AI For Conversation Intelligence With Chris Bennett
A lot of companies spend a considerable amount of money to get people into sales calls. What you do within those sales calls matters more than ever because the difference between an 8% conversion rate on a lead to an 18% conversion rate means millions and millions of dollars in pipeline and bookings. Joining Chad Burmeister on the show today is Chris Bennett, a sales trainer and coach. Together, they talk about some winning strategies for deploying AI for conversation intelligence to boost revenue.
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AI For Conversation Intelligence With Chris Bennett
Chris Bennett, Sales Trainer And Coach, Shares His Experiences In Leveraging AI For Conversation Intelligence To Boost Revenue
I'm super excited to have another CB with me here. We go by CB2. Chris Bennett from our friends in the Great White North. Welcome to the show.
Thank you, Chad. It’s nice to be here.
We're going to cover a topic that's extremely important because a lot of companies spend a lot of money to get people into sales calls and what you do within those sales calls matters more than ever. If you think about it, at the last employer that I worked for, we spent $1 million a quarter. The difference between an 8% conversion rate on a lead to an 18% conversion rate meant millions and millions of dollars in pipeline and bookings. We're going to talk about winning strategies for deploying conversation intelligence to boost revenue. How do I take my conversion rate from a call into more meetings, more pipeline, more closed business?AI for Sales: How Artificial Intelligence is Changing Sales, that's the book that we put out. It's sold over 5,000 copies. There are 21 chapters. Conversation intelligence is at the forefront and it's one of the most important things. You can see the Chorus logo right there on the front of the book. We're very excited to be partnered with them and excited to be talking about this topic. Without further ado, tell us a little bit about your company, Chris, and how do you leverage artificial intelligence at your position?
My company is called Peak Performance. I'm in the sales enablement and revenue acceleration business. I primarily do that three ways. We help Salesforce talk to more prospects, help them build more pipeline, and then we help them close more of it. In terms of how we're using AI in our sales motion, I'll give you two perspectives. One is how we're using it internally and how we’re using it with clients. Internally I'd say that AI and sales are designed to make things easier, faster, better, and give you almost like a multiplier effect. For the last few months, I've been using something called Agent-Assisted DialingIt's an AI platform that's connected to trained human dialers. I have spoken to more net new logos in a few months than I have in the previous few years. It's amazing. It's transformative in terms of the number of prospects and proposals. I've got outstanding to net new logos. This platform allows me to work at my desk. I can work on proposals, answer emails, prepare for follow-up sessions, a custom design on my training. I'm prospecting simultaneously. I'm working at my desk and I'm connected to this AI-driven platform. Every few minutes, when one of my prospects is live and on the phone, and ready to talk, I connect, have the conversation. Hopefully, I book a meeting the following week and I get back to work.Without this AI-driven platform, there's no way in the world I could be doing two jobs at the same time. It's been phenomenal. The second way is with this conversation intelligence platform. I have a sales methodology called the 5Cs, which is a simple way to interview customers, to have a deep understanding of their business. Each one of the C stands for a type of question. We're going to input certain filters inside to the artificial intelligence. When our clients who've taken the training are talking to customers on the phone, the AI-driven platform is going to mesh what they're saying on the call with these filters and then score them and rank them. Are they using the questions correctly on their calls? Are they in the right sequence? Are they using the right buzzwords, etc.? The system will then spit out reports for the sales managers on how they can coach their reps specifically and exactly relevant to the way that they're applying or misapplying the methodology they learned. AI for sales is fantastic. It's taking all sales organizations light years into the future. I love it.
It sounds like we like to think of things as frequency times competency equals revenue. The more frequency you can do at a higher competency, it sounds like you've combined both. You don't want to do quantity for quantity’s sake. You have to do a good quantity. By focusing on the conversation and the intelligence within the conversation, coaching two neutral elements is what I've always thought of it as the 5Cs. That's how you can do more frequency. Four years of outbound and four months, at a level that's higher than most. Out of curiosity, plus or minus, I would expect you're in the 100 plus or how many conversations and how many meetings would you guess you've had in four months?
In the four months, conversations are probably well over 200, maybe 230, 240, 250. In terms of meetings, I'd say a couple of dozen, maybe 30, 35 at the high side. It's been phenomenal. Remember the key, Chad, is I'm working at my desk on other projects.
