How to Use Chat Bots as a Sales Tool

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Previously on the Formilla Blog, we’ve introduced you to the possibilities that come with installing a chat bot on your website. As we discussed in that post, the chat bot market is set to hit $9.4 billion by 2024. Bots are more powerful than ever, and are growing more capable of handling support, marketing, and sales tasks for your company.

AI-based chat bots are already helping all sorts of businesses, from solo sellers on Shopify to legal and medical professionals. According to Gartner data, 30% of all B2B companies may already be using AI to augment their sales processes, and they are especially appealing for small businesses looking to scale up.

We all want to expand our productive capacity. That’s what makes our companies grow. But let’s get specific. What can you accomplish with a chat bot? How can a bot help you actually sell your products or services? And how can you combine live chat agents and chat bots to make your business more effective?

This post will focus on the role of chat bots in the sales process, and how you can incorporate them to expand your sales capacity and productivity almost overnight. When you incorporate both live chat and chat bots onto your website, you can expand your potential to bring in leads and convert them into sales. The only question is: what’s the best way to do that?

Where Do Chat Bots Fit in the Sales Funnel?

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The most obvious benefit to chat bots is that they provide sales prospects visiting your website with an instant response. Visitors can start interacting with a click, and everything is automated so your human employees can focus on more important tasks.

To some sales managers, this automated process might actually sound like a disadvantage. After all, the old thinking goes, don’t you want real live salespeople handling an influx of new traffic on your website? Aren’t human sales agents more effective than pre-programmed bots?

While it’s true that live chat agents are more skilled and better at converting than a scripted chat bot, it’s important to understand that bots are best seen as support for your sales team, not an alternative. The flexibility of chat bots means you get to pick where in your sales funnel they will have the greatest impact.

  • Do you want chat bots to capture incoming leads and direct them to the appropriate salesperson for follow-up? You can place chat bots at the top of the funnel as a “lead capture” mechanism.
  • Do you want chat bots to “score” your leads? Have them ask questions to update information in your CRM, allowing your sales agents to follow up with the highest scoring leads.
  • Do you want your chat bots to offer support when someone has already onboarded with a salesperson? Set up your bots to recognize existing customers, and they can provide a friendly automated face on your site – while freeing up your sales agents to move on to other tasks.

The best place for chat bots in your sales funnel depends on which aspects of your sales process you want to automate. For example, chat bots are particularly good at complaint resolution, speeding up dispute resolution for 90% of businesses according to a survey from MIT Technology Review. If your salespeople are wasting time handling customer complaints, you can use chat bots to filter out these queries. Your salespeople will then be free to focus on more important aspects of your sales process, which in turn will boost your sales productivity and reduce your average time to close.

Can Chat Bots Replace Sales Agents?

AI will be changing the way work is done in many industries over the coming years, but that doesn’t need to be viewed as a bad thing. Chat bots are tools to supplement and assist sales agents, not replace them.

Why? Chat bots might help direct sales, but they’ll never be true sales people. They can’t think like people. They’re going to help make your people more effective. But they’re not quite ready to replace the feel of genuine, human-to-human interaction. Humans are much better at sensing tone, responding with appropriate emotional interactions, and a wide variety of other personal skills that are critical in closing sales.

Chat bots can tackle tasks that may currently fall to the most junior salespeople. Do you currently have junior sales agents answering routine questions from site visitors, gathering contact information, or handling easy customer support issues? Those are all tasks where chat bots can shine. A chat bot can step in and offer this “filtering” work by helping customers resolve their own problems when possible, and connecting customers to human agents when more help is needed.

Are Chat Bots a Good Sales Strategy?

From an efficiency standpoint, a chat bot can be a great boon to any sales manager with an eye on maximizing their budget. After all, having people do the work that can otherwise be outsourced to a chat bot is simply a bad way to spend money.

You don’t want your sales staff wasting time chatting with non-qualified leads. For example, there may be “leads” who visit your website, but don’t fall into the category of “qualified” for any of the following reasons:

  • Too small. A lead may be highly motivated, but if they’re not interested in buying enough of your product or services to make an impact on your bottom line, then it may be more efficient for your sales team to focus elsewhere.
  • Not ready to buy. What if a lead is still “cold,” but may still make a purchase down the line? Having them filter through a chat bot can be a great way to ensure they still engage with your site. But they still don’t require a lot of your own time.
  • Not worth the focus. Ever hear of the Pareto principle? It’s an economic hypothesis that 20% of your clients will tend to generate 80% of your results. If you spend all of your time chasing the 80% of leads who only generate 20% of your sales business, you’re being inefficient. Instead, putting chat bots on these leads allows your human agents to focus on the true “big fish.”

