AiThority Interview with Thiago Sá Freire, CRO at Chorus.ai
How has your journey as CRO at Chorus been since joining last year and more so, how was your experience leading a new team through an uncertain time due to Covid-19?
Thanks for having me! It has been the most fulfilling six months of my career and I’m continuously energized by the problems we’re solving. Having the ability to help my peers is a unique opportunity for me at Chorus. The fact that I was a customer before joining also allows me to connect with customers in a special way, as my conviction is contagious.
I’ve had to find new ways to connect with the team virtually. I’ve found that being more intentionally vulnerable helps others open up so you can start to build deeper relationships.
Chorus has also allowed me to analyze our sales process and see areas we need to improve. COVID-19 fundamentally changed the sales process across the board – sales teams for instance are getting creative with deal packaging, adjusting messaging with the increase in C-suite participation and dedicating more time to call reviewing and coaching.
Joining the leading Conversation Intelligence platform for high-growth sales teams allowed me to truly understand what it means to put the ‘R’ back into CRM. It means strengthening relationships with our customers and enabling them to achieve their desired business outcomes. During these unprecedented times, Chorus stayed true to this vision, investing in our customers’ success by delivering a customer-centric experience and people-first leadership style.
What were some of the biggest challenges / or key learnings through the 2020 (and ongoing) pandemic for the team? As a new incoming leadership executive, what were some of your own challenges?
At the outset of the pandemic, we stepped up our efforts to support sales teams, evaluating data to help our company and our customers navigate the changing sales environment. We’ve hosted a weekly Zoom broadcast to share data-driven insights and conversation intelligence with go-to-market executives, highlighting growing sales trends that impact the industry.
Two key learnings from these conversations were that top-performing sales teams tell 20% more stories than average and CXOs talk 8.5% more in closed-won deals. If C-level decision-makers are talking more, that means they likely are engaged and responsive to your pitch. Throw in an authentic story that communicates the value of your product and you’re on your way to getting the deal across the line.
As a revenue leader, my biggest challenge is to continue scaling the company and accelerating our enterprise services and buyers – all while maintaining Chorus’ customer-centric mindset.
While driving sales with healthier pipelines; especially during a pandemic; what are some best practices and technologies you feel B2B tech sales and marketing teams should capitalize on?
A few best practices for sales teams include:
– Keep persisting on cold calls
Cold calling is one of the most critical parts of your sales process. While cold call rates have fluctuated throughout the year, people are still answering the phone. Persistence and preparation will help you schedule meetings and build your pipeline.
– Identify and prioritize high-potential deals
Using technology to record and analyze calls with customers allow reps to surface key insights from conversations in real-time and revisit them later.
– Update your pipeline daily
Your pipeline is always changing, adding new leads daily, moving existing contacts to new stages, and updating information about deals. Without daily updates, your pipeline will get messy and hard to read. Your team should tackle reviewing the pipeline together and collaborate to develop winning strategies.
Can you share a few views on how you’ve seen tech sales and marketing teams innovate during this time to respond to changing customer needs?
With massive changes in the market, sales reps have been forced to reach out and follow up more with customers, pull in the C-suite on deals and improve their handoff processes and procedures. In response, sales and marketing teams are turning to new technologies to become “tech-enabled humans,” as Jim Benton, Chorus CEO, says.
TOPO analysts expect conversation intelligence to be integrated into the entire sales enablement stack and across all of sales tech by the end of 2021. Technology allows you to identify key revenue insights that can help determine if your team is on the right track, move your pipeline forward and drive revenue. Chorus data showed in October the average number of meetings for closed-won deals was up 10% quarter over quarter, 26% more C-suite executives were joining more deals and 78% of demos started in the first call.
How according to you can marketing and sales teams further optimize automation to drive better sales conversations?
One of the biggest trends we’ll see for 2021 is an increase in sales automation tools. Simplifying tasks like workflow, onboarding and even note-taking will allow sales reps to spend more time focusing on customers rather than the day-to-day. For example, MongoDB needed a solution that could help their reps self-coach and allow leadership to listen to calls once finished. By using Conversation Intelligence technology, the company was able to accelerate ramp time for new reps from 7-9 months to 2-4 months while increasing the technical knowledge of their sales team.
Can you talk about some of your most successful sales outcomes and customer facing takeaways through the years and especially in 2020?
Businesses that understand the changing needs of their buyer will have more success in closing deals during times of uncertainty. This means understanding what stage your buyer is at in their journey. Make it easy for your buyers to buy from you by aligning your sales process to the buyer’s journey.
Another way for sales teams to adapt to the changing sales environment is to be creative in packaging deal structures. What once worked for our customers may not work now, so we need to evaluate what can be changed to meet the new needs of prospects.
A few hacks for sales reps / account executives to prospect better in 2021 and tips to face common challenges in sales cycles.
– Do your homework and then, do some more.
It can’t be emphasized enough how much you need to prepare for a sales meeting, especially if the C-suite is involved. Sales prep shouldn’t end after discovery – design your pitch to make clear why your product or service is the best solution for the company right now. This means explaining the impact of their buying decision and expected ROI.
– Know your audience and use their preferences to your advantage.
C-suite participation in sales calls is the new normal. Reps should anticipate C-suite involvement and prepare to speak in terms these executives will understand and appreciate. If you can speak to how your solution delivers bottom-line benefits, you’ll have a much better chance of getting a C-level executive to greenlight the deal. But don’t forget your champions – actively engage with other stakeholders in the buying decision so they too see the value of what you are selling.
– Understand the economics of your pitch.
On average, CEOs and CFOs spend 42% more time seeing demos than technical CXOs. Be sure to communicate value and ROI earlier in the sales cycle so you can increase visibility of the product and continuously learn what they deem is the most essential benefit to their business.
– Set aside time for call review and coaching.
Reps are taking calls at all hours of the day, so sales leaders should be looking for ways to keep their teams connected, energized and ready to win. Coaching is essential to this process – identify processes and efficiencies that need to be addressed and don’t forget to tell reps when they’re doing great. Only around one-third of the comments are positive and encouraging, while the rest tend to be suggestions for improvement. Even in a remote environment, it’s important to always offer feedback and encouragement.
A parting thought on your most memorable moment in tech or biggest goof-up and the learning that came from it!
We win when we’re enabling our people and our customers to be the best versions of themselves. While working remotely has changed how we interact with our teams and customers, our ability to help them achieve their outcomes hasn’t.
One of the more memorable moments from 2020 was setting up the Chorus Accelerator Program to empower minority representation in tech. I’m proud to be an immigrant and am excited to offer opportunities for other minorities in the tech space to learn the craft to have successful careers in tech.
Thank you, Thiago! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
Thiago Sá Freire, a native from Brazil, is the CRO at Chorus.ai, the leading Conversation Intelligence platform, where he oversees the global customers success, implementation, rev ops, sales, solutions engineering and technical support team.
Chorus.ai is the No. 1 Conversation Intelligence Platform for high-growth sales teams. Founded in 2015, Chorus.ai’s Conversation Intelligence Platform identifies and helps teams replicate the performance of top-performing reps by analyzing their sales meetings. These insights serve as the foundation of an effective coaching strategy for sales and customer success teams and provide insight into the voice-of-the-customer across the entire organization. Customers like Zoom, MongoDB, Qualtrics, Adobe, TripActions, and GitLab ramp new hires to productivity 30-50% faster and see an increase in quota attainment from 20-to-100%. Chorus.ai is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Tel Aviv and Boston.