Today’s buyer has changed. The rise of smartphones, messaging, artificial intelligence (AI), and other groundbreaking technologies has led to a new set of expectations for buyers. We can now get exactly what we’re looking for in real-time, on-demand, whether that’s scheduling a ride, booking a place to stay or renting a movie.

These expectations are fast carrying over to B2B sales teams too. Forms and lengthy follow-ups are out. Live chat and fast, real-time conversations are in.

“A recent study from Twilio showed that 9 out of 10 consumers said they want to be able to use messaging to talk to businesses”

However, building and staffing a team around this new world of live chat conversations doesn’t come without its challenges. “Live chat” implies an almost instant response, and many sales managers are concerned about managing the volume of messages that might come from adding live chat to their website. For businesses who may get thousands or millions of people visiting their website every year, staffing 1:1 conversations with every prospect quickly becomes a daunting task.

Changing your sales team’s process isn’t easy. We get that. But adding in a live chat tool like Intercom can actually make your sales team more efficient. That means more qualified sales opportunities for the same number of reps. So here’s a step by step guide to building and staffing your team around it.

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If you had unlimited money and time, you’d always be available for your customers. Every website visitor would have a real-time conversation with a friendly and knowledgeable sales rep every time they had a question. But unfortunately, in the real world, we need to make tradeoffs.

Managing the volume of chat conversations is like dealing with the flow of water. If you add a chat widget to every page and show it to every visitor, you’ll be dealing with a firehose of volume, making it difficult to find your footing. Instead, be strategic about which pipes you open.

By taking advantage of Intercom’s functionality, you’ll be able to ensure a steady stream of quality sales conversations for your team without getting overwhelmed.

Embrace automation

“The automation capabilities of Intercom’s bots helps us use live chat effectively at scale. We can now connect with users in a timely, personalized, and meaningful way no matter the volume of traffic.”

Paulo Tavares, Evaluation Success Manager, OutSystems

How do you scale 24/7 live chat without hiring additional staff or taxing your sales team? It’s a question we ask ourselves every day.

Intercom's own sales development representative (SDR) team deal with a huge volume of conversations with potential leads that come in through live chat. And the SDR team need to qualify these leads as quickly and efficiently as possible to give them the best possible experience.

That’s where automation comes into play. Our chatbot technology, Operator, acts as your 24/7 sales rep, working for you constantly in the background. Operator can book sales meetings and answer questions from your website visitors at scale, driving qualified leads to your sales team faster but without increasing the burden on their time, or your headcount.

It’s also pretty good at making sure your SDRs are only spending time with folks who are most likely to make a purchase. Intercom lets you create simple paths for your leads to follow, so that their time is only spent with the best possible prospects.

Be selective about where you add the Messenger

Deciding where to display your live chat messenger depends on your business goals for rolling out live chat. If you’re exclusively focused on driving conversions, start small by displaying your messenger on pages with the highest intent. This might be your checkout or pricing page.

The second step is enabling chat for a select audience so you know you’re talking to the right kind of prospects and not just folks who are kicking the tires. With Intercom you can set up criteria for when your chat widget displays. Using these controls, only leads that match your target customer profile, such as company size or industry, will see the chat widget – and be able to start conversations with you.

By starting with a small segment of people you’ll get a sense of the volume of conversations and the quality of the leads that start conversations without overwhelming your sales team.

Proactively target the right kind of leads

Traditionally, live chat has been reactive. People send messages to you and you reply to people as they write in. While there’s nothing wrong with purely reactive live chat, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. According to Forrester Research, 33% of online consumers who have researched a purchase online did not complete the purchase in the past 12 months because they wanted to engage with a live person.

“33% of online consumers who have researched a purchase online did not complete the purchase in the past 12 months because they wanted to engage with a live person”

One of the most powerful features of Intercom is the ability for you to proactively (and more importantly, automatically) reach out to people on your website. Take this common scenario: a customer is lingering on the same page on your site for 10 or more minutes without making a purchase. They are clearly shopping – they’ve clicked on different products and have even put a few in their cart. It’s safe to assume that the customer is interested in the product but hesitant to make the next move.

