You know the drill. A web user visits your website, fills out a lead form and downloads a whitepaper from your Resources section. This lead is qualified by Marketing and handed over to Sales for follow-up. But how do you know this lead is truly ready to talk to Sales?
That’s a question that occupied Kevin Colosimo, Senior Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation for North America Marketing at Oracle, when considering how to improve coordination between Marketing and Sales. Colosimo discusses his experience during a recent Vengreso podcast.
Below, we will walk you through the challenges and opportunities facing the Marketing and Sales teams at Oracle, how they tested various technologies and strategies to get more out of their qualified leads, and how the Conversica Sales AI Assistant aided these efforts.
The Marketing and Sales Disconnect
Oracle is known as a leading provider of databases and cloud technology, along with a wide array of business software and solutions. Recently, the company has pushed to adopt new technologies and innovations internally to improve its Marketing and Sales processes.
In regards to Oracle’s cloud business, Marketing teams were pushed to focus on generating large volumes of leads to try to hit pipeline targets. The plan was partially successful in that Marketing teams generated a high volume of Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) to hit their targets, but unfortunately, many of the leads generated were not ready to talk to Sales.
This illustrates a disconnect between Marketing and Sales that is all too common. Marketing works hard to generate leads in hopes that Sales will effectively and completely work each contact. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to work every lead so Salespeople naturally follow up with only the leads they believe are most likely to convert. Nobody wants to follow up on potentially lethargic leads, especially when it may take weeks to connect.
This left Oracle asking an important question: How can we do a better job identifying conversation-ready (a.k.a. Sales-ready) leads at scale, given the volumes we needed to generate?
When it comes to optimizing operations, businesses need to examine and test potential solutions in order to determine the best course of action.
At first, Colosimo’s team investigated flowing more non-Sales-ready leads to their nurture campaigns. But when they looked at the data, the team discovered that traditional approaches to nurturing prospects only goes so far.
Traditional nurture campaigns, Colosimo explains, are good at educating contacts and keeping them informed about important trends and best practices. However, these campaigns cannot aptly identify which leads are Sales-ready, which was Oracle’s primary objective.
Another opportunity considered was revamping the lead scoring models via machine learning and predictive analytics. The intention was to get smarter about predicting when and where in the nurture cycle leads are ready for a conversation with Sales.
After a bit of experimentation and testing, Colosimo’s team realized this strategy had its limitations. Just because a lead looks like other high-converting leads doesn’t necessarily mean that this specific person is ready to talk to Sales.
“We saw a lot of leads being passed to Sales, not because they had a desire to talk,” Colosimo said during the Vangresso podcast. “But because their ‘digital body language’ had resulted in a high enough lead score.”
The conclusion? Better and higher scoring leads are not, in themselves, sufficient for identifying Sales-ready leads.
Ultimately, Colosimo’s team decided to take a fresh approach to identify Sales-ready leads by leveraging Sales AI Assistants from Conversica.
Taking Conversica for a Test Run
Colosimo’s team at Oracle decided to adopt Conversica’s Intelligent Virtual Assistants to take on the challenges of assessing lead intent at scale. As with the other strategies Oracle tested, they wanted to take things slow to determine the value of the AI solution before growing its use cases.
Colosimo’s team selected two use cases for the pilot program. Specifically, Colosimo put the Sales AI Assistant on re-engaging leads that were previously passed to the Sales team but were retired because the salesperson couldn’t get a hold of them. The intention was to see if the Sales AI Assistant from Conversica might achieve better results than traditional re-engagement nurture programs. Oracle also redirected new leads coming from high-volume but low-converting programs to see if the Sales team could generate just as many leads using Conversica as they did with the reps reaching out.
The results were astounding! Oracle saw an overall Sales-ready engagement rate of 20 percent. This was a paradigm shift in how Oracle does business. The Sales AI Assistant reaches out to the large volume of leads generated by Marketing and passes over hand-raisers at the moment the are ready to talk to Sales.
In the end, Oracle determined that Conversica’s Intelligent Virtual Assistants are best used to augmented Marketing and Sales teams.
