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Coaching sales interactions takes more than experience – it takes the right technology


Richard Britt

September 07, 2021

sales conversation analytics jigsaw coaching
sales conversation analytics jigsaw coaching

I have been involved with call centers in a variety of roles for years now, and I’ve found that the most fun component of them, by far, is sales. I have seen and participated in the industry’s evolution, building AI-driven solutions for organizations that engage with customers to ensure the best possible experience.

One of the greatest areas of advancement is using cutting-edge technology to augment and enhance sales reps’ performance in conversations, and, in turn, improve sales teams’ results – increasing win rates and driving revenue. Sales interactions are possibly the single most important touchpoints with customers and prospects, as they are one of a very small number of ways businesses can directly speak to the consumer and impact ROI.

CallMiner’s new Sales Conversation Analytics solution is designed to support the enterprise sales organization’s ability to win more deals, faster. Sales Conversation Analytics is built on the strength of our Eureka platform, which is the most powerful and comprehensive conversation analytics product on the market. This new conversation intelligence platform for sales is tailored to the enterprise sales user, helping executives, managers, and reps alike to identify what’s working and what’s not in sales scripts, coach and train a team of all-star reps, and gain access to a bevy of key insights directly from conversations that are already happening.

Sales leaders need to evolve at the same pace as technology. If teams are embracing new sales software, but still using old tactics, they’re almost always going to underperform. Using the right tools is about more than just improving processes, it should be about uncovering the best practices that are driving real results and applying them at every level. It’s time to change the game and start moving the needle using technology.

What are the ingredients to a successful sales conversation?

Let’s boil it down to a single question that can be applied to every interaction your sales team has with prospects and customers: what does the interaction aim to achieve? It’s a simple question that I ask a lot, but the answer is often unclear. Effective sales teams center conversations around the prospect, but to do this, reps must first gain an understanding of what motivates and influences their prospects. At a more granular level, sales teams should focus on crafting an approach that generates an ideal reaction from the prospect. For sales managers, this means guiding the rep with the right insight so they can in turn “coach” the prospect.

The best interactions take place when managers and sales reps sit side-by-side and cook up a strategy to move the prospect through the sales cycle, one stage at a time. Attacking the entire problem at once can be overwhelming – when sales teams master each step and take small bites at a time, they position themselves to solve the greater problem at hand.

How do you “coach” a prospect?

The concept of coaching up a prospect is simple and logical – and yet, it’s rarely executed. Managers should partner with their reps to get a desired reaction from a prospect. I call this “jigsaw coaching,” because if you think about a conversation as two lines, you coach the tooth of the saw. It looks like this:

Jigsaw coaching SCA

Here is an example from a real call involving a CallMiner sales rep selling our Analyze product. The call was ingested by our platform – yes, we do drink our own champagne – and analyzed. Keep in mind that transcribed conversations read very differently than written prose or text conversations. The first action we see is the sales rep steering the prospect toward a reaction following rapport-building:

Call Snippet [SALES REP]: “Anything I can help you with, there was anything additionally that you would like me to send over or if you wanted to set up some time to dive in a little bit deeper about our platform”

What response do we want this first action in the sequence to illicit? What do we want the prospect to say or do? 

In this case, the goal is to get the prospect to ask for or opt into a product deep dive or demo. In a perfect world, the prospect says “yes” to a demo or deep dive. This sales rep was a bit soft, but still asked for the sale to test the waters – this is a good approach.

Let’s look at what happened next. Again, reading spoken conversation is not the same as writing a chat, so bear with us.

Call Snippet [PROSPECT]: “okay so what I was looking for was information on the platform for the ability to see if you use AI for productivity, or sentiment, for a call, and messages, to make sure that in the tool, l hear how their voice is giving them a emotion sentiment score on their productivity. This is already in our phone systems [Competitor Product] we have. As far as what they are doing, they are okay, but you know if they’re really aggressive or you are they`re unprofessional really unprofessional could be better, versus having somebody monitor them, use AI.”

The gist is that the prospect has a competitive product and wants information on how we stack up based on scores and our ability to monitor sales reps using AI, especially on sentiment and emotion. 

