Marketing and sales as we know it has changed. Buyers today expect real-time, personalized interactions. So to help you take advantage of this paradigm shift, we’ve developed The Conversational Framework. This framework puts customers at the center of marketing and sales. And provides businesses with a guide on how to build trust and deliver value to prospective customers through natural conversations.
Throughout this framework, we’ll share with you how to engage, understand and recommend information and solutions to site visitors in order to best serve their needs.
A thousand years ago if I wanted to sell something to you we had a conversation.
The telephone was invented back in 1876. The invention made it possible for you to have more conversations and sell people things through a new medium. It was more convenient for buyers – they didn’t have to physically go to a store to get a question answered. It was the first form of convenience for buyers. At this point everything was a personal, one-to-one conversation.
During the mid-20th century, marketing as we know it starts to take shape. You’re starting to print product catalogs, send mail, and produce print ads to capture people’s attention. All of this helped you make informed buying decisions and spend less time talking to salespeople. As the seller, I can focus conversations where there is fit and interest.
In the 1990s the internet came to be. Catalogs go online. Forms, email, and inside sales begin to displace what’s known as field marketing. Marketing automation systems are born. We have more ways to capture buyer attention, but once we have their attention, we build up lots of processes to help us as sellers. We have too few conversations.
Then the pendulum swings back. Buyers don’t like all the walls we’ve put up. They opt-out. Sellers aren’t getting the leads they want. Marketers are driving things like marketing qualified leads while customer acquisition costs go up and conversion rates go down.
The results: not enough conversations. We don’t get our desired results and the buyer doesn’t get the experience they desire.
Sellers need a new way. A way that is buyer- and customer-centric. A two-way interactive experience. Conversations now versus later. Buyer control, seller results. Transforming how businesses buy from businesses.
Instead of greeting visitors when they drop by our websites, we’ve been ignoring them. Instead of offering visitors assistance in real-time, we’ve been making them fill out forms and wait. Worst of all, even when people do take the time to fill out forms, they’re not guaranteed to get a response. A study from InsideSales.com, published in the Harvard Business Review, found that waiting five minutes to respond to a new lead resulted in a 10x drop in the likelihood of being able to connect and follow-up with that lead. After ten minutes, there’s a four hundred percent drop in the odds of qualifying the lead.
By sticking to the old marketing and sales playbook, we’ve been forcing potential customers into a buying experience that serves us and not our buyers.
But today, buyers have all the power. And the businesses that end up winning in this new world won’t be the ones that own the supply, but the ones that own the demand. Buyers are consistently expressing certain needs or desires, and today they have the power to act right away in every other aspect of their lives.
Buyers have all of the power today because real-time interactions have become the default. Today, billions of people around the world use real-time messaging for their day-to-day communication. More and more of us are chatting with our friends and family on messaging apps like WhatsApp, and at work we’re chatting with our coworkers via messaging-powered collaboration tools like Slack.
We’ve forgotten how important it is to truly connect with people and tell an authentic story. Instead of asking how we can better the buyer experience, we’ve been searching for how we can better game the system.
It should come as no surprise that we’re approaching infinite supply. There’s a product, app or service for virtually everything.
As a result the businesses that are the closest to the customer and provide the best customer experience are the ones winning. People come to your website to learn and get questions answered now. Unfortunately, most websites aren’t designed to answer specific questions buyers have now.
So how can conversational marketing and sales help?
Introducing the Conversational Framework: Engage, Understand, Recommend. It’s how you have conversations now and build relationships in today’s world. It’s not a new marketing and sales funnel.
A framework that a marketer or salesperson can use to create a modern buying experience. A framework that a business of 10 or 10,000 you can use to transform your business to become a customer-centric business.
You’ll turn attention into conversations at a higher rate and you’ll be more effective at serving modern buyers and sellers. The conversational approach is effective for buyers because of the personalization, buyer control, and speed. In other words, it matches the way you buy things in your daily life (Netflix, Uber, Amazon).
Conversational marketing and sales makes buyer attention immediately actionable to create more quality conversations in three ways:
Conversational marketing and sales was not previously possible to implement in B2B. Changes in technology and behaviors have made it possible.
Understanding this framework is critical to implementing conversational marketing and sales successfully. Let’s dive in.
Today, buyer’s can and want to engage with a business whenever and however they desire. They have less patience and less tolerance for mistakes. They want what they want right away. It could be learning about your product, getting a simple question answered, or purchasing your product – buyers want what they want now.
They expect to receive an experience that’s simple and helpful, and they certainly don’t want to be blocked when trying to get answers. They want to be able to engage with your business on their terms no matter the medium – your website, email, or messaging.
As marketers and salespeople, we should be making the buying process as seamless as possible. Instead of letting our potential customers decide how they interact with us, the traditional playbook has us deciding for them.
