Episode 96: The Source of Truth in Sales: Conversations
Jon Prial: Today, we're going to be talking about sales. Now, sales management, they want results, they want to be able to forecast accurately. At the same time no one can argue that there's a little human nature at work here, sales reps. They don't want to tell their management everything that's going on for many reasons. Reporting is a challenge. More visibility might mean more accountability. Now, we've got tools. CRM obviously helps and is expanding markets of sales automation and sales operations, yet there's always that one rep, the one rep with the right instincts. The one who knows when to close or when to bring more to the table. Don't you wish you could clone that person? Well, you can't quite do that, but we surely can learn a lot more about what happens during sales engagements, and we can do some pretty impressive things once we've got access to that data. Today we're going to hear about a company, Chorus. ai, that's leading the charge in taking a business process that's tough to understand and manage, apply some AI, and help a wide range of companies improve their sales. Today it's time to think out of the box. I'm Jon Prial, and welcome to the Georgian Impact podcast. With us today is Roy Raanani, CEO of Chorus. Chorus is one of our recent investments and we have a lot to talk about today. Roy, welcome to the podcast.
Roy Raanani: Thanks so much for having me, Jon.
Jon Prial: So Roy, I quickly mentioned some things that reps might not do. Now, are we missing something because we don't really know what's happening in these meetings or phone calls? You use the term conversational intelligence, how'd you get there?
Roy Raanani: What really drew us to conversations in B2B sales is that the most important thing that anybody can do that impacts a sales cycle is have a high quality conversation with a prospect or with a customer. And ironically, that most important part of the sales process, there's no record of it, at all. And so if you have a 50 person sales team, your team might do 10,000 meetings every quarter, and the only record that you have of it are the few notes that a sales reps happens to take, and some subset of those notes will make their way into CRM, and you as a manager or a VP of sales are trying to run the business, and manage the business, and improve the business, based on a fraction of an anecdote of what happened.
Jon Prial: Yeah, it really is interesting what little ends up in a CRM system. But there is a lot of data to be collected from meetings. So how do you do it?
Roy Raanani: So, with more and more meetings taking place digitally over Zoom, over GoToMeeting, and other platforms like that, it just became really easy to digitize that information and make sense of it.
Jon Prial: And I'm sure there's a lot to make sense of. Let me try a specific example of how learning about a conversation can truly inform. Tell me about what you might learn if say a customer mentions a competitor?
Roy Raanani: Yeah, that's a great example. When we analyzed, I believe we had about three million B2B sales conversations in the system at that point. And a very common question from our customers was, how are we really doing against the competition and what can we do to improve our win rate? And the first place that you look is in CRM, and we found a certain number of competitive deals and a certain amount of information. And the second place that we looked was in the conversations themselves. In the conversations, we found that there were 10 times as many competitive deals as there were deals marked as competitive in the CRM. And when we looked at when the competitors were coming up in conversations, we found a really striking pattern, which was that they tend to come up in the first five minutes of the very first conversation.
Jon Prial: That's an outstanding example about what we might see in a CRM versus what data really could be had. Now, I'd like to step back and hear the bigger picture about how Chorus came to be. How did you pick this space and what drove you to enter it?
Roy Raanani: I started getting very deep into machine learning and what you could do with it. And machine learning is cool, but unfortunately businesses don't have budgets for cool. And so, one of the things that we thought really long and hard about was, what is a problem that is really interesting that would be completely reinvented if you could apply machine learning algorithms to it? And I've always loved languages, I've always loved music, I've always loved sound. And so, the question was, well, what if we could analyze a conversation and understand what it is that makes one person more effective in a conversation than someone else?
Jon Prial: So we have this situation then where there really wasn't that much data. That's quite the starting point.
Roy Raanani: Yeah. And so it was this aha moment that there is a billion dollar opportunity that's ours to lose to help businesses realize how valuable conversations are as a dataset, and help them get really tangible results by improving the quality of their conversations.
Jon Prial: Let's chat more about this. You mentioned that we can have much more accuracy, for example, about a competitive situation or not. What are some of the key benefits then, the broader benefits to a sales organization that might have access to all this potential knowledge?
Roy Raanani: Yeah. The two things that are very tangible and that happened very early on, is improving conversion rates and win rates. And typically we always think about the overall win rate, but what the research has shown is that you're actually much better off making five, 10% improvements at different parts of the sales cycle than you are trying to just double the win rate. And so what we can do is very quickly identify the opportunities, identify the best practices and then help an organization share those with other reps and get the benefits. And the second is shortening the ramp time for new hires. And I'm sure that a lot of your listeners are in very high growth businesses where the ramp time is probably the most, aside from quota attainment, the ramp time is the number one driver of how quickly you can scale, how many people you can hire, when you can hire, et cetera.