So how can you turn this browsing customer into one who’s ready to buy? With Intercom, you can trigger an automatic message to a lead who has just spent over 10 minutes on website. “Hi, I’m here for you if you need me.” In other words, you’re not only creating a better customer experience, you’re scaling your sales funnel.

“By using proactive live chat through Intercom, Tradeshift increases sales opportunities by 32%.”

Adam Cleveland, Senior Director and Kate Swanberg, Director of Marketing, Tradeshift

Better yet, if you’re using our Clearbit Reveal integration, we’ll pull in a bunch of additional data that you can use to target your ideal visitors - whether that’s company name, size, industry and much more.

By now you’re probably wondering, “Okay, how many staff do I need to respond to all these messages?” It sounds counterintuitive, but the truth is: all things being equal, fewer than through a traditional sales funnel. There’s one major efficiency gain with live chat that drives this. SDRs can handle at a minimum 20% more live chat leads per month than they can MQLs.

Let’s walk through the math:

Let’s say in your traditional sales funnel you get 10,000 MQLs a month and each SDR can handle 350 new MQLs per month. You would need 29 SDRs to work the MQL volume.

Now let’s add live chat to your website. You’ll find that about half of those same 10,000 MQLs come straight through live chat. For the 5,000 remaining traditional MQLs, you need 15 SDRs to work the MQL volume. But for live chat leads, each SDR can handle 500 new live chats per month which requires just 10 SDRs.

Why? Put simply, the total amount of time to manage a live chat lead is less than what’s required for a traditional MQL. Your SDRs aren’t spending time researching, deciding how to best reach out, personalizing an email template or even making a phone call; they are simply saying hello and having a conversation. Live chat leads typically take less than five minutes to execute – a much more efficient customer journey for your team to process. And just as important, live chat can disqualify leads earlier and at a faster rate, usually within two minutes and using less capacity to do so.

In this example, again all things being equal, it only takes 25 SDRs to run both the traditional and live chats funnels, 13% fewer than in the traditional sales funnel. In other words, live chat makes the sales process – and your SDRs – more efficient.

Does that mean you need 25 SDRs get value out of live chat? No. If your sales cycle traditionally generates around 500 MQLs a month, dedicating 1-2 reps to live chat should be sufficient. With a few routing rules and a little help from a bot, your sales reps can easily handle more leads over live chat than traditional channels in the same amount of time. This allows you to cost effectively staff a live chat messenger while increasing conversion rates across your sales funnel.

“Live chat is more efficient than the traditional sales funnel. SDRs can handle at least 20% more live chat leads per month than they can MQLs”

Bringing new technology and tools like live chat into your company can increase productivity, boost sales, and help you make better, faster decisions. But getting every employee on board is easier said than done. When you come from a world of email and dialers, real time messaging can be overwhelming without the proper training. So what can you do to increase early and rapid adoption? Here are some tips on how to ramp reps up on live chat and get them capturing and qualifying leads in no time.

Choose the right tools

When you’re shopping around for a live chat tool bear your team’s interests in mind. Functionality is critical, but so is user-friendliness. If your want maximum adoption within the organization, make sure you’re choosing the most approachable, most intuitive tools possible. Technologies that require multi-day training programs and hefty user manuals are a surefire way to see adoption grind to a halt.

There are a few ways you can hit the ground running. Try to get your team to run comparative pilots of various different live chat tools to ensure you’re choosing the one that best suits your business. Look at review sites like G2Crowd and Capterra to determine how easily the tool has been implemented by other teams. Stack rank the must-have features for your live chat tool vs the ones you don’t. Investing as much research time as you can up front will save your team countless headaches in the long run.

