The traditional online sales funnel is outdated and ineffective.

Contact forms, gated content, and email campaigns only convert a fraction of the time, regardless of how much traffic you send their way. That means many potential customers are slipping through your fingers.

Growth marketer Sujan Patel believes the reason traditional funnels don't work is because they don’t meet visitors’ needs fast enough. For Patel, the key to greater conversion rates is meeting customer needs in real-time through the kind of instant messaging platforms they use in everyday life.

This kind of instant lead engagement is possible with conversation bots. Specifically, a conversation bot can be used to engage customers instantly, collect their data, send them relevant sales material, and identify those who are ready to buy.

Conversation Bots Can Be Used for Data Collection

The better you understand your users, the easier it is to qualify them. That means you need to collect as much data as possible when a user lands on your site. This is a pretty tricky task on a normal website, but not for a conversation bot. They make data collection more user-friendly and more effective.

One way they do this is by initiating data collection. Visitors no longer have to make the first move by filling out a form. Instead, bots can take the initiative by asking a series of easy-to-answer questions designed to get as much information as possible without scaring the user off.

It doesn’t matter if the conversation gets cut off, either. As Chaim Chernoff from The Jewish Content Network points out, just one question should provide enough information to reconnect with the visitor in the future.

Conversation bots can also be used to make sure the information that users give you is accurate. For instance, Specter, the lead generation bot used by Maruti Techlabs, will ask for clarification if an email address or phone number isn’t in the correct format, or if a user skips a question.

Even at this early stage, conversation bots can use the data shared with them to start qualifying leads. If a visitor is a bad fit — perhaps they live in the wrong country or are looking for a different service — your bot can let them know before they go any further. If the person is a good fit, conversation bots can take the opportunity to provide more information about your company and ask further questions to make sure sales staff have the information they need.

That’s how social media specialist Richard McGrath makes sure he only speaks to suitable candidates. If his conversation bot detects that a visitor is a potential lead, they offer the visitor more information about McGrath’s service so the visitor can self-qualify. If the person is happy to continue, they are then directed to a page where they can book a meeting. At that stage, the visitor fields a few more questions so McGrath has all of the information he needs to make the initial consultation a success.

Conversation Bots Can Personalize Customer Experiences

If you want to achieve high customer conversion rates, you need to deliver a personalized experience to visitors. Sure, you can use a complex analytics platform to identify what users are engaging with and what they should be shown next, but that makes the sales cycle slow and difficult. Conversation bots can do that work much more quickly.

The data that conversation bots collect can tell you what a user is interested in, as well as what pages on your site they have already visited, and what actions they have taken. As Lead Fuze’s Nathan Sykes explains, that information can then be used to determine the kind of content they’re probably looking for next in their buying journey.

Sales staff could also follow up with individual leads early in the sales cycle to provide a personalized experience. But, again, AI-powered conversation bots can handle this job, tech writer Kayla Matthews says. That’s because human reps don’t have access to all of the necessary information or the ability to service every user simultaneously. Bots, on the other hand, can access information about every single past encounter and immediately identify the best next step to take.

Digital marketer Marcela de Vivo points to one brand that has achieved success with this strategy: retailer H&M. When a customer lands on H&M’s site and chats with a bot, they are asked subtle questions about their style and tastes. The bot is then able to direct customers to personalized suggestions while making note of the user’s tastes.

Conversation Bots Can Help Your Team Prioritize Leads

Ultimately, your sales staff have a limited amount of time, and they need to focus their efforts if they are to be successful. Conversation bots can help them prioritize sales targets by automatically scoring leads based on their likelihood of converting.

Lead scoring, entrepreneur Amine Bellaoud argues, is where conversation bots really come into their own. Bellaoud emphasizes that lead scoring doesn’t have to be complicated — any business owner can do it. Start by having your conversation bot quiz leads on the information that is important to you — team size, budget, industry, role — and then simply assign each possible answer a value between 1 and 10. The more points a user scores, the better the lead they are.

Let’s use a real estate business as an example of how this could work in practice. As Automabot’s Grant Gould demonstrates, a real estate conversation bot would gather information about a person’s location, budget, and intent (e.g. do they want to rent or buy?). With that information, the bot could determine whether the user should speak to an agent and, if so, who the best agent would be.

If you do use conversation bots to score leads, you need to be careful about where you place them. HubSpot’s Robert Lawless explains that lead generation bots should only be placed on the sections of your site where visitors are most likely to convert. Examples would be pricing pages, feature pages, and demo-scheduling pages.

Don’t make the bots too intrusive, either. You may want to qualify as many users as possible, but you don’t want to scare users off with intrusive popups. Entrepreneur AJ Agrawal recommends positioning your conversation bot as a customer service utility and placing it in a space that is “neither too obvious or too hidden”.

Conversation Bots Can Take Immediate Action

Not every user follows a linear, predictable journey across your site. Some people will land on your site hot, ready to purchase but for a question about your product or pricing. This is an ideal scenario for conversation bots.

That’s because conversation bots offer the immediacy these hot leads need at a level unrivaled by human counterparts, HubSpot’s Aja Frost says. While sales staff can only deal with one user at a time, a conversation bot that is equipped to answer product questions can serve every single user at once.

In general, the quicker you can respond to any kind of user, the faster you can move them toward conversion. This is what consultant Angelo Sorbello found when experimenting with bots. As Sorbello notes, many sales funnels — especially enterprise sales cycles — simply take a long time. Multiple touches are required before these sales funnels even collect relevant user data.

With a conversation bot, however, you can start learning about your prospect the moment they land on your site.

vanessa castaneda