When they aren’t clocked in, every buyer—every manager, director, executive, and yes, every procurement person—is a consumer. And the majority of consumers are now accustomed to hitting that “Chat for help” button in the bottom corner of a brand’s website.
In 2020 alone, live chat for websites and “private messaging” for support grew 87%. And 86% reported they found it useful. When people develop preferences outside of work, they tend to bring them into work, which means that a majority of your prospects are eager for your company to embrace B2B live chat.
In this article, we explore what B2B live chat is, its benefits, and how one B2B company launched it to drive 100% more Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) in just 20 days.
B2B live chat is when you place a chat widget on your website that allows visitors to chat or initiate voice calls directly with your sales team. It isn’t new—B2B companies have been using technologies like this since the early 2010s . But what is new is how useful these chat functions have become at improving what’s known as your “speed to lead.”
If salespeople answer questions in the moment, it tends to reduce the prospect’s need for additional research or more calls, which means it can shorten the time to convert. It removes steps in what might otherwise be a long and winding buying journey.
Now, if you hear “instant access to your sales team” and think, “That sounds nice but my sales team has to chase people down,” you have a point. But the reason they have to chase people down is probably because that salesperson wasn’t available when the prospect needed them—say, a small window of time between meetings which they set aside to conduct research. If that prospect completes a form and waits as much as 42 hours for a response, that’s when the phone tag begins.
Your salespeople probably also have to chase buyers because those buyers may have an aversion to sales calls. Prospects conduct a reported 83% of their research before talking to a salesperson because they don’t want to be unduly persuaded, or caught on a call unprepared.
Prospects want answers when they want them. That chat widget allows a convenient, non-intimidating, non-disruptive way for salespeople to respond instantly.
Before we discuss the benefits, it’s worth exploring what’s wrong with the present process. There wouldn’t be a reason to adopt B2B live chat for websites and a conversational marketing strategy if everything were already going fine—but it isn’t.
1. Your sales team only gets 5-6% of the prospect’s evaluation time
Gartner estimates that given the burden of research and talking to multiple vendors, a buying committee only spends 5-6% of their time with your sales team. That severely limits sales’ influence.
2. The burden of research is heavy, and makes sales cycles long
Seventy-one percent of buyers say their last purchase was “complex or difficult.” Their biggest complaint is wading through irrelevant material. As the adage goes, they know that half of those white papers are irrelevant to them—they just don’t know which half. Difficult materials slow prospects down and cause evaluations to stall out.
3. Sales has a perception problem and it makes buyers wary
Most folks in B2B who’ve completed a form to read something know the annoyance of being pursued over phone and email by a sales rep. It makes them hesitant to complete forms or schedule a call unless necessary.
4. Buyers only reluctantly reveal information, which leads salespeople to guess
If potential buyers avoid your sales team and conceal the fact that they’re evaluating, it makes it difficult to distinguish them from non-buyers. Thus, salespeople waste a significant portion of their time pursuing leads that’ll never convert—they all appear the same.
The above issues create a buying environment where only 2.35% of web traffic converts and it takes so many touches to schedule a call that salespeople are primarily measured on raw activity volume. And that’s no way to treat your buyer.
You can think of B2B live chat as an escape hatch from that complex, comedy-of-errors buying cycle. If a prospect visits the pricing page and finds no pricing, but there’s a “Chat” bubble in the corner operated by a real person, there’s a good chance they’ll at least ask.
Many do engage with that chat widget, and most are delighted to find that the real human who responds isn’t just any sales rep. It’s their sales rep, who already knows their account. Let’s say that sales rep invites them into a voice call from within the interface, and within fifteen minutes fully qualifies the account, and tells them which resources to read and which to ignore. That probably leaves them with the impression that your company is responsive and respectful. Now you have a perception advantage.
Then, let’s say that prospect continues their evaluation, but finds that nobody else’s website works like this. They fill out forms and receive delayed and generic outreach from junior salespeople who “want to learn about their business.” In a market of many roughly equivalent vendors, the one with live chat has the chance of being the top pick before the evaluation has truly begun.
The software company Dremio sells digital infrastructure to developers. If you know anything about developers, they tend to be sales-averse, and much prefer self-help documentation and free trials. But Dremio is new and innovative and to understand how it works, it really helps to talk to a human. Which is why they deployed B2B live chat.
Qualified’s B2B live chat tool allows Dremio to instantly qualify website visitors and connect them with the right person—with a technical sales engineer, if they’re a developer, or with a salesperson, if it’s an executive. Each persona gets the responses they need in a non-intimidating way that much more resembles a consumer support interaction than a typical B2B sales cycle.
With B2B live chat, Dremio was able to increase MQLs by 100% in just 20 days.
The better your targeting, the more effective your B2B live chat strategy will work. If you simply connect everyone who engaged with a chat to your sales team, you’ll overload them with support requests and inquiries from non-buyers — resulting in the same problem as a form submission. And if you simply connect any buyer with any salesperson, it creates a poor experience when they have to pass off that lead.
There are two fixes to this:
If you get B2B live chat right, and it’s drawing accurate data about your top accounts and lead routing from Salesforce, it simplifies the buyer journey. That can help you:
B2B live chat doesn’t replace SDRs or cold calling. It’s not an attempt to fully “automate” the buyer’s journey. It’s just a smart way to humanize the buying process and allow your salespeople to do what they do best.
There are good ways to deploy B2B live chat, and bad ways. We’ve already covered the importance of a deep Salesforce integration and a chatbot to filter out irrelevant traffic. In addition to that, you want to:
Train your sales team: Writing in a way that sounds inviting, casual, and authentic takes practice. Your sales reps may have to unlearn what they were taught in school. Leave ample time for training salespeople. Even consider certifying them before they can go live.
Don’t place the live chat on every page, every time: Save it for your high-intent pages, such as those that concern pricing and product information. If you place it on educational destinations like your blog, be sure it recognizes which stage of the buyer’s journey that visitor is in, and recommends content or next steps accordingly.
If you use a chatbot, have it declare that it’s a bot: People know chatbots have limitations, and they really dislike being deceived about whether they’re chatting with a human or a robot. (That’s basically the premise of Blade Runner. Spoiler alert, the robot-hunting protagonist Rick Deckard ends up being a robot himself. Nobody is pleased.) Ensure your bot is always clear that it’s a bot so no manhunts ensue.
Find a B2B chatbot that learns: A chatbot that learns will improve its performance as a byproduct of prospects engaging with it. It can learn to appear at different times and to try different calls to action with different visitors. Good ones can detect the website visitors’ “digital body language” such as time on page, page history, source, and anything in Salesforce, and factor it in. If a chatbot doesn’t learn, and it’s just a series of rules-based flows, it’ll always be more work for you to manage.
Perhaps. Buyers have an expectation that the buying journey should be easy. Many journeys have grown more difficult, however, because there’s too much automation and too little human interaction. B2B live chat allows you to offer your prospects a “shortcut” which happens to leverage your most valuable asset—your salespeople.
For any business intent on driving more pipeline, offering a more enjoyable buyer experience, and converting more MQLs like Dremio, it’s certainly worth a try.