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Conversational Marketing – the Bridge for the Sales and Marketing Divide

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Sales and Marketing departments don’t always see eye-to-eye when it comes to delivering the best buying experience for their customers.

HBR - Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing
HBR – Ending the War Between Sales and Marketing

Generally, marketing sits at the top of the funnel where they work to develop and deliver leads to the sales team. At the bottom of the funnel, the sales team takes those leads and converts them into paying customers.

Although both teams function with the same goal in mind—building relationships with the customer—they don’t always work together to achieve optimal results. This creates confusion and wastes resources. Obviously neither team can function without the other, meaning that breakdowns in communication can have disastrous effects.  Conversational marketing and chatbots are an emerging technology and technique that have proven to solve many of the marketing and sales communication and alignment issues.

The Lead Battle

One main problem occurs when one team’s goals rely on the success of the other team. For instance, sales teams are often asked to hit certain target goals by developing leads and closing deals. If sales teams don’t achieve these goals, it can be easy to turn against the marketing team and blame them for handing down poor leads. Marketing often claims their efforts are not the problem, but that the skill of the sales team or internal laziness is the problem.

And this isn’t a problem that affects just one company.

The Lead Handoff Solution

Chatbots are a new way to mediate the transition of leads from the marketing team to the sales team. The marketing team might be responsible for creating and updating the bot, but then it’s up to the bot to qualify and deliver leads and potentially sales appointments to the sales team based on pre-defined attributes. Chatbots take out some of the human error that can sometimes lead to miscommunication and provide an easy-to-interact-with bridge between marketing and sales.

One company used appointment bots by setting a specific bot live during off-hours. Doing this means they essentially have a marketer working 24/7 by engaging and qualifying potential leads! After a few months of using this offline bot, they saw a 23% increase in leads and a 15% increase in new clients, all while shortening their sales cycle by 33%.

These statistics are only scratching the surface of chatbots’ capabilities, not only in improving the relationship between marketing and sales, but in increasing that bottom line.

7 Quick Steps to Implement a Chatbot Lead Handoff Strategy

There are truly countless ways to deploy chatbots, but the example above gives one method that helps bridge the gap between sales and marketing – using “off-hours” bots to set appointments for reps directly from a webpage instead of a lead webform.  By analyzing the example, we can leverage the pattern to solve similar problems in our own companies.  The following are a few quick steps to make an appointment bot:

  1. Timing – Identify “off hour” times that sales reps or business development reps are not available to engage live with prospects that come to your website and fill out webforms.
  2. Location – Select one webform on your website to test replacing with a bot that will engage visitors in order to schedule an appointment to speak with a sales rep.
  3. Team – Select a few sales reps that embrace new technologies to open their calendar in order for the bot to set appointments on their behalf.
  4. Deploy – Deploy the bot and replace the old webform on the schedule’s ‘off-hours’ times.
  5. Qualify – Add your company-specific qualification questions to the bot engagement process to make sure you provide “good” appointments for your sales reps.
  6. Test – Test the results. Compare the conversion rate of the bot vs the webform (Pro tip: remember that you are comparing a webform conversion rate coupled with the BDR appointment setting rate to have a true apples-to-apples comparison with the bot that is setting appointments).
  7. Expand – As your conversion rates from the appointment bot exceed that of the webform/BDR combo, broaden the deployment throughout your site replacing more webforms, testing along the way.

Once the alignment gets stronger between the two the teams, a company will need to figure out where the marketing team ends, and the sales team begins.

The End of the Traditional BDR Role

As conversational marketing and bots become more successful and accepted by both prospects and sales reps, there will be less need for the traditional sales/marketing middle role – the business development representative (BDR). Historically, BDRs have been instrumental for the growth of successful companies. Companies like Salesforce.com used BDRs to grow exponentially in early 2000.

However, times have changed and the “Salesforce model” is evolving.

Chatbots have moved the market into a space where digital conversations can seamlessly become leads that are immediately connected to the sales team. In a market where the consumers places efficiency and speed above all else, maintaining a human middleman like a BDR just doesn’t make sense anymore. We are seeing BDRs evolve to where they often man live chat to assist visitors learn needed product feature or company information and engage more in enterprise complex selling environments.

Overall Revenue

Marketing and sales teams serve different purposes and speak different languages.

In the past it has been difficult for marketers to measure how their marketing campaign brought in revenue. But, in current times it is more easily measured as process and technologies are connecting them into a single funnel.

Recent history is now showing us that conversational marketing and chatbots and sales now created a wholistic buying experience that is easily and simply tracked.

It is imperative going into the future that companies implement a conversation approach to sales and marketing, helping them to work together and drive revenue.

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