Live Chat Best Practices for Sales

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We don’t kid ourselves here at Drift …

We know that live chat isn’t some new, groundbreaking technology. It’s been around for years, primarily as a customer support channel.

Chances are, you’ve used live chat to communicate with a customer support person before.

(For me, live chat has always been my go-to option for troubleshooting issues with my cable TV service. I’ve always found it more convenient / less miserable than calling.)

But here’s the thing:

As 1:1 messaging has exploded in popularity, and the way people research and purchase products has evolved, live chat has become even more valuable.

Nowadays, it’s not just customer support reps using live chat. More and more sales reps are using live chat, too.

Here at Drift, we’ve seen this shift happening first-hand.

More and more frequently, the people reaching out to us to learn about our live chat product are sales decision-makers. They’re VPs of sales, and sales directors, and CROs.

Why are they all so interested in live chat? Here’s what they tell us:

  • They want to book meetings and demos faster.
  • They want to close deals faster / have shorter sales cycles.
  • But they don’t want all the “noise” associated with traditional live chat: They want to be laser-focused on having conversations with only people who are likely to buy.

The underlying theme here is that sales leaders are starting to see the true value of modern live chat. They’re discovering that live chat isn’t some experimental channel: It’s already producing measurable results for sales teams around the world.

(FYI: We recently made a video showcasing the value of using live chat for sales vs. using email.)

With so many sales professionals now asking us about how to use live chat for sales, we decided to put together this list of nine best practices.

All of the advice I’ve gathered here is based on experiences our customers have had selling with our live chat product, as well as experiences our own sales reps have had selling with live chat.

1) Staff live chat with real people.

Forrester Research found that 44% of online consumers consider having a live person to talk to while making an online purchase one of the most important features a website can have.

Installing a live chat widget on your site isn’t enough: You need to have real people responding to incoming chats in real-time. 

While this might sound obvious, there are hundreds of companies out there that have installed live chat software but don’t have any employees actually staffing the live chat.

Yes, you can automate aspects of live chat and use it for announcements and lead capture campaigns. But if that’s all you’re using live chat for, you’re missing the point.

At Drift, we think about live chat as a technology for having 1:1 conversations at scale.

Without humans present, those conversations can’t happen.

2) Use chatbots for tedious tasks.

There’s a misconception that intelligent chatbots could someday replace human sales reps.

At Drift, we see the role of chatbots differently: They’re not here to replace us, they’re here to help us with the mundane, repetitive, or otherwise undesirable tasks that slow us down and prevent us from focusing on the stuff that we humans are good at.

Answering complex product questions,understanding — at an emotional level — the pain points potential customers are struggling with … these are the areas where human sales reps will always shine.

But when it comes to the more tedious tasks, chatbots are poised to become our trusty sidekicks.

For example, our intelligent chatbot, Driftbot, can auto-assign incoming chats to particular departments based on what people are asking. That way, sales reps never have to spend time dealing with support questions or other inquiries.

With Driftbot’s intelligent routing, only people interested in talking to sales get routed to sales.

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By integrating Driftbot with a knowledge base, you can also free up sales reps from having to answer those straightforward, commonly asked questions that might otherwise clog up their inboxes.

With a knowledge base integration, Driftbot can identify keywords in what people are asking and serve up relevant content automatically.

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Ultimately, by routing visitors to the people who are best-equipped to deal with their questions, and by providing fast answers to simple questions whenever possible, chatbots aren’t just useful for salespeople: They help entire businesses deliver a better customer experience.

3) Set expectations with offline hours.

Of course, even with intelligent chatbots at your side, staffing live chat 24/7 would be a serious undertaking — especially if you have a small team or are an owner/operator.

The good news is that you don’t have to be online around the clock in order to use live chat for sales. You do, however, have to set expectations by letting people know when you’re away.

With Drift, you can easily set hours and availability for live chat so potential customers can see if you’re online or offline.

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During your online hours, you can set a welcome message to appear in your live chat widget. (e.g. “Hey there! Let us know if you have any questions.”)

When you’re offline, meanwhile, you can have an away message appear (see animation below).

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If someone leaves you a message while you’re away, Drift automatically converts that message to an email and sends it your inbox. That way, you don’t risk missing out on potentially important conversations when you’re offline.

Yes, in a perfect world you’d always have someone online running live chat. But since that isn’t a reality for most of us, setting offline hours is the best way to let people know you’re still listening.

4) Show your face.

One of the pitfalls of “old school” live chat software was that visitors could have a hard time telling who they were chatting with.

Is it a robot? Or is it a human? And if it’s a human, is it an actual employee of the company? Or is it someone from a third-party service? 