The way I've always thought of it is if someone knocked on my door right now and they were the CEO of my best prospect, would I take that interruption even in a recording, even a live presentation, “That's the CEO of Microsoft. I think I'll have that conversation.” That's well-put when you can leverage the AI but notice the stats. That's a 10% to 12% conversion rate, 230 to 23 to 30 meetings. The normal conversion across hundreds of reps that I've seen over the years is about 2% to 3%. When you accelerate things that aren't of quality, we always call it your accelerating suck. You need to have the 5Cs. You need to have a strategy and a plan of what you're going to say when the person picks up on the other side of the call for the AI to be useful. Before we dig deep under the covers around AI, tell us a little bit about yourself. Where were you raised? What did you do in college?
I was raised in Windsor, Ontario, which for those of you who know it's right across the Detroit River from the Motor City. I grew up with a lot of Motown. In my household, when I grew up, if it wasn't Dionne Warwick or the Supremes or Stevie Wonder, or Marvin Gaye in the background, then there was nothing. In college, I jumped around and had a couple of different majors. I studied Fine Arts in the theater. I studied Communications. I studied Business. I studied Philosophy. A little bit more about me is I love to play sports. I'm a very active recreationally. I play squash, tennis, and golf. I ski. I fish. I'm a mixed martial artist. I jog 2 or 3 times a week. I'm very active in recreation, sports, and things as well. I love it.
Where did that come from? Think back now to college to when you were younger, what do you think that spark was that says, “You're going to be in sports and be athletic in your life?”
I asked my mom about this. She said I was very active. I was always running around. I don't know where it came from. I was a little bit shy about sports in high school. It wasn't until a little bit later in life that I took an attraction to it. The more that I play and the more exercise, the better I feel, the better I work, the better husband I am, the better friend I am. It all goes hand in hand. Healthy mind, healthy body. Healthy body, healthy mind.
My grandfather sent me, “These are the top ten things you need to know as a person in this life.” It was put God first and family second. Your reputation matters. All the basics 101 blocking and tackling. I could still go back to that. I put it in a blog and whenever I start to stray from the pathworking out. Having an active mind and body is an important thing in life. AI for Sales is taken on a meaning of its own, depending on what company you're with. How would you define it at a high level? You talked about conversation intelligence and you talked a little bit about your view. What do you think of when you think of those three words?
I think of aiding the sales process or activities within the sales process. How can you do things better? How can you do things faster? How can you do things cheaper? How can you add a multiplier effect? In the two examples I gave earlier, I'm making more calls than ever before using AI. We're using technology to help improve the quality of the calls at the same time. Talk about a multiplier effect. The quality and the quantity are both going up at the same time. Pipelines are exploding and I've got more proposals out than I've had in years.
We had a very similar situation. I stood up a team of five. Chris has been a partner to the business for the past few months. He comes to meetings almost every week with my sales team. Since we record everything, it's easy for us to peel that back and our quality of conversation, our conversion rates, after building this team of five people in very short order, I would say that the time it took them to ramp is measured in weeks rather than months. Normal is 3.2 to 4.2 months. We were able to ramp this team and under four weeks because of the constant feedback loop around AI for sales and conversation intelligence. You're using it with companies. You're recording their conversations. Take me through, like when you roll out the 5Cs and then you build these filters within there. How does that work? Did I ask all 5Cs? What percentage was like talking versus listening? How does conversation intelligence work in the sales world?