[Illustrated image of G2 Crowd data on Intercom’s ease of adoption, ease of use]

Additionally, think about how live chat will integrate with the rest of your stack. The last thing you want is to adopt live chat with gusto only to realize that it doesn’t hook into your CRM, or your team constantly have to switch tools to book a follow-up call. Thankfully, Intercom has over 100 integrations, including with the likes of Salesforce, Hubspot and Google Hangouts, so you can rest easy that live chat will play nicely with your other tools.

Create a library of scripts and playbooks

Standardized resources makes training sales reps fast, simple, and nearly foolproof, by showing reps what they need to do in various sales situations. Once they learn the basic steps in an organization’s sales process, even a rookie seller can quickly get up to speed and be successful.

That’s where your live chat playbook comes in. Even the New England Patriots aren’t going to win the Super Bowl without a playbook (although I’m sure they could get close). The same goes for live chat.

While creating your first live chat playbook can be a daunting task, we've made it as easy as it gets. Use this quickstart guide below and you'll soon have a solid minimum viable script ready in a matter of hours.

Automate your playbook

If you’re short on resources, you can also automate some or all of your playbook with a bot. Intercom’s Custom Bots work all day every day for your business – they proactively start conversations, ask the right questions, provide clear paths and deliver qualified leads.

You can design your bot in minutes. Just create simple paths for your leads to follow. Then, let your bot take care of the next steps, like assigning leads to the right teams, adding leads to your CRM, and more. Unlike other bots, you can also send apps to encourage leads to take follow-up actions, like booking a meeting, requesting a demo, subscribing to your newsletter and more.

Set expected response times

“Hi.” “Hellooo?” “Anyone there?”

If your business has ever used live chat you’ve seen these questions. And as a customer, who hasn’t had this kind of crappy experience? Consequently, in a world where the ideal chat response time is 10 seconds or less, sales managers assume you can only offer live chat if you’re available 24/7. That’s not the case at all. Conversations don’t have to be immediate, provided clear expectations are set.

Before you roll out Intercom to your sales team, it’s important to put your best foot forward and agree an expected response time for new leads. This isn’t just to ensure a great customer experience. It makes business sense too. Based on our own research, responding to leads under one hour will double your chances of converting them.

Arm your team with the visitor information they need

The more context your reps have close to hand, the more successful their conversations will be. Integrating your company’s data into your chat solution will give you full context into the customer you’re helping. With tools like Intercom you get additional information about your customer will help you have the best conversation.

For example, say a chat request pops up from sam@abccompany.com. With Intercom’s live chat, you can see that he’s in the middle of his 14-day trial. You can see his past support tickets, you know that he’s had some trouble with part of the onboarding already. Armed with these two pieces of information, you can approach the conversation ready to help convince and convert Sam into a paying customer, while also following up on his past concerns.

It’s also incredibly helpful to see things from your customer’s point of view. This is where a screen recording comes in handy. Instead of asking your customer to explain in text what they’re seeing, ask them for a screenshot or Loom recording (Intercom’s App Store has over 100+ integrations where you can do everything from book a meeting to start a video call right there in the live chat messenger). They are invaluable for getting customers up and running, especially when you’re assisting less technical customers.

Highlight quick wins

What’s the biggest challenge stopping a team adopting new software? Is it cost? Is it bandwidth? No, the answer is inertia. It’s not that they’re happy doing manual CRM data entry or tracking leads in files called enterprise-customers-12-v3-final.xls. It just takes time and effort to switch.

That’s where quick wins come in.

Quick wins are the motivational fuel used in many disciplines, from dog training to classroom management. They’re especially effective when people are adopting new software, and need incentives to continue through the setup process.

At Intercom, we want to make it easy for our users to see the value of building real relationships with leads and customers. Our revenue and sales team performance reports give your teams instant visibility into how using live chat has a positive impact on their business, and real-living proof of how powerful live chat can be.

You’ll be able to see exactly how many opportunities, the potential revenue of those opportunities, as well as the amount of closed won revenue was influenced by Intercom. ‘Influenced by Intercom’ means the lead had a conversation in Intercom less than 30 days before an opportunity was created and closed in Salesforce.