The move to a digital-first sales process was not born out of the necessity of COVID-19 and the changing landscape since. It’s been in process for several years. The forced move to a digital-only economy moved plans into action more quickly, and after two years into this reality, teams have adjusted.
In-person business proceedings are being reintroduced into the mix, but the digital genie is out of the bottle. In fact, roughly 80% of B2B decision-makers prefer digital self-service or remote human interactions. Further, millennials now make up the majority of B2B decision-makers and buyers, and are very comfortable with the digital self-service sales process.
In fact, the reliance on digital and the expectations around the digital experience will only keep growing. As a result, organizations need to keep evolving how they enable teams for digital selling and coordinate those efforts with the re-introduction of offline activities to meet the needs of digitally savvy customers.
How to Future-Proof a Digital-First Sales Team
Supplement Digital-First Tools for a Personalized Experience
Today’s B2B buyers like to educate themselves at their own pace, consuming content online and from different sources. Organizations should invest in good content marketing, creating the ebooks, podcasts, videos, webinars and white papers that meet their buyers’ needs to educate and evaluate solutions to their business problems.
Some of this content should be un-gated and easily accessible, like customer case studies, testimonials and blogs. Other types of content that support deeper evaluation can be gated in order to capture a lead’s contact information (name, email, and phone number), which can drive more personalized 1:1 engagement.
The good news is that many organizations do have these things in place. The bad news is that it’s easy to fall behind on sales follow-up. In fact, recent research, found that 65% of companies studied only reach out 0-2 times to try to engage inbound leads — when we know that, on average, it takes at least seven but as many as 15 times to try to connect. Sales teams don’t have the time or patience and begin to cherry pick which opportunities seem ripe.
Conversational AI gives organizations the ability to personalize communications at scale.
The solution may be more approachable than we think. Conversational AI solutions designed for revenue teams like marketing, sales, and customer success are filling this gap effectively. Conversational AI incorporates natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning technologies to engage in human-like, two-way conversations, giving organizations the ability to personalize communications at scale.
For example, a lot of organizations are investing in webinars and virtual events to educate the market about their offerings. While generating a high number of attendees is great, it’s not an end in itself. What’s critical is that those attendees do something else after the webinar.
The easiest way to accomplish this is also the most difficult to scale — simply asking the leads, “Are you interested in talking to a salesperson who can answer your questions and provide more information?” Another worthy investment is providing use cases (both pre- and post-sales). Organizations using these tactics see a tremendous uptick in customer engagement metrics.
Conversational AI can automate this personalized sales outreach so organizations can touch every lead generated, discover opportunities, and pass hot leads to a salesperson. A few examples are laid out below.
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Make the Right Connections at the Right Time
Knowing when and whether a buyer is ready to personally engage with sales is the hard part. Sales teams struggle driving persistent outreach to find hand-raisers. When buyers do raise their hand, 83% expect to be contacted immediately; however, we found that 55% of companies took nine hours or longer to respond to an inquiry.
By determining whether a lead is interested in scheduling a meeting with a salesperson, an Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA), powered by Conversational AI, can accelerate the pipeline by elevating hand-raisers or autonomously fostering warm leads until they are hot.
It is essential to find a balance between impersonal but scalable communications and personal but time-consuming one-on-ones.
An intelligent interaction with an IVA can take the form of a website chat, following up via email to pre-qualify and determine interest in speaking to a salesperson, or speaking via text to an existing customer about a renewal or upgrade opportunity.
It is essential to find a balance between impersonal but scalable communications and personal but time-consuming one-on-ones. After all, customers want a digital-first experience for convenience, but not necessarily a digital-only experience.
Utilize Multiple Channels
Businesses need to communicate with customers on their terms across multiple channels. Chatbots are a great start, giving customers something to interact with when they land on your website. It can also be a valuable tool for capturing contact information beyond the use of traditional lead forms. But interactions shouldn’t stop there.
Email is still the primary place B2B buyers anticipate follow-up and where consumers prefer to get their information. Additionally, IVAs can help with SMS text messaging or social selling through platforms like LinkedIn, cutting through the noise and engaging prospective customers to take the next best action on their preferred channel.
Email is still the primary place B2B buyers anticipate follow-up and where consumers prefer to get their information.
As in-person interactions pick back up, it’s critical to integrate data from face-to-face meetings into a system that holds the digital paper trail. AI solutions can, for example, update CRM systems with new contact information found during the interaction. AI can also alert team members of a change in lead status (such as a lead at-risk or a lead turned hot) and improve visibility for sales managers monitoring their teams’ responsiveness.
Conversational AI Solves Multiple Problems
Today’s sales workforce looks and works differently. Alongside these changes, customer expectations have moved to a digital-first preference. Now is the time to ensure that workforce changes align with expectation changes and are able to scale for future disruption.
Conversational AI Assistants are special in that they satisfy both. They maintain the focus on personalization at scale, never leaving a prospective buyer untouched. They give prospects the information they want while allowing the salesperson to focus on what business buyers have come to expect — becoming a trusted advisor by demonstrating a firm understanding of the business and developing solutions that meet the buyer’s needs.
About the Author
David Greenberg is the CMO at Conversica. He has over 20 years of experience as a Marketing and Go-To-Market leader with deep expertise in building high-growth organizations that disrupt the “old way” of doing things. He is deeply passionate about leveraging technologies to create significant step-changes in the business.
Prior to joining Conversica, David was the CMO at Act-On Software, where he was responsible for the overall strategy and execution of the Marketing and Product functions. Prior to this role, David has held numerous senior executive positions across groundbreaking organizations such as Jive Software, Airship, and Liveops. David holds a BS in History from Colorado College.