Sales managers looking to improve their bottom lines and ROI use chat bots to gather information on potential leads, in order to help determine where your sales agents should focus their time.

How Do Chat Bots Work Within Sales Workflows?

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According to statistics from Gartner chat bots will be handling 40% of all customer interactions by 2023. Considering how many customer interactions there are out there, that is a huge number. And that date isn’t very far away. So how should chat bots work within existing sales workflows as of today? Let’s look at a few different strategies.

Chat Bot -> Sales Agent

The most efficient way to ensure that your sales agents get warm leads is to have your chat bot pre-qualify them. That’s why the chat bot -> sales agent workflow is going to be among your most important.

For example, if your sales agents are frequently spending time talking to visitors who are only doing research, you can have your chat bots attempt to determine purchase-readiness. Have them ask how urgent a visitor’s needs are. Ask if they are looking for information or to make a purchase today. Your chat bots can then filter those urgent requests through to live agents right away.

Demo Bookings

SaaS companies often use a “demo booking” strategy to do a few things. First, it allows a sales agent to demonstrate the benefits of the product. Second, it acts as a lead magnet to gather contact information from a potential buyer.

Using chat bots to book demos, and integrating them with your calendar system, is a great way to maintain the flow of leads into your sales pipeline automatically, without the need for manual input. If you book a lot of demos as part of your sales funnel, offloading some of that work onto a chat bot can offer significant time savings for your business development reps.

Support during sales

Online sales are rarely a straight line without any bumps in the road. Every day business lose out on money because customers abandon their carts or reconsider their purchase, and many of those missed opportunities can be traced to unanswered questions, frustrations, and pain points during the sales process.

Having a helpful chat bot standing by with highly visible support just a click away helps to keep customers moving through the sales process. If they encounter an issue they can reach out for quick assistance, and a chat bot can respond instantly to keep them engaged with your business. If the issue ends up being too complicated for a chat bot to solve, your live agents can get involved – but you’ve still engaged and assisted that customer without delay during those crucial few seconds right after they hit an obstacle. That makes a big difference.

Post-purchase loyalty

Successful businesses know that the work isn’t done once a sale is complete. The last steps in the sales funnel involve converting one-time customers into repeat ones, and building loyalty with good customer service post-purchase. Because the cost of and demand for these activities can be irregular, this is another area where chat bots can make a solid contribution to your existing workflows.

Chat bots can be set up to recognize existing customers when they return to your site, and can even welcome them by name. When integrated with your CRM, chat bots have access to existing account information, so they can anticipate customer needs, make natural recommendations for additional products or services that might interest that customer, and highlight new features specifically relevant to a customer’s interest.

What types of chat bots can help?

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You’ll have two basic choices here: do you want your chat bots to offer a menu-based interaction, or an AI-based conversation interaction?

  • Menu-based chat bots are chat bots with a clearly-defined set of rules from which to work, usually presented as a selection of options to a customer. The interface looks like a chat widget, and customers can usually type their selection out or click an option, and then the interaction will follow along pre-set routing paths. These bots can be thought of as extensions of your website, offering customers a new way to use self-service tools that they might have otherwise overlooked. Menu-based bots are especially good for tasks like demo booking, and can even allow customers to select dates on a calendar inside the chat widget itself.
  • AI-based chat bots use artificial intelligence to generate responses that are appropriate to the specific questions being asked. These bots are pre-programmed with a variety of question variations, then using machine learning and natural language processing to determine the right answer. The interaction should feel more like a live chat. You can use AI-based chat bots for more subtle distinctions, such as responding to customer complaints or answering a broad range of support questions. This is also a great way to filter out easily-solved problems before customers reach your real sales development representatives. Formilla’s Helper Chat Bots are one example of AI-based chat bots.

In addition to these two distinct forms of chat bots, more and more bot platforms are offering “hybrid” systems that combine features of the two types. These bots can combine the ease-of-use of a menu-based experience with the power and flexibility of an AI-based chat bot. Read our guide to the different types of chat bots for more about the different options.

How Do Chat Bots Actually Help with Sales?

Chat Bots for Ecommerce Sites

Chat bots are good ecommerce sales tools because they create opportunities for upselling and cross-selling. If bots know (via your CRM) that a visiting customer has purchased a specific product before, they can recommend related products or accessories. Or if a customer has browsed specific products in the past without making a purchase, a chat bot can suggest higher tier products in that same category that might meet customer needs better.

Chat bots can also pop up with assistance if a customer is having trouble finishing a sale, triggered by an unusual amount of time taken on the shopping cart page, for example. In this way, chat bots can reduce ecommerce cart abandonment.

