Avoid a Leaky Sales Funnel by Leveraging Humans & Conversational AI

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Ura Verma

Published 

August 4, 2022

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Ishwar Sridharan (Co-Founder & COO, Exotel Techcom Private Limited), Aman Goel (Co-Founder & CEO, Cogno AI), and Rishabh Ladha (Co-founder, SquadStack) joined forces to host an expert webinar on Leveraging Humans & Conversational AI to Avoid a Leaky Sales Funnel.

They spoke about the importance of AI and humans working together for exponential growth through their combined knowledge and experience in sales, AI, and consumer behavior.

Here are some key takeaways from the session:

  • Learn best practices from experienced Indian brands
  • Understand the sales funnel and various challenges that cause lead drops. 
  • How does one optimize the sales funnel to avoid lead drops?
  • How does a combination of humans and conversational AI optimize leaky sales funnels? 

With the wave of AI coming into the Indian market, humans have started leveraging it to boost conversions by strengthening the sales funnel.

But, AI is not here to replace us.

Humans take up various business and sales processes that are impossible for AI to navigate right now. The idea is to augment humans.

As humans, we can only scale up to a certain level – AI can further scale what we can’t and uniformly automate it.

To understand the role of both these solutions, Rishabh talks about the role of Humans and AI in sales.

Humans & AI in Sales

There are two people at the sales level in every team- Salespeople and Sales managers.

Salespeople have better context, can provide better personalization, relatability, and profound consumer experience.

They can also become advisors and consultants for the consumers whenever necessary. Everything has gone digital; consumers already know the product through online content and are no longer looking for salespeople to pitch a product. They come to salespeople looking for personalized solutions to specific problems.

On the other hand, sales managers are essential for hiring, helping in 1-1s, training, and context building.

AI also plays an essential role in sales.

  1. Conversational AI

Technology like chatbots and voice bots are used to scale automated conversations and repetitive use cases.

  1. Call Monitoring

This helps in understanding the quality of salespeople to coach better.

  1. Call Mining

Calls are the voice of your consumer. You can find multiple insights into consumer behavior through mining your calls.

  1. Sales Analytics

This includes revenue operations, forecasting, and lead scoring.

Why do We Need AI in Sales?

Ishwar and Aman discussed how hiring and retention for tech roles used to be the most challenging problems in business.
The trend has now shifted to good salespeople - they are difficult to find, are costly, and you don’t want them to spend their time on training the next-gen of salespeople.

Salespeople are very hard to find and train - hence their quantity and quality are limited.

This is why AI has become crucial.

With the help of AI,  salespeople can do high leverage tasks, let AI handle all the automation, and support the salespeople wherever it's needed.

Aman then goes on to discuss the revolutionary journey of Conversational AI which has grown in 2 ways:

  1. Depth: Conversational AI can now be deployed in a better way for sales enablement.
  2. Conversational AI has become wider: Chatbots are helping both consumers and in employee processes, e.g., hiring.

Impact on The Buyer Journey

The buyer journey has completely moved online. Rishabh discusses how consumers use the internet to research your product and read your content and marketing. They know everything you know.

The modern buyer is smarter and has evolved. What happens to sales then? If someone is already educated, then do we even need sales?

People want to get into digital journeys and are now questioning the need for salespeople.

But, a future like this might not be possible. There is always the need for a balance between digital and human touch. Some consumers find digital conversations easier, while others need more hand-holding and prefer the human touch.

Ishwar talks about how Exotel started with the same future in mind. They soon realized that AI intervention works to a certain level, but some people still need more hand-holding.

"Consumers might know what they want, but understanding how they can get it will require human intervention. " Ishwar Sridharan, Co-Founder & COO, Exotel

Leading from Ishwar, Aman discusses the importance of deploying the right intervention. He says It’s worth figuring out if the product is a car or a plane. This means, can it be used easily by the consumer, or does it require some training. This helps the team decide if they want an online journey or if they want salespeople involved.

Sales Funnel & Challenges

Building and managing a sales team is one of the most challenging problems for a business, so to make the team more productive, you introduce AI.

If we talk about the sales funnel, specific problems can affect it. Rishabh gives the example of speed to lead.

How quickly you reach your consumers has a dramatic impact on connectivity. Typically, reaching your consumer within the first hour can significantly impact your sales funnel and save many leakages.

Aman also mentions incorporating consumer feedback for better conversion.

