Emerging TechnologyAI & AutomationAI-based conversational analysis reveals that sales teams are holding steady in spite of COVID-19

AI-based conversational analysis reveals that sales teams are holding steady in spite of COVID-19

Conversational AI company, Chorus.ai, is using its technology, customer base, and expertise to gain insights about COVID-19’s impact on sales teams and businesses.

30-second summary:

  • Chorus.ai is a leading conversational intelligence platform that leverages proprietary AI to uncover critical insights from business conversations in phone calls. They’ve been using their technology and expertise to measure the impact of COVID-19 across the business landscape.
  • Chorus.ai is machine learning platform “listens” to calls and uses natural language processing to identify different trackers and themes, then extracts insights that make it easier to understand conversations at scale.
  • Chorus.ai has been picking up on a variety of COVID-19 topics and pain points across all clients including a difficulty managing remote teams and what critical decisions that companies must make about what’s happening in the market.
  • The data is showing that for many verticals such as the collaboration space, sales are up about 30% versus baseline and they’re up over 70% compared to pre-COVID-19 levels.
  • Another key data point—over 60% of all calls start with a COVID-19 reference led by the sales rep.
  • In reference to payment terms, words like “postpone” and “freeze” have increased by 37% week over week.”

Chorus.ai is a leading conversational intelligence platform that leverages proprietary AI to uncover critical insights from business conversations.

Recently, Chorus has been using their technology and internal data science expertise to measure the impact of COVID-19 across the business landscape.

Using their own customer base which includes companies like Zoom, mongoDB, Bill.com and Engagio, Chorus is analyzing how their customers are talking about COVID-19.

Topics include why and how often virus-related terms come up in calls, the impact on productivity, and other key top-of-mind themes.

Conversational AI concept—Source: Chorus.ai

ClickZ recently spoke with Chorus.ai’s CEO Jim Benton to learn more about their technology and the company’s initiative to provide insights on COVID-19 to help businesses.

We also discussed some of the unique challenges he faces as a brand-new CEO during a time when his entire team is working remotely.

A new CEO facing an unprecedented business challenge

Jim Benton’s first day as Chorus.ai’s CEO was March 16th and he has yet to report to the physical office at his location in the San Francisco Bay area.

“We shut down the office the week before I started, so I’ve been completely virtual,” says Benton on a call with ClickZ. “It’s been a new experience for me to manage and lead a team that’s 100% distributed and virtual.”

Chorus.ai has offices across four different locations including Tel Aviv, Boston, Toronto and San Francisco.

Prior to working at Chorus.ai, Benton was the CEO of Apollo.io, a sales engagement platform and, prior to that, he co-founded ClearSlide where he worked from 2009 through 2018.

Said Benton, “ClearSlide was one of the first companies to coin the term ‘sales engagement.’ I started the company during the recession and learned that there are opportunities to help others through these kinds of challenges.”

Chorus.ai works with companies that have invested heavily in a sales and marketing. Their typical clients have sales reps engaging customers via meetings, calls, and emails.

While they work in the SaaS and technology sectors, they also work with infrastructure, health care and collaboration companies, and just about any company that has a sales and marketing team.

Natural language processing helps identify topical themes

Chorus.ai connects the different pieces of technology that sales teams use to reach out to customers and prospects, including dialers, existing phone systems, and meeting technology.

Their machine learning platform “listens” to calls and uses natural language processing to identify different trackers and themes, then extracts insights that make it easier to understand the conversations at scale.

“Our clients leverage that data to improve their sales motion and to better understand, in real time, the voice of the market, the customer, and their prospects,” explains Benton. “We help our customers understand what they’re hearing in the market and how they can use this data to build a better product, update their messaging, or better forecast.”

Chorus.ai has been picking up on a variety of COVID-19 topics and pain points across all clients. One of the biggest insights identified is that many business leaders are new to managing remote teams. They’re not accustomed to having an entire organization distributed and they’re feeling disconnected.

Another common issue is the need to make critical decisions about what’s really happening in the market. For example, can companies hire new talent, or should they freeze hiring? Do they need to potentially let people go because sales are down?

“Chorus.ai has this data,” explains Benton. “We aggregate and anonymize the data in a unique way that allows us to share insights that the world needs to hear.”

Chorus.ai’s data is showing that companies have been able to maintain sales. In fact, in many verticals such as the collaboration space, sales are up about 30% versus baseline and they’re up over 70% compared to pre-COVID-19 levels.

Change the message to support the current environment

Another key data point—over 60% of all calls start with a COVID-19 reference led by the sales rep.

“This  makes sense,” says Benton. “Three weeks ago, we wouldn’t have led with empathy in sales, but we’re helping others think about the role of empathy right now, so they can change and modify their approach to be more effective and authentic.”

Chorus.ai makes the insights they’re gleaning from this aggregated data available on their website via their Daily Briefing—a live Zoom broadcast led by Benton which occurs each weekday morning at 8:35 a.m. PDT. Some recent data-driven insights include:

  • “First meeting held” volume has been holding steady for sales reps since January, at about 30% of calls although overall meeting volume has decreased by about 11%.
  • There’s been a 30% dip in discovery conversations compared with this time last year (as of March 10th).
  • Longer payment terms were discussed throughout Q1, with discussions about greater than 30-day terms increasing from 23.4% on March 2nd to 38.8% on March 30th.

Source: Chorus.ai

Says Benton, “Some of the insights that we’ve been sharing look at payment terms. We’re hearing about net 30, net 60, net 90 and how those are changing. They’ve changed significantly. We’ve seen words like “postpone” and “freeze” increase by 37% week over week.”

Chorus.ai has also been looking at different geographies to see if the impact of the virus is different regionally. They found that Boston has had a much more significant reduction in sales and productivity, so has Salt Lake City.

“We’re helping leaders by presenting this data so they can look at the industry and determine how their own business fits in. They can then figure out what to do about it.”

It’s time to be real and responsive

Benton emphasized that the role of sales and marketing is to keep global commerce flowing. When sales and marketing stops, transactions stop.

“There are so many people counting on sales and marketing to be at their absolute best right now,” explains Benton. “If they succeed, then everybody else can continue to do their best work while we’re healthy and we’re working through this. But if we all freeze and don’t do the work, it impacts people’s lives, their dinner table conversations, and their security at home. That’s been the message on my daily briefings from the guests I interview. This is a time for people to be real, not to be scripted and mechanical, but to bring real insights that are interesting and helpful.”

To stay connected with his 100+ employees, Benton has a weekly call every Wednesday where the company’s leaders highlight the work that Chorus.ai is doing and the impact it’s having. There’s a certain level of democratization involved with these calls that allows for this type of collaboration.

Per Benton, “Everyone’s equal, no matter if you’re Tel Aviv or San Francisco. You get equal voice and equal representation. I feel as connected to the team as if I were in the office. I’ve heard from the different groups that they feel more connected to the home office now than they did pre-COVID-19.”

Listening to each other is critical for moving forward in the current environment. When Benton joined the company, he started his leadership meeting with the executive staff by discussing the voice of the market and what they were hearing in the industry.

They asked themselves, what has changed in the last seven days based on the call data that Chorus.ai is analyzing. He now takes this approach on his weekly team calls.

“We usually have five or six slides looking at our own internal productivity as well as the words, themes, and changes of what we’re seeing in the market and then discussing them—what did we hear and how can we best address it? It’s actionable intelligence. It’s is taking action with this data and staying connected to both your team and your customers at a time when they both really need you.”

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