Is a sales chatbot a good idea?

Chatbots are no longer new. They’re best-known in the customer service sphere, answering FAQs and supporting service agents. Increasingly, they’re also finding a place as an internal support feature for teams within a business.

But what about chatbots in ecommerce? Sales chatbots do exist, but they’re a less common use case than popular support-based counterparts. Broadly speaking, bots are better suited to assisting customers with routine queries than selling to them.

A sales chatbot, however, doesn’t need to be the automated equivalent of a slick rep. It can assist in multiple sales capacities – given the right deployment.

So, we’ve explored the strengths and weaknesses of a chatbot in a sales setting. When is a sales chatbot a good idea? When is it not?

First, what is a chatbot?

A chatbot is a computer program that uses a text-based interface (commonly live chat software) to ‘chat’ with customers. It’s a way to automate a conversational experience.

Chatbots can work in a few ways. Perhaps the most common (and most straightforward) is a flow-based chatbot. These bots follow a conversational flow chart. Users are presented with a limited range of options, and the bot then routes them to the correct help using a predetermined answer set.

Then, there’s the intent-based chatbot. These are a bit more complicated; they use natural language processing (NLP) to understand the motive behind a user’s messages. So, the conversation is more open-ended and ‘natural’ feeling.

A sales chatbot, then, is one of these conversational programs used to further the sales goal of a business. That means that the messages it will receive and send are all geared towards making, facilitating, and promoting sales.

Pros of a sales chatbot

Knowing whether a sales chatbot is a good idea or not starts with understanding what chatbots, in general, are good for.

Chatbots are great at handling frequently asked questions and routine administrative chat processes. The kind of thing that is predictable. For sales, this could be getting introductory information out of the way, and highlighting products based on keywords or page activity.

Any of the tedious tasks that you need to complete with a customer — collecting details, managing account information, etc, are prime for automating with a sales chatbot. It can take on the rote so that sales agents can focus on the nuanced.

In a customer service setting, customers like chatbots because they facilitate self-service. It makes sense, then, that they’ll like bots in a sales setting for this reason too. Some sales are simple. These customers want a quick and easy way to make their purchase, with as little effort as possible. A sales chatbot can be a great way to offer simple, straightforward help to complete a transaction without waiting for a human.

Cons of a sales chatbot

That said, there’s a reason that chatbots are typically used for support rather than sales.

With some chatbots (particularly intent-based ones), the full abilities of the chatbot are not always clear. This can result in users asking the chatbot to do something it’s not equipped to handle. In a sales setting, this could turn a customer off from your service before they’re fully in through the front door.

Chatbots can sometimes create unnatural-feeling conversations. They aren’t human, they don’t think like we do, and that comes across. In a sales setting, unnatural conversations could give a potential customer a feeling of unease, which would make them harder to convert.

Another key element to consider is that chatbots need agent support. This will be no different in the case of a sales chatbot. So, if you’re looking for a way to replace sales agents, a sales chatbot is NOT a good idea.

Finally, high-value prospects are another example of a time that the sales chatbot could probably stay in its box. Human connection is a key part of sales. (Particularly sales where a substantial sum is involved.) Here, many high-value leads are going to have more nuanced questions than someone wanting to make a routine, low-cost purchase.

Sales chatbot use case ideas

Clearly, there is a potential for a sales chatbot to be a good idea. But there’s also a risk. Finding the balance will come from how you use the chatbot.

Here are some examples of good uses for a sales chatbot:

  • Order transactions

A chatbot can easily turn a basic transaction into a conversational experience. If a new customer is ready to place an order, the bot can check the product/order is correct. Then, they can collect needed payment information.

To support transactions, bots can also answer questions about delivery information or returns policies. Or, they can schedule any needed training or appointments the customer requests.

  • Lead gen admin

During the lead generation process, you’ll need to collect personal details. So, a sales chatbot could collect the basics and have it ready for a human sales associate to use. From there, the human team member can customise their service and get straight to the prospective customer’s wants.

  • Conversational sales webforms

You often need to collect more information than a few fields of personal details. A sales chatbot, then, can take the place of a boring webform. This makes for a more engaging experience for prospective customers.

  • Internal chatbot support

Chatbots don’t always have to be customer-facing. A sales chatbot could fill a helpful role as an internal assistant to a sales team. This includes answering questions about policy, retrieving key information, and so on.

Is a sales chatbot a good idea?

Generally, chatbots are best suited to FAQ and basic customer support needs. But that doesn’t mean there are no sales use cases. A sales chatbot can prove particularly handy when it comes to sales support and admin tasks.

So, is a sales chatbot a good idea? The answer is that it depends on how you use it.

Useful links

What is an intent-based chatbot?

Building a digitally accessible front door with chatbots

Could chatbots ever become engaging conversationalists?

Conversational commerce explained