Oracle Augmenting Marketing and Sales Teams with Intelligent Virtual Assistants
Oracle successfully combines AI-enabled Intelligent Virtual Assistants with the Marketing and Sales professionals, thus allowing each party to do what they do best.
First, the Sales AI Assistant engages a selection of contacts (i.e. leads who have yet to respond) by sending each lead a personalized, friendly and human-like message which inspires two-way conversations. Even if the contact doesn’t respond within the first day, the first week or even the first month, the Sales AI Assistant will continue its outreach in a persistent and polite way until intent is determined.
Conversica Sales AI Assistants are smart in that they read and interpret intent within communications with the lead in order to determine the next best action. If someone raises their hand to speak with a Salesperson, the Sales AI Assistant automatically confirms the best number for the Salesperson to reach the prospect while also alerting the account manager that there’s a new hot lead.
Sales reps pick up the conversation from there. And since the Sales AI Assistant provides context on the conversations it hosted with the lead, Salespeople can focus on what they do best, converting leads into opportunities. The big win? Salespeople are now focused primarily on leads that have raised their hand, as opposed to having to split their attention on emailing and phoning the vast volume of non-Sales-ready leads.
Forty-eight hours later, the Sales AI Assistant follows up with the lead to confirm that he or she was able to get the information they needed during the call. Thus, the Sales AI Assistant immediately closes the loop and ensures that no lead is left untouched.
“We partnered with [Conversica] because of their proven success and deep experience in this space. And we’ve used their platform to built out four Virtual Assistants to support multiple pre-purchase and post-purchase use cases,” Colosimo said. “We’re really excited about how we can leverage these Virtual Assistants to do a better job in identifying conversation-ready leads.”
Oracle currently leverages four Conversica AI Assistants to match different use cases including applications, technology, events and Customer Success; evidence that the “go slow and grow” strategy is working for this tech giant.
Want to hear more about Oracle’s experience using Conversica’s Sales AI Assistants? Listen to the Vengreso Modern Marketing Engine Podcast episode titled “Identify Conversation-Ready Leads Faster With An AI Assistant.”
Curious to see how a Sales AI Assistant might benefit your approach lead outreach? Request a demo today!
When interacting with someone for the first time, conversations tend to hover around general topics like the weather or where you are from. But when you are talking to a long-time friend, conversations flow easily, even if you haven’t seen each other in years. The differences between these two experiences are context and familiarity.
But it’s not just personal conversations that benefit from these components. Business-to-business (B2B) conversations also rely on context and familiarity. For B2Bs to ensure that conversations with prospects are productive, Marketing and Sales teams need to properly assess to whom their products/services are relevant. This includes building target buyer personas that involve roles and responsibility within the company, pain points, current challenges and overall goals. Without these factors, it’s tough to hold relevant conversations with prospective buyers.
If context is key to unlocking new opportunities, then B2B sellers need to prioritize tools and methodologies that extract, leverage and prioritize context during conversations with leads. Below we will discuss how the Demand Unit Waterfall and Conversica Sales AI Assistants can help B2Bs overcome many of the issues around context and conversations.
What Is the Demand Unit Waterfall?
The Demand Unit Waterfall, developed by SiriusDecisions, is a lead management framework focused on Account-Based Marketing (ABM). One of the reasons the model is so popular and successful is that it is focused on intent. Leads higher in the Waterfall model are suspected to be interested in your offerings based on an ideal customer profile while leads lower in the Waterfall are inching towards a closed/won outcome.
Each stage of the Demand Unit Waterfall is matched with a specific action to drive leads further down the Waterfall. For instance, leads in the Qualified Demand stage require teleprospecting to turn those prospects into Sales Qualified Leads or “Pipeline.”
While following up with individual people interested in your products/services is important, SiriusDecisions stresses that one-off leads must be assessed and prioritized by the context of their roles within a potential opportunity. In other words, B2B organizations must associate individual lead roles to buying groups within the company so prospects can be properly matched to the Demand Unit Waterfall.
