This article was originally published on Forbes by Gong.io Account Executive, Luciano Scala
Sales — an industry ruled by the numbers. Meet quotas, shorten the cycle and always, always, always be closing — even when there’s no time to do it.
The breadth of articles, strategies and philosophies on the subject is seemingly endless. Some offer ways to improve administrative workflow, allowing sales staff to spend more time actually selling. Others offer fresh tactics based on whatever is trending at the moment. Unfortunately, the vast majority of sales leadership is missing a huge point, and if you’re ignoring it you could get left behind, too.
Not enough people are paying attention to the widening gap between top sales performers and their middle-of-the-curve colleagues. What gets lost in the numbers is a simple truth: A high-powered sales machine is fueled by effective sales calls. Quality conversations ultimately drive more deals.
Without a strategy to continually boost quality conversations, your team will close fewer deals, miss quotas and face higher rates of turnover.
Why The Gap Matters
In a perfect world, your entire team meets or exceeds their quota. In the real world, many don’t. That performance gap is costing your business a fortune, leaving hundreds of deals dead in your pipeline.
Think about the numbers. Your under-performers make fewer deals, which means they need to work through many more qualified leads than your top reps to close the same number of opportunities.
Maybe they didn’t ask the right questions, maybe they didn’t use an effective proof point or maybe they failed to differentiate from your competition or simply got hammered by a tough customer during the negotiation. In any case, they were given a qualified (and expensive) opportunity that could have turned into revenue, but didn’t.
Fortunately, we can close the performance gap by managing the activities that directly drive the success of your sales organization: sales conversations.
So How Do You Close The Gap?
Your team’s core activity is to have effective sales conversations, but some are better at it than others. The performance gap is a result of the divergence in the quality of conversations between your top performers and the rest of your team. This quality — the key driver of performance — has traditionally been the hardest factor to measure and manage.
Standard training methods rely largely on anecdotal examples. From your elite performers, you may take a few recordings and give them to your middle performers to listen and absorb the style, language and tone of successful calls, or maybe middle management cobbles together a PowerPoint to share strong tactics in a classroom, lecture style.
These methods are the classic, old-school attempts to improve the quality of conversations in your entire sales force.
But what if listening to just a few conversations isn’t enough?
What if you could distill the components of every single sales call from your top performers to the bottom? What if you could use this full breadth of all conversations to identify not only a few exemplary tactics that work but also the pain points or drop-offs that don’t?
In the arms race of tools and tactics in sales, this type of analysis has been just a dream. With the rapid advancement of technology and improvements in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), however, there are new tools and methods emerging, and they are defining a new area called conversation intelligence.
This innovation is not only closing the performance gap, it’s obliterating it.
Conversation Intelligence, Meet Sales
Conversation intelligence is a new frontier, but it has already shown proven results for hundreds of companies in closing the performance gap. The process is as straightforward as it is brilliant:
1. Every sales call from every member of the sales force is recorded. A conversation intelligence tool listens, transcribes and analyzes the outcome of the call to distill key themes, questions or proof points.
2. Aggregate results are used at scale to generate insights for the entire sales force.
3. Sales leaders can use these insights to identify key dialogue, topics and even conversation cadence that’s most effective at closing sales.
Forget anecdotes and canned PowerPoints. Conversation intelligence is a true paradigm shift from manual analysis to automated, data-driven insights. This fuels individual, personalized and on-demand training while challenging your lower performers to meet their goals — and it provides the tools to do it.
This isn’t just about your raw numbers alone — it all comes down to experience you provide to your customers.
Conversation intelligence improves sales calls to support the brand narrative while delivering optimal customer satisfaction, rapidly and at scale. With less time and overwhelming responsibilities, prospects simply don’t have time to waste on poor conversations. When products and services across markets are rapidly commoditizing, it’s the people behind them (and their sales skills) that make the difference.
If you are in sales, you are in an arms race. Rival brands and sales departments are constantly seeking that competitive edge in their approach, training and human capital. In an age where data fuels decision making, the right tools are the difference between losing hundreds of prospects or gaining millions in additional revenue.
With conversation intelligence driving the adoption of AI across the industry, time is of the essence. And for once, it may be on your side.