A Guide to Conversational Sales

"Conversational selling is the strategy of selling through website chat, text, Twitter DMs, or any other real-time, text-based medium. Better understand how you can use it, and its benefits with this guide. "

A Guide to Conversational Sales
Shelly Weaver
Shelly Weaver
December 1, 2022
min read
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We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again–traditional forms are out.

Buyers can sign into most things with their fingerprint and manage their calendar by talking to it. These people are not about to complete a form that keeps growing longer the more fields they fill in. They certainly won’t download something if they know they’ll only be harassed. 

Instead, they much prefer to chat.

So what is conversational sales? It’s the answer to outdated, adversarial user experiences. It’s putting a chat tool on your website that connects the right salespeople with individuals at their accounts, and lets them open a conversation. From there, they can launch an in-browser video call or tap to book a meeting. 

Conversational sales makes engaging with salespeople simple again. It increases your speed to lead, and it’s the start to a friendlier era of selling. 

What is conversational selling?

Conversational selling is the strategy of selling through website chat, text, Twitter DMs, or any other real-time, text-based medium. (As opposed to asynchronous media like email or one-way video, where quick replies are not expected.) The appeal to your prospects is that chat is always available, it’s low commitment, and, importantly, it’s supremely transparent. 

When a buyer clicks to chat, they can always click “x” to stop. The same doesn’t exist with a form. Input their email and they’re likely to receive a barrage of outreach across channels they don’t prefer. They’ll get emails, postcards, and calls—or, if unlucky, a surprise FaceTime. There’s no easily opting out and they often get badgered without their permission.

Chat’s relative transparency is a big reason so many buyers click to chat but just 2.35% fill out a form. And once the chat is initiated? You can use it to speed up your deal cycle. 

What Tools Are Needed for Conversational Sales

Conversational sales is somewhat more complicated than simply purchasing any website chat tool. There are many free ones out there, but the problem you’ll run into is that a vast majority of website visitors are not the right fit for any given salesperson. That creates a matching problem. 

If you have your SDRs cycle trade off the chat in a round-robin, they'll almost always be interacting with other people’s accounts. How do you make that fair? Or practice ABX? It’s even more challenging if you expect AEs to be available in chat. How do you save them from responding to the hordes of visitors who’ll never end up buying?

Then there’s the question of how to figure out which prospects are a fit for your service. How does a salesperson whose surging account hits the website hear about it in time? And how do you ensure chat data shows up in the CRM and marketing systems? How do you bridge the gap from paid ads? One of the fastest ways to lose trust is to have a splendid chat followed by a marketing email that pretends to be you. 

The answer to all the challenges above is that you need a genuine conversational sales tool (like Qualified). Here are features you may find important:

The ability to automatically qualify accounts that hit your site

A good conversational sales tool can use a mixture of fit, intent, relationship, and engagement data to qualify known and unknown visitors on your site. If that visitor works at a high-value account, it can alert the appropriate sales rep.

A way to filter out unnecessary chat traffic with a bot

Today’s chatbots may not pass for a human, but they don’t have to in order to be useful. Most B2B businesses have such narrowly defined target audiences and site traffic that teams can write perfectly helpful scripts. If the chatbot needs more information, it can ask questions about the visitor’s company, title, and interests. If it finds they’re too early or not the right fit, it can courteously direct them to white papers and videos. If it finds that they are a good fit, it can alert the appropriate sales rep, who can enter the chat.

An integration that allows it to route leads based on complex rules in the CRM

How does a conversational selling tool know which accounts belong to whom? That’s where you need a tight Salesforce integration. The tools you’re looking for will have to be built on the Force.com platform to pull that data in real-time. 

You’ll want to ensure whatever tool you select has the ability to:

  • Sync to Salesforce in real-time
  • Adjust routing (say, for round robins)
  • Recognize both standard and custom objects
  • Read, update, and create fields
  • Recognize every major Salesforce data type—fields, custom fields, lookup fields, formula fields, restricted picklists, unrestricted picklists, dependent picklists, multi-select picklists, regular expressions, number fields, date fields, email fields, and phone fields

If you have a tool that can do all that, your team can begin to sell conversationally.

