How Conversation Intelligence Drives Growth Along 3-Dimensions

December 18, 2020

I’ve been working at high-growth B2B companies for over 20 years, and for as long as I can remember, companies have been using call recordings to help train sales reps. At first glance, Conversation Intelligence sounds like it’s just a fancier version of call recording. But nothing could be further from the truth.

I first came to know about this technology in 2017 as a CRO when one of my team leaders brought it to my attention. After seeing the demo, I was amazed at the information it provided, and how quickly it did so.

Initially, what impressed me was a visualization of how much focus each person was putting on each aspect of a sales call. I could see this instantly, without having to listen to every call in its entirety.

We could see what our top performers were doing and what the others were doing that was different. As an example, top performers were discussing price about halfway through the discussion, whereas lower performers either brought it up too early in the discussion or frustrated prospects by avoiding answering these questions.

Since then, the technology has continuously evolved to be even more powerful -- fast forward today and I see companies using Chorus’ Conversation Intelligence to drive growth along three major dimensions: (1) continuously improving performance across every customer-facing team, (2) winning new sales and customer renewals, and (3) adapting marketing, product, and strategy to accelerate growth.

1. Continuous Coaching of Go-to-Market Teams #

Most companies have a huge disparity between their best sales performers and the rest of the pack. While it’s true that there will always be a group that outperforms the rest, it’s also true that the others can significantly improve, adding tens of millions of dollars in incremental revenue.

There are many ways to coach reps to drive more sales, but Conversation Intelligence literally turns conversations into visual data to see what the best reps are doing and how it compares to the reps that are not performing as well.

When using Conversation Intelligence to drive sales performance, I’ve typically started by using it to capture data and dig into the biggest challenges the sales team is facing — at a granular level:

  • What roadblocks are sales reps encountering on calls?
  • What customer objections have been fielded this week?
  • Which competitors are coming up again and again in deals?
  • Are there any other areas where reps are experiencing trouble?

Next, I’ve used it to understand commonalities among conversations the best sales reps are holding — e.g., how much do they talk vs. the prospect, when do they introduce pricing, etc.

While there are sales techniques that work across different markets and products, there are also specific approaches that work better for some and others that don’t. So while sales methodologies are definitely a required foundation, they cannot help companies unlock the higher level of performance that comes from analyzing what the best performing reps are doing in their specific markets.

Conversation Intelligence has allowed me to work with the sales leadership to identify the specific characteristics of successful reps that we want to model and build playlists that reps can use to help them improve. Moreover, new and junior sales reps can access calls from the top reps, pinpoint relevant parts of their sales conversations, pick up the responses and situational approaches, and start to gain insight and confidence to handle similar questions.

While we started with the sales team, we realized that these same techniques could also help us with our customer success.

So we looked at what kinds of challenges they were having:

  • What are the biggest drivers of customer frustration?
  • What conversations happened with customers that renewed?
  • How did these differ with the customers that churned?
  • Are there any other areas where CS reps are running into issues?

And just as with sales, we were able to leverage Conversation Intelligence to help new and junior customer success reps listen to conversation snippets from top-performing reps, pick up tips, and learn how to handle similar questions, and gain confidence in serving customers.

2. Winning Deals and Customers Renewals #

Even with exceptionally-trained sales and customer success teams, there are always specific deals that are at risk — deals where the rep may not immediately realize the level of risk. This risk is lower with your best performing reps (but still non-zero), and generally higher across the rest of the team.

So the second dimension of growth comes from identifying deals and renewals that are at risk and getting effective intervention into those deals early. Intervening in these deals early makes a tremendous difference in sales and renewal rates.

By using Conversation Intelligence to analyze conversations with lost prospects and churned customers, you can find patterns that can indicate deals that are at risk.

You can also listen to these and look for answers to questions like:

  • Why are we losing deals?
  • Which deals are most likely to close?
  • What are the main reasons customers don’t renew?
  • Do certain segments of customers have more/less risk than others?

