We don’t have to tell you that times have changed. You are living it right now. Many organizations are forced to stop all discretionary spending, freeze hiring indefinitely, demonstrate a strong return on investment from reduced marketing dollars, and choose how to best target essential and nonessential industries. That’s a lot of pressure.
But while the negative aspects of the current situation include COVID-19 and associated economic downturn, there is another shift happening in the workplace which is driving more opportunities for growth, greater visibility into the B2B buying process and ensuring quality customer experience throughout the buying cycle. This change is the introduction of intelligent automation into the workplace; something we refer to as the Augmented Workforce.
During our Why Revenue-Obsessed Teams Embrace the Augmented Workforce webinar, Rashmi Vittal (CMO at Conversica) and Jessie Johnson (principal analyst at SiriusDecisions) discussed the impact artificial intelligence (AI) is having on the B2B selling process, as well as how AI is assisting revenue-generating teams forced to do more with less. Below are a few takeaways from that conversation.
The B2B Selling Experience
B2B buyers and sellers both naturally have their own expectations. But for these two groups to relate to one another effectively, it’s best if these expectations match up. Fortunately, advances in technology are helping B2B sellers match buyer’s expectations and help accelerate customers in the pipeline.
For example, sellers are moving away from targeting individual leads in favor of the more holistic strategy of targeting buying groups. After all, your business offerings will likely be used by a team within a company, rather than an individual. Advances in AI help piece together digital body language (such as downloading an eBook, attending a webinar or requesting a demo) from several leads within the same company so sellers can more appropriately go after them.
Admittedly, the prospect-to-conversion journey is not as straightforward as sellers would like it to be. Yes, the milestones and destinations are the same, but the activities of each member of the buying group might be a little different. Prospects often pick up and drop interest over their lifecycle, so it’s valuable to have a solution that recognizes these signals. Smarter automation driven by AI and machine learning helps organizations remove blindspots about their buyers and ensure a better understanding of who is involved as part of a buying process.
This kind of increased visibility and adaptability is only one aspect of the benefits AI offers B2B sellers. Let’s explore how AI augments revenue-generating teams.
The Augmented Workforce
The present situation requires Marketers to react, remix and re-plan so that they can rebound and recover from the current situation. An Augmented Workforce can be instrumental in this recovery process. But what is an Augmented Workforce?
An Augmented Workforce describes a workplace in which business professionals work alongside artificial intelligence to drive better business outcomes. One such AI-driven technology making dramatic changes for customer-facing teams including Sales, Marketing and Customer Success is an Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA).
Intelligent Virtual Assistants are the next generation of intelligent automation helping organizations scale human interactions that attract, acquire, and grow customers. IVAs automate many of the redundant, repeatable tasks that people don’t want to do or don’t do well; such as following up with each and every lead in a human-like manner to determine if they are interested in setting a meeting with your Sales team. This action takes a lot of time, which is why it is best handled by an IVA so that your Salespeople can focus on building trusted relationships, being strategic partners to their customers and ultimately closing deals.
How Do You Use Intelligent Virtual Assistants?
As Marketing, Sales and Customer Success leaders survey the current situation, they will have to make difficult decisions that affect the short term into the long term. The reality of these uncertain times is that we will eventually settle into a new normal—and it is better to prepare for a new normal on your terms with an Augmented Workforce powered by Intelligent Virtual Assistants if you want to survive today, revive tomorrow and thrive into the future.
According to original research regarding the Augmented Workforce, the top benefits business leaders associate with Intelligent Virtual Assistants are in the ability to drive top-line growth (71 percent), provide better customer experiences (58 percent) and increase job satisfaction for their employees (50 percent). Because highly scalable human-like interactions are widely beneficial to customer-facing teams, the use cases for IVAs run across Customer Service, Marketing, Sales, HR and Finance. But the real benefit of an IVA is the ability to offer full coverage across the customer lifecycle.
Intelligent Virtual Assistants help organizations maximize every dollar invested in Marketing programs and Sales motions. Examples include:
- Optimizing digital investments such as virtual event engagement and follow-up,
- Good housekeeping like resurrecting dormant leads and ensuring no stone is left unturned,
- And retaining your existing customer base through empathetic outreach and delivering key information at scale.
