Source: Forbes.com/ Pradeep Aradhya
Is sales still a challenge for your company? Is your sales team difficult to manage? Are your products great but still not being sold at the scale you’d like? Are all of the products in your portfolio being sold appropriately? Is your channel strategy and commission structure eating your margins? Are you trying to automate support for sales processes? Does your data indicate all sorts of new possibilities but your salespeople and processes take too long to adapt?
Well, as it happens, 62% of U.S. consumers like using chatbots. This atmosphere is ripe for the disruption that is coming. It is time to pay attention to the excitement about sales bots and sales automation.
Soon, many sales positions may be eliminated in favor of automation — and sales bots. They are the next evolution of the already ubiquitous chatbots being used by various business sectors for customer service. Marketers are already thinking about “persuasive robotics.” And an AI learned to predict whether a car buyer would buy or was just talk just from reading transcripts of their conversations with car sales folks. Yet another AI reads your prospects’ emails and suggests verbiage to best align your reply with their values.
This disruption will winnow out survivors and likely lay jobs and companies to rest. My 15 years in e-commerce and advertising have given me an understanding of the dynamics and a view of the path to stay ahead. While I have already described what is required for the ideal sales bot, below are success scenarios, automation strategies and how-tos everyone should know:
All new technology is met with fear and resistance. When it comes to sales, executive teams are unlikely to rely heavily on bots just yet, and employees likely feel threatened and unsupportive. So, consider introducing sales bots to sell products that either have unattractive commission structures or are intrinsically difficult to sell.
Here are two ideal scenarios:
• Every product webpage (no salespeople and high bounce rates).
• Sales positions showing the lowest performance (sales process needs refinement).
The crux of increasing sales in these two scenarios depends on balancing customers’ needs, budgets and urgency with assortment, package or terms choice and objection handling. This is exactly what a sales bot is designed to do. A sales bot can negotiate with a customer one on one anywhere in the sales cycle to both reduce customer acquisition cost and increase customer lifetime value.
Here are a few key strategies to use:
• Product pages: Trigger sales bots on each product page for each customer. Train your bot to increase conversion rates by offering purchase history, urgency, inventory and sales strategy-based discounting. Train to increase cross-sell and upsell based on customer history and need.
• Freebies and perks: It’s also important to train your bot on customer delight and satisfaction using a list of freebies and the conditions under which they might be offered based on customer history and segment.
• Packages and assortments: Let your sales bot find other viable packages and assortments through customer microsegmentation based on incoming data.
• Sales terms: Train your bot to be flexible with sales terms for each customer to close more sales.
• Escalation to a human: Lastly, train your sales bot on supervisor approval scenarios and when to transfer a primed customer to a human.
Obviously, sales bots do not need commissions and retain training flawlessly and permanently. And many customers prefer a bot that has all the answers, remembers their history and doesn’t pressure them like a salesperson might. What’s more, sales bots will never leave your company to find a higher-paying job.
It is a simple technical step to set boundaries on price, sales term and assortments for feasibility so your sales bot operates within margins. A carefully phased approach would deploy sales bots for the products that are making the least sales progress. Begin with a combination of salespeople and bots in such sales positions. Compare performance and costs for this initiative to take the correct step forward.
So, what should you do?
Companies: Superior customer experiences are already being deployed by your competition. To stay ahead, build the data views described in my earlier article to support your sales bots. The culture change required will be the real challenge. Salespeople and processes have to be slowly cut over to this new way of life, and that will take many pilots, sector- andbusiness-specific experiments and scaling up of viable initiatives.
Sales And Marketing Personnel: Everything you did will still be done by automation and bots. Learn how they work, what data they need and how you can train them further with the sales experience you have. Then, get yourself some bots and actually train them. When you can demonstrate how you scaled yourself with a bot like that, then go to a company or domain and offer to take over.
Customers: There will be some initial hesitation about talking to a machine rather than a human. With advances in voice technology, the chatbot may eventually become a talking sales bot. Imagine bargaining with Elon Musk himself as you try to buy a Tesla. The Elon bot will not pressure you during your exploration, and it will have data on you that you had already willingly given up. It will show you the features you really want to see and customize the terms, perks and delivery of your car. Get a list of demands for your sales experience as well as for the products you want to buy ready.
The sales bot disruption is on its way, and you’re either in front of it or in its dust. Now is the time to challenge and disrupt your own sales force. Change how you sell, increase your sales volume and profit margins, and provide an unparalleled customer experience — all with dedicated sales bots that are available to every single prospect from anywhere and at any time.