In this way, B2B organizations do a better job of matching context (which stage of the Waterfall leads/groups fall into) and familiarity (a profile of wants/needs built around target buyer personas) to leads and prospects.
Challenges Facing Sales Teams
The Demand Unit Waterfall is a powerful model. However, it cannot, on its own, solve common challenges facing Sales teams such as capacity constraints.
Salespeople only have so much time in a day to follow up with, nurture and convert leads. Assuming you have a healthy flow of leads, opportunities and pipeline, Salespeople simply cannot speak with everyone they need to. This, unfortunately, leaves many opportunities untapped and ignored.
To increase the reach of Sales touches, many businesses deploy Marketing automation software to connect with and educate leads. While these tools have their place, automated messages from traditional Marketing automation campaigns are static and are typically not personalized to each target persona, their current situations and their needs. Nor are these tools equipped to provide context about the lead for Salespeople to leverage during conversations.
Intelligent Virtual Assistants: The AI-Driven Solution
“Technology is really the key to making your Marketing and Sales efforts more effective across the Waterfall,” writes Peter Isaacson, Chief Marketing Officer at Demandbase, in MarTech Today. “There’s a way to do that right now, with Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, which help you identify buyer intent at earlier stages of the Demand Unit Waterfall.”
Intelligent Virtual Assistants, powered by AI, engage leads at scale thus affording Sales teams the ability to touch every lead no matter which stage of the Waterfall they exist. The Conversica Sales AI Assistant engages personas within your target buying organizations throughout the buying journey until intent (such as a willingness to speak with a Salesperson) is gauged.
Conversations handled by the Sales AI Assistant can be tailored to match who prospects are, their roles and personas in their organization, and where they are in the buying journey. Or as Isaacson put it, “This means you can start targeting and engaging the buyers who are already qualified at earlier stages, giving you a head start in reaching the right accounts at the first possible moment.”
Sales AI Assistants breed familiarity with leads through two-way, human-like conversations while gathering contextual information from these conversations to share with Salespeople when the lead is deemed Sales-ready. This ensures that leads are engaged in a personalized way at scale while elevating need-to-know information to Salespeople including verified contact information.
Conversica Sales AI Assistants can enhance lead engagement and outreach as defined by the Demand Unit Waterfall to help B2B sellers uncover more opportunities and better facilitate Sales conversations.
Want to learn more? Take a deep dive into “When to Implement the Demand Unit Waterfall” research brief from SiriusDecisions.
While you’re at it, explore the Conversica blog to understand how a Conversica Sales AI Assistant can Optimize Your Touch Cycle Plan.
We’ve all experienced the frustration of overbooking our to-do list. We plan to tackle 10, 15 or even 20 tasks in a single day, only to check off one or two. It’s not that we aren’t willing or capable. It’s just that there are only so many hours in a day.
A similar mismatch of expectations occurs when Marketing generates hundreds or even thousands of leads for Sales to go after. But since the number of leads far outpaces the Sales team’s ability to follow up with each one, organizations run into the dreaded sales capacity challenge.
Our own Rashmi Vittal (Chief Marketing Officer at Conversica) discusses this predicament in a recent webinar titled “The Sales Capacity Challenge: How to Never Miss a Sales-Ready Opportunity” alongside Gerhard Gschwandtner (Founder and CEO at Selling Power) and Brett Blackney (Global Director of Sales Development at HackerRank).
According to an in-webinar poll, 71 percent of respondents said they struggle with the sales capacity challenge. While this poll is admittedly limited to its attending audience, many organizations struggle with this issue without even realizing it. After all, excessive lead volume and overstretched Sales teams are kind of the norm.
Below we will investigate the sales capacity challenge, its consequences and its solutions.
Facing the Challenge
While booking meetings and boosting engagement is important for any Sales team, the end goal is always to generate revenue. But when you have dozens, hundreds or even thousands of Marketing Generated Leads (MQLs) going untouched, it’s possible that you are missing Sales-ready opportunities as well.
