There’s a misconception that artificial intelligence and automation are designed to replace human jobs. That’s not the case. It isn’t here to replace human teams like your sales staff. Instead, it’s a way to complement your current sales efforts.
Adding conversational artificial intelligence to your sales team gives brands the opportunity to scale customer interactions while still personalizing them in meaningful ways. Plenty of companies are already realizing how AI in sales benefits their entire team: Juniper Research has determined that by 2024, it will help businesses make more than $142 billion in sales each year. Here’s what you need to know about conversational AI, how it works, and how a hybrid team can help your business make more sales.
What is Conversational AI?
At the broadest level, conversational artificial intelligence (AI) is a technology that’s designed to speak with users. There is a broad range, but most of them currently function through chat, email, and phone structures. All are based on two fundamental processes:
- Machine Learning (ML): This is a specific sub-field of artificial intelligence that intends to create programs that can improve themselves. These programs consist of algorithms and data sets that are trained on massive databases to find patterns and make predictions. Conversational AIs are trained on databases of conversations to understand what questions mean and how they’re answered.
- Natural Language Processing (NLP): Natural language processing is the specific method by which conversational AIs talk with people. The user provides input when they ask a question. The program analyzes it to figure out what the question means. It then generates a response based on its database of answers and past training. Finally, the program’s database grows over time, and it refines its answers based on past conversations to become more accurate.
This does have limits, of course. The programs currently work best when they’re designed and trained for a specific purpose. Organizations of all sizes are currently exploring ways to use it, and sales teams are currently seeing great success.
Using conversational AI in sales benefits companies in several ways. Businesses can use these programs to respond to users and answer questions without taking up the time of their human sales staff. They can also use these programs to collect information about customer concerns, offer around-the-clock customer service, and improve the customer’s perception of the company.
What are Virtual Agents?
The term “virtual agent” is another name for chatbots and other conversational AIs. Virtual agents (VAs) are a step beyond simple chatbots, though. They use natural language processing to make their responses sound more “human” than canned chatbot responses. A VA still relies on a database of answers, but it can personalize its responses based on how users interact with it.
In sales, VAs are designed to handle tasks formerly managed by human customer service representatives. When customers interact with a VA through email or a chat window, the bot responds in a conversational manner that helps the customer feel comfortable. The goal of many virtual agents is to provide such high-quality service and natural conversation that the user can’t tell it’s a VA.
Virtual Agents vs. Human Agents
There are many benefits to using virtual agents, but they’re not a perfect solution. Human representatives will always have a place in a robust sales strategy. Here’s what you need to know about the strengths and weaknesses of AI vs humans in sales.
The benefits and drawbacks of virtual agents
The most significant benefit of a virtual agent is that it’s automated. The program uses its databases to answer questions and perform simple tasks, so there’s no need for a person to run the chatbot. This means that VAs excel at handling repetitive tasks like answering common questions, scheduling meetings, reaching out to no-shows, and checking on browsing customers.
VAs also offer the benefit of running 24/7, so they’re always available for customers who have questions after hours or on weekends and holidays. Best of all, these bots have significantly more bandwidth than the average person, so they can handle dozens of customers where a human could handle two or three.
The biggest hurdle conversational AIs face is a lack of flexibility. The same traits that make them excellent for routine questions leave them unprepared for complex situations. If a chatbot doesn’t have the answer to a question in one of its databases, it’s unable to help the customer on its own.
The benefits and drawbacks of human agents
Your human sales staff won’t have the speed or patience that a virtual agent does. They also cost more and are very rarely available around the clock. However, the people on your sales team offer irreplaceable benefits.
No program can handle complex questions as well as a knowledgeable team member. Your human agents can address complicated situations and figure out solutions better than any bot. They can also nurture relationships with customers on a personal level, building genuine connections and loyalty. Most critically, your human sales team will help you develop your sales strategy and build your company’s success.
The Argument for a Hybrid Approach
You don’t need to choose between a human sales team and a collection of VAs. In fact, using both has some significant benefits. This is a hybrid approach, and it’s one of the best methods of how to bring AI into sales efforts. This strategy allows you to take advantage of the strengths of humans and virtual agents alike.
Give your reps time to do more rewarding work
Your reps don’t need to spend all their time responding to routine queries about prices, sales dates, or return policies. That kind of work becomes dull, which isn’t good for employee morale. More importantly, having your reps handle those routine questions prevents them from working on more important tasks.
Let VAs handle basic questions and give your sales team more time. They can use their new availability to work on more rewarding tasks like building customer relationships and closing deals. Your staff will be more satisfied, and your company will get better results.
Take advantage of scalability
If your company is growing, you can run into problems with scalability. If you rely entirely on human salespeople, you’ll quickly hit a sales ceiling. You’ll need to hire more headcount to continue bringing in new sales, which is expensive, time-consuming, and risky.
A hybrid approach is more scalable. A virtual agent can handle thousands of concurrent sales inquiries. That allows these programs to provide high-quality sales results as you grow without the struggle of scaling.
Provide a better customer experience
Using a hybrid approach gives your customers the best possible experience. How? By giving them the benefits of both human and VA interaction.
Your virtual agents act as the first point of contact for most customers. They offer fast response times and guarantee consistent follow-up. It will help customers to avoid feeling neglected. Meanwhile, the VA will elevate complicated questions to your human staff, who will provide the custom, in-depth solution some customers need. The result is fast, high-quality service that your customers will appreciate.
Grow your sales pipeline efficiently
Your human staff is invaluable for closing deals and maintaining client relationships. However, they can’t do everything. You can use conversational AI in sales to efficiently grow your sales pipeline. The VAs can handle the initial information collection from interested prospects. Once the basics are complete, they can pass these leads onto human team members, making your workforce more efficient.
Quickly and automatically qualify leads
While your VAs are working with potential leads, they can do extra tasks, too. For example, they can automatically qualify leads based on the information they receive. They may only send highly qualified leads to salespeople, giving your team more time to focus on the prospects that are most likely to convert.
Generate more conversations
When you have a human sales team, you simply can’t achieve the same number of conversations as you can with AI assistance. You can use pop-up chat boxes to encourage your customers to start conversations with your virtual agents without worrying about bandwidth. Every conversation is a touchpoint, and the more your prospects experience, the more likely they are to buy. It’s simple math.
Start Your Hybrid Sales Solution Today with Aktify
If you’re trying to improve your sales, a hybrid strategy is the smart approach. By combining the strengths of conversational AIs with your existing human sales team, you can give your customers a better experience and make more sales. You even gain scalability while giving your staff the freedom to do more meaningful work. It’s the best of both worlds.
If you’re ready to add conversational AI and virtual agents to your sales team, Aktify is ready to help. Aktify’s conversational AI is built to be responsive, friendly, and excellent at driving sales. Our clients see their conversion rates nearly double while building more meaningful relationships with their audience.
Are you ready to see how Aktify can make your sales team better? Schedule your demo today.