How to use chatbots to qualify leads on your website

It’s rare to land on a website these days without seeing a chatbot emerge from the bottom right hand corner, asking, “What can I help you with today?”

The message appears to be coming from a nice man named Brent, but you can’t know for sure if it’s actually Brent or just some bot programmed to be Brent while the real Brent is off doing other things.

Chatbots (also called “messenger bots”) are the latest trend in online sales, and there’s reason to believe they’re more than simply a passing fad. Chatbots offer a sales advantage that can increase efficiencies in your sales efforts, cost little to implement, and can even delight your customers.

Here’s how to use chatbots correctly to augment your sales efforts and increase your bottom line.

First Things First: Don’t Treat Your Customer Like a Moron

Skip to Five questions your chatbot should ask to qualify leads

There’s a famous saying from legendary ad man David Ogilvy that goes, “The customer isn’t a moron, she’s your wife.” What he meant was that when you’re selling, you’re selling to a human being. You’re not selling to a market or a customer persona or a homogenous mass of people who are as hypothetically excited about the same things as you. You’re dealing with a person.

And when you’re dealing with a person, you have to treat her with respect. You cannot patronize or condescend to her. Well, you can, but it won’t get you very far. Treating people with respect is especially important in the context of bots, which I recognize makes no sense, but hear me out.

We know when we’re dealing with not-a-human.

Again, the customer isn’t a moron. She knows that your chatbot isn’t a person, but she doesn’t actually care. She doesn’t mind talking to a robot—with one giant caveat. She doesn’t mind talking to a robot when she knows it’s a robot.

Where she gets angry is when she feels she’s been duped. Problems start when you trick a prospect into believing she’s chatting with a human when she is not.

One of the main goals of a sales conversation is to build trust. When you start that conversation off by deceiving your prospects, you erode any trust you’ve built up to that point.

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The ChatBot Isn’t a Human—Don’t Force It to Be One

Yes, I’m getting to the “how to use chatbots to qualify your leads” stuff in a minute, but you gotta get this part first.

How does it feel when you’re unsure of whether you’re being greeted by a person or a bot? Weird. It feels weird. You’re a little skeptical. A little untrusting. Like…should I be spending time talking to this thing or should I wait until there’s an adult on the line?

You’re not even sure if this bot is worth your time.

That’s why you need to design the conversational structure of your chatbot around empathy.

We know prospects don’t mind talking to bots, so why not own that fact and have some fun with it?

When you build obvious I’m-not-a-human moments into your chatbot, you create an enjoyable customer experience. You can include jokes and self-referential humor into the dialogue. Being obvious and transparent about the fact that your bot is a bot takes the edge off for the prospect.

When you start from a place of honesty and transparency, you have a better shot at actually connecting with your prospect. Removing ambiguity allows the prospect to feel comfortable and (dare I say?) have some fun.

Drift is one of the leaders in chatbots. Watch how they use humor to connect with you as soon as you land on their homepage.

drift chatbot funny

It’s funny. But it’s also disarming. You’re not wasting your energy wondering, “Is this a real person?” You know it’s not. And despite this being a bot, you kinda like him because he’s cute and funny and personable. Which is a strange way to describe a bot, but that’s exactly the point. You want to infuse your bot with likable human traits (like humor and friendliness), while also making it very clear from the get-go that this is NOT a human.

The outcome of that transparency is increased trust, AND your prospects will often be impressed at how “good” the bot is instead of disappointed in how “bad” the person is.

Five Questions Your Chatbot Should Ask to Qualify Leads

Digital Marketer co-founder Ryan Deiss tested different messages for his bots and found a sequence of five questions that can dramatically improve your sales pipeline.

With these questions, the chatbot can qualify leads for you before ever sending them over to your sales team. That way, your sales team is only dealing with people who are interested in your products and ready to buy.

It also makes for a better experience for prospects who aren’t ready to buy because the bot can point them in the right direction and not waste their time.

