By Dr Thomas Brown | September 05 2018
The robots haven’t taken over just yet, but they are well on their way. How are sales chatbots transforming the sales process and where are the quick wins?
You’re busier than ever, and no two days are the same. If only there was a way of answering all those smaller, lower value tasks throughout the day, the five-minute questions and repetitive actions that collectively drain hours of operational time.
‘As an individual contributor working with over 100 reps, I was receiving and having to respond to many high-frequency, low-value questions that needed a templated response’, said Ben Cotton, HubSpot’s Principle Marketing Manager, Sales Enablement.
‘A human doesn't necessarily need to answer those support-type questions’, reasoned Ben. ‘If a bot could take care of those templated questions, that would free up my time for lower frequency but higher value work such as deal strategy.’
So he went ahead and built one.
On a busy day, Ben was answering up to 50 questions from his sales reps on a case-by-case basis.
Do we have a sales deck on XYZ?
Do we have case studies in the UK on SaaS or competitive intelligence or Marketo?
Can you send me a customer reference for more information on GDPR?
You are most likely familiar with the recurring, agent-type questions to which Ben is referring; the high-volume, low-value questions that can be answered with a templated response.
If you consider that each question took around five minutes of Ben’s time to address once he had regained his concentration, you begin to get an idea of exactly how time-consuming these queries were becoming. His solution was to build an FAQ bot.
‘Basically, I got carried away one weekend and designed a sales chatbot capable of answering around 80 of the recurring, agent-type questions that I would previously get asked over Slack.'
With the chatbot in place, Ben was free to spend more time answering the low-volume, higher value consultant-type questions, when a rep needs advice, guidance, or coaching. This is the higher value work that improves sales performance and influences revenue.
‘The bot answers about 500 questions a month, and it can answer those questions even faster than a human representative.’
In this sense, the real value of the bot is two-fold. For the sales reps, it also means they can get the answers to their questions immediately, improving response time throughout the day, across any device, whether that’s their laptop, a desktop, or their phone.
‘It's working as we hoped it would,’ said Ben. ‘In fact, it was so successful that we’ve built a second sales chatbot to optimise a different part of the sales process.’
Proper sales qualification is key to better productivity and more sales. But working with a team of 100 meant it was challenging and often unrealistic for Ben to police just how quickly the sales team were picking up MQLs as they came in, never mind catch those slipping through the net.
‘MQLs are super-hot and need to be followed up with quickly. So we have another bot within Slack that sends a notification to sales reps if there are unworked MQLs in their name.’
A sales rep’s inbox is often overwhelmed. By implementing the chatbot in Slack, where Ben’s reps live and where they communicate, he ensured that its notifications were visible and that it integrated naturally with a chat interface they already knew and loved.
‘When we looked to see how effective it had been, we saw that it had actually reduced unworked MQLs by half. I don’t need to tell you of the value in that.’
Diagnose the rivalry between your sales and marketing teams.
For many, the prospect of a sales chatbot and conversational marketing is an exciting one. But who does it best serve, and how would you go about the actual process of building something like this yourself?
‘There are many companies that aren’t quite mature enough to have their own sales enablement function and who could benefit from building a sales chatbot to test the water and see how quickly it has an impact’, said Ben. ‘It would be a good way to earn credibility quickly and provide value to the sales organisation. It's a great place to start, but it needs an ongoing commitment.’
On the actual process of building a chatbot, Ben assured me it was relatively straightforward. ‘I don't consider myself tech-savvy’, he said. ‘I built the FAQ chatbot using Motion AI, the company HubSpot acquired last year, and it's very similar to creating a workflow within HubSpot. If you can get your head around that, you can get to grips with this.’
One of the quickest wins is chat technology’s ability to get new hires up to speed very fast. ‘I was talking to someone this morning who was telling me that his new hires take 6-9 months to be effective’, said Chris Grant from our sales delivery team. ‘But actually, if you can start using bots to template key documents, link to winning sequences that will get meetings, and notify sales reps of unworked MQLs, you can speed up that process from day one.’
Across every industry and every sector, people are getting excited about bots. Marketing automation is already being used to support the sales team. Recognising the revenue potential of sales bots, HubSpot built them to directly improve the performance, capacity, and return of its sales activities.
‘It's another good example of how technology, specifically artificial intelligence and machine learning, can automate, eliminate, or optimise our sales processes’, added Ben, ‘so sales reps can focus on the really high-value work and doing what they do best, which is, of course selling and having conversations with people.’
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Topics: Sales Enablement
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Head of Content at BabelQuest responsible for steering and implementing the content roadmap. PhD Creative Writing at the University of Southampton and novelist with Sparkling Books.
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