Artificial Intelligence And Social Selling – The Future Of Startup Growth

Until recently we believed that robots cannot have a conscious or emotions. And most importantly we thought robots can never sell. All those safe assumptions are now becoming debatable. As a matter of fact we don’t even know if a salesperson replying us in real-time in the year 2020 would be a human or a robot. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? But if we think about it, AI has already penetrated into our lives with or without our consent. When you get in your car, you’re probably already using an iphone app to show you how the traffic is going to be on the road or how many dine out places you have in your vicinity. Well, that’s just the beginning. Imagine social selling pairing with Artificial Intelligence to improve conversion of qualified leads to sales. That’s when bots are really going to challenge the human sales force. The question is, are you willing to take up the challenge? 

challenge

While most people seem uncertain, millennials are excited about the possibilities of artificial intelligence for predictive analysis and the role of chatbots for interactive services and conversational commerce. Interestingly, among other things that AI is going to impact, social selling will get the best of it. Which explains why social selling and predictive analytics have revved the digital marketing industry specially entrepreneurs and startups.

As marketers, we are expected to develop a proactive approach and communicate with our customers in real time. This is practically impossible for a human sales force. Hence the future of social selling will incorporate algorithms to not only predict and analyze in advance but also execute certain tasks accordingly.

It’s no surprise that 2016 has been a year filled with startups that launched apps fostering bots capable of simulating human conversation and are powered by artificial intelligence. A good number of startups have developed bots for different industries. These bots are either stand-alone apps or could be integrated with other programs to improve responses to various customers. The catch is they are powered by artificial intelligence. Now if online businesses from different industries integrate these bots into their system, they will eventually be capable of predicting, tracking and optimizing their social selling across all platforms.

What Is Social Selling?

It is a technique for lead generation (qualified or unqualified) through social media. It offers direct interaction between a brand’s representatives and its likely prospects via various social media platforms. After the huge social networking outburst, businesses created their social presence to actively listen to their prospects and customers and then engage and interact with them. It’s a process of grooming the leads until they are sales-ready. It can involve strengthening your leads on LinkedIn or focusing on Pinterest followers according to the nature of your business. Undoubtedly, social selling is becoming a powerful sales arsenal. But before that you have to realize where is your social selling?  

What is social selling?Image Source

However, when combined with Artificial intelligence and predictive analysis, social selling will achieve new heights for all businesses especially start-ups. Check out how predictive analytics and social selling will benefit startups.

Take Customer Service Light Years Ahead

Whether it’s an online business or any offline store, handling customer service has always been a challenge. After email and phone, social media becomes the fastest way to answer customer queries yet there are chances that hundreds or thousands of requests go unanswered. Besides that miscommunication or poor customer handling can turn your own customer against you.

“84% of customers are frustrated when the service agent does not have information.”

Contrarily a chatbot is free from exhaustion. It is neither irritated by the customer’s questions nor can it be charged emotionally by any angry customer. The chatbots can reply through instant messages which is way better than customer waiting on the telephone line or transferred several times where they have to repeat their issue. Using chatbots will enable startups to engage with customers through text-based communication in real-time. For instance, the gaps in the ecommerce ordering process and service can be addressed with chatbots.

Take customer service

Stay Ahead Of Prospects Along Their “Buyer’s Journey”

Now that everyone is everyone’s digital neighbor, there are no secrets anymore. So a company’s manager may know less about a product than the networked market, a reality that can benefit startups. If any business can create social presence they will need this immediate access and opportunity to interact with the customer in all stages of a buyer’s journey. However, as a business evolves and grows bigger the interaction between the client and sales rep cannot remain manual anymore. This is where chatbots will serve. In the near future the consumer expectations are shifting from on-demand to predictive commerce. These are the crucial stages of the buyer’s journey that predictive analysis will identify.

buyers journeyImage Source

Prevent Negative Impact On Possible Prospects

“91 pct. of unhappy customers who are non-complainers simply leave.” Kolsky

Imagine if you could create a list of prospects as a result of social selling and know exactly when they are ready to make the purchase. This kind of predictive analysis will not only reduce the chances of email spamming and targeted marketing campaigns but will eliminate the chances of any negative impact on future prospects. When marketers are desperate to convert leads, they often become pests by constantly sending follow-up emails or messages to people who showed interest in some of your product offerings. That is not an indicator that a lead is ready to make purchase decision. It is just an indicator that they are looking for information. If you can’t predict and provide what they are looking for, then they will instantly switch. AI will enable startups to map consumer buying behavior patterns and their buying intent. Additionally, you will know about people who are unhappy with your brand or business.

Precision For The Sales Funnel

The sales funnel is reduced when uninterested prospects are filtered out and a small percentage of the actual prospects are converted.

“On average nearly four in 10 leads move from initial inquiry to being sales-ready, and approximately the same ratio advance from sales-ready to qualified prospect.” Marketing Sherpa

Moving on to the next stage, only 3 out of the 10 qualified leads will convert to sales. Now this means 70% of your qualified leads were not sales-ready. With the aid of data-fueled predictive intelligence software, the algorithms would determine the buying intent of the prospects in advance. This would decrease the waste of resources on the qualified leads that were not sales-ready. Now the data for this kind of predictive analysis is gathered from past consumer behavior rather than relying on instincts or gut feeling. This simply means that AI and social selling will not create a tapering sales funnel for you.

sales funnelImage Source

Get Tools For Predictive Analytics In The Social Selling Cycle

“By looking at the digital patterns, we could predict if similar customers would buy, The power of predictive is to get in front of buyers before they become a lead.” Kahlow

While AI and predictive analytics can accelerate your sales cycles, integrating the system with social selling will help the brands socialize with the prospects until they are ready to make the purchase. That’s the ultimate way to engage and not let them even consider alternatives. The future of social selling is all about AI. The tools integrated into the system that can signal the sales person when the customer is ready to buy. With the help of the AI tools such as CNTK from Microsoft, H2O used by Paypal and TransAmerica, NuPIC or Prediction IO, businesses will identify different steps and would predict that the buyer is ready now. So social selling will no longer be about people making the connection at the right time or engaging with them. It’s about interacting with them when they are ready to buy or at the crucial stages of buyer’s journey.

social selling cycle

Conclusion

As you can see it did not take long for established businesses and startups to realize the importance of social selling in various sectors especially ecommerce and retail. Now they are collaborating with tech companies to bring new ideas to life and shape our future. By using predictive analysis in social selling startups can achieve faster growth and improve the conversion rates from leads to sales.

Mehreen is a social media buff and design blogger, who keeps a keen eye on graphic design trends. She has a passion for experimenting with design ideas, and wouldn’t mind if it means going out of her way to find them in Timbuktu. Follow her on twitter for daily inspirations and findings.

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