What is Conversation Intelligence? (Every B2B Sales Leader Should Know)



All sales and marketing tools have the same thing in common. They are about MORE, not BETTER. More data, more leads, more research, more dashboards. There are only so many ways we can improve workflows before we're forced to shift our attention to human performance. In 2018 sales leaders are now asking, “How can we make humans better?” The answer? Understanding conversation intelligence.

If your organization has human-to-human interactions, you most likely record every call your team makes outbound or receives inbound. These calls are a goldmine of valuable conversation data sitting on a server hoping to be found. The problem is the big pile of call recordings. It’s hard to find a call, share a call, add comments to a call, score a call, etc. Sales managers don’t have time to do much of anything with the call recordings they have, let alone provide effective sales coaching to reps. How much easier would it be to onboard, train, coach, and develop your teams when they can hear real examples of what ‘good’ sounds like from other reps? This is where conversation intelligence (CI) technology comes into play.

Conversation analysis software gives you the ability to turn call recordings into an asset that can be used for training, onboarding, and enablement. CI gives time strapped managers the ability to drive human behavior change and optimize the performance of their teams.

So what exactly is conversation intelligence?

Defining Conversation Intelligence

The basic definition of conversation intelligence is one’s ability to identify and react to signals in verbal communications. In the sales world, it means knowing where your conversation is headed, the likely outcome based on key signals, and how to steer it in the right direction.

Conversation intelligence (CI) is the reason why your best reps consistently outperform the rest of your team. When it comes to rep development and coaching, research shows that access to the real interactions between the buyer and seller–coachable moments–is the highest impact area, far outpacing role playing and video practice platforms that are (unfortunately) not taken as seriously by reps.

If CRM Data Paints the Picture, CI Data Adds Color

Sales leaders trust their CRM as the source of truth for the state of their pipeline and how efficiently their team is progressing opportunities. But, with CRM data, you don’t get the full picture. CRM data tells you WHERE a deal is, but fails to tell you WHY it did or didn’t progress. Plus you rely on an imperfect, biased human interpretation of what happened.

Every sales leader can recall an instance where a big deal suddenly fell through and when they went to investigate, all they found was a vague note like,

“Spoke to prospect on phone today. Seemed excited about product. Prospect speaking to decision maker next week.”

Needless to say, notes like this create more questions than answers.

Were next steps set? Was value communicated? Was the prospect actually excited or did the rep miss an objection? Was the prospect even the right person to be speaking with?

Conversation intelligence software makes this guess work a thing of the past. Instead of relying on call notes, you can jump to the exact right spot on the exact right call to hear exactly what was said and how it was said by the buyer and seller. Beyond CRM notes, CI gives you you access to the full picture so that you can use good and bad calls to train, coach, and develop your teams.

Conversation intelligence software provides clear answers to previously unanswerable questions such as:

  • How did a deal get to where it is in the pipeline?
  • What are my best reps saying that others are not?
  • What coaching are managers doing and is it effecting change?
  • How can a rep virtually ‘raise their hand’ when they need help or feedback on a call?
  • Are my managers equipped to keep up with my teams velocity?

Using call intelligence to answer these questions will empower you as a leader to know exactly what’s happening on calls and what you can adjust to drive performance improvement.

Curious about how to leverage conversation intelligence for your organization?
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Increase Conversion Rates, Decrease Ramp Times, and Fix Rep Retention

Chances are, your organization sets aside budget year after year for sales coaching and training exercises and consultant speakers. Your goal may be to increase conversion rates, decrease rep onboarding ramp times, and retain your reps longer.

Investing in your people is great, but if you want to make the training stick and sell more, you need to overcome the forgetting curve.

Once the sales training program is over and your team goes back to work, statistically, they will only retain 23-27% of what they learned … you can guess how much they will actually implement and use on real calls with buyers. The reason for this is simple: your managers don’t have the visibility needed to create accountability. How do managers decide which reps need the 1:1 coaching and where in a call coaching is needed? To beat the forgetting curve you need your managers to consistently coach. How can you hold the line on accountability without observable moments? This is where conversation intelligence technology plays an indispensable role.

Conversation intelligence software is the only sales coaching tool that makes the process fast, easy, and straightforward. CI empowers your managers to:

  • Find calls where reps have requested feedback
  • View coachable moments flagged by the platform’s AI
  • Increase job satisfaction and quota attainment through 1:1 development
  • Highlight, comment, and annotate calls
  • Search for keywords and phrases
  • Use scorecards to compare how a rep things they’re doing versus how you see their performance
  • Let reps self-identify areas of opportunity, which plays a key role in behavior change
  • Develop a best practice library for onboarding

In addition to helping managers coach, conversation intelligence platforms encourage peer to peer feedback. This helps make coaching a part of your culture rather than just another task. Imagine if all of your sales reps and managers actually liked coaching because it is so easy? Reps who use CI platforms comment that it is a lot of fun.

