3 Ways AI Sales Assistants Improve and Automate your Lead Follow Up and Qualification

Written by Ilan Kasan

Co-founder and CEO at Exceed.ai.

Apr 6, 2021

Lead follow-up is hard. In an ideal world, you’d have a conversation with every lead, so you can understand where the lead stands in their buying journey, make sure that they have enough information to move down the funnel, and follow up at regular intervals until they are ready to make a purchase. 

But in the real world, things are different and you might feel that your lead engagement process is broken. John Steinert, CMO at Tech Target – a company which specializes marketing intelligence and data services – explains, “whether initial engagement is achieved via marketing or sales outreach, light interactions thereafter create a real execution challenge. If the prospect is open to hearing more, but not ready for a big meeting, they don’t easily fit into sales workflow and standard marketing nurture is probably too intermittent and impersonal to keep you in the front of the prospect’s consciousness. Teams need a way to execute light touches, pings, that keep them relatively top of mind but don’t ask a lot of the recipient (and don’t require much work on the sender side). Done well, I see it as somewhat analogous to a periodic text message you might get from a friend.”

Many of your leads are falling between the cracks

Lead engagement often begins with an automated email sequence, but quickly (hopefully!) becomes a two-way, manual conversation. Leads frequently hesitate and delay in responding to qualifying questions or suggestions to schedule a call, causing sales opportunities to pile up and overwhelm the sales development rep (SDR). This kind of stop-and-start interaction explains why 71% of leads slip through the cracks

Sales reps are wasting time on unqualified leads

A significant percentage of early email interactions go nowhere. 75% of reps’ time is wasted chasing unqualified leads (Oracle Research), which is why lead qualification is so important. There’s a high chance that your reps are spending time on repetitive email procedures and administrative box-ticking – time that could be better used on productive sales conversations such as scheduling a phone call with a sales rep, or unghosting a former lead whose email thread had dwindled away. With response time being an extremely important factor when a lead comes in, it only makes sense that optimizing your pipeline requires reducing the time your reps are spending chasing leads.

Not responding on time

Time is money, especially in the world of sales. Your leads may have an exceedingly small window of interest in your product, and if you don’t respond within hours, you can bet that your competition will, and your chances of closing drop ten-fold. In fact, if you take 10 minutes to reply to a lead, your chances of closing drop by 80%, compared with responses within 5 minutes.

At Medusind, VP of Marketing Erik Sunset stresses the importance of response times to his team: “Speed to interaction is critical.  Regardless of lead source (paid search/social, website, lead vendors), your response to a new lead needs to be instant.  You need to have the mentality that a given lead filled out a form or requested more information because they want to buy something – and you have to be there to help them through the rest of the process.”

But with such a huge number of potential leads and so many fractured email interactions, it’s a struggle for reps to respond on time manually and consistently. Since most B2B firms are selling internationally, the likelihood of a lead responding when your SDR is out of the office is considerable and can be missed or responded to with a delay. On top of this, consider the fact that 55% of companies take more than five days, never mind five minutes, to respond to a lead’s inquiry, and 12% fail to respond at all. Prompt, relevant response is critical, but challenging to handle manually. 

AI and Automation to the rescue

Imagine if you could hold a personal conversation with every lead, replying promptly to each inquiry and objection and following up persistently and in a timely manner to pre-qualify each one before handing them over to sales reps?

It doesn’t have to be a fantasy. You could make it a reality with an AI-Powered Intelligent Virtual Sales Development Rep (SDR) which does the grunt work of following-up, nurturing, qualifying leads, and even scheduling meetings on your reps calendar. It works alongside your sales reps, as a partner. Exceed.AI takes your sales playbook and transforms it into a two-way conversation with leads over email and chat.  

Every AI-generated response is both personalized and relevant to where the lead stands in the sales cycle, so each lead feels as though they’re interacting with a human agent, and your human reps are freed up to focus on revenue-generating activities and talking to leads. You can see some examples of how this might play out below. 

When a lead responds to an automated email sequence, the AI Sales Assistant identifies the intent behind the question and responds accordingly, for example, if a lead asks if about pricing and case study the AI Sales Assistant will handle the inquiry, suggest they meet with a human and go ahead and schedule a meeting directly on the reps calendar.

Examples of AI Sales Assistant Use Cases:

1. Lead sign up on the website. Emily the AI Sales Assistant follows up with the lead

2. The Lead asks two questions –  pricing and a case study 

3. Emily addresses both questions and introduces a human to the conversation, then proposes times to meet with the rep. 

Exceed.AI’s assistants carry out smart follow-up, so if one receives an automatic out-of-office response, it will try again a day or two after the lead is back in the office. If a lead replies that they’d be open to discuss your product in three months’ time, the assistant automatically follows up on schedule. There’s no such thing as missing a window for AI-driven SDRs. 

Use Case: Contact Me Later

1. A Leads asks to be contacted in the spring

2. The AI Sales Assistant, Emily acknowledges the request 3. When Springtime arrives, Emily follows up as requested 

An AI-powered sales assistant can even carry out complex lead qualification activities. For example, you may not be willing to share a demo with everyone who asks. Your AI assistant can ask a qualifying question to leads from small companies, such as “I would love to show you a demo. Before I do so, I have a quick question: how many licenses were you thinking of purchasing?” And yes, it can also detect if the lead is from a large company where that kind of question would be irrelevant.

Use Case: Automated Lead Qualification using a Virtual SDR

1. Emily qualifies the lead by asking him a qualification question

2. The Lead responds to the qualification questions

3. The Lead does not meet qualification criteria

To learn more about how AI and automation can help you grow and for more examples click here

Exceed.AI can fix your broken lead engagement process

If you feel like your lead engagement is broken, Exceed’s AI-powered assistants can prevent your sales reps from wasting time. Your SDRs will benefit from the opportunity to dedicate more energy to the most qualified opportunities, and you’ll see increased pipeline and revenue per rep, reduced cost per lead, and maximize marketing investment.

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