Artificial intelligence-based sales automation company Conversica Inc. today said it has raised $34 million in a Series B funding round to tackle one of the most common problems sales organizations face: lack of follow-up.
The company has built an automated agent that attends to much of the basic blocking and tackling of following up with a prospective customer by sending confirmations, offers, updates and other routine correspondence. Citing its own research of 548 companies (left), Conversica said a third of them didn’t respond at all to a direct sales inquiry and more than two-thirds gave up after only two or fewer tries.
This is despite the fact that the optimal number of follow-up attempts is generally considered to be between five and 11. Sales expert Dan McDade, author of The Truth About Leads, advises salespeople not to give up before 30 follow-up attempts.
Founded in 2007 as a lead generation agency, Conversica has raised a total of $56 million and generated $18 million in revenue in the past year. It claims 1,000 paying customers and says its agent has sent and received more than 180 million emails and text messages on behalf of customers, giving it a formidable training base.
Chief Executive Alex Terry said follow-up is part of the blocking and tackling of sales, but the process frustrates a salesperson’s desire for immediate gratification. “We know that the rate of interaction decreases with time, so sales people try a couple of times and move on,” he said. “With AI you can make five, six or seven follow-ups, and the confidence of our assistant trends up over time.”
The company says email engagement at its customer companies often soars up to nine-fold after the agent is installed. Of customers who respond to the automated assistant, 38 percent are successfully ushered through the sales funnel to speak to a salesperson.
The automated sales assistant takes about a week to install and train, and conversations can be customized for content and familiarity. The technology has been integrated with nearly 50 marketing automation platforms so that qualified leads can automatically trigger a conversation.
‘Can I answer any questions?’
In a typical engagement, a customer might register to download a document or a piece of sales collateral. The automated agent would respond to confirm that the download was successful and ask if the prospect needs more information. It can also be programmed to check in on succeeding weeks to suggest a sales call.
One of the advantages of using artificial intelligence is that the automated assistant benefits from the tactics it learns across millions of interactions, Terry said. Customers can also program multivariate testing to have the agent try different subject lines or greetings, for example.
“Personality and tone are adjusted for the nature of the conversation,” he said. “You get to decide how formal you want your assistant to sound.”
Conversica plans to use the cash infusion to invest in sales and marketing and to expand its platform to new areas such as debt collection and recruiting, “the kinds of things you don’t need an expensive person for,” Terry said. Funding was led by Providence Strategic Growth LLC with participation from Toba Capital, Wellington Financial LP and Recruit Strategic Partners Inc. as well as additional funding from Series A investor Kennet Partners Ltd. and founder Ben Brigham. PSG Director Gopi Vaddi and Toba Capital Partner Wilder Ramsey join the board.
The company’s 2016 Sales Effectiveness Report on Lead Follow-Up is available here.