5 ways to improve sales performance with conversation intelligence

Madeline Jacobson

August 15, 2023

How can you help all the sales agents in your contact center reach the level of your top performers? In many organizations with high-volume phone transactions, sales leaders or QA managers will manually review a small percentage of each agent’s weekly or monthly calls and provide feedback around a set of key competencies. The problem with this approach (beyond it being time-consuming) is that sales agents are being evaluated on a small part of a much bigger picture.

While reviewed calls are typically selected at random, sales agents might argue that their selected calls aren’t representative of their overall performance, making it difficult to remove emotion from the coaching process. Additionally, your contact center risks missing larger trends across all conversations that could improve its overall sales performance.

Fortunately, conversation intelligence technology makes it possible to automatically review every sales conversation and uncover opportunities for improvement that would have otherwise remained hidden in your untouched call recordings. 

Below, we’ll discuss how you can use conversation intelligence and offer five ways to improve your sales performance with the insights you uncover.

<span class="anchor" id="ci-definition-sales" data-anchor-title="What is conversation intelligence?"></span>

What is conversation intelligence?

Conversation intelligence (also sometimes known as conversation analytics) uses machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) to analyze your customer conversation data. In a sales environment, this data will most likely come from the phrases spoken by buyers and sales agents in the automated transcriptions of their phone conversations. A conversation intelligence platform can organize this data into events or categories, allowing your organization to glean valuable insights from all your sales conversations. 

For example, our conversation intelligence platform, Tethr, can identify when a customer has tried to make a purchase on your website before calling your sales number based on phrases the buyer uses (e.g., “I was on your site,” “I tried placing an order online”). If a large percentage of your calls contained this language, it could indicate a need to simplify your online ordering process.

A conversation intelligence platform allows you to analyze sales agent and buyer language to identify common buyer concerns, successful rebuttals your agents are using, agent coaching opportunities, and more. You can use this information to take a data-backed approach to improving sales performance and processes.

<span class="anchor" id="improve-sales-performance" data-anchor-title="Tips to improve sales performance"></span>

5 tips to improve sales team performance with conversation intelligence

Conversation intelligence helps you see what is or isn’t working for your sales team, and where individual agents may excel or fall short. When you uncover these insights, you can take a targeted approach to improving your sales team’s performance. Ultimately, this lets you prioritize the biggest and most immediate areas of impact so you can increase your team’s conversion rate and grow your business’s revenue.

Here are five specific ways to improve sales performance with conversation intelligence: 

<span class="anchor" id="map-out-objections" data-anchor-title="Map out objections"></span>

1. Map out the objections your sales team is facing

69% of all sales calls contain some form of customer-stated objection according to research from The Jolt Effect, and your sales agents can’t afford to get tripped up when a buyer expresses doubt or concern about making a purchase.

Conversation intelligence lets you inventory all the objections your sales reps are hearing and organize them in meaningful ways. For example, Tethr offers an out-of-the-box scatterplot that organizes objections with the low-to-high volume on the x-axis and low-to-high conversion on the y-axis.

Example objection scatterplot in Tethr

After reviewing the objections, choose what to focus on addressing first. You may choose to start with objections that have a high volume and low conversion rate, as this suggests your agents are hearing these objections a lot but having trouble overcoming them. Work with your agents to develop new scripts or talk tracks to confidently address these objections.

It’s also worth considering which objections your agents may be able to address proactively (i.e., before the buyer brings them up) and coaching them to anticipate and overcome them when appropriate. In The Jolt Effect study, sales agents saw a 40% win rate on calls in which they proactively addressed objections, compared to a 26% average win rate across all calls.

<span class="anchor" id="undestand-rebuttals" data-anchor-title="Understand rebuttals"></span>

2. Map out the rebuttals your sales team is using

Not only can conversation intelligence tell you what objections your customers are stating, but it can also tell you how your sales agents are responding–and how successful they are in overcoming objections.