One of the biggest culprits – lead capture forms. They’ve been holding you back. They are relics from an earlier marketing and sales paradigm, back before owning the demand became more important than owning the supply, and before the balance of power shifted from company to customer.
Today, if you lock up white papers and other resources behind lead capture forms, potential buyers can simply go look for that information elsewhere (like on a competitor’s website) instead of wasting time filling out your form. You should always provide a way for buyers to start real-time conversations with you even if you use lead capture forms on your website.
Moreover, you’re capturing data like company size and company address that’s available via real-time data enrichment tools, often with higher accuracy than forms provide.
You might be running targeting programs and campaigns along with personalized email outreach all driving people back to your site. If the buyer comes to a generic website page they’ll not be able to easily learn more about what your campaign or email communicated and promised.
You can connect your existing marketing campaigns to chatbots on your website to greet prospects from your campaigns in a targeted and personalized way. Can your form do that?
The chatbot can greet them with a very targeted and personalized message like, “Hey thanks for reading my email, I wanted to get a couple of minutes to show you how we helped ‘example company’ get ‘example result’ and we believe we can do the same for you. Would you like to book time on my calendar here to find out more?”
By using a combination of real-time messaging and chatbots on your website, you can easily replace lead capture forms with conversations. Or you could use chatbots as a second net on your pages with forms to increase engagement. Your number one goal should be to build trust with your buyers by helping and guiding them.
Buyers have more information at their fingertips than ever before. Every business is doing some form of content marketing. Buyers have been trained to seek out information and facts before they engage in a conversation with you.
They might understand more about what you do, why you do it, and what you sell than even the salesperson. They understand how marketing and sales works today. They want to be treated like a human and not an email address that you’re trying to qualify.
Buyers typically come to you highly educated and want you to help them refine what they already understand.
A great way to build trust is by being empathetic with your buyers. An empathy statement is a phrase or question that puts the focus directly on the buyer and demonstrates an understanding of that buyer’s perspective. As psychologist Jack Schafer, Ph.D., wrote in Psychology Today, “Empathic statements capture the crux of what customers say … and, using parallel language reflects that message back to the customers.”
Here are five examples of empathy statements you can start weaving into conversations today. Note for salespeople: be sure to put your own unique spin on them before using – think of them as templates that you can tinker with and build upon.
These statements can help the buyer understand what they should buy or help them better understand how to use the product they already bought. The more shared understanding created between seller and buyer, the more trust you’ll create. Building and deepening the trust you develop with each buyer should be top of mind.
In marketing you should become a trusted source of information and content. In sales you should strive to become a buyer’s trusted advisor – helping the buyer become more confident.
The reason why MQLs, SQLs, and PQLs all ultimately fail as metrics and as systems for measuring lead quality is that they’re all based on external observation. They rely on looking at people’s behaviors, from a distance, and drawing conclusions from the data you’re able to collect.
Introducing Conversation Qualified Leads: You spoke to them and they told you why they’re interested in buying and what they’re trying to accomplish. A CQL is someone who has expressed intent to buy during a one-to-one conversation with either A) an employee at your company, or B) an intelligent chatbot, or a combination of both.
Unlike MQLs, SQLs, and PQLs, CQLs are based on what your potential customers are actually telling you, not on your assumptions. And because those conversations happen in real-time, CQLs end up moving through your marketing and sales funnel at lightning speed.
If a bot uncovers that someone’s ready for a sales conversation, you can connect them to your sales team. If a bot uncovers that someone has a question about a particular product feature, you can bring in one of your product specialists. The bot will help to narrow that conversation and you can then bring it forward to the right person.
There’s no magic or painstaking work required – It just comes down to being helpful, asking the right questions, and treating the person you’re talking to like an actual person, and not like an entry in a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
One other great effect of conversational marketing and sales is your marketing and sales teams will better understand each other. Because conversational marketing and sales creates a streamlined buying experience, you can keep track of the interactions leads have on your website and trace the trajectories of those leads – from their first conversations to when they convert into customers. That makes it easy for both marketers and salespeople to see how conversations are influencing revenue.
After implementing a conversational approach, your marketing and sales teams will finally be able to speak the same language.
Recommendations and reviews from people have become a key part of the buying experience. Buyers turn to their networks of friends, family, and customers to learn if they should purchase your product.
They don’t want to be oversold. They want the recommendation you share to be useful. No matter if that’s a video to watch, a piece of content to read, or the product they should purchase. Today buyers don’t tolerate mistakes or bad recommendations. The more helpful the recommendation, the more trust will be developed and the higher the chance the relationship you’ve built will last.
Sales can use the information you’ve been gathering about each buyer to do many things such as recommend what case study to read or which product to buy.
You can use that information to personalize the experience buyers have on your website, with your sales team, or with your customer support team.