The focus here is to look for ways to influence specific deals, but we’ve also uncovered other things that we may need to adapt. For example, we’ve identified certain missing product features that are driving churn — this is discussed further in the third dimension of growth below. This section will focus on attributes of specific deals.

We found that for new deals, Conversation Intelligence was critical to determining whether an enterprise deal was on track. For these larger deals, we could also dive more deeply into the conversations when leveraging sales leadership or executive sponsors to help close the deal. The information our leadership gained before jumping into the deal made us seem a lot smarter and much more in touch with the prospect.

For customer renewals, we found it critical to blend data from a variety of sources (beyond Conversation Intelligence) to assess risk. We had a customer health score that took into consideration product usage and other key metrics that we found to be predictive of churn risk.

What we learned was that when a customer was in the “green” health-score band, it was generally fine for a customer success rep to be working mainly with their primary account contact. However, once an account was in “yellow” or “red” status — the information Conversation Intelligence provided became critical. If the customer success rep was not having an in-depth conversation with a higher level of contact, the account was at significant risk. We could also then selectively listen to conversations to determine where we needed to get leadership, or even executive sponsors, involved.

3. Adapting Marketing, Product, & Strategy for Growth

We’ve already seen how Conversation Intelligence drives growth by improving team performance and by improving win & renewal rates on individual deals — now let’s discuss how it actually helps organizations adapt their marketing, product, and strategy to accelerate growth.

With Conversation Intelligence technology, it’s not only sales and marketing teams that gain insights from customer and market feedback. The marketing teams, product teams, and company leadership gain invaluable insight as well.

Armed with this information, marketing can adjust focus on particular market segments, adapt messaging for campaigns (collaborating with sales enablement to keep the follow-up in sync), and even create new types of programs that are geared more specifically for each market segment.

It’s no surprise that marketing teams perform even better when they have direct insight into what’s happening in both prospect and customer conversations - Conversation Intelligence provides a way to make this happen effectively and efficiently.

Conversation insight provides an extraordinary data source to feed into competitive analysis for Product Marketing leaders, too. By setting up filters to see how many times each competitor comes up in conversations with customers and prospects, and then selectively digging into those conversations, they can access a goldmine of competitive data. This enables them to improve battle cards and further increase win rates.

Product Leaders typically receive seemingly endless streams of requests from a variety of different sources. Conversation Intelligence allows them to validate — or invalidate — parts of their product roadmap as well as mine for ideas to take the product to the next level. And more importantly, it enables them to make great strategic product decisions.

Conversation Intelligence provides invaluable insight to company leaders that are responsible for overall strategy and planning, such as the CEO, CFO, and other C-level and VP-level leaders.

While these leaders carve out some time to talk with customers, they are incredibly busy with the overall operations. They usually meet with a very small percentage of the total customer base and therefore may get a limited view based on just the customers they’ve personally met. Conversation Intelligence enables these busy executives to select the most insightful conversations from a broad set and to listen to conversations while on a treadmill, traveling, commuting, or at other times when they can listen in the background.

Moreover, in addition to gaining access to these conversations, the executive's data-driven insights as well as the power to search through conversations. For example, as a C-level executive, I was able to use these capabilities to search conversations based on particular partner names to see which partners were having the most impact on our business, and where we should focus our strategic investments.

Background & Source Of These Insights #

The insights in this article are derived from my experience within several B2B companies as a Go-to-Market leader and my work with Growth 11, which provides advisory services and insights to companies focused on accelerating recurring revenue growth.

I’ve grown organizations from $3M to $20M, from $15M to $75M, and from $300M to $450M — serving in roles including CRO, CMO, GM, and advising companies growing 100-200% per year.

Key Takeaways #

If you run a sales team, you may already be aware of some of the benefits that Conversation Intelligence has to offer. That’s a great first use case, and really valuable for driving the first dimension of growth that we discussed above. But you can unlock all 3 dimensions of growth if you loop in the rest of the leadership and leverage some of the insights we’ve shared here.

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