You’re not answering your prospects fast enough.

A primer on Business Messaging in 2018 and its impact on B2B sales.

Thierry Maout
Nov 21, 2018 · 12 min read
“man looking at round silver-colored watch with steel link strap” by rawpixel on Unsplash

unday evening. The weekend is coming to an end and you’re ready for a relaxing evening at home, watching Netflix before starting a new week tomorrow. The food is ready, your feet are comfortably laying on the living room table, and before pressing play you check one last time on your phone what time your train leaves in the morning. Only to realise that… you booked you train in the wrong direction (it happens to the best of us).

So now what do you do? Do you go and explore their website to figure out how to change your ticket, if there’s a surcharge and what times are still available? Do you wake up super early in the morning to go ask at the information desk in person? Do you try and call customer support on a Sunday evening?

When this exact situation happened to me a couple of weeks ago, I was able to contact the French national railway company via Facebook messenger, answer a couple of questions to their chatbot and be redirected to a customer service rep who took me through the steps needed to book a new ticket and get a refund.

My actual interaction with OUI.sncf

I did not have to get on the phone nor do any research, and a potentially annoying ordeal became a problem solved seamlessly by a 5 minute-long conversation. Tickets rebooked and refund processing, I was able to get back to watching ‘The Office” and enjoying my evening.

Nowadays, this experience is nothing special. On the contrary, we could argue that it’s even expected. Customers are looking for convenient, interactive business interactions on their own time, in their preferred channels.

While this has been widely adopted in areas like customer service, it still has yet to be adopted in a lot of sales departments. The reality is that When you’re not having interactions with your potential buyers, you’re missing out on business. The lines between B2B and B2C or professional and personal are getting blurrier every day: buyers expect a consistent experience across the board, at home and at work. It is vital, as a business, to fulfil these expectations and be ready to interact at the right place, at the right time, through the right channel.

“82% of business buyers want the same experience as when they’re buying for themselves.”
- Salesforce (source)

This is one of the cornerstone of what we are building and have been researching for months at Fairwai: we believe messaging will become the main communication channel in business within the next few years. In this article I will share some facts about messaging today, existing business applications, and why it is a necessary tool in your B2B sales arsenal.

1) Messaging in 2018: A refresher.

While instant messaging on desktop has been around for a while (remember AIM or MSN?) the rise of mobile phones is truly what has taken messaging to new heights. The number of mobile phone users is set to pass 5 billion in 2019 (source), and text is the single most used feature on a smartphone, with 97% of all users having texted in the last week (source).

12,986,111 texts are sent every minute of every day (Source: Domo)

That’s a lot. And it doesn’t even include messaging apps such as Facebook messenger (1.3 billion users), WhatsApp (55 billion messages sent per day), WeChat (38 billion messages per day) and more (I personally use LINE because stickers). Not only is this an insane amount of texts, but also a pretty clear sign of an incredible business opportunity.

According to Gallup, texting is “the most prevalent form of communication for American adults under 50”. With Millennials representing close to a third of the U.S. workforce, this major shift is bound to continue. Go ahead and try asking a 22 year-old junior sales rep to cold-call every inbound leads that signs up on your website. There’s a high chance they won’t like the idea much (I would know, I’m one of them). On the other hand, handling instant messaging conversations is part of their DNA:

Source: Twilio

There are many reasons why Mobile messaging works. In a research paper called Understand how consumers use messaging, Twilio, the cloud communications platform, identifies 7 one of them :

  1. It’s asynchronous: Users can engage in their own time, contrary to a phone call.
  2. It’s threaded: Conversations are contextualised and easy to keep track of.
  3. It’s a list of conversations: You can easily see which interaction is the latest.
  4. It’s easy: You can read messages from your locked screen and get the gist of it at a glance.
  5. It’s informal: No title, signature or intros needed… straight to the point.
  6. It’s always with you: Every phone ships with a text functionality.
  7. It’s expressive: Whether it’s pictures, gifs, emojis, or even the lack of an answer, messages can all say a lot.

We established that messaging is extremely popular worldwide, that its usage is growing and is set to become bigger in both personal and professional settings. Now, let’s take a look at some practical business applications.

2) Messaging in a professional setting: Some use cases.

Collaborating and communication internally.

The very first example that comes to mind when evoking messaging in the workplace has to be collaboration / internal communication among teams. Since the days of AIM, a lot of professional solutions have emerged to solve the problem of clunky email back and forth and internal silos.

One major player is of course Slack, the messaging app for teams that has grown to 8 million daily active users since its inception in 2013.

Source: Slack

An acronym for “Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge” (did you know?), it allows users to centralise, organise and search conversations in one hub. The benefits of intra-office messaging are many, from the practical (improved transparency, file and history management) to the more intricate psychological impact on employees (social cohesion, increased involvement).