You can take the same approach you used to map out your customers’ objections to map out your sales agents’ rebuttals. If you’re displaying them in a scatterplot, there are things you can learn from each quadrant:

  • Low volume, low conversion: Coaching your agents on these rebuttals may be a lower priority, but it’s still worth keeping an eye on them and seeing if any start trending towards a higher volume or higher conversion. These rebuttals may also give you an indication of offers that aren’t appealing to your customers and either need to be modified or phased out.
  • High volume, low conversion: Since these rebuttals are occurring more frequently, it’s worth manually evaluating a sample of calls to determine why conversions are low. Ask yourself if the rebuttals contain offers that aren’t appealing to buyers or if agents lack confidence using these rebuttals. If it’s the former, you may need to coach agents to use different rebuttals. If it’s the latter, you may need to coach agents to be more comfortable delivering these rebuttals.
  • Low volume, high conversion: Consider discussing these rebuttals with agents in coaching sessions to determine if there’s a reason they aren’t using them more often. Determine if these rebuttals are only relevant to a small subset of customers (or in very specific situations) or if they could be used more often to increase your sales team’s conversion rate.
  • High volume, high conversion: These are your most successful rebuttals. Make sure all agents are comfortable with the scripts or talk tracks they need to use for these rebuttals so that everyone can use them to increase their conversion rate. 

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3. Automate the sales QA process

Most sales organizations with high call volumes are only able to manually audit 2-3% of all conversations, which provides an incomplete (and possibly unrepresentative) view of agent-buyer interactions. Conversation intelligence lets you automatically audit 100% of conversations so you get a holistic view of agent performance and can provide unbiased feedback during coaching sessions.

You can automate the quality assurance (QA) process by adding your QA checklist or criteria to your conversation intelligence platform so each item can be tracked across every call. Make sure all your QA categories are objective and within the agent’s control (e.g., did they ask for the sale?). This will help you see how your agents perform across every call in the categories that are proven to impact your conversion rate. From there, you can provide actionable, data-driven feedback to each sales agent to help them improve.

Example Sales QA scorecards in Tethr

<span class="anchor" id="focal-point-sprints" data-anchor-title="Introduce sprints"></span>

4. Introduce focal point sprints

Once you have automated your sales QA process, you can look for areas where many agents have room for improvement and use these to inform focal point sprints. 

Focal point sprints give agents small–but impactful–areas of improvement to focus on over a short period (e.g., one or two weeks). For example, let’s say you notice more than half of your agents are struggling to consistently set expectations for next steps with buyers, and the conversion rate of calls without expectation setting is below average. You could announce a two-week focal point sprint around expectation setting and have your managers hold individual coaching sessions with each agent to make sure they understand the behavior they should be demonstrating. At the end of the sprint, you can measure improvements in the focal area and determine if any agents need additional coaching or if you should shift to another sprint. 

<span class="anchor" id="process-improvements" data-anchor-title="Identify process improvements"></span> 

5. Look for process improvement opportunities

One additional way you can improve sales performance is by identifying process changes that will better set your agents up for success. Conversation intelligence can help you uncover process issues that you may not have discovered otherwise. For example, if you notice your team’s overall conversion rate significantly ticking up or down over a short period, you may want to drill into a sample of calls from this period to see if you can identify a common cause. Or if you notice the percentage of calls with no conversion opportunity is trending upward, you might investigate whether there was a change in the routing process that is causing more customer service calls to go to your sales team.

Example sales conversion reports in Tethr

<span class="anchor" id="final-takeaways-improve-sales" data-anchor-title="Final takeaways"></span>

Final takeaways

Your agents are selling in a constantly changing environment, and while there will always be some external factors outside of their control, conversation intelligence lets you learn from the factors in your contact center’s control. By acting on these conversation insights, you and your sales team can take full advantage of the data available to you, giving you an edge over competitors who are still relying on a manual QA process.

Your customers and sales agents are telling you what you need to know to improve sales performance–so why not fully listen?

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