Here are the five filter questions for your chatbots that will help you to qualify serious leads:

  1. Are you a [BLANK]?
  2. Tell me more.
  3. What brought you here today?
  4. What do you know about X (product)?
  5. Do you want some help with that?

Here’s why these questions work:

Question #1: Are you a [BLANK]?

This question allows the prospect to self-identify, while also telling the bot who it’s dealing with. For example, if you sell to agencies and business owners, this question can help you filter which one this prospect is and point them to the appropriate collateral. Here’s how you might phrase this question:

“Are you a business owner?”

“Are you a new mom?”

“Are you a plumber?”

Self-identification is a useful tool for sales because it gets the prospect to reaffirm why they’re there.

Question #2: “Tell me more”

You want your prospect to feel heard, even if you’re a bot. [TWEET THIS!] Open-ended questions are a little tough for non-humans, but generally if someone is ready to buy or has a problem you can solve, this is where it will come out.

“I’m looking for sales software.”

“I’m trying to wean my kid off his pacifier.”

Question #3: “What brought you here today?”

This is the more specific version of question number two. If “tell me more” doesn’t get at the problem, “What brought you here today” will immediately identify who has buyer intent and who is just browsing. And it will reveal your prospect’s market awareness level.

Market awareness is the degree to which your prospect knows about their own pain points. How much do they know about the problem you solve—the problem they (presumably) have?

The most aware customer is acutely aware of their problem and how to solve it but, but hasn’t gotten around to solving it yet. The least aware customer doesn’t know they have a problem, or they know they have a problem but they aren’t aware of solutions that exist to solve it. These types of prospects require different kinds of sales information.

That’s why you ask a filtering question. You’re trying to gauge whether this person is solution-aware or pain-aware. Prospects who are solution-aware do not require as much convincing and education as prospects who are pain-aware.

Question #4: What do you know about [PRODUCT]?

Now we’re getting deeper into the qualifying questions. This question (or rather, the answer to it) will tell you the prospect’s market sophistication level. Your prospect’s sophistication level is how much they know about your product or category. It’s getting at how knowledgeable or expert they are in your specific product or service.

This is relevant because it determines how you speak to this customer. Will they understand (and expect) industry jargon? Will they be familiar with the major players in the space? Prospects with higher levels of sophistication will usually want more technical and expert information than someone who is at a lower level.

Their sophistication level determines what questions they have.

Consider the difference between someone who has never been on a diet before who is about to buy your diet program (low sophistication) versus someone who has tried all the diets and is now going to try yours (high sophistication).

They have different barriers to purchase and different questions about your product and what it can do for them. By asking this question, your sales team will be ready with their answers and be able to employ the right approach from the get-go.

Question #5: “Do you want some help with that?”

This is where we get to purchase intent. If the person answers “yes” to this question, you can move them onto a salesperson (a real human) who can take it from there. The lead has been qualified and is ready to buy.

If the person says no, you can note their information, but leave them alone. You won’t need to expend your sales team’s time with someone who is just browsing or isn’t ready to buy—or who wants to buy directly from the website instead of through a person. Either way, this question is the filter question that will save your IRL team time, energy, and effort.

The goal of all these questions is to get your prospects where they need to go quickly and seamlessly, without wasting their time or your sales team’s time. Using bots and humans together is the key to effectively using chatbots to improve your sales.

One final note: If you’re new to chatbots and want to add one to your website, you might want to start with actual human-driven live chat first. According to Susan Boles, founder of Scale/Spark, “Live chat is a great opportunity to find out how your site visitors engage with chat, what kinds of questions they’ll ask, and what they want to chat about, which can help you make a decision about whether or not a chatbot might be right for you before you dive into the investment of building out bots and automation. When you’re ready, you’ll be able to use all that info you gather to actually start building a chatbot that your customers can engage with automatically.”

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