Welcome to the chatty world of intelligent virtual assistants

With the world becoming more dependent on artificial intelligence, it’s getting harder to determine if you’re talking to a machine or with a human—at least during online chats with businesses. The technology for carrying on conversations with an intelligent virtual assistant is getting so good that many customers often don’t realize that they’re chatting with a bot. With an endorsement like that, you’re probably looking into intelligent virtual assistant technology for your business. What should you always do—or never do? How about the pros and cons?

On this episode of The Data-Driven Marketer, we chat with Amanda DePaul, Senior Director of Demand Generation and Integrated Marketing at Conversica. The company offers a proprietary platform that allows intelligent virtual assistants to have natural and authentic conversations with customers and prospects to improve sales effectiveness. Amanda explained how this technology works and why these specialized chatbots are a sales team’s new best friends.

What is an intelligent virtual assistant?

When most people think about intelligent virtual assistants, they’re probably picturing the automated voices you get when you call a company. But that was then. In the past, companies used recorded voice call trees to keep customers away from talking to live employees or to route callers to the correct language, department, or person. Now, Amanda tells us that the opposite is true. “The whole point of an intelligent virtual assistant is to get a prospect or customer connected with an actual human representative,” she explained. And that’s not all. They can take care of a lot of the preliminary information the humans will need to facilitate the call.

intelligent virtual assistants

Some AI virtual assistant technologies have progressed to following up after a meeting, making sure that the person and the rep showed up for the meeting and that the prospect and the representative got all their questions answered.

New BFFs: Bots and the inside sales team

Being a sales development representative (SDR) is a tough job. Traditionally, these brave and thick-skinned souls have spent their days prospecting, looking for people who want to hear their company’s message. They send emails by the dozens and make up to a hundred (or more!) phone calls a day. They’d rather be having productive conversations with decision-makers, facilitating demos, and negotiating deals. And that, Amanda said, is one of SDRs biggest pain points.

“One of the most frustrating parts of being an SDR is the prospecting piece,” Amanda said, “where you’re sending out those emails and making those phone calls.”

intelligent virtual assistants

That’s where AI virtual assistants come in: they can serve as an SDR for the SDR. It’s true that reps might be skeptical at first; after all, the last thing they want is to be replaced by a machine. But the SDRs’ fears can melt away when they discover that intelligent virtual assistants aren’t interested in doing SDRs’ jobs. They exist to help SDRs get to the good stuff faster. “You can go to the SDRs and say, ‘What if we could implement some technology to do this mundane work for you?” Amanda offered. “To work on the scheduling and the intake so that you can have more time to actually talk to people?’”

When you put it that way, it doesn’t take very long to prove that the concept of an intelligent virtual assistant can, and does, pay dividends for your SDR team.

Your virtual assistant can have mad social skills

How often have you opened a website and seen the little chat box pop up in the bottom right corner of the screen? You probably immediately closed it out and ignored it. We’ve all done it.

That’s why your intelligent virtual assistant needs to get and keep your attention. Just like at a real-life cocktail party, your AI virtual assistant needs to start the conversation with an engaging opener that people want to interact with.

One way that Conversica does this is by giving the intelligent virtual assistant some context for the interaction. When they get inbound leads, for example, from a conference, event, or trade show, they can start the conversation by referencing that particular event.

You can have the intelligent virtual assistant offer enticing opening lines, like: “Did you get a chance to catch our speaking session on _____? If you didn’t, we’d love to chat more with you about it.” When the prospect responds, the intelligent virtual assistant takes that conversation and starts to run with it, naturally outlining the steps to get that lead connected with a sales rep.

It’s a new world for a lot of people, Amanda understands. But her message to SDRs is that an intelligent virtual assistant takes care of the pain points, freeing up sales reps to do what they really love. And after all, chatbots don’t share in your SDRs commission when they close the deal.


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