The most obvious response to ease this burden is to hire more staff members. However, this is simply not an option for a lot of organizations looking to keep costs down. Similarly, some organizations only experience excessive lead volume during certain times of year or after trade shows and other events. In these cases of temporary variable lead volumes, hiring more staff just isn’t a viable strategy.
This begs the question, how do you touch the greatest number of leads in an efficient manner?
How Do You Touch the Greatest Number of Leads in an Efficient Manner?
The first step is to recognize that not all leads are created equally. Some incoming leads are “Sales-ready” meaning they are apt to speak with your Sales team. Other leads are “nurture-ready” meaning they are not yet interested in a conversational with Sales, but they are interested in investigating your company and offerings.
How do you know the difference? Traditionally, Marketing and Sales teams qualify leads through predictive scoring. The methodology is pretty straightforward: Incoming leads who match your preferred buyer profile receive higher lead scores. Ditto for prospects who download certain pieces of Marketing content such as a buyers guide. While this strategy still has its place in the grand scheme, it’s only an estimation. To truly determine which leads are Sales-ready, all you have to do is ask.
Of course, this runs right back into the sales capacity challenge. Asking each and every incoming lead whether they are interested in speaking to a Salesperson takes a lot of time and effort. It’s a repetitive and redundant task that will inevitably result in some “yeses”s and a lot of “nos”s and “not yets”s. So rather than having your employees chase down each and every lead, why not adopt an Intelligent Virtual Assistant to ask “are you interested” at scale?
Solving the Sales Capacity Challenge with an Intelligent Virtual Assistant
Intelligent Virtual Assistants (IVAs) helps people do what they do best. By automating many of the redundant and tedious tasks employees don’t like to do, IVAs allow employees can focus on what they love to do, such as thinking strategically, building relationships and closing deals.
When asked, “Do you think an AI Assistant can help alleviate your sales capacity challenge?” 93 percent of webinar respondents said, “Yes.”
One reason why a Sales AI Assistant is so helpful is that, on average, Inside Sales touch leads only touch leads zero to two times. However, the optimal number of touches is between seven and 10. Salespeople do not have the time (nor frankly, the desire) to make this many outreach attempts. Luckily for everyone, a Sales AI Assistant can handle the golden number of touches persistently, consistently and politely until intent is determined.
Another benefit is that a Sales AI Assistant actually drives revenue. IVAs elevate Sales-ready leads at the moment they express interest in booking a meeting, it reaches out to incoming leads within minutes (rather than hours or days later), and it identifies handraisers among low-qualifying leads your teamemployees doesn’t have the time to touch. All of these factors ensure that no opportunity is missed.
While an Intelligent Virtual Assistant can unlock more opportunities, it can’t do everything. Teams still need to work together towards a common goal. One example is the alignment between Marketing and Sales. If these two teams are using different language in their communications, there is going to be a messaging disconnect for prospects. A Conversica Sales AI Assistant is always consistent in its communication because it is built that way. Your teams need to be built upon the same consistent messaging too.
HackerRank’s Brett Blackney also recommends that Marketing and Sales align ahead of trade shows, conferences and big media pushes. This preps Inside Sales team for an influx of leads and makes sure everything moves smoothly during outreach.
Another recommendation is to find the proper division of duties between Salespeople and IVAs. In most cases, organizations leverage a “start slow and grow” strategy. For example, an organization might put a Sales AI Assistant on re-engaging old leads. Once the strategy proves fruitful, the organization may expand its use cases.
It’s simply not reasonable to expect your Sales team to spend energy on chasing every single lead. But fortunately, an Intelligent Virtual Assistant can augment your team so they can focus on closing deals. It’s time to let people do what they do best, technology to do what it does best.
Curious to see how an Intelligent Virtual Assistant might augment your workforce? Request a Demo of the Conversica Sales AI Assistant today!
And watch the Sales Capacity Challenge webinar to hear more great insights.
We are in the middle of conference season and Marketers are hard at work promoting events, building booths, crafting meeting spaces, selecting swag and giveaways, and polishing their messaging. Needless to say, trade shows and conferences require large investments of time, energy and resources from Event Marketers.
