A decade ago, when software was still sold in boxes, most purchases involved an anonymous form or a call back from a sales rep. But nobody buys software like this anymore. Nowadays, by the time a buyer gets even close to a sales rep, they’ve already done a lot of their homework upfront. Customers are now in control of the sales process and it’s the businesses who are providing a personal, human selling experience that are winning.

Informal, expressive messages sent via modern messaging tools provide that human selling experience and have sounded the death knell for impersonal, clunky communications. However, while messaging might match the way people actually want to buy, there is much more to it than simply dropping a live chat widget in the bottom right corner of your website.

The three biggest challenges with selling through live chat are:

Too Many Low-Value Leads

Live chat is incredibly effective for sales teams. I’ve heard this time and again from our customers. But a low signal-to-noise ratio means there’s a painful tradeoff. To get those effective live chats, sales teams end up spending too much time with low value conversations: visitors who are just kicking the tires, who are far too early in the buying process, or maybe who aren’t target customers at all. The wasted effort of talking to each and every one of these visitors is really costly.

Wasted Time Spent On Simple Lead Qualification

Even once you’ve reduced your incoming conversations to a better quality pool of visitors, you still need to prioritise them. Real-time chats are the most effective, so you need to ensure your sales team are prioritising the highest value conversations.

Live Chat Makes It Difficult To Cater To Different Stages Of The Buyer’s Journey

Sales today is all about building trust and education, not about being pushy or trying to close a deal. To work well, live chat needs to allow people to buy things the way they want to buy them.

?Fortunately there are ways to solve these issues.

Businesses should use the tools that let them target high quality leads. Instead of spending all of that time and effort talking to every single visitor to your website, today’s sales teams need a way to A) let only high value leads start a conversation (without opening up the floodgates to everyone) and B) get proactive by reaching out to these leads before they head out the door.

To achieve both goals, sales teams need the right kind of strategy and tools that allow them to properly segment website visitors. For example, one way of ensuring a solid screening process is to only have a live chat  widget appear after someone has visited your pricing page for the second time, or only for a certain size of businesses.

Despite bots being almost a dirty word in the industry, we believe bots are crucial to augmenting, rather than replacing humans in the long-term. Using bots to automate lead qualification helps businesses capture their leads’ valuable information and keep the conversation moving, letting sales teams usher the best leads into the fast lane.

Some bots, for example, can use a small, simple set of initial questions to help sales teams to cut through the noise and pinpoint just how valuable a potential leads is so sales teams know where they should be focusing their time and energy. By automating this process, teams can easily identify the strongest leads and also have more time to focus on bringing these conversations to the next level.

Additionally, companies no longer need a separate tool to convert leads, another to nurture them, another to onboard them and another to do customer support. Instead, they should view live chat for sales as a channel that lives within a central customer communication platform – not as a siloed channel on its own. Adopting this approach allows customers to experience a consistent experience at every stage of the customer lifecycle. For example, by the time a lead comes into contact with your sales rep, the rep should have a complete record of that customer, the questions they’ve asked, the emails they’ve received, the answers they’ve provided, the notes their colleagues have made.

?Ultimately, the way people buy products is changing forever, but messaging will play a central role today and for years to come. In a world of subscription-based software and recurring revenue, you can’t afford to just close the deal and move on. You need to build a consistently sustainable human and personal relationship from the moment they land on your site, through your free trial, through onboarding, through customer support and beyond.