Audrey was born in 1952. She lacked arms and legs, and even a heartbeat. Yet, despite her absence of human attributes, she went on to alter the course of history. Perhaps you have met one of her youngest successors? She bears the name Siri.
Audrey was conceived by Bell Laboratories in 1952. She was the first documented speech recognition system and had the ability to interpret numerical digits spoken by a voice. Short for “Automatic Digit Recognizer,” Audrey immediately spawned interest, funding, and advancement in the field of speech recognition. Today, she has inspired many commercial products, including the collection of virtual assistants built by the “Frightful Five”: Apple with Siri, Microsoft with Cortana, Amazon with Echo, Facebook with M, and Google with Google Now.
In 2015, the percentage of smartphone owners using voice assistants reached 65% (an increase of 9% from 2014 levels). Given this adoption rate, the potential for continued advancement of voice technology looms large. In her 2016 annual Internet Trends report, Mary Meeker predicts the continued rise of voice interfaces, thanks to their convenience (they are hands-free, enabling multi-tasking) and efficiency (we can speak at a rate of 150 words per minute but can only type at a rate of 40 words per minute).
One species that seeks to benefit from continued evolution of speech technology is the salesperson. Continued advancement could lead to fundamental changes in the world of sales:
- Inbound lead routing
Salespeople have an insatiable thirst for well-qualified inbound leads. Compared to outbound leads which have a close rate of only 1.7%, inbound leads boast a success rate of 14.6%. Speech technology advancements have the potentially to boost inbound close rates further. Imagine a voice assistant that could handle all inbound leads, ask prospects a series of questions, and then determine context (e.g., whether the lead is looking to learn more about a product/service or is ready to purchase now), budget (by assessing company size to infer how much the prospect is willing to spend on the offering), demographics (by determining the industry that the prospect’s organization is affiliated with), etc.
It’s not beyond the realm of possibility to suppose that voice technology will advance to the point at which the identity of the speaker is determined by voice – like a fingerprint. After processing the voice emitted, the assistant could determine the identity of the lead, his/her title, and whether he/she is a decision maker (a scenario that would warrant prioritization). Depending on the nature of the interaction, a lead could not only be prioritized appropriately, but could also be optimally routed to the most appropriate rep (based on industry specialization, location, mutual connections, etc.).
- Follow up efforts
Sales reps are constantly interacting with prospects and customers on the phone, in meetings, at conferences, on the web, and in many other contexts. To convert a prospect into a customer, many touch points are typically required – it takes 6–8 touches alone to generate a viable sales lead.
It’s cognitively impossible for reps to remember everything said during sales conversations. With the significant number of touch-points involved, appropriately follow up efforts are difficult and time consuming. Enter tomorrow’s voice technology. What if a personal assistant could catalogue all interactions that occur between a rep and a prospect? The assistant would then automatically populate new contacts, activities, and opportunities in a CRM system to help reps ensure they never miss a beat in following up with prospects. Follow up emails, pitch decks, and proposals could automatically be created based on interactions. Consider Hubspot’s existing compilation of “16 templates for the sales follow up email.” Voice technology could help bypass the selection process and predict which template will resonate best with a prospect.
Finally, when sales reps meet prospects in the field, tomorrow’s voice assistant could, after processing voice or name, immediately search archived information in a CRM system to determine the sales rep’s history (if any) with the prospect’s organization. The assistant could then populate or update relevant fields according to new interactions. Follow up efforts become more relevant and sales cycles are accelerated.
- Deal potential
Our vocal tone is responsible for communicating 38% of the meaning in our communication. Even more startling, when we consider phone conversations, which represent the majority of salespeople’s interactions, the 38% statistic skyrockets to 92%.
It’s difficult for sales reps to gage the success of phone conversations – facial cues and body language are often to no avail. It is especially critical for reps to assess vocal cues. What if voice technology could provide continual insight into the effectiveness of a phone conversation? It could help reps monitor the pace of a prospect’s voice in order to assess emotional responses to their pitches (for example, a quicker rate of word delivery typically indicates excitement, whereas a pause typically indicates hesitation). It could also monitor intonation so as to help sales reps pinpoint key decision making criteria (for example, a higher intonation emitted during security-related discussions may infer a heightened concern for the subject matter). Then, after the conversation ends, it could process vocal cues and summarize the conversation (based, for instance, on word repetition, objections raised, action items agreed upon, etc.) and catalogue it into a CRM system. The potential deal could automatically be assigned an appropriate stage based on these insights.
Voice Prism has already recognized the potential for voice technology to inform sales efforts. It has produced a patented application that relies on a voice analysis engine developed in Israel that purports to analyze vocal emotional and cognitive patterns, regardless of language.
The Audrey family tree continues to grow. The next branch seeks to be an especially strong leverage point for the world of sales. Watch carefully as it grows and adapt your practices accordingly.