The website chat landscape today: from AI chatbots to live chat

Your handy guide to emerging website chat options, where we break down how they compare and where the real potential lies for driving today's B2B sales dialogues.

The website chat landscape today: from AI chatbots to live chat
Corinne Pearce
Corinne Pearce
February 17, 2021
min read
Apple Podcast LinkGoogle Podcast LinkSpotify Podcast Link
Apple Podcast LinkGoogle Podcast LinkSpotify Podcast Link

Rise of the chatbot

Among emerging website chat options, where does the real potential lie for driving today's B2B sales dialogues? At a time when buyers are expecting personalized service on-demand, chatbots can't replace sales people, but they can help take the load off and allow your team to zero in on the most promising prospects. 

Customer support is where the usage of chatbots exploded first, starting a few years ago. B2C led the way, and B2B followed. Marketing and sales have started getting onboard recently too, giving chatbots the task of greeting and guiding website visitors. 

Now, AI has entered the chat, so to speak, bringing excitement and hype along with it. Some B2B firms have started to try replacing their sales team with AI-driven chatbots. This kind of bot is supposed to simulate the experience of chatting with a human for visitors to a website, with the intention that it will learn to be smarter through feedback over time. 

But for most current and upcoming applications, AI is still a back-bencher: it supports the team, but doesn’t replace anyone. In the haste to adopt emerging technologies and cut back operational costs, companies replacing SDRs with AI-driven chatbots could end up driving away target buyers. 

Chatbots are increasingly valuable parts of the digital customer experience, but when it comes to engaging with target buyers and closing deals, humans are still essential. So, why is that?

AI chatbots are the supporting cast, not the stars of the show

You might have a Roomba to vacuum the floors of your home. You might talk to Alexa or Siri to order food, turn on the music or even tell you a joke. In these cases, AI is supporting and in some cases, replacing what a human could do, but in pretty low stakes contexts. 

An AI-driven Roomba, supporting you in low stakes tasks

The application of AI in high stakes contexts, such as autonomous driving, is still very rare and carefully monitored by humans. It hasn’t reached a point of fully replacing humans yet. 

Automated, rule-based bots can carry out contextual conversations based on decision trees, which can now be highly nuanced with the help of advanced customization. They support the human team. 

AI-driven chatbots are expected to take this further and "think" for themselves, employing neural networks to "learn" from their experiences and formulate their own answers.  

For some use cases, AI bots can be transformative. Organizations that have a big need for 24/7 customer support are able to scale down their employee headcount through the help of such chatbots, because in a context where there is a limited range of questions to be asked, the demand placed on the artificial bot is manageable.  

In digital B2C contexts, the conversations involved in the discovery and purchasing journeys can also be handled by a supportive AI-driven chabot without needing an actual human. 

But when it comes to the complex sales processes of B2B, we’re still a long way from completely handing over those dialogues to chatbots. This is high stakes. 

Chatting is not the same as closing

Even if you haven't watched the entire film, if you work in sales or marketing, you've probably seen Alec Baldwin's scene from the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross. 

Unannounced, Baldwin's character enters the office of an under-performing sales team and launches into a profanity-laced lecture on the finer points of selling. 

At one point, he writes the letters ABC on a chalkboard. It's an abbreviation of his motto:
Alway Be Closing. 

Always be closing

Now, imagine we replace the sales team with chatbots. What does a bot know about closing? The bot doesn't have a pipeline or quarterly goals to worry about, there's no real-life consequences for the bot.

It probably can't provide real-time anecdotes of customer successes, or the market knowledge to persuade prospects. The stakes are higher, the range of possible questions and scenarios is vast, and the relationship-building skills are essential. It’s above an AI-driven bot’s paygrade today, and will be for quite some time. 

B2B sales can be very complex and buyers want support and advice through the process. 67% want more communication and reassurance while making a purchase than they are getting today (Google), and they expect that interaction to be personalized. 

According to a survey conducted by TrustRadius, personalized messaging is ranked second only to customer referrals as the most effective B2B marketing tactic in 2021.

The handling of target buyers and the opportunities to close deals needs to stay in the hands of your knowledgeable, driven and empathetic sales reps who can understand and connect with your potential customers. 

This is not vacuum cleaning, where it doesn’t matter that much if your AI-driven gadget misses a spot. This is your pipeline, your revenue. 

Chatbots may be able to scale, but they can’t sell. Humans sell. 

Put chatbots in the right role: on defense 

Qualified’s automated chatbots support sales teams. Rather than focusing on chatbot conversations as a replacement for human interaction, we allow businesses to leverage chatbots to nurture low stakes website visitors, freeing up time for salespeople to engage your high stakes visitors. 

On Episode 8 of the Demand Gen Visionaries Podcast, Latane Conant, CMO of 6Sense and author of No Forms. No Spam. No Cold Calls., discussed the importance of personalized marketing,

Latane Conant, CMO of 6sense, on Qualified's Demand Gen Visionaries Podcast

In this interview, Latane shared her theory of the "dark funnel". She explained that in today's sales environment, you don't know where or when the key decision maker is going to engage with your brand. So, you have to be ready to meet them where they are. 

Automated chatbots (even without AI) can act as a 24/7 concierge, engaging your website's visitors as soon as they arrive to provide a more customized journey and even gather information that will support future sales dialogues.

When they are customized for your business needs and website, they can do a lot of the heavy lifting in conversational marketing. For example, B2B website forms are increasingly filled out with fake data, with anonymous buyers on the rise. Chatbots can mitigate this, engaging with visitors directly to get their email to send content. 

They can also book meetings directly in sales reps’ calendars if it’s after hours or the team is unavailable to chat directly with key prospects. For the 82% of your website visitors that are not qualified buyers, customized, automated chatbots can enhance and guide their experience. 

Since humans can’t scale, and bots can’t sell, you need to keep your valuable people for the conversations that move the pipeline needle forward and close the deals. That's where the Qualified model of conversational sales and marketing comes in to drive conversions and grow revenue.  

Live chat with your sales team scores goals

When it comes to your target buyers, you'll want your best sales leaders talking to them rather than even the most advanced chatbots.  

Built natively on top of Salesforce, Qualified can instantly identify leads, contacts, accounts, and opportunities that are on your website. If they are a VIP guest, i.e. a hot prospect or key account, your dedicated sales reps and account executives will be alerted instantly so they can immediately start engaging in a real conversation through live chat

When a visitor isn’t identified right away as a qualified buyer, automated chatbots can meet their needs. Consumers agree that simple tasks and questions can easily be fielded by chatbots (Forrester). 

Qualified plugs into all of your backend systems, like Salesforce, as well as your Marketing Automation, Account-Based Marketing, and Data platforms , giving salespeople a clear picture of their website visitors and the background to carry out personalized, engaging conversations that move deals forward. Qualified’s platform uses AI (in, you guessed it, a supporting role!) to interpret website behavior and gather signals from visitors regarding their interest and buying intent, and alerts relevant sales teams, so there can be a seamless handover to a live conversation if a prospect goes from cool to warm.  

Close more deals with conversational marketing and sales

A conversational sales and marketing platform with Live Chat, complemented by customized, automated chatbots can effectively nurture website visitors that are just perusing the site, while enabling you to instantly engage with qualified buyers. More real conversations, more pipeline, more revenue. 

You can learn more about how chatbots plus live chat is the winning conversational sales and marketing combo here, or even dig into best practices strategies here. If you have more questions about Qualified’s platform, which is #1 for companies that use Salesforce, feel free to chat with us directly on our website.

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