Helping customers and visitors.

Another huge area where messaging has successfully been implemented is of course customer service. I personally would not get on the phone with any kind of customer service anymore, picking chat over both phone and email, unless I have absolutely no choice. And according to this Salesforce infographic, I’m not the only one:

Source: Salesforce.

Companies like Zendesk have fully embraced messaging as a support channel and are reporting improved results, citing that “92% of all chat support interactions result in a satisfied customer” (source).

Another game-changer in messaging for support has of course also been the rise of in-app widgets provided by companies such as Intercom or Drift, allowing businesses to host live chats on their platforms to engage users. Customer support is only one of their applications:

Generating / Qualifying leads.

Live chat widgets are also used for sales and marketing applications, most commonly to engage website visitors and replacing sign-up forms to qualify and convert potential leads.

Source: Intercom

Drift observes in a study that leads qualified by a live chat on the website (they call them “conversation qualified leads”) convert into opportunities 4 to 5 times higher than any other source. (source)

Similarly, Intercom mentions that on average, website visitors who chat are 82% more likely to convert to customer and pay 13% more than those who don’t. (source)

Closing deals.

As sales professionals, we’ve all experienced this crappy feeling of being left in the dark after sending a proposal, and to miss out on contracts without knowing why. This is what we want to solve at Fairwai, building the first messaging platform for sales proposals.

Source: Fairwai

According to a salesforce study, 94% of opportunities never convert to deals (source), that’s a huge number!

A lot of sales enablement solutions are focused on generating leads, while 75% of companies say closing more deals is their top sales priority. (Hubspot)

Implementing messaging at this later stage of the sales funnel helps companies improve their opportunity-to-deal ratio and close more deals.


Now we have a clearer vision of some applications of real-time messaging in a professional setting, let’s have a look at how and why it can help B2B sales.

3) Messaging in B2B Sales: How does it help?

Catching your prospects at the right time.

As obvious as it sounds, replying when someone wants to talk to you is still the best way to start a conversation. Timing is everything and catching your prospects when they’re ready to talk makes a huge difference:

Waiting just 10 minutes to respond drops the likelihood of qualifying the lead 4X (Source: LeadResponseManagement)

Likewise , interacting with prospects at the right time dramatically increases the quality of the conversation, since the person is concentrated on the topic at play and will logically be more interested and focused. Cold calling someone 2 hours after they’ve checked your document/website/email is just not cutting it anymore. Interacting when they’re on it at that precise moment is a fertile ground for a highly relevant conversation.

“Responding within 5 minutes generates 9x more meaningful conversations”
- Intercom, The Beginner’s Guide to Real-Time-Sales (source)

Maximising your sales velocity.

Sales velocity is a metric measuring how fast you are making money, giving you a picture of how much you’re making and how fast leads are moving through your pipeline. The equation goes as follow:

Source: Intercom

Being able to have real-time conversations with leads and prospects can dramatically decrease the average length of your sales cycle. Early in the sale, one quick chat can help you qualify leads, getting rid of an entire discovery call that would have taken 20 minutes of a BDR time + follow ups. Later in the sale, it can help you answer questions about your proposal as your prospect is reading it, avoiding these clunky email exchanges that typically drag for days.

Collecting measurable and valuable insights.

Messaging provides a great opportunity for analysis, as text-based conversations are easier to track, collect and store than phone or video conferences calls. These records can provide extremely valuable data telling you a lot about you and your team’s performance, identifying what work, what doesn’t and where to improve.

Source. Gong.io

Gong.io is a conversational intelligence platform leveraging data and artificial intelligence to analyse sales calls and help companies improve. They are able to provide sales teams with actionable insights and help reps replicate winning strategies.

While Gong.io does it mostly with calls, the conversational intelligence mentality is replicable with text-based messaging, and is at the heart of other exciting products (*ahem* us *ahem*) in the conversational sphere.

Automating and scaling your sales process.

Another value provided by messaging to B2B sales teams is the ability to automate and scale processes. Because text communications are easier to replicate and automate, the rise of chatbots has opened the door to a lot to live chat automation. Simply put, phone communications are really time- consuming and simply cannot be fully-automated (yet). As a result, a lot of potential business ends up being wasted:

Source: Inside Sales

Sales is a very fertile ground for artificial intelligence and automation, ranging from automated meeting booking to chatbots providing basic info, redirecting to relevant FAQ articles, replacing form submissions, and more. Automating processes is a sure way to scale operations and free up time for salespeople. And if they can afford to spend less time running menial tasks… you guessed it: Salespeople can sell more.

Source: Hubspot

Providing an experience your buyers want.

Last but not least, arguably the most straightforward and important reason why you want to implement messaging in your B2B sales strategy is self-explanatory: your buyers want you to.

