The 2019 Guide to Conversational Sales

An overview of conversational sales for the modern consumer; how conversational sales works, how it benefits brands and how to implement it as a strategy.


What is conversational sales?

Conversational sales is a dialogue-driven approach to online sales. This approach relies on engaging with the customer via online tools, avoiding friction points such as request forms. Conversational sales is based on the principle of only selling to those customers who are ready to buy and simply facilitate the questions or doubts of those who are not yet ready to make a purchase decision. This method has been proven to increase online conversion rates, improve customer experience and shorten the sales cycle.

 

What is the difference between conversational and traditional sales?

The main difference between the two methods is that conversational sales relies on two-way dialogue and does not rely on contact forms or stifled exchanges. In short, this method seeks to emulate the in-store experience of talking with a brand expert; questions are asked by both parties and the best product for the customer becomes apparent via the conversation.  Current online sales models reply on emitting information for the consumer to digest, in the event they have questions, they are generally forced to use a contact form, making the consumer wait on the brand contacting them, or they are directed through an automated chatbot, which typically lacks the sophistication or knowledge required to meet the needs of the consumer.

Traditional sales method is proving to be a costly and ineffective model for most brands. The problem with the traditional online sales model consists of two key parts, shoppers expect to be able to complete sales processes entirely online at their convenience and that they are much more sophisticated.

 
Basic chatbots are limited for online sales

The modern-day customer is tech-savvy and tends to do research on multiple, 3rd party sources. This means that typically most questions they have will be about combining deals and features, or just generally quite specific to their needs. These complex, specific types of questions are problematic for standard automated chatbots. Basic chatbots often fail to satisfy customers, as responses are either too generic or the customer is redirected to a form or generic FAQ page. Research suggests that consumers believe that chatbots are only capable of providing simple answers to quick questions about simple things like product features, availability or booking appointments. This highlights the convenience element of what consumers expect from online buying experiences and the shortcomings of automated bots.

 
Contact forms are bad for online sales

Moments that inconvenience the consumer, referred to as friction points, deeply undermine the customer buying experience. Customers have high expectations when it comes to online buying. These expectations are partially due to advances in other areas of online commerce, such as Amazon’s purchase platform, Uber, or even food delivery services. The result is that consumers expect to seamlessly have their need met, without having to switch communicational channel (i.e. call a number from a website) or worse, complete a contact form and wait for a reply. Consumers want to be able to contact the brand on their terms and through their chosen platform. By filling in online contact forms, consumers are blocked when their interest is peaked. This poor customer experience seems to be true regardless of the form size; Even short online forms will only convert about 10-13% of all visits as the time difference between first contact and call-back or email is too long. This is more pronounced in younger consumers as 25 percent of millennials expect contact within ten minutes of submitting requests to sales or customer service.

For the modern-customer, time and convenience can even outweigh product. A recent survey results demonstrated the importance of convenience in the online buying process. For example, 67% of participants stated they would consider avoiding a brand if they felt the buying process was too tedious. Also, 81% of respondents confirmed that convenience is a major factor when they are selecting a brand, of which 40% strongly agreed.

 

What tools are used for conversational sales?

Conversational sales is the name given to the general theory of making two-way dialogue the key element of your online sales strategy. The tools used can vary depending on the industry and type of decision consumers are making. Conversational sales does not exclude the above tools, but simply gets sales managers to recognize that these tools are limited in their application and outputs.

Chatbots: Chatbots can be used to answer basic questions but should have the capacity to connect to a member of staff in the event that the query is too complex for the chatbot to answer. Chatbots can also be used to filter users by their question to put them in touch with the correct department or product representative.

Dynamic sales chat: Better when integrated with the chatbot, these should have agents ready to answer questions from interested leads in real-time. Chat systems should have the capacity to perform web-shares, video options and voice calls, either through a phone line or by using VoIP. These features help keep customers in conversations, via the method they feel most comfortable with.

Automate simple requests: With a view to keeping the buying experience as smooth as possible, companies should strive to automate simple actions as much as possible. It is possible to reduce friction points by allowing customers to carry out these actions without having to change the medium they are using (i.e. call) or talk to sales agents. Many companies do this by automating the following tasks:
· Booking appointments in stores
· Price changes due to feature add-ons
· Reserving
· test drives

· Checking product availability

Online sales engagement: Companies should seek to start a conversation with customers, when they are browsing on their website and are showing an interest. This can be achieved through live broadcasting of product demos straight from their website.

 

What are the benefits of conversational sales?

The main benefits of conversational sales are based on the fact that convenience and trust are the most important factors when shopping online. These principles apply across a number of industries but have a particular impact in certain industries.

 
Conversational sales for telecoms

The telecom industry has been an early adopter of the ‘sales through service’ model. As Telecom products tend to be very similar, the most important factor to differ from the competition is the customer experience. Being part of a fast-growing and innovative industry means the customer journey has to be digitally advanced and deliver a “wow-moment”. However, telecoms bundles can be complex and 77% of customers highly value interactions with telecoms staff. So, a conversational sales approach is perfectly placed to answer these queries and make the buying journey seamless.