[bctt tweet="AI in sales is designed to make things easier, faster, and better." via="no"]
Let's take a look at the 5Cs. A high level, there are five different types of questions that sales pros have to ask in their customer conversations. Only one of them is designed to build a pipeline. It's called a challenge question. Let's use challenge questions in the AI platform, as an example. A challenge question by definition includes certain buzzwords, words like issue, concern, worry, struggle, difficulty, problem, challenge, and obstacle. If the question that you're asking the prospect or customer does not have one of those words baked in, you're not asking a challenge question.As I say in my training, you're not fishing for problems. As the sales pro is engaging with prospects and customers on conversations that are being recorded, we have all of those buzzwords listed inside the artificial intelligence platform as filters. When the platform automatically transcribes the conversations and then washes them against the filters, it's going to recognize, “We're in the challenge section of the conversation. Are Kelly and Bob, are we hearing questions with the words issue, concern, worry, struggle, difficulty, problem?” If so, then that call is going to be scored as the challenge questions were asked successfully.We might even pull that section of the conversation out and put it into a best practices library to show other people on the team what applying challenge questions correctly sounds like in their business. If those buzzwords are not included in those conversations, then that's going to raise a flag to the sales manager who will then be able to go back, purposefully and specifically coach. The sales manager will say, “Kelly on a phone call with Chad and Chris on Tuesday the 18th, you asked a whole bunch of great questions, but you neglected to ask that have those buzzwords in them. Let's go over that lesson again. On your next call, let's focus on maybe having a few written questions on your desk so you can ask those challenge questions to specifically uncover more pipelines.” In so doing, because we live in a cause and effect universe, if we’re consistently getting the salesforce to fish for more problems, what do you think we're going to find? More problems. Since problems, equal pipeline using artificial intelligence with my methodology or any methodology to increase the effectiveness, is going to have a direct correlation on pipeline and eventually sales. That's one simple example of how we're using it with my methodology to drive business.
Problems equal pipeline and talking about buzzwords, that’s huge. The other thing I've seen is that it'll measure over time how reps are doing. Let's say we had four demos or more discovery calls and it was used in 1 of 4. The AI is going to automatically track that and say, “You got a 25% for the day.” The next day you go to 2 out of 4, then you go back to one. You have the coaching management conversation and then you start to move that up. Being able to relate that correlation of the number of problems equal pipeline questions back, that's the trending over time that AI can deliver in this conversation.
Without this platform, remember most sales managers are up to their eyeballs. They're too busy. They're juggling. They're doing deal reviews and escalations. They've got HR issues and reports that they've got to go to meetings. They're not listening to enough conversations with their sales reps. This platform that's recording all of them, it's going to be able to summarize and give the sales managers real meat, real specifics that they can then coach you, which is going to allow them to coach more effectively in less time. That's a huge win for most organizations.
I think of my first couple of sales jobs out of school, Airborne Express, and then FedEx. With FedEx, I remember there was this SVP, Sandra Marshall, who came on sales calls. When Sandra was coming to town, you better be so buttoned up and airtight. I was. I had my MapQuest maps printed out. Before that it used to be three-ring binders with the mapping. What were you going to say in that call? My point of that story is that I was on my best behavior in front of Sandra that day and you better believe I asked all those questions. What about all the other days when Sandra Marshall wasn't along? I'm out of sight out of mind. With AI for sales, inbound call centers typically do this and that's why their customer SAT scores are so high. Selling motion up until the advent of conversation intelligence, it was nonexistent. That's what is very exciting about tracking this. Have you seen emotional intelligence and those kinds of things starting to come in yet or is it still very much a word is a word and not tracking emotions yet?
I haven't seen too much about the emotions yet, but back to your point about the story, that's so true. Sales managers go on four-legged sales calls or they Y-cord it in the office and you can be sure that those sales pros are on their best behavior momentarily. With this artificial intelligence, these conversation platforms, it forces people to perform at a higher level. In the beginning, there might be some resistance from the sales pro-community, but they realized they're becoming more professional, more competent. They're going to have less stress because they're going to have a more consistent pipeline. Most of them are going to make more money. They're grateful.
I mentioned Airborne and FedEx. I didn't mention Olsten Staffing Services because that left a mark because I was let go from my very first job out of school. Some people think, “Is conversation intelligence, big brother?” I wish I had a big brother back at Olsten because maybe my big brother could've said, “You're saying it a little wrong.” If every call could have been recorded and then I could see on a bar chart, did I ask the challenge question, yes or no? That could have helped me move things up a lot faster.
You transformed your career. If you had a 3X or 4X pipeline and your closing rate stayed the same, you're making that many more sales. Speaking of that, right out of college, I had a job as a stockbroker/financial planner. We're struggling a little bit in the business. There was another fellow who managed another team. His name was Warren, but I kept going to the CEO or the president, Russ. I kept saying, “Russ, I want to be on Warren's team. I'm not getting any coaching from Sheila and I'm struggling. I want to go on Warren’s team.”They didn't allow me to go to Warren's team because Warren had a full team. He was a very active manager, which is what I wanted. I wanted coaching. I wanted to get better sooner. I was anxious. After five years, I eventually transitioned out of the business because I didn't have that coaching and feedback from my manager. To all those people out there who might be concerned about the coaching and the feedback, imagine the impact, regular, consistent, high quality, relevant coaching can have on your salesforce. It could be transformative. Some people might stay in the role as opposed to leaving, which could even lower your turnover problem.
