45 minutes. The length of the average online meeting. The average sales professional (across SMB, Mid-Market, and Enterprise) participates in over 1000 customer-facing meetings per year, or roughly 750 hours of communication with current and future customers. Translated for the sales leader, this equates to around 40,000 hours for the average 50 person sales team.
Despite significant advancements in the architecture of the phone, we continue to measure calls as tasks and at best record the call for coaching purposes. At times we’ll dial over VoIP services like Skype, WhatsApp, HipChat and even Facebook, however, these interactions are infrequently saved and our notes reflect the interaction layered with our own internal biases.
Since his 1876 invention, we’ve seen an evolution of the device that started with “hello.” It started with a cord, moved to cordless, then to mobile, and finally the smartphone. Voice dictation devices followed, and yet we still take notes and maybe log the call into the CRM.
If you’re sitting at your desk right now, I encourage you to look at your desk phone (assuming you have one).
The next wave of Bell’s legacy will focus on measurement and improvement of the human interaction, starting with the audio. These advancements have started to appear in our existing devices:
Apple iOS 10: Voicemail Transcription
With transcription, every 45 minute interaction is documented. Transcription creates data -- and data is measurable. Moreover, advancements in natural language processing turn conference calls into intelligent interactions. The benefits of voice transcription are diverse: from consumer technology to business applications. In 2017, the everyday phone call takes on a new meaning.
WebEx was founded in 1996.
Web conferencing technology changed the landscape (and experience) for individuals and businesses involved in communication, from marketing to sales to human resources. For the sales professional, in-person meetings can now be conducted online with a few clicks. In less than 10 years, we have (nearly) eliminated the fax machine from all business transactions.
It all started with Subrah Iyar and Min Zhu, who were experimenting with document-sharing in the late nineties. Simultaneously, early pioneers in information technology began to experiment with cloud applications, which led to the formation of Salesforce.com in 1999. The business concept for web conferencing was straightforward: audio-video communication in the cloud. As the market matured, competitors began to crop-up (GoToMeeting, Join.me, ReadyTalk, etc.) and the web conferencing category solidified.
Fast-forward to July 2016, when LogMeIn quietly acquired Citrix’s GoToMeeting division for $1.8bn. And then just last month, Sequoia Capital, in partnership with Emergence Capital, invested $100M in Zoom. Despite significant investment, the functionality and execution of web conferencing remains the same: audio-video communication in the cloud.
21 years on from WebEx, how has the B2B experience improved?
Sales organizations have made significant investments in understanding the optimal set of internal processes to turn an ideal customer into a relationship. However, how are we measuring each one of these interactions?
Since the first investments in cloud business applications toward the turn of the century, we’re now seeing the effects of diminishing returns reminiscent of what we’d expect on the ‘Plateau of Productivity’ illustrated by the Gartner Hype Cycle.
Gartner Hype Cycle
The age-old question of whether sales is an art or a science has been debated for decades. Those in the art camp often argue that the value of human interaction cannot be quantified. Conversely, those in the science camp continue to advocate that technology will facilitate a new era of intelligence and propel sales to the realm of an afterthought.
Whatever camp you reside, conversation intelligence is the next frontier in the advancement of the sales professional.
We’re now seeing the first wave of investment in conversation intelligence, with Chorus.ai and Gong.io leading the charge. These technology pioneers will shape the way we interact with future customers and form the measurement foundation that will, eventually, give way to artificial intelligence. Using the immense data collected from voice transcription, Chorus provides the ability to measure and optimize conversations with real-time feedback. Moreover, engagement data from conversations can be used to fuel proactive recommendations on what to say and when.
With increased competition, businesses have applied an ever-increasing emphasis on the customer experience as a form of competitive advantage. This has led to the advent of roles dedicated exclusively to the customer: Chief Customer Officer (CCO) and Chief Experience Officer (CXO). With the advent of intelligently dictated conversations, we’re now able to provide a valuable feedback loop to Marketing, Product, and Engineering teams. The measurement and data collection process exposes rich insights that drive incremental improvements across the customer experience.
The Lean Startup Process - Eric Ries
Your call with Comcast has been recorded for quality assurance since the turn of the century, however, it’s time we turn calls into intelligent conversations. For the first time, we now have the capability to get real-time feedback during live conversations, and turn data insights into better customer experiences.
Let’s move beyond “hello” and turn conversations into long-term partnerships.
Daniel Barber is the VP of Sales at Datanyze.,