Startup Gong.io came out of stealth mode recently, announcing a $6 million in Series A funding. Gong’s cloud-based artificial intelligence software helps improve the performance and productivity of B2B sales teams by analyzing their conversations with prospects and providing guidance about the best way to close a deal.
Says Amit Bendov, Gong co-founder and CEO: “There are probably a thousand books on successful selling on Amazon—and they are all based on anecdotes.” Instead, Gong brings science to the art of the deal, augmenting experience and intuition with facts and figures drawn from analysis of big unstructured data—all the conversations conducted by all members of the sales team.
Over the last 20-plus years (most recently as CEO of fast-growing business intelligence startup Sisense), Bendov has developed a number of successful sales teams, all selling remotely. “People do not expect to see you anymore,” says Bendov. Even if you meet with a customer onsite, more often than not they will start a WebEx or GoToMeetings session with their remote colleagues, as a B2B sale today involves 5.4 decision makers, on average.
In addition to the distributed nature of today’s decision making process, the economics of remote sales or ”inside sales” make it superior to traditional in-person “field sales.” The latter approach allows a sales person to see around 5 customers per week. With inside sales, the same sales person can interact with 25 to 30 customers and potential customers in the same time period, observes Bendov.
Because of these advantages, inside sales is becoming the preferred approach to selling in many enterprises today. While being more cost-effective than field sales, however, it hasn’t addressed the major cost contributor of any sales operations: The hiring of ineffective sales people. For both approaches, the mystery remains—what makes a successful sales person?
“We’ve always hired people in triplets because we knew one of them is not going to cut it,” recalls Bendov. “And we never knew exactly why they didn’t cut it.” Indeed, a 2013 survey by the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals found that “hiring and training people who possess [the right] skills is the top challenge facing inside sales leaders.”
Having identified the problem that needed to be solved, Bendov found the technologists that could solve it, specifically his co-founder (and Gong’s CTO), Eilon Reshef. In a few months, Gong’s engineers have developed an artificial intelligence software package that combines natural language processing (NLP) tools with machine learning to analyze, categorize, and quantify sales conversations and determine what works and what doesn’t at a scale that was not available before to sales management.
“The average B2B sales conversation runs 6000 words per hour, sales people hold around 20-30 conversations per week, and managers are often responsible for 6-12 reps—impossible math if you’re trying to gain a deep understanding of all those calls,” says Bendov.