It could have more impacts than selling. It could have an impact on turnover.
The turnover from some call centers can be 25% to 35% a year.
There's a company that I'm working with that you can prerecord. You may have been copied on the intro, we're rolling out a new product called Social Flow. Whenever you roll out a new product, which at ScaleX seems to be about once every month or two, you always have to be on the leading edge. How do you get your sales team of five reps or in some cases, 500 reps to speed quickly? This new technology that I discovered will let you record, let's say a 30-second voicemail script or a five-minute presentation. You can record the script and then send a note out to your whole sales team and say, “I need you to record this voice greeting six times and then submit the best one.” It not only looks for words, but it also looked for emotion and tone of voice. It reports back in a spider web type picture, “Would this person have been compelling based on millions of different calls?” When you start thinking about this is more of a one-on-one recording. When that starts coming into tools like Chorus and ExacqVision, look out world.
Emotion is a lot of it. We talked about little phrases, no problem, no sale, but also another phrase is selling is a transfer of enthusiasm. Selling is a transfer of inspiration, motivation, and emotion. If you're not fired up about helping your customer solve their problems and achieve your goals, why would they be fired up about working with you? A tool that's going to track emotion which will allow reps to self-correct or managers to coach to that, I see that as hugely beneficial.
When you're talking about the deployment of conversation intelligence, it assumes that you have a sales manager that's both good at coaching and carves out the amount of time to deliver that coaching. In my world for many years of being in management and then being around other managers, I've found that normally the amount of time and the skillset, both of them are well below where they should be. I'm seeing a trend of third-party coaches like your business become more and more relevant because now you don't have to live within the four walls. You can capture that information, make it available to the third-party coach and the AI, and then you can have another person. That's the background. At what point should a company look at the third party outside coaching? Is there a tipping point of the number of reps? Is it a skillset thing? Is it a time thing? What are your thoughts?
I've observed the same thing, Chad. For many years, I've been noticing that sales managers don't have enough time to skill coach. A lot of them don't like to skill coach. They haven't been trained to do it. The ones that do it are not very good at it. This whole issue of sales managers doing skills coaching, it's not happening at all. It's interesting that you say that because I'm going to be adding a new service to my business in 2020 where I'm going to be approaching my clients and offering that service of, “Let me coach your coaches on how to be better coaches using the conversation platform as the foundation to work from.” For me to be effective in coaching the sales managers, I have to be aware of the conversations relative to the model that I trained them on. I have a sneaky suspicion that it's going to start creeping into the dialogue more and more. Businesses are realizing not only is there more competition, but we're leaving a lot of sales on the table because their sales reps and their channel partner sellers are not as sharp as they think they are or they could be. It’s a good observation by you. That's coming for sure.
[bctt tweet="Artificial intelligence – these conversation platforms - forces people to perform at a higher level." via="no"]
If I'm a professional golfer, Phil Mickelson, let's pick out of the lineup. I bet you dollars to donuts that he's got a pitching coach, a putting coach, and a driver coach. Those are the three that come top of mind. There are probably others that are like, “A mindset coach for thinking about the game?” You don't have to hire $500,000, putting coach for sales. You can amortize that cost and spread it over your team. Traditionally, you might not have been able to spend $50,000 on an annual coach to hire them. Could you afford $250 to $500 a month for a team of five? Let's say 500 times $2,500 a month to have world-class coaching done on calls?
Coaching your coaches to be more effective. To your point, think about even the greatest quarterbacks, think of Tom Brady. He's got a mental coach. He's got a physical coach. He's got a diet coach. He's got his OC. He's got his quarterback coach. If the guy with six Super Bowl rings has got six coaches, chances are your average sales manager would benefit from one, too.
We've talked about conversation intelligence. You probably count them on one hand. Chorus.ai is probably the most well-known one that's out there. What other tools and technologies, conversation intelligence, are there a few that you have favorites on? What else is out there that we may not know?