According to a recent webinar jointly hosted by SummitSync co-founder and president Al Torres and Conversica Director of Global Partnerships Amelia Farber, an average of 21 percent of organizations total B2B Marketing budget is allocated to events. Depending on the size and stage of the organization, this budget dedication can balloon to 30 percent or even 50 percent. Overall, $570 billion is spent on attending, sponsoring and hosting business-to-business (B2B) events each year.
It’s clear that events, trade shows and conferences are big spends for businesses. Which is why it’s crucial that organizations are certain they are reaping the greatest returns on their investments.
Below we will cover three levers to pull to get more out of your trade show investments including improved pre-event and post-event outreach powered by AI Assistants, as well as better ROI measurement strategies to inform decision making.
Pre-Booking More Meetings with AI Assistants
One of the biggest advantages of in-person events is that they allow for face-to-face meetings between customers and prospects. In fact, 47 percent of executive leaders say that this is the most critical Marketing channel to achieve key business objectives.
Knowing this, it only makes sense for B2Bs to pre-book more meetings. Regrettably, the push to drive more pre-bookings is ignored or downplayed simply due to time and energy constraints.
The solution to this common challenge? Integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into your Marketing and Sales mix to reap greater results without putting more on your to-do list.
The SummitSync platform works to identify the best prospects to target ahead of an event while the combined SummitSync solution and the Event AI Assistant powered by Conversica reaches out and attracts leads to the event via emails and text messages. Handraisers, those interested in booking a meeting, are elevated to the Sales staff or provided a link through the SummitSync platform to schedule and manage meetings to allow more time for Sales to prep for these conversations.
This AI-driven strategy accomplishes three objectives:
- It identifies the most appropriate targets to go after.
- It autonomously reaches out to each target and motivates them to pre-book a meeting.
- It schedules meetings on behalf of Salespeople to ensure smooth operations.
If you are looking for a real-world example, Extreme Networks, a customer-driven enterprise networking solution, saw great results from using the SummitSync platform and the Event AI Assistant powered by Conversica. Since Sales and Marketing team are focused on organizing and preparing for events, little bandwidth is available to personally reach out to leads to boost attendance. Using the Event AI Assistant, Extreme Networks was able to contact 340,000 names across more than 150 companies. Depending on the event itself, the organization saw four to 20 percent engagement from work leads, one to five percent hot leads from all worked, and 10 to 35 percent hot leads from engaged.
According to a statement from Extreme Networks, “It really allowed us to cover way more ground than we would ever be able to do with Salespeople alone.”
Robust Follow-Up During and After the Event
Leads contacted within five minutes of a trade show meeting have a chance of qualifying 21 times greater than leads touched after half an hour or longer, showing what a difference just a few minutes makes. Of course, this is beyond the capacity of most Salespeople who are likely juggling multiple meetings and duties during the event.
Luckily, AI Assistants have near-unlimited bandwidth to follow up with 100 percent of leads within those first five crucial minutes. More follow-up meetings result in more deals won. It’s as simple as that.
If the lead doesn’t respond within those few minutes, that’s okay. The AI Assistant continues to follow-up after the lanyards are retired and the jetlag wears off. This Intelligent Virtual Assistant will politely but persistently continue its follow up for days, weeks or even months until intent is determined or the lead opts out.
Here’s how post-event follow-up worked for the Sacramento Kings:
- 250+ names contacted
- 10 to 25 percent of work leads became engaged
- Two to six percent hot leads from all worked
- 10 to 25 percent hot leads from engaged
With the three-times increase provided by the AI Assistant, the Sacramento Kings saw millions of dollars added to their pipeline.
Somewhat surprisingly, only between one and 10 percent of leads collected from events are followed up with. That’s a huge gap that leaves many prospective customers ignored and untouched. Which translates to missed opportunities and lower returns on investments.
Great Visibility Into Event ROI
Good Marketers are driven by data that helps inform their decisions. But unfortunately, event Marketing often lacks proper visibility into where investments are really paying off. Event Marketers are sometimes forced to rely on tradition (what they’ve done for years) or speculation (what they believe are the most popular conferences) to determine their next move. Luckily, there’s a better way.
