Sales Game Film: How Conversation Intelligence Transforms Seller Performance

By Steve Richard | July 5, 2023

In the book 1984, author George Orwell paints a bleak picture of a dystopian future where people conform because “Big Brother” is always watching them.  Big Brother has become a symbol of government oppression and executive leadership gone bad. In business, it’s also become associated with conversation intelligence (CI) tools. In my experience selling CI, implementing CI, and seeing other organizations buy and implement CI these tools are used for good – to understand how sellers win, and coach them to help them win more consistently and predictably. Forrester Analyst Seth Marrs covers CI tools and recently said, “Conversation intelligence is the key to unlocking the insights sellers want and value”.

Today, it’s more important than it’s ever been. B2B buyers are increasingly interacting digitally – rather than in person. Gartner predicts that “by 2025, 80% of B2B sales interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels.” To embrace the science of selling, organizations need to capture insights for AI to analyze and make recommendations. Conversation intelligence certainly isn’t the only source for those insights, but to me it’s the gateway.

Conversation Intelligence is the sales equivalent of ‘game film.’ Professional athletes, musicians, and stage performers watch their own game tape. Did you know that every member of Cirque du Soleil watches the recording of every one of their performances? Athletes spend hours pouring over that film to identify gaps and fix them so they perform at their peak levels. Baseball star JD Martinez famously records and watches every single swing he takes – in practice and in games –  to make sure his swing stays consistent, and to identify any bad habits or trends. If it works for them, why not try it for professional sellers?

Forrester’s Seth Marrs wrote a blog on this very topic saying, “Sales teams are not used to having all their interactions tracked and analyzed, but neither were the athletes they are so often compared to. Nowadays, there is very little that isn’t tracked on a playing field. Insights from tracking are taking athlete performance to new heights. Today’s athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster. The same performance improvement is going to happen in sales.”

I do understand there is a fine line between using call recording for positive and productive purposes compared with employees seeing it as Big Brother. I’ve even seen sellers revolt en masse to being recorded – albeit when the idea of recording sellers was brand new. I had convinced my business partner at the time to install web cameras on the computers to record sellers, only to improve performance – our motives were pure. The Big Brother notion never actually entered my head – and in hindsight that was a mistake. After waiting a few weeks we went to check the game film and every seller had pointed their cameras at the ceiling in a united act of defiance. We had unintentionally gone Big Brother on them.  Yikes.

Our motives were pure: by watching game film we could help the team get better at sales and make bigger incentive checks.  We were doing this for them as much as for the business. But we went about it the wrong way. How could recording every buyer/seller interaction not be perceived as Big Brother – especially when there’s little or no context provided to those being recorded?

Successfully rolling out CI tools is as much about change management as it is about the technology itself. People need to understand the only intention is to help them perform better, and need to trust the people using the recordings aren’t going to reprimand them for minute details, or taking a break during the day. Here’s what you should do to ensure a smooth roll out:

The answer to, “Are Conversation Intelligence tools Big Brother?” is “It depends on your company culture.” If your motives for implementing a CI tool are bad then yes, it will be Big Brother. If your motives are simply to make sellers better and drive success, your sellers will come to embrace it, and your organization will be better for it.

To learn more about CI tools, check out Mediafly’s guide on call recording laws.

Steve Richard is the founder of ExecVision & Vorsight (sold in 2021).  Steve’s mission and life’s work is to help as many sales teams as possible become wildly successful.  He has been featured in numerous publications including The Harvard Business ReviewThe Washington Business Journal, and The Washington Post.  Outside of work, Steve enjoys scuba diving, skiing, running, and watching lots of football.  He lives in Arlington, VA with his wife Ellen and their four kids ages 6, 8, 10, and 12.

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