I alluded to it earlier that the Agent-Assisted Dialing in terms of a productivity tool for sales forces or for vendors who sell through channel partners. Let's face it when you look at selling and companies having difficulty accelerating revenue growth as much as they want, you look at the top of the funnel, the middle of the funnel or the bottom. Where's the problem? At the top of the funnel, the problem for most selling organizations is their sellers aren't talking to enough prospects consistently enough. Another way to say that is they're not getting enough at-bats regularly. This service, this ScaleX driven, artificial intelligence-driven, Agent-Assisted Dialing service, can allow them to have a multiplier effect and talk to 5 to 10 times more prospects and get that many more at-bats. That's a game-changer.Another one is they've got something called the sales enablement platform, which allows sales reps to watch 1 or 2-minute short video lessons on handling objections, making prospecting calls, negotiating dips, closing or whatever it is. They can get in time learning while they're waiting to go into a live meeting. They also asked them to take a selfie of themselves making a prospecting call and then it's shared with all the other sales reps. They rate them and judge them against a certain standard that everyone's agreed to so they can see who's the best. Between the platforms, the enablement tool, the Agent-Assisted Dialing, those are the three most powerful ones I've come across.
That's called the sales enablement platform, is that what you call it?
Sales enablement platform, sales enablement tool, and they're largely driven on cell phones. There's like 30 or 40 of them out there. In the last few years, they've spread like wildfire. MindTickle and LevelJump, those people.
LevelJump is a great company. I love that they build it right into your workflow.
Some of them were integrated right into Salesforce. Everything's connected.
Those Canadians are pretty smart.
When we don't have to patch up the igloo. When the igloo has got good blocks on it, we can get some work done.
This is the second to last question. I’m an individual “accruing” person. How can I decide what tools are best for me with an AI flavor? Could I bring conversation intelligence into the company? If I'm reading this blog, maybe I should go knock on the door and say, “Buy me a seat.”
Both of us are reflecting on our past. We both had jobs in our past where we wished we would've had more or better coaching. Think of the millions of sales pros out there that might be floundering. They love their company. They believe in their products. They're having some success, but they look around and they see, “I'm not on the fast track to President's Club and there's nobody here that's going to coach me. Get me a seat on this platform and the company will put some filters in and let it coach me.” That's one way.I look at it from the perspective, “If the sales pro would be smart enough to look at the three areas of the funnel, again, where's my selling challenge.” Top of the funnel, “Am I talking to enough prospects? Middle of the funnel. Am I able to build enough qualified pipeline consistently to make plans?” The bottom of the funnel. “Am I able to close what's in there at a progressively higher conversion rate while I protect margins?” If I'm the sales pro, I'm thinking, so where's my challenge? Is it top? Is it middle? Is it bottom? There's an AI tool that aligns with each. That's probably one way I'd look at it.
When I was at WebEx back in 2005 to 2008, I spent $1,500 on a team a month in India to make calls for me and do some of my data work. As a result, I got to 120% 240% of quota. I was able to buy a nice watch that I still wear in Miami from the President's Club. Thinking of your services powered on top of conversation intelligence, is there some kind of an offer? Anybody who's reading this, if they're an individual contributor, they want to get better. Is there something you could say, “Sign up with me for two months, I'll bring you the conversation intelligence to you. I'll give you twice a month coaching of your sales calls.” I spent $1,500 a month for two years at WebEx to blow it out. What kind of an offer could you give to a sales pro that wanted to get Chris Bennett coaching on the 5Cs and twice a month for a two-month pilot program?
I'm going to be bringing that service out. I've been working on a model. I'd say $400 a month would be the price point for something like that.
[bctt tweet="Selling is a transfer of enthusiasm, inspiration, motivation, and emotion." via="no"]
I would get an early bird special before Chris has had a chance to think about what he's going to price it at, the first two signups will get the low-cost rate of $400 a month. I would spend $400 a month even when I was making $100,000 a year. Think about that, $400 for two months, $800 to ensure you're going to get to President's Club. Sign me up. I’ll take two of those.
A 20% increase in pipeline and a 10% or 20% increase in your closing rate, that's tens of thousands of dollars if not hundreds of thousands for most sales gross.
