Wondering What All of These 'Conversation' Products Do?



The sales and marketing tech space is filled with ‘conversation’ products that do everything from start discussions with prospects to telling managers which sales reps need coaching. This brief guide outlines categories and the differences between each.

There are thousands of sales and marketing technology companies which fall into plenty of different categories. The trouble for you as a buyer is figuring out which sub-categories and vendors help you achieve your specific objectives.

Categories like “sales coaching software” just add to the confusion when you begin your research. On sites like G2 Crowd and rankings like Gartner’s Magic Quadrants, “sales coaching software” includes everything from conversation intelligence platforms to sales enablement practice software to learning management systems. Conversation-centered technology is one of the fastest growing categories in the market. But what business problems do these conversation products solve and how do they provide ROI?

Conversation Intelligence

The days of headset splitters and ride alongs as the only way to observe sales rep behavior are numbered. It’s now possible to see and hear what your reps are doing in real calls with real buyers all while sitting on your sofa at home or a pontoon boat in the middle of a lake. Conversation Intelligence software allows managers, leaders, and reps to turn the big pile of barely usable call recordings into actionable data that you can use to train and coach reps.

These platforms leverage AI to analyze and transcribe calls, providing deep insights into what’s working and what isn’t in conversations across your teams.

Conversation Intelligence tools shake out into three niches: analytics, note taking, and driving performance. Some platforms are trying to relieve the burden of human-led data entry. Others create pretty data visualizations. The third group tackles the problem of using call recordings to optimize their teams’ abilities.

ExecVision is the only conversation intelligence platform built for the coaching process to drive human behavior change. Real-time script prompters create parrots. Sales leaders want their reps to truly learn and master their craft. Sales, customer support, and client success teams are using sales coaching platforms to reduce ramp time, identify what ‘good’ looks like for their team, and ultimately drive more revenue by making reps better.

Conversational Marketing

Conversational marketing is now prominent in B2B after flourishing in B2C. Chatbot providers such as Drift, Intercom, HubSpot, and Conversica allow people visiting your website to get what they need. These tools remove the burden of filling out web forms or hunting down the customer support email when users need assistance or prospects want information from a sales rep.

At their core, conversational marketing tools analyze inquiries from customers, leads, or website visitors to provide the right outputs for what the user is looking for. Currently, chatbots perform best with “Tier 1” inquiries. This includes support responses, website links, and other information easily extracted from a database.

Companies like Drift are focusing on using chatbots for calendar scheduling and qualifying leads for sales teams. Other tools, such as MobileMonkey, leverage existing messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger to distribute content to their audiences or provide a single interface for chat across multiple channels.

The ultimate goal of conversational marketing tools and chatbots is to decrease the time it takes for one of your human employees to handle chat-related requests. This can result in happier customers or higher conversions for website visitors into leads.

Conversational Artificial Intelligence & Voice Assistants

Conversational AI is what you typically imagine when you hear “artificial intelligence”. This category includes consumer voice assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Home. Conversational AI and voice assistants help users complete simple searches and tasks, with or without the use of a screen.

Conversational AI processes text and voice inputs and provides outputs with relevant information. Most products currently on the market can only respond to relatively simple inputs like “What’s the weather forecast today?” or “Play my favorite song”. The intriguing part is as users interact with these products, the AI within them “learns” about the user, allowing outputs to be more personal. For instance, asking Amazon’s Alexa what her favorite roller coaster is will get different responses based on the user’s GPS location.

But as we have all experienced Alexa and Siri often get what you’re saying wrong. It’s an emerging category that has big implications 10 years from now.

This category will continue to grow as user adoption increases and its capabilities expand. It’s very likely that voice assistants will expand into the business market. Microsoft Dynamics 365 has already brought Cortana to the CRM by allowing voice commands in the Dynamics phone app.

Call Tracking & Analytics

Call tracking and analytics may seem very similar to Conversation Intelligence at first glance, but they exist in their own unique category. Call tracking and analytics has long been the standard for call centers to gauge their team’s performance. These solutions typically provide data points including the number of calls placed, the duration of calls, when calls were received, and geographic locations of callers.

Call tracking and analytics tools connect the dots between online and offline channels. This includes search ads, display ads, TV commercials, radio spots, billboards, etc. Each campaign receives a unique phone number which allows organizations to track where a caller came in from.

Most call tracking software focuses on inbound calls and provides features like pre-call whispers that give reps caller data such as location. Some products include lead scoring with machine learning to help you prioritize leads.

Which Conversation Product Category is Right for You?

Each of these categories is capable of providing a high return on investment if they’re the right fit for what your company needs to fix or accomplish. Before evaluating any category, buyers need to know what business problem they are trying to solve and how they’ll measure success.

  • If your measure of success is to “increase revenue”, you should dive deeper to identify what levers you can pull to make it happen.
  • Do you need to decrease rep onboarding and ramp time?
  • Do you need your average reps doing their calls more like your top reps because you have a big gap between top and average performers?
  • Do you need to increase conversion rates from lead to opp? Opp to close?
  • Do you need to increase up-sells and cross-sells?
  • Do you need to increase the number of qualified leads?
  • Do you have a well-defined call structure that your reps aren’t following consistently?

Once you’ve identified what efforts will have the greatest impact, you’ll have a better understanding of which technologies can help you achieve your goals.

Interested in Conversation Intelligence technology? Check out this free guide for evaluating providers »