Vodafone’s Head of Digital-Assisted Sales & Online Projects, Julia Koellges, describes how Vodafone has implemented conversational sales to their site and increased online sales conversions by 25%:

“With the Online Store, we are taking our online experience to the next level! More than two-thirds of customers say that with this technology we stand out from our competition”.

Conversational sales for automotive brands

Car buyers spend 61% of the buying process by researching their options online before making a purchase decision. Three-quarters of all customers use third-party websites, which means brands’ websites are not their customers’ main source of product information, meaning their websites must serve as more than a product catalog if they are to become effective sales drivers. There is a clear desire from the market to make the car buying process more digital and automotive brands face increasing pressure to become digitally innovative if they are to remain competitive and relevant.

Conversational Sales in the Automotive industry can be implemented through many different features. The biggest asset is to walk the customer through their buying options in real-time without having to go to the dealership. Tools that connect online customers to staff in dealerships or call centers digitally can enhance the buying experience. By having a brand expert explain all the features of the car model via web-sharing or be able to answer questions while walking consumers through car configurators, companies can engage online customers directly in a cost-effective manner.

Cars are high-involvement purchases and customers need a level of interaction to trust a brand, conversational sales strategies provide them with this kind of human engagement online, building a relationship before they have even visited a dealership. This, combined with improved online experience features, like the ability to book test drives automatically, prove to be extremely helpful tools in converting online website visits to leads for dealerships.

 
Conversational sales for travel

Most longer or more specific travel plans require extensive research and careful comparison; each trip includes several elements to organize the perfect vacation. This complexity is why brick-and-mortar travel agents still exist in an increasingly online world. When a customer buys a holiday package, they are buying not only the experience but the knowledge and trust of the person selling them the package. This is where conversational sales for travel offer unique opportunities for travel companies looking to bring the benefits of the travel agent to their website. Online shoppers will use social networks, blogs, and comparison websites to research their options and get the best deal. It is crucial for the customer to be able to contact the provider at every step of the booking to get reassurance, trust, and a truly personal experience.

The first 5 minutes of each interaction are crucial, especially in the competitive world of online travel. Bahia Principe was able to implement a conversational sales approach to their online leads and connect every online visitor with one of their agents in less than 6 seconds. This tactic increased their online sales conversion rate by 35%, by simply bringing the expertise and knowledge of an agency online.
 

Conversational sales for Banking and Insurance

The banking and insurance industry requires a high level of online security due to the handling of sensitive information. Yet this industry is showing a fascinating digital transformation in the last years. The increasing popularity of FinTech companies disrupted the way traditional banking has been done. From Monzo to N26, banks that have made the leap to simple, digital-first models have captured the attention and business of customers looking for a convenience led financial service.

Insurance and banking can involve industry-specific terminology and complex products, customers are demanding a more digital advanced, accessible experience. These claims are now firmly backed up by numbers; on average banks save $0.60 per chatbot interaction, when multiplied across their entire customer-facing network, this result in happier customers and lower overheads. In fact, some trends suggest that 90% of bank-related interactions will be automated by 2022.

Nevertheless, for larger commitments like loans, insurance, and credit cards customers trust brands more if they can see a face to the service they get.

With conversational sales, banking and insurance experts can hold real conversations and personalized consultations as they would in-store, creating a helpful experience that better nurtures and converts those browsing their options online. If a customer is still in the research phase, web sharing will be a great tool to show insurance offers, show calculations on savings and info on the website and make the process easier to understand and more transparent.

 

How to implement a conversational sales strategy

A conversational sales strategy involves changing some elements of marketing, staff training and general approach towards online leads. There are technical tools required to implement this type of strategy. There are a number of options available to implement all the steps required,  some, like the Whisbi platform, offer an all-in-one solution, others will only cover elements of conversational sales.

1 – Outreach and engage: Integrate a webinar, chat, or live video tool to grab customers attention. By outreaching with text, broadcasting live video or product demonstrations to groups of customers, either based on the page they are on or their status as a potential customer, you are able to reach out from the one-way communication and start a two-way dialogue online.

2 – Harness staff knowledge:Your sales staff have the knowledge it’s now time to get the technology to take advantage of it. Staff either in-store, in call centers or home-based agents already have the customer-facing experience required. Companies should look for conversational sales technology providers and train their staff to start attending online customers in real-time.

3 – Filter leads: Implement a chat system and a chatbot that is able to recognize purchase intent or what type of query the individual has and direct them to a sales representative appropriate to their needs, maintaining a natural conversation flow.


Conclusion: Why conversational sales is a must but mobile is the key

Consumer habits are developing quickly, and their expectations with them. It is fair to say that more and more shopping will take place online. It will be those brands that are best placed to make this experience natural and smooth that stand to make the most gains.

However, these tools will only be effective if they are optimized for mobile devices. By 2021, it is projected that 51% of all online purchases will be done through a mobile device. This means that companies must not only provide these online sales tools but also ensure they allow customers to access them in a way that suits their shopping habits. Already consumers have shown they will not waste their time on trying to use a difficult service; a 2018 report established that 56% of consumers would be less likely to engage with a company due to poor mobile experience and tools.

In short, implementing a conversational sales strategy places brands in the best possible position to be aligned with both the technical and service level expectations of customers.

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