Thanks to artificial intelligence – and a whole lot of Seinfeld – Gong.io is using sales call analysis to help businesses close more deals.
In this Rethink Podcast episode, Act-On CMO Michelle Huff interviews Amit Bendov, the CEO of Gong. Gong is a conversation intelligence platform for sales. Gong records, transcribes, and analyzes every sales call.
“Gong is a SaaS that helps salespeople say all the right things on sales calls so they can sell more and help customers and become better at their craft,” Bendov said. “It uses speech recognition and AI to analyze what’s going on in a call. And then it just helps both the salespeople and their managers identify areas for improvement and how they can become better. It’s easy and can be set up in two minutes.”
And for your next networking event or cocktail party: When you transcribe calls, the machine spits out an unpunctuated text, which is technically correct, but hard to read by people. To make it more readable, the Gong team used machine learning and transcripts from all the Seinfeld episodes to help teach their algorithm punctuation. Serenity Now!
In their conversation, Michelle and Amit discuss how the Gong platform works, and how sales organizations can use that information to become better listeners, ask better questions, and become better closers.
This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.
Michelle Huff: What are people trying to learn from analyzing all these sales conversations?
Amit Bendov: Sales is a pretty complex craft. There’s a lot of things that you need to do right. Anything from being a good listener, to asking the right questions at the right time, to making sure that you uncover customer problems, that you create a differentiated value proposition in their minds, to make sure you have concrete action items. So, there’s quite a lot to learn. And then there’s also product and industry specific knowledge. For example, if you hire a news salesperson at Act-On, and first they need to be good salespeople; second, they need to understand marketing automation, they need to understand the industry, they need to understand competitive differentiation.
So, all those things are little skills that Gong identifies how are you doing and how you compare against some of the best reps in your company. And then it starts coaching either by providing you feedback or a manager feedback, and improving your reps so you can become better at all these little things, becoming a better listener, asking better questions, and becoming a better closer.
Although we sell primarily to the sales team, the product marketing and marketing teams are also big fans, because you can see if there are new messages that are being rolled out, and are customers responding to the new messages, are we telling the story right. What are customers asking about, both from a marketing and sales perspective, but also from a product, which features they like, which features they don’t like, which features they like about our competitors. So, it’s a great insight tool for marketeers and product guys.
Michelle: What do you think we could learn from unsuccessful sales calls?
Amit: I’m a believer we could learn more from successful calls. There are fewer ways to succeed than ways to fail. So, learning from what works is usually more powerful. But we all have our failures. And nobody’s perfect. Even some of the better calls have lots of areas to improve. One of the first things that people notice is the listen to talk ratio. And one of the things Gong measures is how much time you’re speaking on a call versus how much time the prospect is speaking. The optimal ratio, if you’re curious, is 46 percent. So, the salesperson is speaking for 46 percent of the time of the call and the prospect’s filling in the rest.
A lot of the sales reps – especially, the new hires – tend to speak as much as 80 percent of the time. Maybe it’s because they’re insecure, maybe they feel they need to push more. And that’s almost never a good idea.
Michelle: That’s such a good feedback loop. Forty six percent, that’s a good ratio, right? It’s not not saying anything at all, but letting them do the majority of talking. That’s interesting.
Amit: It is like a Fitbit for sales calls. Once people see that feedback, it’s pretty easy to cure: ‘Oh my God, I spoke for 85 percent.’ And then they start setting personal goals to bring it down. And because they get feedback on every call, every time, it’s pretty easy to fix this problem.
Michelle: What are certain keywords when it comes to customer timelines that you train people to look for?
Amit: One of the things we’ve analyzed, and we ran these on a very large number of calls, is what’s a reliable response to the question regarding the time of the project. If a salesperson would ask a customer, when would you like to be live? And there’s a range of options. We found the word “probably,” as in probably mid-February, is a pretty good indicator that they’re serious about it. We don’t know exactly why. But I mean we can only guess that maybe they’ve taken their response more seriously. Versus “like we need this yesterday,” or “we have to have it tomorrow,” which are not really thoughtful answers. Or obviously, “well, maybe sometime next year,” which is very loose. So, the word probably is actually a pretty good indicator that the deal, if it happens, it doesn’t mean that it will close, but if it will, it will probably happen on that timeframe.
Michelle: That is super insightful. Because it’s almost counterintuitive. You’d think that if you hear the word probably, it wouldn’t, they’re not very firm.