How to sell conversationally

Conversational selling is a mix of two things: intelligence and engagement. Reps with the right tool are able to gather intelligence via intent and engagement data, to know which accounts are “surging” in interest. And if those accounts show up on the site, the sales rep gets an alert and can engage. 

To initiate a conversational sales conversation: 

  1. Notify visitors you’re available with an enticing question like, “Hey [Company], can I ask a question?”
  2. Engage them in a chat where you quickly establish that you’re a real human who knows their account. Be subtle. Don’t use personally identifying details.
  3. Ask what they’re looking for, and offer to guide them on their search. Keep your questions and answers short.
  4. If their question is complex or nuanced, offer two options: You can either type out a long text, or if they’d like, you can talk. Explain that you can start a video call from the chat interface, or share a link to your calendar.

No two conversations are alike, and few will follow that flow exactly. But that’s why you’re the seller, not the chatbot—it’s your job to make that conversation feel inviting, useful, and informative. Good chats establish a dynamic where prospects realize you’re easier to reach and more helpful than your competitors. And the more prospects from that account visit, learn this and explore your site, the more intelligence you capture, and the more missed opportunities you seize.

One of the keys to doing this well is of course is learning how to write conversationally. Lots of people new to conversational selling err on the side of being too formal, or pushing too hard for a call. Stay calm. Stay human. Be curious.

5 Benefits of Conversational Sales

Conversational sales has many benefits. A big one is that it gives your sales reps more time with the buyer, which can be a crucial advantage. On average, any given sales rep only gets 5% of a customer’s time during the evaluation, says Gartner. Yet those same buyers spend 27% of their time researching online—perhaps on your website. A conversational chat tool allows you to gather intent data wherever they research, and to engage them if they reach your site.

Conversational sales key buying activities chart

Conversational sales can make the act of buying significantly easier. 77% of buyers say the buying journey is difficult. A big reason? They have so many marketing materials from each vendor to wade through. But if you place the chat widget on your resources page, you can recommend exactly what they should be reading, and save them time. 

More benefits to conversational sales:

1. Faster speed to lead: A conversational sales tool can alert you when specific accounts are on your site, so you can quickly react to inbound chats. 

2. Increase your match rate: Chatbots save you from responding to anonymous or unqualified visitors, meaning that when you do get an alert, it’s typically someone qualified and worth your valuable time.

3. Lower the barrier to engagement: Chatting is low commitment. Prospects can always close the window. Just like a generous e-commerce return policy, that difference is enough to convince visitors to give it a try. 

4. Create an opportunity fast lane: Some visitors are ready to buy on arrival, and will only be frustrated by the traditional qualification questions. Give those right-fit, highly informed accounts a “fast lane” by building logic into your conversational routing system to get them right to a qualified salesperson—and maybe onto a video call. 

5. Understand buyers’ behavior: A conversational chat tool tells you when someone you just emailed shows up on your website as it happens. That’s valuable knowledge. Conversational tools like Qualified also draw from intent data from across the internet to form a more complete portrait of the account. 

Tips for excelling at conversational sales

B2B website chat tools have been around for more than a decade now. But when it comes to a conversational sales approach, it’s still early days. Few companies are rigorously qualifying website visitors and connecting them directly with their sales rep. If you and your team want to specialize in this, you can give yourselves a clear advantage. 

To excel at conversational sales: 

  • Experiment with unique “hooks” to get prospects to click.
  • Teach your reps conversational writing skills,
  • Master multi-channel outreach—use email, voicemail, and InMails to drive to chat.
  • Resist the urge to say too much—only say what’s necessary to book a call.
  • Provide reps a well-organized content library so they have lots to share.
  • Gather post-chat feedback and refine your scripts.
  • Create a Slack or Teams channel for #conversational-selling.

Soon, it’ll just be called “selling” 

To your buyers, traditional forms are functionally dead. It’s not a great experience, and was never meant to be. Forms were designed at the dawn of the web to capture structured data, not to delight anyone. It’s time we met our buyers’ expectations and upgraded our tech.

If you’re going to give conversational selling a try, best do it with technology built for it. A conversational sales tool can increase your speed to lead, match rate, and understanding of your buyer, who, let’s all remember, doesn’t want to be badgered. They want to chat. 

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