Jon Prial: So you have lots of data to collect in any conversation and clearly a lot one can do with it. So now, as you think about your ML engines that you build, there is a lot more. We have introductory sales calls, there's an entire spectrum of sales calls hopefully leading to a closing call. How do you think about all that metadata?
Roy Raanani: That's a really great question. One of the reasons that this opportunity exists for us is because you need to pair the recordings of the conversations, which is a Zoom meeting like the one we're on right now, with the business data, from the business systems. And so that includes the calendar to know when did the meeting take place, who was involved in the meeting, as well as the CRM. So what stage was the deal at? What's the expected close date, what's the expected deal size and so on and so forth. And so what we do is we start by relying on the CRM to tell us this deal is at this stage. And that gives us an ability to bucket conversations into at least these conversations are in the proposal phase, these conversations are in the discovery phase, or the research phase, et cetera. So we take that from a client's CRM. And then on top of that, we automatically learn the language of the customer. And so imagine that in every sales process you tell Georgian's founding story, right? And why it came to be. Well, Chorus would identify that there are certain words around the founding story that keep coming up on many calls, and Chorus would automatically highlight that and say, Hey, this sounds like a theme that's coming up over and over, let's call it the founding story.
Jon Prial: So emerging structured data, calendar CRM with all this new conversational data, so what's next? What can you learn?
Roy Raanani: You do that for every theme that automatically gets detected in the conversations, and then you start to look at your top performers and you start to look at what it is that a conversation looks like when a deal advances or stalls in a given stage. And that actually gives you a pretty amazing starting point to figure out, wow, for some reason a bunch of our deals are stalling during the evaluation phase, I wonder what's going on. And then you look at the data and Chorus will tell you for whatever reason, we are spending a lot of time, a lot more time talking about security in a deal that gets stalled than in a deal that advances. And with one more click of a button, you can go in and just hear those exact moments in those exact deals so that you can make sense of what's happening. And so the important part to mention there is that this technology doesn't solve problems for you, but think of it as Iron Man versus Robocop, it gives you super powers. So if you know what you're doing, you can really quickly get in there and make some changes.
Jon Prial: All right, I'm liking this. And of course my brain's racing. So my next thought just out of the blue, would you know the effectiveness of morning versus afternoon calls?
Roy Raanani: We have, we do. We actually put out research on things like that, that affect your win rates and your conversion rates. And there are optimal times to have conversations, or at least have them be less likely to be rescheduled. And there are also things around what is most likely to lead to a no- show or a ghosted meeting and things like that. So anybody that's interested I'd say to go to our website and sign up for our blog and we'll send insights like that to your inbox.
Jon Prial: Earlier you mentioned about getting reps onboard faster. And that really is just one example of a bigger discipline about sales enablement and sales growth. Talk to me a bit about that and how you see it changing.
Roy Raanani: Yeah. There's a couple of things that stand out for me. One of our customers, the COO, one of our customers gave me a book recommendation after he implemented Chorus and got phenomenal results in terms of a new rep ramping, as well as their conversion rates. And the book is called Peak, P- E- A- K, and it talks about expertise and how to develop world- class expertise. And they look at things like people, Mozart that had perfect pitch all the way to professional athletes, professional musicians, people that are really effective salespeople and so on and so forth. And basically what they found was that the number one predictor of developing expertise is the time that you spend doing intentional improvement. And that was actually a very big learning for me because many people will think that if you just spend more time in a role, you're going to get better, right? So, the sales rep with 15 years of experience is going to be more effective than the sales rep with three years of experience. The challenge with sales is that sales really is an apprenticeship model. It would be like learning to be a blacksmith or learning to be a gymnast. You need somebody that's going to look at what you're doing, give you some coaching, give you some improvement, and help you advance. What most organizations do is hire a new rep, give them two to three weeks of very intensive, mostly knowledge training, which is not skills- based training, right? It's not role- plays, it's not helping them truly build a mental model of how these customers live, how somebody in the ICP lives, how they make decisions, how the organization makes decisions.
Jon Prial: Right. And of course it's more than just repetition or experience. So with all this data you're collecting, how then could that influence the training that you do?
Roy Raanani: So what we do with our customers is help them very quickly understand what are the key parts of the sales process that matter, and it might be handling a certain objection. It may be positioning yourself versus a specific competitor. It may be telling a customer story very effectively and making sure that we're doing that. And then very easily finding those needles in a haystack and building them into an onboarding and a training program.
