorn in the side of sales and marketing teams for more than a decade now.
Research shows that the best time to respond to a new lead is within 5 minutes — but what happens when a lead reaches out in the middle of the night? Is it Marketing’s job to stay up until the wee hours of the morning just in case leads reach out, or does that fall on Sales?
Thanks to AI, you can avoid these annoying hypotheticals. An intelligent assistant can be available to help your leads at a moment’s notice, 24/7, even when everyone on your team is asleep. And through a simple knowledge base integration, you can have that intelligent assistant provide answers to common product questions.
By scaling the ability to be helpful, AI gives small sales and marketing organizations the ability to do more and appear bigger.
To quote that HBR article one final time:
When it comes to AI in business, a machine doesn’t have to fool people; it doesn’t have to pass the Turing test; it just needs to help them and thereby help the businesses that deploy them. And that test has already been passed. As one CMO told me, “AI tools are the only way I can scale ‘helpfulness’ to a global community of 200,000-plus users with a team of two.”