The Modern Sales Hero’s Secret Weapon? Conversational AI
By: Rashmi Vittal, CMO of Conversica
The digital sales cycle is both a blessing and a curse for consumers and sellers. While 80% of interactions with prospects happen virtually (SiriusSales Sales Activity Studies 2016-2020), many sales, particularly in B2B, are complex and long, requiring human interaction in addition to the convenience of self-paced digital research to close a sale. For sales professionals, a digital buying cycle means they have more data than ever before, but many are unsure how to make sense of it to detect buying patterns in real-time as consumers are making decisions.
To succeed in the digital sales world, it’s not enough to be willing to leap tall buildings (via a plane ride) and go talk with the customer to be the Superman or woman to solve a problem or close the deal. Today’s sales heroes need a new set of tools, more of a Batman approach. These tools can help sales professionals meet the 4P’s of sales success (a concept my team created a few years ago after conducting research on the effectiveness of aligning sales and marketing) — prompt, persistence, personalization, and performance. Digital “colleagues” in the form of Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVAs) powered by a Conversational AI platform, take on the monotonous, repetitive but incredibly critical tasks of sales—lead follow-up, scheduling meetings, re-invigorating stalled opportunities — leaving sales heroes more time to do the truly heroic work of building trusted relationships with customers, providing value-driven solutions and closing deals with confidence.
Faster than a speeding bullet
According to recent research, contacting a lead within the first hour increased the likelihood of qualifying the lead by seven times compared to a two-hour window, and 60 times compared to 24 hours or longer. A best practice for a digital sales force is to follow up with all inquiries within five minutes of the prospect making contact. Given the number of leads sales has to address, this quick follow-up is not tenable for most sales representatives, but is tailor-made for technology.
Conversational Sales solutions using IVAs are increasingly being used to ensure follow-up to prospects and customers happens in the most timely and efficient way possible in various marketing and sales scenarios. But more than sending out emails and texts, AI Assistants will engage in a back and forth dialogue, understand the context of the interaction and take the next best action whether that is scheduling the meeting, identifying and updating contact information in the CRM, or escalating to sales reps to jump in. Organizations need to ensure that AI has the right data to hand off hot leads at the right time for sales to have an impact. Conversational AI is the ideal solution for that process and momentum.You’re gonna miss each and every shot you can’t be bothered to take.
It can take 18 follow-ups to connect with a potential buyer, yet 60 percent of companies follow up with a lead only once or twice. This is not for lack of ambition, it’s simply due to bandwidth and the very real human emotion of discouragement. Again, technology can be the perfect colleague for meeting the needed number of follow-ups to turn leads into pipeline. An Intelligent Virtual Assistant does not get discouraged, nor takes vacations or gets sick. It simply does as it is told, and continues outreach until a specific threshold is met or the contact takes the desired next step; like scheduling a meeting with a salesperson.
With persistent follow-up, sales professionals have a collection of data including preferred contact information and record of interaction between the contact and the AI to use to make their interaction with the customer more personal.
With great power comes great responsibility
While technology can make interactions feel impersonal, Conversational AI prioritizes personalization at scale and holds great power to make communication more targeted. From a tactical perspective, Intelligent Virtual Assistants can quickly and accurately personalize each message based on the contact information, subject line, a relevant opening, informational or benefit statement aligned to campaign or topic of interest and consistently include the appropriate call-to-action that drives higher response rates. In fact, emails with personalized subject lines alone are 26% more likely to be opened by recipients. But the impact of personalization does not end when the lead is handed off to a sales rep.
Sales professionals should ideally have access to all of the materials that were sent and conversations that were had using Conversational AI tools. When they “start” a conversation they are really just picking up where the AI Assistant left off with a host of knowledge about where the customer has been on their journey.
More powerful than a locomotive
The performance of outreach can be measured before the sale is closed. Personalization and performance are interconnected. Performance can refer to whether emails land in a contact’s primary inbox (where it should) or somewhere else like a spam or promotions folder (where the contact is less likely to see it), if someone attended a webinar, if they took a meeting with a rep, or if they in fact converted to a customer. All of the data captured during this journey can be analyzed to help with future outreach and campaigns, leading to better future performance.
As stated above, Conversational AI personalizes outreach at scale meaning every email sent can be personalized, having a higher chance to land in the primary inbox. The AI Assistant always follows best practices for email outreach. Even when professionals craft the perfect email, that takes time. The AI Assistant can do it faster and more consistently than even your best employee. This means better performance time after time.
Today’s sales heroes are more Batman than Superman. They are armed with the right solutions and know how to use them to improve their personal performance and, frankly, job satisfaction. A true hero never achieves success alone, they draw on a team that today includes their colleagues — both human and technology. Conversational AI is the right blend of technology and strength and personal connection that enables the sales heroes to be more efficient in their success.
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