(This column originally appeared in Forbes)
I recently came across a blog written by Jake Saper, a general partner at venture capital firm Emergence. The firm had led a series A funding of Regal.io, an innovative new call center tool, and he was gushing.
“I fell in love with Regal.io in a random field outside of Denver International Airport,” he wrote. “Listening to Regal.io’s Co-Founder and CEO Alex Levin lay out his vision as we walked past roaming buffalo, my neck hurt from nodding along.”
Why so excited? Because Saper and his team at Emergence have been investing in technology companies that are building “event driven” tools. And I don’t blame them. As a customer relationship management (CRM) consultant and business owner, I desperately need these kinds of tools too.
What is “event driven?” It’s simple. Today’s sales and service applications drive engagement sporadically based on leads collected on a website or requests made to a call center. They’re not proactive. They’re reactive. And engagement relies on the internal rep reaching out to the visitor at a time that suits the rep and not always when the visitor needs it.
And timing is everything. People want to get help when they need help, not when a representative decides it’s time to offer help. Regal.io addresses this issue. Its software tracks visitors on a website and allows a company to design “journeys” which contain triggers of both emails and calls (branded with the company’s ID for better recognition) at the exact moment a visitor needs help.
So, for example, if a visitor is searching for an answer to a problem on a website, a call or text or email is automatically generated when this “event” is happening that specifically speaks to the issue. Not hours later but when the issue is high in the mind of the visitor. In many cases this could be the difference between making an online sale at that moment or losing the visitor.
“Event-driven systems will enable companies to connect with customers in the moments and contexts that work best for them,” writes Saper. “While involving a sales rep may have been cost-prohibitive for B2C brands in the old world, leveraging event data on what content prospects have explored and when allows brands to reach out with tailored, timely messages. Unsurprisingly, this strategy boosts conversion rates meaningfully and makes sales in B2C a very profitable channel.”
He’s right, and this this is a good investment. The best companies want to know when a customer has a question or when a problem is happening so they can engage immediately, and not later when frustration has grown and a customer may be lost to a competitor. From a service perspective, this is powerful. From a B2C perspective, it could significantly increase conversions.
But there’s one thing missing that my team needs: the same “event management” approach to B2B sales.
My company — like countless other companies — sells products to other companies. We’re not an e-commerce company and sales aren’t made on a click. There’s a longer sales process. Prospects need to be nurtured over a period of time.
I can see using Regal.io’s tools for when a known customer is on my site and their information can be connected to what already exists in my CRM system. But that doesn’t address a bigger problem: engaging with prospects who aren’t in my CRM system.
I want my sales team to know when a prospect — someone who isn’t in my system — has a problem or question where we can immediately offer up a solution. Sure, I can collect contact data when a prospect downloads a whitepaper or signs up for a webinar. But after that our engagement is driven by…us. We’re the ones then reaching out to the prospect on our schedule.
For this, we’re just guessing. We’re not doing the “when.” We’re doing the “what.”
My company’s sales process, like most other B2B companies, is not event-driven. We’re sending emails and making calls at random times regardless of whatever happens to be on the mind of the prospect at that moment. We’re forcing engagement at times when people may not be interested in engaging because they’re doing other stuff. I want to engage that prospect at the exact time that the prospect wants to be engaged by me. That’s the when.
When did the prospect begin their research? When is the best time to reach out to this prospect? When are they least interested in talking so we don’t annoy them? When does the prospect respond best to an email vs. a call vs. a text message? When is the prospect researching our competitors? When is the prospect getting demos of other products? When is the prospect making a decision to buy? When, when, when.
And the data’s out there. When someone’s looking for a product that I sell, they’re doing a lot of stuff online. They’re attending events. They’re downloading research materials. They’re using lots of keywords and search terms. They’re clicking on ads. They’re buying books. They’re watching videos. They’re getting demos from my competitors. They’re browsing websites that are similar to mine. They’re exchanging emails and messages with others in my industry. They’re on Facebook and LinkedIn groups. A few are tweeting for help. And most are doing this at certain recurring times.
There are a lot of ways that an event-driven application can help a service team with existing customers who visit a website and for many that’s a great thing. But when Regal.io — or someone else much smarter than me — figures out how to use this type of predictive technology to help my sales team with our B2B prospects and regardless of whether they’ve landed on my site, then I’m buying.