There is a difference between selling a solution and selling a product. While pitching a solution to a larger company, where it is being evaluated from all points of view, it is vital to incorporate the given feedback. This helps you improve your solution and pitch it better.
Manual & time-intensive procedures such as lead qualification is one of the last points of sales funnel challenges

Conversational AI can come in here with a script. It can understand timelines, needs, specifications, and then pass this feedback to a salesperson for ready-to-go leads.

Rishabh talks about the need for a human touch in lead qualification through the example of outbound leads. This is where key stakeholders are involved; you need to generate interest while qualifying the information.

Deploying The Combined Solution: Humans + Conversation AI

It is important to note that this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Understand your business before deploying a solution.

Rishabh discusses the various steps involved in implementing a combined solution:

  1. The first step is to understand your funnel.
  • Keep going back to the user journey and see where the drop-offs are happening. 
  • Based on the understanding, go deep into each stage or problem of the funnel to optimize. 
  • Once you understand the gaps at each stage,  improve the different parts by 5% every quarter, and your conversion will grow. 
  1. Based on the understanding and optimization, you can deploy AI and routine communication in journeys where you think a bot can have a better impact. 
  2. Then you have hand-offs defined between bots and humans, i.e., Part of the journey where human touch comes into the picture. 
  • Having a clear strategy for sales hand-offs is essential - When will it happen? With what context? What are the SLAs of the salesperson when the hand-off occurs?
  1. When the hand-off happens - Who are you handing off to? Are they the right people for this lead? Do they have experience, context, and skills? Are they available? These aspects matter during a good hand-off. 
  2. Prep high-quality scripts for guided consumer conversations.

Conversational AI as a Solution

Aman talks about automation, monitoring, and action under conversational AI.

Automation

  • When salespeople are offline or outside working hours, conversation automation can pitch in to help. 
  • Conversational AI can easily handle low complexity queries, whereas humans can control high complexity. 

Monitoring

  • While managing high complexity problems, technology can help translate the conversation for insights.

Action

  • Product requirements differ based on the person's location. E.g., You can't pitch a high-quality, high-cost credit card to a person coming from a small city. 
  • Technology can help train agents by going through call recordings, marking insights, and making them aware of different calling scenarios. 

Trends in Sales & AI

Ishwar discusses how people are getting ready for the metaverse in the West. If this revolution is a success, we will need sales avatars that are AI. He mentions how this trend will be interesting to follow in the coming years.

Other than this, he adds 3 more technology trends headed to become the future of sales.

  1. Conversational Intelligence

After real-time transcription, conversational intelligence will help salespeople sell better by deriving insights from customer calls.

  1. Revenue Intelligence 

AI chatbots can look at conversations happening across your sales funnel by your salespeople, understand the intent and type of conversation, then try and predict based on historical data, which frees the sales ops person to do more impactful tasks.

  1. Sales Assistance/ Productivity Intelligence

Updating CRMs is a massive problem for every sales leader. Imagine if you could just text an AI chatbot about the details of your meeting; it translates the conversation and then sends it back to your CRM for updates.

This AI bot can also nudge you about the best time for follow-ups for each lead.

Metric Tracking & Monitoring

Being intentional about measuring every piece of the solution is essential. When you get started, you need to measure what you manage.

There are different metrics you can track for salespeople and bots.

Specifically, Aman talks about metrics that should be measured closely on the sales side for bots.

  1. Number of visitors and users
  2. How many leads are generated through bots
  3. Industry-specific journey metrics: how a journey is affecting lead conversion, 
  4. Cart abandonment
  5. Handoff metrics: how many queries are handled by AI and how many were handled by humans.

On the human side, Rishabh discusses 3 important metrics

  1. Funnel metrics: calls, connects, conversions, conversations. 
  2. If conversational rations are off, then listen to call recordings - Agents who are connecting but not having great conversations & agents who are having good conversations but not converting. 
  3. Selectively barge in, listen to conversations in real-time if needed. Eg. In insurance, where a lot of miss-selling can happen.

Common Mistakes People Make While Deploying The Solution

The discussion is concluded by Aman talking about a few challenges and mistakes made while deploying the combined solution;

  1. Do not measure vanity metrics: How many people are using the bot. 
  2. Automation should be done when you have reached a critical stage where you want repetition of processes. Many large companies deploy AI for the sake of being called AI-first.
  3. A tech manager and a business person should work together while deploying AI. 
  4. A bot will not eliminate the sales team. Often people have the wrong idea about technology. As we discussed,
"Technology is not replacing humans, it is making them more efficient.” Aman Goel, Co-founder & CEO, Cogno AI

Want to know more about SquadStack's previous webinar with Dharmarajan K, Chief Business Officer - Beauty at Tata CLiQ? Check it out here.

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