Chat Bots for B2B and SaaS Sites

What about business-to-business or SaaS (software-as-a-service) companies? Chat bots do particularly well with these professionally-focused industries because they capture potential leads when they may just be doing their introductory research. Business customers tend to do a lot of research before they make big purchasing decisions.

For example, if a business executive is browsing your site and wants to know more information, a simple interaction with a chat bot at any time of day (chat bots, after all, can offer 24/7 coverage on a site for far cheaper than sales people) will help capture those leads and guide them in the right direction. A chat bot can suggest a white paper, online tutorial, or blog link to help visitors with their research, or offer automated onboarding tutorials for customers trying out a demo of a SaaS company’s software.

“Lead nurturing” refers to maintaining contact with a lead without making a hard push before the lead is ready to convert into a customer. It’s a perfect candidate for marketing automation, helping your bottom line by streamlining repetitive processes with software and AI. Your chat bots can maintain contact while live agents focus on other sales. They can give just enough personal attention for a potential customer to feel engaged and assisted, without the social pressure that can come from having a live human agent standing by waiting for your decision.

Chat Bots for Professional Services and Real Estate

All leads are not created equal. For certain industries, a single lead could represent thousands of dollars of business or more. For legal, financial, or medical services, it’s absolutely worth it to your bottom line to go all-out in gathering leads. That means having live chat agents standing by when it’s possible, and ensuring that chat bots reach out to site visitors and gather their information for future follow-up.

Chat bots will be ready to tend to site visitors any time of the day or night, regardless of how busy your live agents might be. Legal and medical service needs don’t always happen during typical business hours, after all, and financial service providers are often busiest during rush periods around tax time. Using chat bots alongside live chat support and sales agents allows you to ensure a rapid response to every valuable incoming lead despite business conditions.

With professional services, it’s critical to improve the key “speed to lead” metric for your business, which refers to how quickly leads get a response after reaching out. When someone needs legal services, they usually want those services fast. Implementing a lead gathering chat bot holds the attention of these incoming leads, obtains their key contact information, and sets them up to be moved through the sales funnel by your sales staff.

What Are the Specific Advantages of Chat Bots?

Beyond the industry-specific breakdowns outlined above, there are a few specific advantages of chat bots in the selling process that apply across the business world in general.

  • 24/7 coverage. You don’t have to be a fully international business to have 24/7 coverage on your website. Chat bots can fill in the gaps and keep your website capturing leads even during off hours.
  • CRM Integration. Most chat bot platforms can be linked with your existing customer relationship management software in order to feed customer data both ways. Bots can reference CRM information to guide personalized interactions with existing prospects and customers, and they can pass back newly gathered information about leads. Through integration engines like Zapier, chat bot platforms can leverage and contribute to the customer knowledge you already have in Salesforce or similar customer databases.
  • Automated lead qualification. In most industries, potential leads can be quickly pre-qualified through the use of a few standard questions. You want to understand a site visitor’s needs, get a sense of their scale, and figure out their budget. Gathering this information from new site visitors is a task at which chat bots can excel, and that sets up the rest of your sales team for greater success while minimizing wasted time.
  • ROI. Chat bots can have an enormous impact on your sales pipeline relative to their cost.  They can dramatically expand your organization’s ability to move customers through the sales funnel without the added expense of traditional sales development and outreach activities. For less than the cost of a cell phone bill, chat bots can make your entire sales process more efficient – and you’re going to see that positive impact on your bottom line.
  • Canned responses when you’ve landed on sales language that is effective. What happens when you find a unique selling point that can be repeated? A chat bot doing the repeating for you takes it out of your hands without losing what made that pitch so effective in the first place.
  • Upselling and cross-selling. No matter your industry, if you offer more than one product or service, you should see your existing customers as opportunities for further sales. You can program chat bots to recognize the most common cross-selling and upselling patterns for your business, and have them reach out accordingly.

How Do You Start Using Chat Bots for Sales?

If you’re ready to get started with chat bots, there are a few basic steps to consider:

  • Weigh your goals. After reading this, where do you think chat bots belong in your sales funnel? Do you want menu-style chat bots, or AI chat bots? Which will fit best in your existing sales flow?
  • Choose your platform. Once you know what you want to achieve, it’s time to identify the platform that can make that happen for you. Weigh all of the pros and cons of each, and then find the one that most aligns with your goals. Depending on your current site, it’s often possible to add a chat bot via a plugin, app, or simple addition of code.

Ready to start with a low-risk approach? You can sign up for a free trial of Formilla today to get started with AI-based chat bots on your existing site.

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