SummitSync provides two primary avenues for determining event ROI. The first is a simple equation to understand how much money you spent on each lead. This is what SummitSync calls “Return on Event” or ROE.
To calculate ROE, you need:
- A stated goal or objective
- Pre-event data
- Post-event data
- And the total cost of attending
Consider the following example:
Calculating Return on Event (ROE) Example
|Goal: Generate 50 leads through pre-event meetings and sign-up forms at the event||Total Cost: $8,500
|Pre-Event: 5 sign-ups||Divide the costs by the number of leads generated to get cost-per-lead:
|Post-Event: Generated 75 leads through sign-up forms||$8,500 / 80 leads = $106.25 per lead
By comparing the newly calculated cost-per-lead to your other Marketing channels or different events, and Marketers enjoy greater clarity regarding how trade shows and conferences fit into an overall strategy.
The second way to gain greater visibility into your event ROI is to leverage the attribution model baked into the SummitSync platform. This powerful tool gives you a quantitative analysis on which events drive the most revenue by weighing a number of variables (such as pre- and post-event connections, follow-up meetings and other non-event touchpoints) to determine the ROI driven by the event-specific Sales meeting.
One of these reasons this is so attractive is that Event Marketers can inspect individual or team performance and the revenue generated without having to track down your Salespeople to log meetings. Not to mention it’s much easier to use than a clunky manual spreadsheet.
The takeaway? AI-driven solutions from SummitSync and Conversica do a better job of identifying potential leads, following up with those leads and calculating event ROI.
For more informative and actionable tips, watch the Making an Event Marketer’s Dream Reality with Artificial Intelligence webinar today!
And while you’re at it, explore the Maximizing Trade Show ROI eBook!
Successful businesses do their best to explore their own shortcomings so that they might optimize operations and grow revenue. Regrettably, some oversights are so common that they become nearly invisible. One such example is when business-to-business (B2B) organizations assign inordinate value to the first qualified leads from a new account while failing to recognize the value of additional leads from the same account.
This is known as second-lead syndrome and it radically impairs effective demand generation for B2Bs by ignoring potential opportunities.
Below, we will discuss second-lead syndrome, as well as share tips to overcome this common affliction.
Buying Group Blindness
One of the reasons second-lead syndrome exists is that B2Bs often ignore or fail to recognize buying groups. Buying group blindness, as covered in a previous Conversica blog post, is a failure to recognize that buying decisions are made by groups within companies rather than individuals. Unfortunately, the way most businesses score and qualify leads do not account for multiple leads coming from within the same company.
This seemingly simple oversight exacerbates the aforementioned second-lead problem by falsely elevating new incoming leads and downplaying multiple requests from the same lead or multiple leads from the same company. In other words, B2Bs are ignoring the leads most likely to be Sales-ready in favor of shiny, new one-off leads.
Fortunately, implementing demand management processes that leverage demand units (e.g. “buying group that has been organized to address a need the organization is challenged with.”) can eliminate second-lead syndrome and maximize the value of each account.
Implementing Demand Units & Process Changes
It’s not easy to overcome blind spots and biases because it requires fundamental changes to company culture, as well as changes to processes and systems that may have been in place for a long time. Nevertheless, the following adjustments are worth making if you want to overcome second-lead syndrome:
- Match Leads to Accounts. Automated lead qualification systems tend to qualify each lead as an individual, especially early in the customer journey. Sales reps might manually associate individual leads with accounts, but this generally happens late in the Sales cycle if it happens at all. By matching leads to accounts, organizations can achieve a better understanding of where their leads are coming from and how they should be qualified.
- Leverage Demand Units. Demand units are all about context. By placing individual leads into buying groups, B2B organizations benefit from more insight into the companies inspecting their products and services. By tracking the roles, goals, demographics and pain points of an individual lead within a buying group, B2Bs can build and analyze demand units to determine which groups are most likely to buy.
