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Q&A with Nicolas Vandenberghe, CEO and co-founder of Chili Piper

David Rowlands recently caught up with Nicolas Vandenberghe, CEO and co-founder of Chili Piper, to discuss ‘Instant Inbound’ and the future of how people connect with their customers.

Thanks for taking part in this interview! For the uninitiated, can you explain what Chili Piper does?

Chili Piper has become the leader in inbound revenue acceleration, with a mission to reinvent the system of action for revenue teams – their calendar and inbox. We automate the antiquated processes in scheduling and email that cause unnecessary friction and drop-off in the sales process – resulting in increased productivity and conversion rates throughout the funnel.

To be more specific, think of the situation where someone comes to your website, fills out a form to speak to someone, then gets a message saying someone is going to call him or her. The prospect is left thinking who is going to call me and when.

The solution here is a piece of JavaScript that goes in the form, and the form submission in real time qualifies the prospect. We then retrieve the rep that should be talking to the prospect and they are connected in real time. And if that isn’t possible, we retrieve the calendar of the rep and we show the availability so the prospect can book a time on that reps’ calendar right then and there. So, in real-time the prospect is either talking to the right rep or confirming that the meeting is going to happen soon. Chili Piper is changing the world of inbound lead conversion and how to best execute that process.

On your homepage, you note that ‘speed to lead is crucial’ – in other words, getting back to your leads as soon as possible is critical. In your experience, has the pandemic affected this at all?

The pandemic has caused a big chunk of every company’s marketing budgets to disappear with the cancellation of in-person physical events. Companies have had to pivot on the back of the sudden loss of physical events to other channels. It’s unusual that a marketing channel disappears like that.

For us and most companies around the world, that other channel is inbound. We’re finding that the level of interest in content online has increased with the pandemic, and people have more time to do research online than they had before. Our level of monthly web traffic at Chili Piper has gone up over 600% since March as evidence of that.

There’s an increase in inbound leads and you’ve got to make sure you serve them well in two important ways. 1) Make sure you have the right engaging content, and 2) Make sure you engage with the leads and convert them as quickly as possible.

Simply put, speed makes all the difference when it comes to getting leads to close, and that has become more and more evident during these times as people spend more time online.

Data gathered by Vendasta notes that 78% of B2B customers will purchase from whoever responds to their queries first. And responding first isn’t just about being fast: it’s about providing a positive customer experience. Getting in touch ASAP shows that you care and legitimately value your customers’ time.

Fast response times = higher conversion rates (and vice-versa)

As noted by an often-cited study from Harvard Business Review, companies that respond to customers within the first hour of contact are seven times more likely to convert to sales. This reinforces the fact that speed to lead goes hand in hand with high conversions. That also means that your conversion rate is tied directly to response time. The same study also notes that conversion rates drop off sharply after that initial hour and are more or less dead on arrival by the time you hit the 12-hour mark.

In summary, people have more time to spend online to do their research, and companies need to provide the content they are looking for and convert these leads into meetings as it’s becoming the main source of pipeline.

You

recently announced

that you have raised $18 million in Series A funding. According to the press release, you are planning to invest in product capabilities to enable remote sales teams to work more effectively and respond to buyer behaviour instantly. Can you provide some more information about what you’re going to do exactly?

The future is incredibly bright for Chili Piper. Inbound is going to become the next big trend in sales that needs collaboration and automation. The last trend was outbound which is 10 years into its re-platforming journey and led by companies like Outreach and Salesloft.

Over the last four years, we have worked tirelessly to help our customers connect with their buyers and customers. We’ve enabled them to turn inbound leads into qualified meetings instantly and streamline their round robin and sales handoff processes.

We will continue to improve the tools that provide this invaluable resource and help our customers continue to win in their respective markets.

We also took a look at sales teams holistically (especially remote), and found they are still spending more time on manual tasks and less time doing meaningful work. So we naturally found ourselves re-thinking the tool most sales people spend the majority of their day in – email. Stay tuned for some real innovation there in the near future.

In the statement, you mentioned the concept of ‘Instant Inbound’. Can you explain in a little more detail what you mean by this, and what its benefits are?

Instant Inbound takes speed to lead time down to zero by allowing leads to book a meeting directly from your website without compromising quality – turning inbound leads into qualified meetings, instantly.

Instant Inbound is the gold standard of inbound marketing best practices that our customers have been achieving for years, but the market has been stuck talking about speed to lead. It’s time to call it what it is: Instant Inbound.

Soon, B2B marketing teams will no longer measure how quickly they can respond to a lead because anything slower than instant is simply too slow – and obsolete.

Instant Inbound is taking the modern buying experience that everyone has come to expect (think Amazon, Netflix, etc) and bringing to the enterprise space. Instant, easy, intuitive.

The benefits are obvious: zero drop off between someone ‘raising their hand’ and getting a meeting scheduled, a more positive buyer experience, less friction in the sales cycle, and a pipeline that fills faster and closes faster.

In the press release, you mentioned that Chili Piper’s product suite is ‘the beginning of a major evolution in how people connect with customers’. What’s the long-term goal? What do you think is the future of how people connect with their customers?

We believe that because our world is becoming more and more automated, connection matters more than ever before. Our team lives in every corner of the world and yet we work very closely with each other – it’s the way things are going to be from now on.

Even though the way buyers and sellers connect is changing with the times, the buying experience should still feel connected. The Chili Piper platform helps people connect with their customers instantly and simply.

Today, the B2B buying experience is often like this: imagine walking into a car dealership asking for a test drive. The sales person responds with ‘please leave your contact information and I’ll get back to you in a few days to schedule a time for you to come back.’ That would never happen.

As consumers, we expect better, and since buyers are people too, they want to buy software the same way they want to buy a car (or groceries, or streaming services, etc).

The future B2B buying experience will be 100% customer-focused. If a buyer is interested in your product, they can talk to someone about it right away while they are at the height of their interest. If a customer needs to schedule an appointment with their account manager, there is no longer any back and forth via email to find an available time.

Contrary to the futuristic warning of ‘robots stealing our jobs’, the future of how people connect with customers is continuing to streamline and automate manual steps out of the process altogether, resulting in immediate connection between people to do the work only people can do


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