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In praise of the chatbot as a prospecting tool

Posted on: October 25, 2021

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Category: B2B marketing

In praise of the chatbot as a prospecting tool

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We all know that our potential customers want to manage their own buying journey.

At least, that is, until they don’t.

There comes a point where buyers suddenly reach out for support – and, at this point, they expect help to be not just on hand, but on tap.

There are plenty of stats that show how our online buying journey is marked by an impatience and a need to be served RIGHT NOW!

For instance:

  • Calling a prospect after an enquiry within five minutes is 21x more effective than calling after 30 minutes. (Lead Simple)

  • Businesses who contact a lead within the first hour are seven times more likely to qualify the lead than businesses who respond within two hours. (Harvard Business Review)

  • Leads are 10 times less likely to respond after five minutes. (Lead Response Management)

  • And so on, and on, and on…

It is this need for an immediacy of response that makes chatbots so appealing. More so than live chat, which, at the end of the day, requires someone physically there to answer the call, a chatbot starts responding and answering the moment a question is asked.

And often before.

But are B2B buyers buying into the value of a chatbot. Or does it just provide a weak reflection of a genuine interaction?

The chatbot from year dot

A chatbot is a program that uses AI to understand and respond to text or voice commands. Quite simply, it is a bot that holds friendly conversations.

Originally conceived as a customer service tool, chatbots excel at handling queries or answering questions that can be simply dealt with without the need for a person to jump in and intervene.

But chatbots have now long been identified as equally useful for marketing and sales departments for increasing engagement, automating lead scoring and responding immediately (aka striking while the iron is hot).

What the chatbot effectively allows you to do is move from seeing your website as a passive sales tool to using it as an active one.

This is to say, the onus is no longer on you to wait for a prospect to supply you with information about themselves; now, you can actively go out and get it!

The value a chatbot adds

It takes time to sift through leads:

  • Ditching those that are not relevant.
  • Identifying those that may be relevant but require more information.
  • Scoring those that are left.
  • Passing some on for more nurturing
  • And syphoning off the pick of the bunch as your qualified leads.

Wouldn’t it be a dream come true to have an automated tool that could start opening conversations with prospects visiting your website, pass on any information they need and also ask the sorts of questions that you need to qualify them?

This dream is called a chatbot: and its reality just gets better and better.

  • 55% of businesses using chatbots say they generate better quality leads.
    (Source: Drift)

  • Chatbots are predicted to save businesses $8 billion by 2022 and 2.5 billion hours by 2023.
    (Source: Juniper Research)

 Let’s take a look at what else chatbots can do for your lead generation.

  • Qualifying prospects

By setting up a short series of simple qualifier questions for your chatbot to ask prospects you can pre-qualify leads in real time.

  • Gaining insight

Your chatbot’s questions can also be used to gain insight. Let’s assume you are selling commercial property: you can make sure when you pick up that phone that your bot has already gained information about price range, property type and lease details.

  • Real-time response

As much as you want to be there for every prospect who visits your site, many will visit outside of office hours. And we all know that those who snooze are likely to lose.

Your chatbot, however, never sleeps – it is a never out-of-office lead engagement tool.

  • Improving data quality

The traditional website places all the onus on the prospect to supply their data – this, obviously, has its drawbacks. It not only relies on continued engagement to build up data of sufficient quality (one painful form fill at a time) it also then places a massive burden on your team and systems to sift through, sort and organise this data collected in a piecemeal fashion.

A chatbot actively seeks to collect all the data you need in one fell swoop. And those who ask tend to receive.

  • Automatically booking meetings

With a chatbot batting for you and actively asking the right sort of prospects to book a call, the proportion of your time in fruitful meetings – rather than looking for meetings – will be weighed to the productive end of the scale.

  • Always directing prospects to the best person

Having qualified each prospect your bot knows who is best to take things forward – so no more wasted time on discovery calls that should have been explored by another salesperson.

  • Increasingly familiar (and much more personal than you may think)

Here are some quick chatbot stats that reveal how familiar buyers are with them and how personal chatbot experiences now feel.

  • According to Drift’s State of Conversational Marketing report, usage of chatbots as a brand communication channel has increased by a whopping 92% in less than a year.
    (Source: Drift)

    • 67% of buyers had an interaction with a chatbot over the last 12 months. 
      (Source: Invespcro)

    • 69% of chatbots can now successfully handle a conversation from start to finish.
      (Source: Comm100)

    • The average satisfaction rate of a bot-only chat is 87.58%.
      (Source: Comm100)

    • Visitors love chatbots because they are always there.
      (Source: Drift)

    • Nine out of ten visitors want to use messaging to communicate with businesses. It is widely felt that chatbots make communication faster and more personal – interactions are seen as a conversation.
      (Source: Pipedrive)

Top tips for creating a hot bot

To wrap things up, here are four top tips that will help you ensure your bot is loved by sales, marketing and your prospects.

  • Think about your customer journey

    The more responsive to where your prospect is, the more relevant its questions will be. Do not have a standard set of questions that are deployed site wide. Instead, vary them according to the page or section your prospect initiated the chat from.
  • Don’t sit on valuable info

    Ensure that your bot integrates with your CRM and is populating your contact information automatically.
  • Make it human

    The secret behind a satisfying interaction also lies in giving your bot an avatar and a tone of voice that reflects your brand personality.

    Once you have drafted your question flows get a copywriter to sprinkle some brand personality and presence and watch your bot window magically become a ‘person’.
  • Ask wisely

    Remember – the better qualified your prospect is – the better for sales. But the more questions you ask, the more you will start to lose great prospects.

    The rule of thumb here is five questions – and no more!

    Make each question count by using Q&A branches that depend on each answer received.

The Turing test

In the 1950s Alan Turing, British mathematician and logician, moved on from his wartime work in cryptology to devise the Turing test. This aimed to determine whether or not artificial intelligence could successfully emulate the thought process and reactions of a human being.

Speaking at this time, Turing prophetically foresaw the world of chatbots that is commonplace, accepted and (more often than not) loved today.

Here’s what he said:

‘I believe that [in the near future] the use of words and general educated opinion will have altered so much that one will be able to speak of machines thinking without expecting to be contradicted.’

Looking backwards, rather than forwards, Rashid Khan, the author of Build Better Chatbots, concluded:

‘If you picture the journey of chatbots from the 1960s to now, you see that what was once a fantasy of being able to communicate with a non-living, virtual being is now a part of our everyday lives.’

And a part of our everyday sales process.

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