This is not what we’d hoped, but generating the ideal reaction is hard. We are still in a good place at this stage, and there is lots of info being provided by the prospect. It does look like the sales rep will need to expend more effort to get that demo or deep dive. With that in mind, what would be the ideal next response to get to that goal?

I have a couple of thoughts I might share with this sales rep if they are stuck. My go-to would be to ask a question focusing on early call discovery – just pick part of that snippet above. “You have [competitor product]? How are you using that today?” The rep could also drive at the demo goal with a positive statement and a redirect. “Great, so you see the value already. Not many people are so well-versed. We should get you a deep dive so you can see our product in action. Tell me, what are you looking for that [competitor product] doesn’t do?” 

This is the coaching moment: what does the sales rep want? And what do they think they should do to get it? 

Call Snippet [SALES REP]: “So that’s exactly what we do. Emotion and sentiment analysis um is exactly what we do. So you know if an Sales rep is not providing ownership that’s automatically flagged, if there is you know and there’s a level of agitation on either side so we have acoustic measurements combined with the speech to text transcription, and that’s where the semi-supervised machine learning comes in for you know analyzing all the categories and tags that we have that come out of the box as well as what you would want to be looking for, that you can build and, and then, so that shows like an education rate. You know if people are like what you said like you said you know if the if the Sales reps being more aggressive and there’s a level of dissatisfaction on the other side that that is flagged as well and categorized and just putting it on the dash board and then there is also a scorecard dashboard as well”

That was not exactly how we hoped to get to the goal, but it happened, nonetheless.

This sales rep is in the discovery portion of the call, but the sales rep is selling benefits. This is coaching, so there’s no judgment – just observation. In the conversation, now is the time for discovery questions. I like simple non-threatening prospect-based questions: what did you think of that? What did you like? What would you change? And the big two: do you think this will achieve the goal of a demo or deep dive? And how do you think the prospect will react?

Note at this point the coaching is already done. What comes next is the observation of cause and effect. My coaching was “ask the prospect a question.”  All we are doing now is observation mode to drive to point home.

After the conversation we take a look at that prospect reaction:  

Call Snippet [PROSPECT]: “Well I need to know what else, because we already have [Competitor Product] in like three of our portfolios and you know what, I guess would be a hard sell for me. I need to see this is better so we don`t confuse this with, well you know what else can you offer with this product besides you know, that purpose is already solved here. Tell you what can you send me something I’ll look it over”

Oh, no: the dreaded “send me something”!  In just three conversational exchanges, we went from “I need something better” to “send me something.”

Coaching-wise, we can ask the rep a reflective question or two: do you think you’re close to the goal of a demo or deep dive? What do you think you could change on the next interaction to get closer to that goal?  

My guess is the response would be, “ask a question.” We can draft up a few thought-provoking questions to try on our next call with the prospect. The sales rep knows we are in this together: we are expending lots of energy to focus on optimizing 1-2 minutes of an interaction to help them succeed.  

Using technology to enhance the sales partnership

Besides being the most powerful conversation analytics tool on the market, CallMiner Sales Conversation Analytics enhances the selling process for B2B sales teams. Sales teams can have question areas categorized and competitor mentions identified, enabling reps to easily search for specific keywords. This includes filler words, objections (like “send me something”), and much more based on predetermined categories that trigger the system.

With Sales Conversation Analytics, I gain the insights needed to know what I’m dealing with before I ever set foot in the coaching room with my reps. I can review every call’s success, failure, gaps, and next steps within the platform. I often hear from sales managers that they know too much – meaning they have too many reps with too many deals to properly track and process the information most pertinent to each deal. Sales Conversation Analytics saves managers from wasting time by coaching the wrong things, using trends, scores, and call markers to help them hit the right note every time.

Managers can also hold sales reps accountable by simply creating a basic component of the reps’ behavior to determine whether changes have been implemented, track the success of different approaches, and evaluate key moments within any given call.

Marrying the know-how of experienced sales leaders with cutting-edge conversation analytics technology gives sales teams the upper hand in any given deal. Prospects don’t stand a chance against all that power – your sales reps will close more deals with greater velocity than ever before and drive what every business aims to…the bottom line.

CallMiner Research Lab EMEA North America Sales & Performance Marketing Speech & Conversation Analytics