Jon Prial: So we do have all our basic selling skills, but what are the unique differences that are out there in selling or reps that go beyond all that?
Roy Raanani: It's very different. It's very different. When we initially brought the product to market, the things that we were measuring were very generic. So things like the talk to listen ratio, how much time, I apologize to everybody, I've probably been doing 90% of the talking on this podcast, that would be terrible in a sales meeting. So, we would start with things like the talk to listen ratio. And we would look at things like filler words. And we would look at things like the number of questions that the sales rep asks. And there were some really interesting insights there, but what we found was that there were always exceptions to the rule. You could have three top salespeople, consistently top performers, and some of them might do really well talking 70% of the time, and some of them might do really well talking only 40% of the time. Right? And so there isn't a single model that's going to work for an effective sales rep. But what we did find was that there are certain topics in the sales process where there are much better ways to handle that situation than others. And so that's where we had to evolve the technology to automatically learn the conversations our customers were having. And by the way, here's what the conversation looks like when it's a top performer, and here's what a conversation looks like when it's a bottom performer. Why don't we focus on that?
Jon Prial: I do have to ask what might be for me the most major implementation question. I've dialed into conference calls, which are these one in many broadcasts, but there Q&As in the end. And the upfront message says, this session is being recorded, and if you don't like it you can just hang up. So how does all this work on a one- on- one sales call?
Roy Raanani: Yeah, it's a really important question. So the answer is you tell people that the call or the meeting is being recorded. And the answer is that people don't really care. We did it with our outbound BDR team, for example, we have a hundred percent recorded outbound calls with a hundred percent compliance. And a lot of it is just training. It's saying, Hey Jon, this is Roy calling from Chorus. ai on a recorded line, did I catch you at the worst possible time? There's two parts to this. There's the phone call and then there's the meeting. With a Zoom meeting it's completely different. With a Zoom meeting what our customers will do is include a written disclosure in the calendar invite. So, Jon, really looking forward to meeting today, here's our proposed agenda, and then at the bottom saying a recording disclosure, we record our meetings, by accepting this invite you acknowledge it can be recorded, let us know if you don't want it to be recorded. And then when the rep gets into a meeting, a platform like Zoom will automatically give a visual end audio notification to let the meeting participants know that it's being recorded and nobody cares, and not only that, but many prospects love getting a copy of the recording when the meeting is over.
Jon Prial: Let's talk rep behavior. I'm sure there'll be better prepared reps, there's more inspection, so to speak. Do you see reps happier or under the gun? What else are you seeing?
Roy Raanani: It's interesting. We wanted to build a product that the sales reps themselves love. And a very common question is, well, wait a minute, isn't this going to feel like big brother or something like that. And we worked really, really hard to build a product where the reps themselves are saying, I get so much value out of this myself, because I don't have to take notes, that's my number one thing. And so that's what they love about it. The truth is that even with every recorded call, nobody has time to listen to them all. And so 90% of the benefit goes to the rep. And what we found is that the top performers in an organization happen to be, so it's correlation, not causation, but happen to be the heaviest users of course. And so the people that want to be at the top of their game, they want to go back immediately after the call and listen to exactly what the prospect said so that they can put things into their own words and make sure that they're prepared for the next meeting. They'll listen and say, Oh, I really don't like the way that I responded to that question. Oh, I really wish I wasn't doing so much up speak, right? Jon, that's a great question. Right? They start to become self aware and it allows them to do that self coaching. Right? And the very best people, or the ones that want to improve the most will even say, you know what? I've got time on a Friday afternoon. I know that Jon just closed the Marchetto deal. I'm going to go listen to how he ran that sales process and see what notes I could take.
Jon Prial: I'm glad you just gave that example of this cross listening so to speak. Of course, it's all about availability of information and this transparency, but then how do you manage security and talk to your customers and privacy? Who gets access to what information?
Roy Raanani: Yeah, so it's interesting. As an organization and as a platform, we need to be extremely, extremely secure, and we need to be very, very thoughtful about our data models. Not just because we're dealing with biometric data, which is what voice and video is, but because of GDPR and making sure that there's a very easy way for people to get their information out or remove it if they want to. But once you're on the platform, the lack of privacy is a feature, not a bug. And so it's something that organizations may take a tiny bit of getting used to, but very, very quickly can't live without. So imagine the BDR that books the meeting, and then throws it over the fence to the account executive and wants to be able to follow the deal, right? So, Oh, I booked this meeting. I wonder how things are going. And oftentimes they'd love to join that intro call with the account executive, but can't take time away from their selling time. So the meeting happens, the BDR automatically gets notified if they want to follow that meeting and then they can listen along and learn how the account executive is pushing that deal through. Or conversely if an account executive rejects or disqualifies an opportunity, instead of the BDR being in the dark, they can go listen to the call and see, Oh, you know what? I understand why this wasn't properly qualified. And they learn from it.