What's the most common sales mistake in the world?
I'm glad you asked this because I interviewed a guy and had a conversation with him about this. Here's a guy that's done sales assessments on probably more people than anyone in the world. He's done sales assessments on over nineteen million sales pros all over the world in 30,000 businesses over many years. I asked him about this and he said, “The single most common selling mistake in the world right now is the inability to ask questions and listen well.” I was dumbfounded, Chad. I'm like, “Are you kidding me? We've been talking about consultative selling since Matt Canaan in the ‘70s. We've all taken the courses. We've watched the videos. We've been to the seminars. We've had the coaching. Here we are in 2020 and the single most common selling mistake is still the inability to ask good questions and listen.”That's shocking to me. How does that tie into our conversation? If you wanted to use AI to grow your business, a great place to start would be to seek evidence that your people are mastering consultative selling or asking good questions and listening. If they're not, then you'd want to coach them on it. Why would you do that? Because it's the most common spelling mistake in the world. If you're a sales leader or you're a channel partner leader, you're assuming that your people are out there doing this correctly. What evidence do you have? Using the conversation intelligence platform, you could get data and find out what percentage of the time are they asking questions?Are they asking the right questions? Are they asking them in the right sequence? If they're not asking the right questions, they're going to fail to qualify opportunities correctly, which means they'll waste bandwidth. They'll put things in the funnel that shouldn't be there. There's a big drive in businesses to be able to communicate the value of solutions and customer-relevant terms. If you don't have a deep understanding of the customer, how are you supposed to communicate the value of your solution in a way that's relevant to them? Are you going to be talking about cost savings when they're concerned and obsessed about the quality of the customer experience?You're going to be talking about driving revenue growth when they're focused on improving the productivity of their teams internally? I would say to bring this conversation full circle, if the most common spelling mistake in the world is the inability to ask questions and listen, then I challenged sales leaders and sales pros out there on this show, maybe you should look in the mirror and consider getting some of your people on some seats of this conversation intelligence and get some facts. Do you have evidence that they're making this mistake or not making that mistake? Either way, wouldn't it be great to know?
It seems to me the key is to ask questions and listen. When I'm on most sales calls these days, they're asking questions so that they can tell me about the product. Tell me about this. They're waiting there with the bear trap open, “Do you have any challenges with the pipeline?”“Yes.” “Let me tell you about ScaleX. We help you with data, digital, dials. We help you with so and so.” If you could turn the conversation intelligence on to listen for, did you ask a question, and then did you ask another question and another question. Think about three levels of why versus let me ask you a question and then, and then tell you something about my product.
I see the same thing. In the sales leaders that I work with, there's this urge to pounce and to try to sell too quickly. That's why something like the 5Cs that I teach, there are many methodologies out there. Mine is not the only one, but it gives sales pros a framework. It gives them some structure to have an intelligent conversation within. If they know there are five different types of questions and they're only on question number two, they know that 60% of the conversation hasn’t unfolded yet enough for me to start recommending solutions to them. The conversation intelligence and having a proven framework combined would help people resist the temptation to talk too much and sell too soon, which would help them avoid making the most common selling problem in the world.
If someone wants to reach a Chris, how can they get ahold of you?
They can get ahold of me through my website. It's Chris-Bennett-Training.teachable.com. They could get a hold of me through you Chad, through ScaleX. I'm on LinkedIn. Look under Chris Bennett Sales Productivity and you'll find me.
It’s been great getting to know you in the last couple of quarters. I'm looking forward to a lifelong relationship. Here's to your new practice around conversation intelligence. It’s very exciting.
Thanks so much, Chad. The feeling is mutual. I appreciate the time.
- Chris Bennett
- AI for Sales: How Artificial Intelligence is Changing Sales
- Agent-Assisted Dialing
- Chris Bennett – LinkedIn
About Chris Bennett
Chris Bennett's Lead Gen & Pipeline Building ServicesBoost sales force & channel REVENUE with more leads & pipeline building workshops.Clear visibility between investment and ROI.** Proven / Low Risk /** 100% Customizable: Live and via video604 945 8851 / https://email@example.comLove recreation; golf, fishing, skiing, JKD, tennis, squash, joggingNFL: Go Bears.