How Tethr helped uncover the secret reasons for lost sales: Q&A with Matt Dixon and Ted McKenna 

Matt Dixon

You already have everything you need to understand why your sales didn’t close. The reasons – both the implicit and implied – lie inside the conversations you had with each potential buyer.

Tethr’s research team (now partners at DCM Insights), Matt Dixon and Ted McKenna, used Tethr to analyze sales calls and uncovered an unforeseen reason many deals fail to close – and saw how top performers overcome obstacles to get sales across the finish line.

In their forthcoming book, The JOLT Effect, they reveal what unexpected obstacle their research uncovered – and how top performers overcome it. 

Q: What makes the research behind The JOLT Effect different from other sales books that have been around forever? What data did you base your research on? 

A: As the world went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the Spring of 2020, all sales became virtual overnight. For sales researchers like ourselves, this represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When sales meetings take place over lunches or in office conference rooms, we have to rely on the rehashing of conversations from one side’s perspective and anecdotal evidence to piece together explanations for failed sales. Now, we had an opportunity to analyze more sales conversational data than had ever been studied before. 

We partnered with several dozen companies and began collecting millions of sales conversations recorded on platforms like Zoom, Teams, and Webex as well as the dozens of bespoke recording platforms used by companies all over the world. Using automatic speech recognition, we turned the unstructured audio from these recordings into unstructured text.

Q: How did you use Tethr to analyze those conversations? 

A: Tethr brought structure to that vast amount of unstructured conversational data, tagging more than 8,300 unique factors across those sales calls. Then, we did the math to determine which of these factors drive sales performance and which do not.

Q: What role does conversational intelligence platforms such as Tethr play in sales? 

The advent of machine learning–based conversation intelligence represents one of the most exciting developments for sales leaders. It sheds light on what’s long been a dark data asset for companies. 

Once companies can “listen at scale,” they can capture new insights not just into the performance of their sales reps but into broader questions of customer experience, sales effectiveness, marketing campaign and offer resonance, product performance, and compliance risk, to name just a few. Recorded sales conversations represent an incredibly rich data set for companies to tap, allowing them to finally break free from traditional methods of customer insight collection, such as surveys, which are increasingly characterized by low response rates and thin verbatim. Tethr has a unique and powerful approach to modeling human conversations to extract meaningful insights which made this research possible..

Q: You discuss in the book’s introduction that you didn’t realize that this body of research and eventual book would focus on “customer indecision.” Can you explain how you realized how to focus on that?

Our findings were completely unexpected. Early on in our research, we sat on an internal call with a company discussing sales in the pipeline. They discussed a stalled sale that had once seemed like a sure thing. 

One sales leader asked if the prospect preferred the status quo or just preferred not to make a decision. That one moment led us to dive back into our data to see if we could measure sales stalled for “customer indecision.”

Q: How is indecision different from a customer preferring the status quo? 

Customer indecision stems from a person’s desire to avoid making a mistake. A salesperson who has convinced a buyer that their solution is the best out there can still lose the sale when the buyer grows  hesitant because they fear they’ll be held personally responsible. In short, everybody is culpable when it comes to sticking with the status quo, but someone is personally responsible for changing it. 

Q: How can salespeople spot indecision and overcome it? 

The bulk of our book discusses how to identify customer indecision, steps to take to combat it, and how to train your salespeople to overcome it. In short, though, here’s a preview of what the JOLT method is: 

Judge the indecision We discuss how to evaluate the level of indecision from a buyer that could affect a sale

Offer your recommendation We reveal how the top performing salespeople offer strong recommendations to customers facing indecision 

Limit the exploration We show how limiting an indecisive customer’s exploration of a solution can help

Take risk off the table We guide you how to deescalate the risk involved with buying your product to help customers overcome indecision

 Interested in reading the book? Get a copy here.

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