Source: Twilio

Over the past few years, research has been showing that individuals are seeking personal and professional buying experiences to be similar. As mentioned in the opening paragraphs of the article, a Salesforce study revealed that 82% of business buyers want the same experience as when they’re buying for themselves (Source).

This phenomenon has been picked up by software providers, showing an increased focus on providing the best user experience possible, which in B2B (and more specifically enterprise) software has its own set of challenges.

Source: Intercom

Ultimately, as we’ve seen throughout this post, messaging is here to stay and has become a staple of our daily life, including when it comes to work and dealing with buyers, sellers, providers and businesses. Based on that alone, implementing messaging in your B2B sales strategy seems like a no-brainer.

4) Limitations and conclusion.

Thank you for reading this (quite long) article which we hope you found useful and has demonstrated some of the opportunities presented by B2B sales messaging. We hope it has given you the itch to go ahead and try to implement some of the solutions mentioned.

It’s important to mentioned before wrapping it up though that messaging also has its drawbacks and detractors, highlighting some of the faults and limitations of the current technologies and solutions. Typically, a lot of the arguments fall under two categories:

  • These technologies are getting in the way of actual human interactions.
  • They are just distractions and gimmicks serving little business purposes.

While I think our thorough examinations of stats and data displayed throughout the article have already proved these assessments wrong, it’s good to accept that while messaging presents incredible opportunities for businesses, it’s not good for all businesses not for all situations.

Source: ReportLinker

In collaborative use cases for example, as pictured in this chart, while messaging is perceived as having a positive impact on collaboration, efficiency and better workflows, it also raises the concern of feeling pressure to always be online, having less physical interactions or feeling difficulty to concentrate.

These concerns are legitimate and raise the importance of establishing etiquette and internal guidelines in order to avoid any issues and derives.

Similarly, live chat widgets on websites using Intercom, Drift or similar solutions are as great as the teams that use them. How many times have you tried to interact with a business on their website to be told that they’re offline and be invited to enter your email for a follow-up days later? While handy, it kinda goes against the point.

We believe messaging allows people to connect in an organic way, and aims at bringing real-time, natural conversations back to the forefront of business interactions. When used right, it is a powerful opportunity for B2B sales teams to become more efficient, improving and automating processes while engaging with customers, prospects and leads in a meaningful, personal way.

Thanks for reading!


References:

  • An, M. “How salespeople learn” (Hubspot, 2017, June 12), Link.
  • Burke, K. “8 Reasons Why Texting is Crucial to Business Communication” (TextRequest, 2018, August 4), Link.
  • Callahan, S. “Real-Time Sales Updates: How LinkedIn’s Team Seizes Sales Opportunities” (LinkedIn, 2018, November 12), Link.
  • Fox, C. “How does lead response time impact sales?” (Marketo, 2012), Link.
  • Fry, R. “Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. labor force” (Pew Research Center, 2018, Aprill 11), Link.
  • Gonçalves, P. “Messaging apps will be the new sales channel — here’s why” (Hijiffy, 2017, September 7), Link.
  • Intercom.“The Beginner’s Guide to Real-Time Sales” (Intercom, 2019) Link. “The Sales Handbook” (Intercom, 2019), Link.
  • Litt, M. “The slackification of work” (Fast company, 2018, September 24), Link.
  • Oldroyd J.B. McElheran, K. Elkington, D. “The Short Life of Online Sales Leads” (Harvard Business Review, 2011, March), Link.
  • O’Neil, P. “Sales velocity: the simple equation that will help you hit your number” (Intercom, 2018, November 8), Link.
  • ReportLinker. “Can We Chat? Instant Messaging Apps Invade the Workplace” (ReportLinker, 2017, June 8), Link.
  • Roosa, A. “How Zendesk customers gain value with ticketing and real-time support” (Zendesk, 2018, October 10), Link.
  • Salesforce. “State of the Connected Customer, 2nd Edition” (Salesforce, 2018), Link.
  • Schoenfeld, A.“The Real Reason Why Conversational Marketing Leads Convert 5X Higher Than Traditional Sources” (Drift, 2018, October 30), Link.
  • Snyder, K. Hilal, P. “The Changing Face of B2B Marketing” (Google, 2015, March), Link.

Thierry Maout is head of growth and co-founder at Fairwai. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn and sign-up to try Fairwai on their website.

Fairwai

Fairwai is the first messaging platform sales proposals. We publish content on Sales, Messaging, AI and the future of Business.

Thierry Maout

Written by

Jack of all trades, master of some. Former co-founder @Fairwai & @flevideoludique, working on my next move. I write about tech, management, education and more.

Fairwai

Fairwai

Fairwai is the first messaging platform sales proposals. We publish content on Sales, Messaging, AI and the future of Business.

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