Below are a few use cases of how IVAs are being leveraged today to help revenue-generating teams to put their best foot forward when relating to customers or uncovering hot leads.
Optimizing Digital Investments
Engaging virtual event attendees: Marketers are rethinking their plans. Events and tradeshows—traditionally the largest spend for Marketers—have disappeared. Instead, Marketing teams are pursuing virtual events investments by either hosting their own events or sponsoring third-party events. While these virtual events are less expensive than traditional, in-person conferences, they still are an investment that requires optimization.
Surprisingly, only 69 percent of organizations have formalized lead follow-up plans in place. To maximize every dollar spent, organizations need to follow up with each registrant and attendee promptly after an event. Our research shows that organizations have a 21-times greater chance of qualifying a lead when he or she is contacted within 30 minutes after an event. Those minutes are crucial.
Fortunately, IVAs can be used pre-event and post-event to garner higher engagement rates and motivate contacts to perform the next best action (such as registering for the event or scheduling a call with a Salesperson after the event to learn more).
Elevating handraisers among digitally sourced leads: Marketers are quickly shifting their focus to garner leads from content syndication, PPC advertising and other digital programs and campaigns. In some circumstances, these leads are lower performing. How can Marketers ensure quality handovers from digitally sourced leads?
Intelligent Virtual Assistants ease apprehensions about lead quality by ensuring 100-percent lead coverage. Prospects interested in a conversation with Sales are immediately accelerated to your BDR or Inside Sales team. If the prospect is unresponsive or simply not ready for a Sales meeting, the IVA autonomously interprets those signals and acts accordingly, whether that be persistent follow-up or nurturing the lead.
Discovering opportunities within dormant or disqualified leads: Right now, many organizations are in a lull. For better or worse, this is the best time for you to reconsider your processes, perform necessary housekeeping and leveraging buckets of dormant/disqualified leads to elevate handraisers you may have missed previously.
Admittedly, Salespeople do not enjoy chasing down cold or forgotten leads. It takes a lot of time that they simply do not have. By letting an IVA handle this redundant and repetitive task, you can prove the warm or hot leads without putting additional pressure on your people.
The average engagement rate for IVAs digging through dormant or disqualified leads is anywhere between eight to 15 percent. Of those engaged, the 12 to 21 percent can end up handraisers. From a pipeline push perspective, IVAs outperform traditional nurture programs by reengaging inactive leads by 33 percent.
Conversica customer Talend unlocked $10 million in pipeline opportunities and $1 million in bookings by using an Intelligent Virtual Assistant to go after C- and D-level leads.
Retain Your Existing Customer Base
Retaining your base: An Augmented Workforce is also helpful in retaining your current customer base. In this current economic climate, organizations are looking to keep the dollars they have which means delivering an optimal customer experience. But with many companies reducing staff and Customer Success teams regularly having more accounts than they can handle, organizations need to find solutions to fill in the gaps.
An Augmented Workforce is already helping our customers to quickly respond to their customer base, letting their contacts know how the present situation is affecting their business. An IVA can send the following types of messages while ensuring an empathetic, informational tone:
- A polite and empathetic opening statement to communicate what your company is doing during this time
- A P.S. statement in the signature to proactively address the present situation
- An informational statement to address any changes your customers need to know about and direction on who to contact if people have questions
- Easily changeable conversation cadences to match this highly fluid moment in time
During this time period, 37 percent of Conversica customers were using COVID-19 specific messaging in their outreach.
New Normal: Survive, Revive and Thrive with an Augmented Workforce
While the present situation has required a lot of flexibility and adaptability on the part of Marketing, Sales and Customer Success teams, we will eventually settle into a new normal. Business leaders across revenue-generating teams know that the decisions they make now will affect them going forward. Take advantage of this moment to augment your workforce and establish a new normal that benefits your organization today, tomorrow and into the future.
The power of an Augmented Workforce driven by Intelligent Virtual Assistants and people working in tandem is the ability to survive today, revive tomorrow and thrive in the future.
For more practical tips and thought leadership, Listen to the Why Revenue-Obsessed Teams Embrace the Augmented Workforce webinar.