Accelerated by the pandemic, digital-first interactions now carry the B2B buyer’s journey. This shift increased the importance and value of digital interactions within the marketing and sales process and has highlighted the ever-blurring lines between the marketing tech stack and the sales tech stack.
Organizations that fail to meet buyers’ expectations for personalized omnichannel communications risk losing market share to competitors that do. How can B2B marketing and sales leaders take on these challenges while contending with increasingly complex buying processes?
While this question demands a multifaceted answer, technology is one component:
- Which technology to deploy
- To equip the right roles
- During which stage of the buying process
Technology is only as effective as the people who implement it and the relevant governance processes. However, what magnifies the impact of technology is the data generated by that technology and the insights gleaned from the data. These insights will be the key differentiators among today’s B2B organizations and, more specifically, today’s sales and marketing teams.
One technology that can close the performance gaps at the top of your marketing and sales funnel is virtual assistants.
As opportunities move through the funnel — from prospect to engaged, from engaged to qualified, from qualified to sales accepted lead (SAL), and from SAL to sales qualified lead — there are leakage points that dilute marketing’s effectiveness and sales’ ability to maximize marketing’s efforts.
These areas of funnel underperformance typically result from lack of agreement between sales and marketing on the following:
- Opportunity definition, qualification, and advancement criteria
- Roles and responsibilities throughout each stage
- Success metrics and measurement
Conversational AI is not the standard “dumb bot.” Effective conversational AI, when designed and implemented in alignment with the organization’s culture (what you want the customer experience to be) and funnel metrics, addresses funnel leakage issues.
Conversational AI specifically focuses on the non-human interactions that occur within the buying process and collects information that enhances human interactions:
Prompt: meeting modern buyers’ expectations of immediacy. Today’s B2B buyers expect providers to be present and proactive at every moment of their increasingly digital journeys in all their preferred channels and touchpoints.
Persistent: chasing the leads sellers never get to (or never get to sales). Sellers have limited bandwidth and must continually select which leads get their attention and for how long, as well as decide how to continue to interact with cold leads until they are ready to reengage.
Personalized: keeping opportunities moving between human touchpoints. Today’s B2B buyers are plotting omnichannel journeys that include meaningful interactions with marketing and sales from beginning to end in a way that shows an understanding of contact history and buyer preferences.
Virtual assistants’ ability to be prompt, persistent, and personalized allows it to address not only the funnel leakage issue, but more broadly, the all-too-common complaints levied between sales and marketing that arise from these top-of-the-funnel issues. Marketing leaders lament that leads passed to sales aren’t being followed up on. Sales leaders lament that marketing doesn’t provide enough qualified leads to build robust-enough pipelines to meet revenue goals.
So, while one technology is too simplistic a solution to solve the complex buying process of today’s B2B organizations, if you’re looking for strategies to tighten and strengthen the connective tissue between your marketing and sales efforts, consider integrating virtual assistants into your B2B tech stacks.
This post was written by Forrester Principal Analyst Anne Slough, and it originally appeared here.