Sales AI: How to Use a Mix of Bots and Humans in Your Sales Process

AI Bots People Sales Process

One of the commonly reported concerns about the development of AI is that jobs will be at risk. Some industry experts think AI could replace people at work, not least in the sales industry, but others believe AI will actually just become another tool to make work easier. So, how do you use bots to your advantage in sales?

Does artificial intelligence have all the answers?

At a UN workshop in Kathmandu earlier this year an interesting question came from the floor:

“Does the rise of AI pose a risk to human jobs?”

The unequivocal response from the speaker on stage was:

“You’ve been consuming too much fake news [...]. The use of Artificial Intelligence in industries is bound to grow, but [...] humans have adapted to change across industrial revolutions. New jobs will be generated, [and AI will] help you to do better work, that is less hazardous and repetitive, freeing up time you to do things you enjoy doing.”

You might be thinking that there’s nothing particularly remarkable about that exchange. You may change your mind, however, when you find out that the answer was given by Sophia, the world’s first humanoid robot.

After all, we can all see the potential upsides of sales automation tools and tactics, but we inherently fear change, as well as the potential implications for human jobs. Could that fear of change be costing you time and sales? 

Consider using bots and AI for your sales process

“The goal of using bots for sales isn’t to remove people from the sales process, it’s to add the right people into the process at the right time so they can provide the best experience possible,” explains Geoffrey Keating, senior editor at Intercom, a world-leading customer platform for internet businesses and a prominent advocate for automation.   

A prime example of handy automation tools for sales are chatbots. They are an easy way for businesses to enhance the customer experience while freeing up employee time for more profitable sales activities. They can automate everything from first-line customer support and lead generation to lead qualification. 

“Chatbots automate these all-important first interactions,” Geoffrey highlights. “After a lead asks you a question, bots become your trusty sidekick to ask a small set of initial questions that will help you qualify the value of that lead and keep the conversation going.”

Pipedrive’s Leadbooster, for example, is a chatbot that can engage visitors on your website and qualify leads. You can even customize it to suit your business needs. Give LeadBooster a name and colour palate to match your brand, and then personalize questions so that it matches your company’s tone of voice and directs leads to where you want them to go.

Seeing your AI sales bot as a ‘trusty sidekick’ is a great way of looking at it. Instead of a job-stealing android, sales bots are tools designed to help salespeople become more productive and contribute to the value to the business.

Plus, they generate game-changing benefits for time-strapped sales pros.

“By letting a bot take care of those tedious tasks, salespeople can re-invest their time in activities that require a human touch, like answering complex product questions and building lasting business relationships,” continues Geoffrey.

“With products like Intercom, the real power is in the automation you can build off your visitors’ answers. Want to connect the lead with the most appropriate person in your company? No problem. Want to create the visitor as a new lead in Salesforce? That’s just as easy.”

Why salespeople are uneasy about automation

Despite knowing the benefits of bots in your sales process, Keating explains that many people continue to feel uneasy about the actual process of integrating bots into their workflows.

“[Reservations come] from sales leaders who are concerned about ripping up their existing processes and implementing new ones,” he explains. “Switching from asynchronous online forms to real-time conversations with prospects is a radical shift for an established organisation.”

You can combat this challenge by rolling out chatbots and sales process automation in stages. This will help you and your team get used to the new way of working and avoid being overwhelmed by the transition. It can also help you identify which parts of your sales process would benefit most from automation, and which wouldn’t.

Chatbots, after all, are flexible and can be customized to suit your businesses way of working.

They can be adopted as a series of incremental steps. You can dip your toes in the water with some simple, automated messages to visitors, see how they perform, and if they’re successful then move onto adding qualification data to those messages, or follow up actions such as a booking meeting

Most excitingly, as with all technology, it’s clear that early adoption offers the potential to give you a crucial competitive advantage.

