B2C sales comprise a wide range of products and services. This article will focus not on the low-priced commodity consumer goods like daily essentials, but on the sales of medium to high-priced B2C products and services. Examples include offerings such as mortgage loans, auto loans, insurance, miscellaneous financial services, health insurance plans, automobiles, high-end consumer electronics, calling plans, and home security services, which are getting increasingly complex for the average consumer sales rep.
B2C versus B2B sales
While both business-to-consumer (B2C) sales and business-to-business (B2B) sales involve similar steps—connect, sell, and optimize, there are some differences.
1. B2C sales is far more compressed, where purchase decisions are made faster and often by one decision-maker. There is no 12-month sales cycle.
2. B2C sales involves far fewer conversations, and stakes are arguably higher for each conversation, though the value of each sale is not as high as in B2B, on average. However, B2C sales entails a far higher volume than B2B sales. Moreover, the lifetime value of the B2C consumer is nothing to sneeze at—it may be hundreds to even tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the industry and the customer.
3. Customer service and sales are more converged in B2C sales. A single conversation with one rep may encompass pre-sales service, sales, and even post-sales onboarding and service in some cases, and executed poorly, may even doom the sale.
These differences are illustrated in the figure below, which shows where B2C and B2B sales lie in a two-dimensional framework of interaction scale or volume versus convergence of sales and service in customer interactions.
There is also an additional set of challenges to scaling up B2C sales.
• B2C sales reps are predominantly millennials and Gen Z. They are not highly paid and churn rate in this group is higher than among older workers, a demography you are more likely to find in B2B sales.
• One might think only B2B products are complex, but consumer products are also getting more sophisticated. They continue to proliferate as well, due to fast-paced innovation, making it hard for sales reps to keep up.
• Given the convergence of sales and service, B2C reps need to be multiskilled and carry 20-pound brains in their heads!
• As routine queries and customer transactions are automated, B2C sales reps are having to deal with more complex sales interactions.
• B2C sales reps were born with a silver tablet in one hand and a GPS device in the other. They are used to intuitive digital tools and automated guidance for everything, from driving a car to investing money. They expect the same technology-enabled guidance in their workplace, during sales conversations, but much to their chagrin, don’t find it at work.
• Millennials and Gen Z have lower attention span than older workers and hate training. They would rather learn on the job with a real-time tool to guide conversations.
In fact, according to research from the Boston Consulting Group, top sales reps outperform bottom reps 8x in the banking and financial services sector, a stat that could keep B2C sales leaders up at night!
The missed opportunity
While technology use is not uncommon in the connect and optimize phases of the B2C sales process, albeit with significant issues such as channel silos, “checklist” capabilities that require lots of programming and customization, and big gaps among technology vendors in best-practice domain expertise, companies have barely scratched the surface in automating and augmenting rep-to-consumer conversations in the “sell” phase. This presents a huge opportunity for forward-thinking companies to leverage technology and gain market share.
The secret sauce: Conversational sales guidance
When deployed in the contact center, branch offices, and retail outlets, AI and knowledge-powered conversational guidance can help address the above challenges and boost B2C sales. Conversational guidance makes most, if not all, reps as good as the best ones, while completely automating less complex self-service consumer purchases.
How it works
Conversational guidance augments agents by prompting them with next best questions to ask and next best steps to take, depending on the customer’s situation and the evolving conversation, while complying with industry regulations. Business rules and conversational knowhow can be captured into the system from government regulations and your top reps’ conversational expertise.
The technology can also be deployed for digital self-service. It can automate less complex sales conversations with customers and even provide “long-lived” virtual coaching to get the consumer viable and ready to buy your products. For example, if a bank has denied a loan to a consumer because of his/her shaky financial health, the virtual coach can guide the consumer through next best steps in a personalized manner to financial wellness over time. When the consumer is ready to buy, conversational guidance can kick in—whether in a self-service sale or a rep-assisted sale—to “close the deal”!
Conversational sales guidance at work
We are seeing strong adoption for this technology, especially in the banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI) sectors. Here are a couple of examples from our clientele.
• A global bank uses our AI guidance tool to answer questions about products and follow compliant process in helping clients select products, make the sale, and onboard them. With conversational guidance, the bank was able to cut agent training time by 40%. Moreover, as agents became more efficient, their productivity nearly doubled.
• A tax prep giant leverages our AI guidance to answer taxpayer questions through a chatbot, while looking for upsell opportunities during the interaction. When the opportunity arises, it transitions the conversation to a sales rep, who, in turn, leverages conversational guidance to sell the premium service, handle questions on tax matters, and provide advice.
Conversational guidance for customer engagement across sales and service is not a “pie in the sky” concept. Forward-thinking companies are already doing it to out-sell and out-serve competitors. Why not jump on it before your competitors do? Your revenues will get turbo-boosted, and your sales leaders will get a good night’s sleep as all sales reps become as good as the best reps!