In a recent podcast I did with Richard Harris, he used the phrase “stop accelerating the suck.” This was in reference to the automation technologies being deployed by SDR teams around the world to drive more meetings into the pipeline.
He was referencing the fact that organizations are placing so much emphasis on driving more opportunities into the pipeline, but such little emphasis is being placed on actually knowing how to handle the opportunities already there. Instead of booking 10x more meetings, what if we just doubled our close rate and discounted 10% less at the Account Executive level?
Conversational Intelligence came about as a way to address this. It was like the quarterback rushing back to the bench after going 0 for 3 to review the plays on the tablet and talk with the offensive coordinator.
If you really wanted to dive deeper into the play, a full game tape review would take place Monday morning where each and every fine detail was reviewed to either reinforce positive actions, or coach areas for improvement. Conversational Intelligence tools made their way into the mainstream around 2014 as companies looked for ways to scale their sales teams and do so with the aid of technology.
Market Conditions of Conversational Intelligence
The surge of vendors emerging in this space, along with the data that supports a 30% market growth rate for the next 3 years are just a few of the signs that organizations are adopting this technology for a simple reason… it’s better than the status quo. Conversational Intelligence tools are typically deployed at the Account Executive level when demos are run in a sales cycle. These Conversational Intelligence tools look to measure things like:
- Multi-threading into accounts
- Talk-to-listen ratio
- Interruption metrics
- Keywords mentioned throughout the cycle
- Deal probability based upon sentiment analysis
Then there are tools in the Unified Communication as a Service (UCaaS) space, these tools focus more on traditionally dialing in a call center space, or at the Sales Development Representative level. These companies providing a suite of information have components of their products that play in the Conversational Intelligence category but building products that help with things like:
- Keyword analysis
- Barging, shadowing, or taking over a call in progress
- Call review metrics
When Sales Leaders look at ways to impact revenue, the behavior of the sales rep is one of the things that is instantly focused on. Trying to “copy and paste” the number 1 rep on the team by using their metrics like talk time, and question rate as benchmarks to drive the team towards. It has worked, don’t get me wrong. I have personally recognized the success this has. Having now deployed Conversational Intelligence tools at 3 different organizations I can 100% say that these tools moved the needle for me. How did they do that?
- Provided me visibility into the way my top reps (defined by those obtaining quota and winning at the highest rate) were handling objections. By setting keywords to trigger alerts I was able to instantly review where competitors were mentioned, and then build scripts around that to deploy to the remainder of my team.
- Helped uncover unknown issues with filler words, interruptions, and other what I call “conversational issues”. By having a rep listen to how often they were interrupting a prospect, and then showing the frustrated look on the prospect’s face it really helped correct issues with my team interrupting prospects.
- Helped fill in the gaps when forecasting deals in the pipeline. We have all done it, looked down to write a note only to miss a key piece of information the prospect just mentioned. When trying to forecast a deal, being able to review the transcript and search for variables helped bring data up to a higher quality level than previously thought possible.
Here is the problem… These coaching moments are all reactive. They happened hours, days, or sometimes weeks from when the call originally happened. How many calls had my rep been on in between? 1? 2? 10? What damage had my pipeline taken during the time between the issue being identified, and when the coaching could happen? Probably not quantifiable – not a number I want to even think about.
As a quarterback, I only see the linebacker drop back into coverage on the game film. What if the offensive coordinator could tell me, mid-play, that the linebacker was going to intercept my pass? Conversational Intelligence should actually be called Conversational Understanding because that is what it does. It is understood after the fact. Intelligence implies a level of sophistication, a level of increased aptitude as a result of interaction with whatever product is “intelligent”.
Real-Time Conversational Intelligence
It has only been recently that technology has advanced far enough to enable Revenue leaders to deploy actions to drive immediate, real-time behavior to front line reps. Real-time Revenue Intelligence allows Sales Leaders to literally remove the linebacker dropping back to intercept the pass before they doThe quarterback doesn’t have to remember to check down his targets because the offensive coordinator is doing it for him. What if a Sales Representative only had to focus on the prospect and learning how to read people better? What if that is what Sales Enablement taught… communication and people. Real-time Revenue Intelligence allows Sales Leaders to deploy technology that enables reps to handle things in real-time like:
- Objection handling. The moment a prospect brings up an objection, the best, most effective objection handling techniques are displayed on screen for the rep to choose.
- Discovery question framework. Software that literally walks the rep through the right way to handle a discovery call while collecting all the information and reminds them when they miss something in real-time.
What impact would it have on your opportunity conversion rate if none of your Sales Representatives ever missed another talk track on how to beat your biggest competitor? Indulge me while I tie this back to the recent podcast on Outbound Prospecting we did with Skip Miller. Driving more meetings and opportunities into the pipeline makes complete sense if as a Sales Leader, you could expect the same level of repeatability you already have in place for SDRs at the AE level? Salesloft, Outreach, and Cliently help SDRs craft consistent, repeatable messages.
Why are we not taking the same approach to the AE and their prospect?
Well, the answer is simply because up until now we have not been able to.