- Don’t Disqualify, Associate. Automated lead qualification isn’t perfect. In many cases, multiple leads coming from the same business are falsely marked duplicates. Rather than lose these leads, do your best to associate them with buying groups.
- Inform and Verify. By embedding leads into buying groups and demand units, Marketers provide more valuable context and insights to their Sales team. Salespeople can verify this information during outreach leading to a positive synergy between the two teams and improving the likelihood of closing deals.
By transitioning your company culture and processes to match the above tips, you can mitigate common oversights. However, there is one method to overcoming second-lead syndrome that is not included in this list — leveraging AI Assistants.
Overcoming Second-Lead Syndrome With AI Assistants
According to SiriusDecisions, a B2B research and advisory group, “In an organization with second-lead syndrome, four of five generated [automation qualified leads] are disqualified on the basis of the false assumption that these leads are duplicates with minimal value.”
Yet, the research group is also quick to point out that “every interaction with every lead can yield value – by providing engagement insights on buying group members within identified opportunities or helping uncover additional new opportunities in an account.”
One practical reason that many leads are overlooked or ignored is that Sales teams simply don’t have the capacity to follow up with every lead. It is only natural that Salespeople and Sales Development Reps (SDRs) cherry-pick leads, or worse, that processes have been implemented that result in second-lead syndrome. Either way, potential opportunities are being left on the table.
Intelligent Virtual Assistants powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) offer a remedy to second-lead syndrome. By augmenting your team with AI Assistants who follow up with every Automation Qualified Lead (AQL), B2B organizations can better identify the lead’s role within a company and the buying groups within the account before handing over Sales-ready leads to your SDR or Sales team.
Since the group of “conversation ready” (i.e. truly interested) AQLs is much smaller than the total number of incoming leads, your SDR or Sales team will be able to give every single one of these Sales-ready leads the attention they deserve; all without having to increase the size of your teams or having to put extra work in their queue.
Curious to learn more? Download the SiriusDecisions research brief “Identifying and Resolving Second-Lead Syndrome in Demand Management.”
By Rashmi Vittal, Chief Marketing Officer, Conversica
When attending trade shows and conferences supporting Conversica, a question I am frequently asked is whether Conversica’s Intelligent Virtual Assistant for customer engagement is “a chatbot.” And while I can understand the source of the question, I emphatically stress that Conversica is not a chatbot.
A more cynical reader might assume that this differentiation is little more than branding. But I can assure you there are very real differences between what the Conversica Sales AI Assistant offers and what chatbot providers deliver. Each technology has its place and purpose, but neither is synonymous with the other.
Below we will discuss and contrast chatbots and Conversica so you can make better decisions when considering adopting these technologies to match your business needs.
What Is a Chatbot?
To understand what a chatbot is and does, consider this familiar example. An online shopper lands on an eCommerce website and is immediately met with a chat window in the bottom-right corner of their screen. The prospect types a question into the chat window: “What is your return policy for clearance items?” The chatbot platform matches the words “return policy” to an FAQ page and returns a URL to the prospect who then clicks the link and finds the information they need.
A chatbot is a simple piece of rules-based software that fields simple inquires and matches them to pre-programmed responses. Since chatbots respond in real-time, they are well suited for customer support requests. This saves time and energy for customer support representatives who no longer need to handle run-of-the-mill queries and can focus on more complex tasks.
Marketing and Sales teams are increasingly adopting chatbots to drive certain actions such as reminding website visitors to sign up for email newsletters or complete lead forms. Interested visitors are encouraged to share company and professional contact information via a chatbot. And to their credit, chatbots see a higher engagement rate than traditional lead forms.
Of course, chatbots also have their limitations. Canned responses, as anyone can tell you, do not feel like real conversations. Nobody confuses a chatbot for a person nor do chatbot providers promote the idea that these software solutions are anything but “bots.”
While chatbots can handle real-time requests, they can only do so when those requests adhere to the parameters set by the provider or managing organization. They cannot handle multiple requests in the same message nor can they handle nuanced requests. The minute a dialogue gets off the predefined path, the chatbot will need to escalate the request to a staff member.