The more you understand who someone is, the more you can proactively greet people who visit your website or engage with your chatbot using more personalized conversations. Behind the scenes, everyone at your business can see all of the interactions a lead has taken on your website and can review all of the conversations they’ve had.
For example, you can retarget a visitor on your site that has already had a demo with your team. If they’re coming back to your site, they probably have follow up questions. So give them a direct line to the rep that they already had a conversation with – another opportunity to add more value and build more trust.
All of the information you’re collecting can be integrated with all of the tools you’re already using. You can start having real-time conversations – and start seeing how those conversations are affecting your business’s bottom line – without having to adapt to an entirely new system (and without having to disrupt your old one).
Having a bot ask people how helpful a piece of content was, what are your thoughts since last time, or has anything else changed since we last spoke will give you deeper insights and ideas about how to improve the buying experience.
Sometimes you’ll have to nudge some leads in order to get them back to your website to continue the conversation. That’s where email comes into play. Your sales reps can send emails that include links for triggering real-time conversations. When a lead clicks that link, they get automatically connected to the sales rep who sent the email. But if that sales rep isn’t available at that exact moment, it isn’t a huge deal. Chatbots will always have your back and can hop in and keep the conversation going.
When it comes to setting up a time for a demo or meeting, leads can check the available times on a sales rep’s calendar with the click of a button and then find the time that works best for them – and this all happens from within the same conversation window. A chatbot can then take care of sending out meeting invites to both sides and manage the meeting reminder follow-up.
The end result is that your sales reps get to spend more time connecting with potential customers human-to-human and less time dealing with tedious tasks.
In addition to getting notifications after leads start conversations with you, you can get notifications as soon as leads land on your website so you can proactively start conversations with them. Whether it’s a qualified lead you’ve already chatted with or a first-time visitor from one of your target accounts, you can set up notifications that will alert you as soon as these types of leads come to your site.
Using the information and signals you’ve been gathering, you can identify company size, industry, revenue, and other firmographic data. With that information, marketers can leverage targeted account lists and even target businesses that fit their ideal customer profile. Sales will be able to see all of this information directly within a conversation and lead a more personalized chat.
Even more effective is when you give someone a “digital business card” – that person doesn’t have to make a phone call or compose an email in order to get in touch with you. Instead, he or she can simply click a button to start a conversation with you in real-time – assuming you’re online, of course. Digital business cards are a public profile with a unique URL that prospects can use to learn more about you as well as to start real-time conversations and book time with you.
Moving a conversation from behind the screen to into front of the screen will allow you to better understand who someone is and personalize their experience.
The Conversational Framework can then be adopted by your customer success and support teams. Those teams now have the responsibility of fulfilling the expectations and recommendations that marketing and sales communicated to the new customer.
They should be focused on delivering on the promises and expectations set in the sales process. They can do this by offering helpful recommendations that can increase customer happiness and value.
If you create happy and successful customers, you have a good chance of turning the customers into advocates that could recommend your product and business to potential buyers.
If you don’t, you might find yourself in a sticky situation where you start to hurt the relationship that was established and not deliver the value the buyer was expecting to receive.
The more helpful and human the customer’s experience is, the higher likelihood customers will recommend other people to check out your business. They become your word-of-mouth marketing engine. Who doesn’t want that?
You might be wondering, does conversational marketing and sales actually generate more leads, sales pipeline, and revenue?
Ben Nettesheim is the Senior Director of Digital Marketing at SalesRabbit, a field sales tracking CRM based in Lehi, Utah. For Ben, trying Drift was about increasing his sales team’s productivity. As a small team with only a few sales reps, Ben needed to make sure he was maximizing their time and getting them the most opportunities to demo the product as possible.
That’s because demo requests are a major part of SalesRabbit’s digital lead acquisition strategy. And the team was facing some challenges.
For one, Ben and his team felt like their demo scheduling process could be improved. Before switching to Drift, SalesRabbit was using a form for site visitors to request a demo, and that introduced a lot of inefficiency into the scheduling process.
The form would notify the sales rep, who would then email the prospect to find a mutually available time, often leading to several back and forths just to book a meeting. This also meant that Ben’s team was losing demos because emails would go unanswered, prospects would lose interest, or forget to reply at all.
After switching to Drift and using Drift’s Bots to not only qualify leads but then immediately book time on their sales team’s calendar, SalesRabbit saw a 40% lift in the conversion rate of requests to meetings held.
Not only did Drift’s Bots convert more people into demos, but the quality of the people that requested demos increased by almost 50%.
“With our forms, we were seeing about 15% of our leads eventually move to a lead status of “not interested.” With Drift, that number dropped to 8%, Ben explained.
Engage. Understand. Recommend. It’s that simple.
Start conversations now instead of later.