Everyone is talking about the rise of chatbots.
Thanks to messaging platforms like Slack and Facebook Messenger, thousands of chatbots are now accessible to billions of people.
In particular, chatbots are revolutionizing the sales process like never before, automatically capturing and qualifying leads, reducing administrative tasks, and shortening sales cycles.
As chatbots become more ubiquitous in personal and business communication, it’s got some people asking a bunch or serious question:
- “How far will this go?”
- “Is my sales or marketing or customer support job at risk?”
- “Am I going to be replaced by a chatbot?”
The rise of chatbots doesn’t mean that sales reps need to worry about losing their jobs to bots.
Offloading and automating the more repetitive parts of the sales cycle doesn’t make sales reps less important.
Just more efficient.
We want explain the potential value of chatbots in sales with the help of the best in the business on the matter - our good friends at Intercom.
First, let’s take an important step back.
What is a chatbot?
What is a chatbot? Definition and example.
A bot is a simple computer program that makes things happen based on some input.
A chatbot is a bot that lives inside a chat product, for example, a messaging app.
Because messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger have such huge reach (900 million people and counting), when people are talking about bots, they are really talking about chatbots.
Intercom’s own bot, the Intercom’s Operator, is a perfect example.
When a visitor lands on your website, Operator acts like a switchboard for your business. It greets you, answers simple questions, collects your email in case you get connected and then routes you in the right direction.
Now to some, this might seem like Operator has taken over a job a human sales rep might do.
But the chatbot doesn’t replace you, it helps you.
A fairly simple example of how the Operator chatbot automated Intercom's own sales team's conversations shows what the future might look like in practice - humans and chatbots working together in harmony to deliver a better sales experience.
It shouldn’t be us vs. them, it should be us and them.
Intercom's sales development representative team deal with a huge volume of conversations with potential leads that come in through live chat.
The Intercom team need to qualify these leads as quickly and efficiently as possible. They are always highly conscious of giving leads the best possible experience.
"Up until relatively recently our SDR team faced a recurring issue that took up a lot of time – an anonymous visitor who lands on our website and starts a conversation could be a brand new lead, meaning we would commence the qualification process. Those anonymous conversations might also be an existing customer. In those situations, it might take a bit of back and forth before we realized a lead who we thought might be red hot was actually someone reaching out to ask for support. We would then have to send the conversation to our colleagues in customer support, and brief them on the nature of the query." - Emily O'Byrnes, Sales Development Representative at Intercom
You can appreciate how time-consuming this process could be.
Intercom's SDR team weren’t getting to the conversations they needed to hit their quota.
The time delays also had serious consequences for Intercom's existing customer base who had to wait to have their questions answered by the right person.
Enter the chatbot to help lead qualification
Intercom's chatbot stepped in to the rescue.
With two simple buttons, the Intercom chatbot offered an elegant way of making sure anonymous conversations went to the right team, and in turn, automated a significantly repetitive task for the SDR team.
Towards the start of every conversation, the bot would ask “Are you an Intercom customer?”
There are two simple responses: “Yes, I’m a customer” or “No, I’m not a customer yet.”
If they answered “No, I’m not a customer yet,” Operator would assign them to the sales team (it can also ask them a series of qualification questions – name, email address, company name, company size, etc – to make sure the conversations are valuable ones).
If they answered “Yes, I’m a customer,” Operator asks for their contact details and routes them to Intercom's Customer Support team.
"That might seem like a simple little step, but it dramatically changed our sales team inboxes — more than two-thirds of anonymous leads answered the question, and about half were existing customers. Needless to say, they weren’t looking to talk to the sales team, meaning a dramatic drop in the number of conversations we were having to engage in, leading to significant time savings for the whole team." - Sebastian McKenna Long, Sales Development Representative at Intercom
This is a perfect example of where a chatbot can actually make the sales process more personal.
Rather than have your website visitors wait in line to talk to the right person, they collect their details, route them to the department or help them book and meeting within seconds of starting a chat.
"Ultimately, we try to have our chatbot do the stuff that bots are good at (capturing a leads’ details, asking some simple qualifying questions) and leave the stuff humans are good at (understanding customer pain points, solving their problems, and building relationships ) to the humans." - Emily O'Byrnes, Sales Development Representative at Intercom
The effect of this will be that SDR teams will shift from fielding repetitive questions, to being seen as increasingly strategic assets to successful companies. In the years to come, we’re betting that chatbots will make sales teams even more important, not less.
If you’d like to know if chatbots are right for your sales team, try Intercom's Bot or Not, a light-hearted way for sales and marketing folks to learn when to use a chatbot, and when to leave things to the emotional intelligence experts, humans.