The purpose of a chatbot is to drive operational efficiency and to deflect the cost of using a person to answer common questions and requests. But what if you need something more? What if you need a technology that can engage leads or customers in human-like conversations that drive to a specific goal? In that case, you’ll need an Intelligent Virtual Assistant.
What Is an Intelligent Virtual Assistant?
An Intelligent Virtual Assistant is an AI-powered software that serves as a virtual team member who autonomously engages contacts, leads or customers in personalized, two-way conversations at scale. Our Intelligent Virtual Assistants are called AI Assistants. The use cases for these AI Assistants from Conversica include:
- Marketing and Sales
- Customer Success
- Admissions for Higher Education
- Automotive Sales
- Automotive Service
AI Assistants automate tedious, but important, repetitive tasks so that people can be more productive and happier in their jobs.
Let’s say your Sales team is inundated with leads following a trade show or major media push. Rather than requiring your Sales team to prioritize some leads and ignore others, you direct your Sales AI Assistant to follow up with every lead including those at the top of the Sales funnel, leads who have gone cold, or leads who require multiple attempts before they respond. The Intelligent Virtual Assistant autonomously determines which leads are ready to speak to a Salesperson and which leads ought to be nurtured until they are Sales-ready. This provides a number of benefits including booking more meetings and allowing Salespeople to focus on converting leads rather than chasing them.
How Intelligent Virtual Assistants Work
How does an AI Assistant perform this function? Unlike chatbots, Intelligent Virtual Assistants leverage Natural-Language Processing (NLP), Deep Learning, and Natural-Language Generation (NLG) to interpret and respond to conversations in a personalized way. Conversica’s AI platform is so convincing that our customers regularly report leads apologizing to the Assistant for not responding in time, thanking them for their persistence, and even looking to meet the Assistant in person.
The purpose of an Intelligent Virtual Assistant is to drive a specific action like confirming a meeting with a salesperson. It is not meant to deflect costs, but rather to boost revenue and create more opportunities for Marketers, Salespeople and Customer Success Managers.
Below is a quick cheat sheet to the differences between Chatbots and Intelligent Virtual Assistants.
Intelligent Virtual Assistants
|Chatbots expect real-time conversations.||IVAs repeatedly touch leads until intent is assessed, whether it takes one day, eight months, or even two years.
|Chatbots live within a single channel.||IVAs can communicate over multiple channels including email and SMS text messages.
|Chatbots are simple, rules-based systems.||IVAs are powered by AI which can interpret and generate conversations autonomously.
|Chatbots interpret simple, static responses on a single path (it cannot interpret conversations).||IVAs utilize NLP and NLG to interpret and respond in human-like, two-way conversations.
|Chatbots are triggered by certain actions or time spent on a webpage.||IVAs immediately start outreach after the lead expresses interest through various marketing activities.
|The goal of chatbots is to answer common questions and to drive operational efficiency.||The goal of IVAs is to provide more considered dialogue to drive leads into opportunities, engage customers and build advocacy.
|Limited or no interactions beyond what’s canned.||Interprets, understands and generates language (responses are not canned); Autonomously manages conversations to ensure personalized, polite, and persistent communication.
|Many chatbots have little to no integration with a system of record or engagement.||Integrates with CRM, email automation, and sales enablement tools to update contact information and provide context for the next round of conversations.
|Handles real-time exchanges.||Drives the next best action.
|Chatbots provide simple canned answers to FAQs.||IVAs provide dynamic and intelligent answers and drive revenue growth.
|Chatbots are non-adaptive.||IVAs learn over time thanks to AI and Machine Learning.
It's important to understand that chatbots have their purpose and place just like how AI-powered Intelligent Virtual Assistants have their place. Not all communications are equal or the same. Sometimes you need to offer customers instant access to information. Other times, you need more considered dialogue to drive leads into opportunities, engage customers and nurture relationships. And in these cases, you will want to deploy a Conversica AI Assistant.
Don’t send a bot to perform the duties of an Intelligent Virtual Assistant. See what a Conversica AI Assistant can do for your business by requesting a demo today!