They say you only get one chance to make a first impression.
In the year 2000, the average human attention span was 12 seconds, dropping to 8 seconds in 2015. In internet terms, how consumers use those 8 (or often fewer) seconds can mean the difference between choosing to buy from you, or a competitor.
With so little time to convert, it’s no surprise why so many businesses are turning to live chat to help generate leads, book meetings, and close deals.
But as such a new sales channel, many businesses still have a lot of questions about to use live chat effectively. The secret to using live chat effectively is simple: add value, be helpful, and deliver on the prospect’s needs with a well-timed, personal approach.
Timing is everything
As discussed previously, timing is everything when it comes to sales.
Your chances of reaching a lead are 100 times higher if you reach out within the first five minutes. Live chat can enable you to respond in seconds, and ensures neither the sales person or the buyer are kept waiting.
The beauty of live chat is it can help to convert customers at any point in their buying cycle. The definitions of a buying cycle vary depending on the industry, but typically, it will comprise:
- Recognising the “problem”
- Searching for information
- Evaluating alternative options
- Considering a purchase
- Analysing the purchase
As marketers, we will most likely deal with customers in the consideration and purchasing stages.
However, live chat also serves to provide answers at every stage of the funnel – whether you like it or not, you’ll have people from all stages in the funnel engaging via live chat to ask all manner of questions.
These inbound questions and conversations can often be viewed as a drain on resources, but they’re both a huge source of learning and a source of inspiration for new content, marketing materials, and improvements to your product or service.
Picking up the pace
How exactly does live chat speed up the conversion process? Rather than asking visitors to fill in lead forms (which they don’t want to do), or call a number (which they don’t have time to do), visitors can just reach out with a single message. Easy, fast, personal.
Live chat provides an instant response in place of tedious website navigation, contact forms, and phone numbers. Rather than having to wait hours or days for a response, buyers can speak to a knowledgeable member of the team there and then.
Speed up the consideration stage
Sometimes, a well-written services page is not enough. It’s pretty well established that over 95% of visitors will exit a site without converting, and most of them will exit within 8 seconds.
So live chat helps your team present your services to align with the buyer’s needs – just as a shop assistant can tailor a message to each buyer who walks through the door of a retail store.
In B2B sales, a key conversion at the consideration stage is to book a meeting. By speaking one-on-one with your staff, purchasers can agree a suitable meeting time while your sales team follows up with a courtesy email.
With live chat, if you’re aiming to book meetings as part of your sales process, you’ll see more meetings booked, and less time wasted on emails back and forth with buyers to arrange times.
Using live chat to close the sale
Let’s say a buyer has finished evaluating the different options out there, and they’ve decided they like your company the best. Time to celebrate! But not so fast… How can live chat help you overcome the final hurdle faster and more confidently?
If you’re using the right tools, you can alert your sales team to when buyers are returning to your site prepared to purchase. These buyers will warrant all the attention you can give them to get them over the line – from answering their specific questions as fast as possible, to proactively helping them choose the right product or service for them.
Live chat gives you the opportunity to not just close a sale, but to ensure a buyer feels like they’re making the best possible decision by choosing you.
How to make live chat an effective sales channel
Like almost any piece of software, live chat is only as effective as you choose to make it. To gain more leads, to deliver a truly delightful experience, and to convert visitors into customers faster, remember to:
Live chat offers your business an opportunity to go beyond your competitors and offer a more personal level of service from day one. Don’t treat live chat as a cost centre and make it so automated that visitors become frustrated.
By all means, use automated messages where appropriate – for example to display office opening hours, and to capture key lead information. But you’ll want to ensure your staff are well trained, and responsive when they’re on live chat.
Understand buyer intentions
The best live chat tools can be set to appear based on conditions you set. Human staff have finite bandwidth, so to optimise your team’s time, you may wish to enable live chat only when specific criteria are met – like when someone has viewed your pricing page, or visited your site more than three times without purchasing.
Set expectations for the buyer
When using live chat, you need to ensure you have the basics nailed: Make sure customers can clearly see your opening hours, and give them a clear understanding of how long they should expect to wait for a response when they message you.
If you’re not around for an extended period of time (like a national holiday), you may want to consider turning live chat off to avoid any possible frustrations visitors may have. This is a decision that comes down to the business – it’s often better to have enquiries even if you’re not there to respond immediately, but you may also see some frustration from those who see “a live chat option” and expect a near-instant response.
Wherever your buyers are in the funnel, live chat can provide a helpful, human experience that increases conversions and dramatically speeds up your sales cycle.