Amit: Here’s another interesting one. A lot of the sales managers and coaches are obsessed with filler words, things like you know, like, basically. And sometimes they would drive the salespeople nuts with trying to bring down their filler word portions. And what we’ve found, we analyzed a large number of calls, and tried to see if there’s an impact on close rates, in calls where there are a lot of filler words and calls where there are not a lot of filler words. And we found absolutely zero correlation between the words and success. So, my advice to our listener, just don’t worry about it. Just say what you like. It doesn’t make a big difference. Or at least there is no proof that it makes a difference.
And my theory that it’s more annoying when you listen to it in a recording versus in a live conversation. Because in a live conversation, both you and the customer are focused on the conversation and trying to understand what’s going on, and you don’t pay attention to those filler words. But when you listen to a recording, they’re much more prominent.
Michelle: I think at the end of the day, if there’s a connection, people are buying from people. I feel like those are all things where it’s good feedback, where you can just improve on how you up your game across the board on all your conversations.
Amit: Absolutely. You shine a light on this huge void that is sales conversation, what’s happening in conversation, just how people see clearly the data, versus just rely on opinions, or self-perception, or subjective opinions on what is actually happening.
Michelle: We talked a lot about the sales use case. What are some of the other areas we can use Gong? How about customer success?
Amit: Almost all of our customers now use it for customer success as well. Again, here’s where you want to know what the customers are thinking. Are we taking good care of them? Are we saying the right things? What is it like, which customers are unhappy with our service, what do we need to improve? So that again shines a light on how customers feel. Because without that, all you have is really some usage metrics and KPIs and surveys that are important, but don’t tell the complete story. What people actually tell you, I mean you could have customers that use the product a lot and are not very thrilled with your product. Or customers that don’t use it as much as you think that they should be, but they’re very excited. So definitely Gong is used for customer service in almost all of our customers.
Here is another interesting application. I know a lot of our audience are marketers. A lot of what we do in marketing has to do with messages. First is like how we describe the product. So, you can learn a lot about it from what your customers say, not what your salespeople are saying. But if you listen to real customer calls, I mean existing user, and you’ll hear how they describe the product, this is probably a very good language for you to use. If you listen to enough calls, you can get a theme that will help you explain your product better.
You might have heard that I’ve used ‘shine a light on your sales conversation.’ I didn’t make this up. We’ve interviewed 20 VPs of sales that use the product. And we looked at what are the common themes they use when they describe the product. And this came from them. So, it’s a great messaging research tool.
The other application you could use Gong for is SEO and SEM. Usually one of the first things people will say when they join an introductory call is, we’re looking for “X.” That “X” might not be what’s on your website, or how you describe your product. If you listen to a lot of calls and use their own words, those are the words you want to bid on or optimize for. Because that will drive a lot of traffic. And this is what people really search for and not the words you would normally use in your website. We do that, too.
Michelle: In our conversation, you’re bringing up your research and the insights you’re able to gain. Having these research reports seems to be a key part of your marketing and brand awareness. How do you leverage these research reports? What are you doing? And how is it helping?
Amit: We identify that’s the key strategic marketing capability that we’re going to be counting on. Something that people have not seen before, so it’s like the first pictures from the Hubble telescope. OK, so here’s what the universe looks like. Or the first pictures of the Titanic. This is what it really looks like and that’s where it lies. So, we’re doing the same thing for sales conversations. It’s something that people are very passionate about. There’s some 10,000 books on Amazon on how to sell. But nobody really has the facts. So, we identified this as an opportunity.
And we’re trying to do things that are interesting and useful. We try to keep it short. We take a small chunk, we investigate it, we publish the results, and try to make sure that whatever we do it’s something that people have at least some takeaway. So, it’s both interesting and immediately be applicable to what they do.
That does generate activity on social media. We get hundreds of likes per post. We get press from it. Some of it got published on Business Insider, and Forbes, and it drives a lot of traffic. Plus, it’s in line with our message, shining the light on your sales conversation. We do get a lot of people coming into sales calls, ‘Hey, I read this blog on LinkedIn, this is very fascinating about how much I should be talking, what kind of questions I want to apply to my own team, which is what we sell.’
Michelle: I enjoyed the conversation. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.
Amit: My pleasure, Michelle. I had a lot of fun. Thank you.