With modern live chat, you can make it clear who you are from the get-go by having a photo of yourself appear within the live chat widget.
notification-3.pngBy showing a photo of yourself in chat, you’re letting potential customers know that you’re a living, breathing person, and not some anonymous corporate entity.

To give potential customers even more insight into who they’re talking to, we encourage all of our users to create Drift Profiles.

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Drift Profiles are like digital business cards for live chat that you can share with potential customers. The profiles allow potential customers to learn more about you, see when you’re online or offline, and start chats with you directly.

And because each Drift Profile has a unique and customizable URL, it’s a great addition to an email signature, and can help you move sales conversations from “email-time” into real-time.

5) Lots of traffic? Target high-intent pages.

As I mentioned earlier, “noise” is a major concern for sales reps when it comes to using live chat for sales.

In most cases, sales reps understand that a shift in communication is happening — they understand that 1:1 messaging apps have billions of users worldwide, and that live chat is becoming an increasingly productive sales channel.

But at the same time, today’s sales reps just don’t want to deal with all of the random people who might land on their homepage and start conversations for the heck of it. 

Today’s sales reps don’t want to spend their time having conversations with unqualified visitors when they could be talking to warm leads.

For websites that get lots of traffic, this is a valid concern. And as we’ve watched our own website traffic grow here at Drift, we’ve had to adapt our live chat strategy accordingly.

One “secret weapon” we discovered early on: Targeting our website’s high-intent pages with live chat. And by “high-intent pages,” I mean the pages we know people visit when they’re serious about becoming customers.

The pricing page is always a good place to start. If people are interested in your pricing, there’s a chance they’re also interested in becoming customers. By creating a customized message or call-to-action that only appears to people on this specific page, you can cut through some of the noise.

Avery_Drift_Fair_Billing.pngBut that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.

With Drift Campaigns, in addition to targeting live chat based on specific pages or URLs, you can also target based on how many times someone has visited a page, or how much time someone has spent on a page in a given session, or how far down someone has scrolled on a page … there are lots of options.

For an overview of how our sales team uses Campaigns, check out the video below:

6) Not much traffic? Put chat everywhere.

If you’re not receiving much website traffic, we recommend putting live chat on every page of your site.

You can still target specific pages with customized messages, but in order to make sure nobody slips through the cracks, having live chat appear in as many places as possible is a smart move.

Think of your website as a store. With live chat, you can put a helpful employee in every corner of that store. It lets people know that you’re open for business and ready to help.

7) Create saved replies for common questions.

Having live chat on your website can help reveal which areas of your product marketing and/or positioning need work.

Because after a few weeks, or a few days, or maybe even a few hours of running live chat on your website, you’ll inevitably discover that people ask the same questions over, and over, and over.

Creating saved replies for these common questions can help you avoid the repetitive task of typing out the same responses over, and over, and over.

But couldn’t a chatbot just answer these questions?

Sure, but if you’re already mid-conversation with a potential customer and the question comes up, handing them off to a chatbot for the answer seems like a pretty awful experience.

With a saved reply, you can click a button and seamlessly add a well-articulated answer into your conversation.

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8) Integrate with tools you’re already using.

Some live chat companies want their platforms to be at the center of your work universe.

At Drift, we just want live chat to be a part of that universe.

So, for example, if you’re already comfortable using Slack and spend most of your day in that platform, why not integrate live chat with Slack and have all of your conversations there?

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Another example: If you’re already using a sales or marketing platform, why not integrate with live chat so you can sync all of your new contacts?

The broader take away here: You don’t need to completely up-end your existing sales operation in order to start using live chat for sales. You can simply plug live chat into the tools you’re already using.

9) Be yourself. Let your personality shine through.

This above all: to thine own self be true,

-William Shakespeare

Look, I get that people don’t usually turn to Billy Shakespeare for sales advice, but when it comes to live chat, this one actually makes a lot of sense.

In order to make live chat feel as personal as possible, you need to be yourself. So don’t be afraid to crack a joke or to use an emoji or two when you feel the occasion calls for it.

Remember: Chatbots are great for the tedious tasks, but when it comes to making connections and developing relationships, automation alone can’t cut it. In order to build trust with people, you need to be authentic.

So in addition to showing a photo of yourself, and sharing information about yourself via your Drift Profile, you also just need to be yourself when chatting with people. It goes a long away.

Live Chat for Sales Cheat Sheet

Wish there were an easy way to remember these live chat best practices for sales? Good news: I made you a cheat sheet (see below).

Thanks for reading!

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Click here to learn more about how Drift can help your sales team convert more leads and close more deals.

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