Clone Your Top Reps & Increase Quota Attainment

Almost every sales leader can name a rep they want to have 50 of. While cloning humans is still controversial, conversation intelligence tools can get you pretty close.

Cloning the behavior of top reps has been a topic of conversation in the sales leadership world for a long time. In practicality, cloning top reps has been impossible to accomplish. The problem is that top performing sales reps set themselves apart through hundreds of hardly noticeable behavioral differences. You know that other reps could learn from these top performers, but these little differences go overlooked in training sessions.

With conversation intelligence software, you can catch these behaviors ‘in the wild,’ analyze them, then compare what your top performers are doing that all of the rest are not. To ease this process, ExecVision leverages AI to flag-coachable moments and analyzes the thousands of calls your reps make everyday.

On top of call intelligence analytics, CI software allows you to build out best practice libraries and references for common challenges such as objection handling. When you lose a top performer, add their best calls to the library and you’ll be able to use them as an education tool indefinitely. Reps who hate role playing love hearing examples of what ‘good’ looks and sounds like on real sales calls and screen sharing meetings.

Libraries are a great tool for your entire team. New reps can listen to calls and hear best practices in action. Onboarding times are cut by 50% of more. Seasoned vets can reference the library when they’re struggling or want to know why another rep is excelling.

Libraries are meant to be ever-evolving. Encourage your reps to submit their calls to be added to the best practice library so they can share what’s working with the team.

Call Analytics vs Conversation Intelligence

Pulling data from sales calls isn’t a new concept. Call Analytics platforms have been around for years. Any sales person can speak to the frustration and tension created by a platform designed to resemble big brother. Call analytics tools are used primarily for compliance by departments like legal and sales compensation. Reps comment that call analytics platforms “take money out of my pocket.” They are largely not used for onboarding, training, coaching and performance improvement. Evidence of this is that most reps are never given access to their own calls on call analytics platforms. They are used ‘behind a curtain’ by the Quality Assurance (QA) team and executives like in the Wizard of Oz.

In stark contrast to call analytics software, conversation intelligence platforms were purpose built from the ground up for coaching and developing reps. Emphasis is placed on the positive - running a call of the month contest, for example. By talking about what reps are doing well instead of what reps are doing poorly or out of compliance, Conversation intelligence software is the foundation for having a positive and productive sales coaching culture. Humans change behavior because of positive reinforcement, not notices of non-compliance.

Conversation intelligence platforms encourage managers to identify positive outcomes instead of negative outcomes. Celebrating positive outcomes is one of the fastest ways to reinforce behavior changes.

Making Human Behavior Change Stick

It’s one thing to talk about human behavior change and another to actually make those behavior changes stick.

Sales managers can point out bad habits all day long, but the real power is when a rep can recognize an area of opportunity themselves. Conversation intelligence technology allows reps to listen to their calls and actually see how many times they use filler words or give a lackluster introduction.

CI provides the data managers need to begin identifying areas of change but more importantly it provides a source of continuous reinforcement. This is where data fails to create a lasting change. Data does a really good job at providing the initial shock, or eye opening moment that inspires change, but without intentional reinforcement that shock quickly wears off.

This is where habit loops come into play. Human brains were created to form habits to make our lives easier, these habits become engrained rapidly regardless of whether or not they drive positive or negative outcomes. We default to these habit loops unconsciously as we go through our daily activities.

Habit loops can be split into two types, competent and incompetent. When we talk about human behavior change, we are talking about the journey from unconscious incompetence a.k.a a bad habit, to conscious competence a.k.a intentional improvement.

When you combine an effective coaching program with CI software, this journey becomes much more attainable and performance will improve. By providing reps, managers, and leaders with visibility into what is actually happening on calls, they become accountable to own the both the good and the bad.

sales managers building call scorecards

Better Conversations = Increased ROI

No sale happens without a conversation. At the end of the day, sales organizations are created to drive ROI. But the sad reality is that too many sales reps fail because they never learn how to have the right conversations. And this happens on sales teams where top reps are having great calls every day. Conversation intelligence software gives sales teams a really easy and fast way to identifying and share best practices at scale. Better conversations = more sales meetings, more pipeline, more deals, and most importantly — a bigger ROI.

With conversation intelligence tools like ExecVision, managers can keep up with the velocity of a modern sales team, identify who needs the most coaching, decrease ramp time, and lower turnover rates. And the best part? Sales leaders know exactly what’s happening on the floor, what their reps are saying, and how it’s shaping their pipeline.

Recording calls is great, but it's what you do with those recordings that matters.

See call analysis in action »