When to use sales Bots

At this point you may be wondering: “where in my sales process would including bots add maximum value?” Thanks to Intercom’s experience, they learned what parts of the process were well-suited for automation:

Bots are amazing at computation,” says Geoffrey. “They can look up data, calculate numbers and look at millions of fact-based options, and then return the best one in a matter seconds. What that means is that bots are best used to augment conversations between humans, not replace them entirely. 

Using bots essentially opens up another source of communication for your clients; one that can significantly enhance the customer experience. 

They’re increasingly sophisticated in their communicative styles, and can be friendly, charming and polite. They don’t have bad days or bad moods, and they don’t forget stuff. In many ways they can offer a superior experience to a human operative!

Google’s new AI assistant, for example, can call and have conversations with companies, responding to thematically relevant questions seamlessly—without the person on the other end even knowing they’re talking to a robot.

What’s more, because they’re often powered by machine learning, some chatbots can continuously evolve to learn more about your customers, products, and services. 

Chatbots also allow your visitors to access information instantaneously, which is highly valuable to them and you. 

Alongside chatbots, you may also want to consider using automation tools to eliminate manual, repetitive and mindless tasks, including emailing contacts after setting up a deal and creating follow-up activities. Here are the experts’ favorite automation tools.

When not to use sales bots

But all technology has its limitations. For example, if a chatbot fails to understand a highly specific query, then your customer is going to get frustrated very quickly. Chatbots, while excellent at understanding the ‘surface level’ details of communication, struggle to gauge the nuances of human communication like emotion and context.

“Commercially available bots are not yet good at understanding human emotion. Not even close. The state of natural language processing means they can’t even understand what we are asking them, never mind interpret how we feel by reading between the lines,” explains Geoffrey.

If your bot doesn’t have an answer to a question or query, you need to make sure they’re directing your users to the best person who does as quickly and efficiently as possible.

You should always be upfront about using bots, and your customer should be able to talk to the bot easily. If they get to the point where they are frustrated, you’ve lost the battle.

“Bots are best used to augment conversations between humans, not replace them entirely,” says Geoffrey Keating, Senior Editor, Intercom.

Bot lessons from eCommerce brands

The world of eCommerce is leading the way when it comes to bots and automation. In fact, eCommerce is a sector where they’re quickly becoming commonplace.

Bots offer a way to transform the shopping experience through ‘conversational commerce,’ which is a two-way interaction between consumers and the business. The idea is to make shopping experiences an ‘interaction’ instead of a ‘transaction.’

In just a few simple ways, online stores have successfully used bots to improve online customer service. These include:

  • Offering instant, real-time customer service across multiple channels
  • Simplifying the purchasing process with messaging apps
  • Personalizing offers to customers

Bots can also cultivate loyalty and drive sales in a non-traditional way. Nike recently implemented a bot to promote Nike Air Max Day. The Nike Style Bot allowed customers to style their own shoe designs and browse other people’s designs for inspiration. The ability to mix and match, create their own styles, and share them with their friends in Facebook messenger made it a huge success.

This strategy can easily be transferred over to sales managers and teams working in B2B and SaaS. Prospects also want customized offers, quick responses and efficient service, and bots can help sales reps deliver on all fronts. They can also help accelerate the sales process during particularly busy periods

“Let’s say you have a bunch of visitors to your homepage all at once,” says Geoffrey. “Instead of having your reps try talk to every single one through your messenger, bots can automatically step in, say ‘Hi,’ collect important details like the visitor’s email address and route them to a specific sales rep.”

Intercom makes using bots easy. They have extensively researched the effectiveness of chatbots, making them experts in knowing when and when not to include them. Find out where you can implement bots into your workflow by using their Bot or Not? tool. 

Ready to bot-ify Your sales process?

If you’re thinking of introducing bots into your workflow, our message is simple: the time is now.

When we start to think of computerized tech as a sidekick rather than a replacement, we take the first step towards tapping into their incredible sales-boosting potential. Not only will bots free up your team’s time to sell more, they’ll make life easier, smoother and more convenient for your customers.

For more help with automating your sales process, read our guide on how to use sales automation to maximize sales performance.