"Companies focus so much on technology," said Gryphon Networks CEO Jeffrey Fotta, "that they forget about process." The Massachusetts-based company provides cloud-based solutions for sales call analytics and marketing compliance.
"You must include the change in processes to improve the volume and effectiveness of telephone conversations," added Fotta. "That's the equivalent of eating your broccoli before you get the chocolate cake, which is why many companies are reluctant to do it."
In this email Q&A with TechRepublic, Fotta discussed how firms successfully unite technology with sales calls, how the pitfalls of doing so also involve a lack of attention to the selling process, and how sales call analytics increasingly is used in training.
TechRepublic: How would you respond to the perception that the telephone is no longer an effective sales tool in the digital era?
Jeffrey Fotta: Every year we hear about the death of the telephone, but it never happens. The telephone is still the best way to do business if you're selling high-value products and services, and it's the differentiator in the digital era. That won't change. The biggest change is that we can now use the phone in conjunction with analytics to drive more desired results.
Companies focus so much on technology that they forget about process. You must include the change in processes to improve the volume and effectiveness of telephone conversations. Then, always be measuring and optimizing the results. That's the equivalent of eating your broccoli before you get the chocolate cake, which is why many companies are reluctant to do it.
The reality is that successful sales processes involve phone conversations, even if they're uncomfortable. You just don't get the crisp, targeted communications via email and social channels as you do by actually having a phone conversation with someone.
TechRepublic: In your experience, what are the common practices of companies that successfully merge current technology with outbound sales calls?
Jeffrey Fotta: You're not going to drive outbound calling effectiveness simply with the purchase of one analytics tool or another. In fact, if you're relying solely on your CRM, there's a good chance your sales data is inaccurate. Reps just don't have time to manually input all of their data in real-time, so by the time they get to it, they might not remember all the details, or they may think too confidently about a deal in the pipeline. This is a manager's worst nightmare because there's no way to accurately forecast from this.
This is why managing actual activity and process, and not playing a blind numbers game, is so critical in sales. This deep understanding of selling activities predicts success. That will never change. However, technology can certainly help manage that process by capturing the call activity in real time.
TechRepublic: What are some of the pitfalls that firms encounter when introducing their sales teams with new applications and technology platforms?
Jeffrey Fotta: People get excited about new technologies and have this blind spot towards that ugly little thing called process. When you don't pay attention to process and you create technology for its own sake, it's very difficult to articulate value to B2B companies.
The biggest pitfall I see beyond the process issue is a firm's inability to change the team's mindset. People have a tough time changing processes when they've always done something a certain way. Training reps how to use a new app or platform while simultaneously demonstrating the actual value of using the tool is too often missing from the equation. Sales reps live for commission. Show them how a tool or app can help them close more deals this year.
Also make sure they understand how simple it will be to use. If you fail to do this, your reps will more than likely think this is just another smoke-and-mirrors show that's going to get in the way of them doing their jobs. They want to be out there selling, not doing data entry.
TechRepublic: What are the main trends in your competitive space — sales call analytics?
Jeffrey Fotta: I'd say the biggest trend is that analytics aren't just being used to close more sales — they're now a critical employee training mechanism. Sales call analytics allow managers to understand how past sales activities generated specific results and to apply these lessons learned to today's front-line sellers. How we hire, onboard, train, and manage sales representatives is no longer defined by gut instinct. Moneyball-style sales management is now a reality.
As more and more sales teams are dispersed — whether in different branches, call centers, or working from home — it's harder for managers to measure their activity. This is where sales analytics deliver tremendous value. It's not enough to know that reps are hitting their call quotas each day. Instead of focusing on just the numbers, speech analytics helps measure what happens after a sales call is answered. Managers can track prospect responses to certain keywords/phrases over time to determine which activities get the best results and manage/train their teams to that standard.
TechRepublic: Despite its complexities, what are the big things that decision makers need to know about telephone marketing compliance?
Jeffrey Fotta: Sales and telemarketing is one of the most complexly regulated industries — not only on the federal level, but at the state level as well. We're seeing more and more organizations get hit with massive fines for non-compliance and that not only hurts the company financially, but consumers lose trust in that company. That said, phone-based selling can still be a major revenue driver. In fact, I think these regulations actually help sales organizations be more effective.
Think of it this way — why would you waste time calling someone who hasn't consented to being contacted when you could put your attention toward someone who has? People who have expressed interest in your company are far more likely to buy. It's a quality over quantity approach, and those quality sales can end up being some of your biggest deals of the year. Believe it or not, these regulations actually help you be more targeted in your outreach.
TechRepublic: How do Gryphon Networks' marketing compliance solutions work, and what are the benefits to customers?
Jeffrey Fotta: Gryphon's solution lies in the path of every sales call and checks every dial against state, federal, and other Do-Not-Call lists, then applies any available exemptions and either allows the call or blocks it automatically. The software also automatically adjusts to call curfew, time zone, daylight savings, holiday, and state-of-emergency restrictions associated with every dialed number and reflects changes in regulations at every level. During a call, agents can update consumer's marketing preferences with disposition keys as well.
The benefit to our customers is that they have fully indemnified Do-Not-Call compliance — no costly fines or brand damage — while maximizing their marketable universe. Since we're in the path of every call, we automatically record the calls as well and translate them into sales activity data for managers to more accurately forecast and better train their teams.
TechRepublic: With your firm's addition of real-time data to its Sales Platform this past August, what kind of market feedback are you seeing?
Jeffrey Fotta: The reaction we see from clients is very positive in a way that goes beyond a cool new widget. Our approach starts with obtaining an understanding of the activities a sales team is conducting and then marrying them with the outcomes they are getting. We are already helping them to form a baseline that is in many ways far different from what they "thought" was happening.
We combine each client experience with the hundreds of millions of data points we've gathered over the 20 years we've worked with clients making outbound sales calls. We have over 800 billion minutes of call data that have formed our expertise in building sales effectiveness. By adding each client experience with the historical data from clients like them, we can drive a world of valuable insight before we log in to any dashboard. Our tools are a way you measure the process changes that you must drive to get 20%-30% improvement in performance. That, to the clients we target, is exciting stuff.
TechRepublic: Compared to a traditional call center, how does your Speech Analytics solution help sales managers in today's marketing environment?
Jeffrey Fotta: Most sales tools put their analytical focus on customer behavior, but we focus on the rep behavior. Having personal knowledge of a prospect's likes and dislikes is great for building rapport, but what happens after that? If a rep doesn't know how to actually sell when the contact is made, we have a major problem.
That's why we designed our solution to capture the actual selling activity. There are a few different benefits to how we do this. First, we are in the path of every phone call to automatically record and analyze all sales activity. This means reps aren't burdened with entering the information themselves (this leads to inaccurate data and forecasting as I mentioned earlier).
Secondly, the analytics provide context to agents' customer conversations, such as levels of enthusiasm or amount of silence. This enables managers to pinpoint where a call went right/wrong and compare behaviors of top performers vs. underperformers to bridge that gap. Ultimately, it allows them to develop benchmarked standards of selling behaviors to which they can manage.
Brian will do client work for AtTask.
Brian Taylor is a contributing writer for TechRepublic. He covers the tech trends, solutions, risks, and research that IT leaders need to know about, from startups to the enterprise. Technology is creating a new world, and he loves to report on it.