Jon Prial: Another cool example of sharing within the same sales team, the account executive and the business development rep, again, still within one company though. So I have to ask my next order question, do you see value in aggregating data across companies and the insights there?
Roy Raanani: There is absolutely benefits to learning across organizations a hundred percent. And those are places where we add value through our customer success organization, as well as our marketing organization, to be honest. I'll give you an example. We can analyze millions of conversations and actually show using data that sales organizations or reps that are focusing more on value statements, as opposed to feature statements, perform better. And as a sales organization, you may not know what your baseline is, right? Okay. Yeah. I've always known that to be true. I guarantee there isn't a single VP of sales listening to this that would say no, no, no, I want my reps to pitch features as opposed to benefits and value and business problems. But I could almost guarantee that they don't have a baseline of, well, how are we doing? And I wonder if there are certain reps on our team that are doing this more effectively than others, but that level of visibility becomes really helpful. And then the organization can say, let's put in an initiative around that. Let's really figure out what value statements we want to be focusing on that work for certain personas, train people on them, and then ensure that those conversations are happening the way that we want them to be.
Jon Prial: Clearly you're pushing the envelope a bit, basically making the intuitive factual. So let me ask you to bring out your crystal ball. What do you think this space is going to look like in a few years?
Roy Raanani: I think that there are a couple of things that are going to happen. First and foremost, I think that we're going to look to the actual source of truth, from the source of truth as opposed to relying on reps. Right? So, whereas today maybe 80% of the information that we use to understand an account, understand a deal, is coming from the rep, a couple of years from now 80% of it will come from analyzing the actual conversations, the actual emails, there's no need, why would you buy a CRM that's an empty database and rely on humans to fill it out when you could just look at the source of truth and look at the digital exhaust and know, Hey, we are multi- threaded with this account because I can see that we have emails and meetings with all of these people involved where there's high engagement, and we're talking about these topics. And so I think that's going to happen. I think that there is going to be a lot more transparency and a lot fewer silos in organizations because we are democratizing access to the voice of the customer. And so instead of sales and marketing bickering back and forth perhaps about what's actually happening on the front lines, marketing's going to have access to every conversation and every deal, and they're going to be able to see like, Oh yeah, you're right. This competitor is coming up on 70% of our first calls and we're not doing very well. And they're going to be able to get the source of truth to figure out what is working in the market. And the product team is going to understand the requests from customers, and they're going to hear it from the customer's own mouth as opposed to scheduling an interview from time to time and just getting a tiny subset of the data.
Jon Prial: So for me to recap, we just went company wide. You've just added marketing and product management to within what was a sales and business development function. And as I think about what is known as the voice of the customer market, where you're out there broadly capturing this unstructured data gathering, aggregated insights, what you're bringing to the table now is voice of the customer, voice of a customer, going deep. And that could be really significant, the evolution of a company strategy and a company success. Roy, this is fun. What a great space, so much data you're collecting, doing it transparently, looking forward to seeing where this evolves. Thanks so much for being with us today. It's been a pleasure.
Roy Raanani: Thanks for having me.
Wouldn’t everyone like to clone their most successful sales reps? While we can’t do that (yet) what if you could analyze conversations to understand what it is that makes one person more effective than another? In this episode of the Georgian Impact Podcast, Jon Prial talks with Roy Raanani, CEO of Chorus, to talk about how Chorus is capturing the most valuable data set available during the sales cycle - sales conversations - and analyzing it to improve win rates and shorten ramp time for new hires.
Listen to learn:
- Why sales conversations are an untapped resource offering insights into the voice of your customer
- How you can develop expertise quickly in your sales organization through intentional improvement
- How you can identify where your deals stall and what the best closers are doing
Roy Raanani is CEO and founder of Chorus. Roy is an engineer with a passion for business and sales. He’s spent his career working with start-ups and advising technology companies on strategy and ops. Prior to Chorus, Roy was a Manager at Bain & Company in their Zurich, San Francisco, Toronto and Singapore offices. At Bain, he focused on technology, leading the mobile strategy team for Bain’s flagship tech client. Roy holds a BASc in Engineering Science from the University of Toronto, and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He was the first hire at Innovation Endeavors and co-developed the Runway incubator.