How to improve your conversational intelligence in sales

Conversational intelligence
What is conversational intelligence?
How AI and other technologies help conversational intelligence
How to build conversational intelligence: 3 simple methods
6 ways to improve conversational intelligence with Pipedrive
Final thoughts

Salespeople spend a lot of time in conversation. Understanding your audience and how best to interact with people helps you increase trust, build lasting relationships and close more deals.

Conversational intelligence, both a skill and a growing technology, can help salespeople extend their communication abilities and reach customers like never before.

In this article, you’ll learn what conversational intelligence is and how technology helps you connect with buyers deeply and quickly. We’ll also explore six ways Pipedrive unlocks the power of conversation to boost wins, retention and revenue.

What is conversational intelligence?

Conversational intelligence is the ability to engage thoughtfully and efficiently with other people to achieve successful outcomes.

It’s a valuable sales skill that helps you understand the impact of words. You can then use them to build trust with customers, colleagues, leaders and peers.

Conversational intelligence typically comprises these key aspects:

  • Strong communication skills. Your abilities to listen carefully and make efficient contributions to conversations.

  • Research and insights. Your desire to understand conversation topics and partners, whether in advance or in the moment.

  • Regular reflection and development. Your willingness to analyze past conversations for opportunities to learn and hone your intelligence.

Staying mindful of these components can help you improve communication for better outcomes in almost any field.

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Judith E. Glaser on conversational intelligence for every interaction

Judith E. Glaser is a leading voice on the topic and author of the book: Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results.

In her book and in consultations with business leaders around the world, Glaser discusses how conversational intelligence matters in many professions because even the shortest interactions can be powerful.

The CreatingWE Institute, co-founded by Glaser, explains:

There is little connection between the time it takes to say the words and the impact they may have on a person, a relationship, or within an organization. Conversations have the ability to trigger emotional reactions. Words carry baggage; they are rarely neutral. Words carry a history of years of use. Each time another experience overlays another meaning, and it all gets collected somewhere in our brain – ‘the vault’ – it’s there, ready to be activated during a conversation.

Every word you use with a new prospect, hot lead or first-time customer has the power to strengthen or weaken your connection.

In other words, salespeople can benefit from approaching all interactions carefully and tactfully.

Conversational intelligence in sales communication

Conversational intelligence is particularly valuable in sales since conversation influences buying decisions and helps companies build lasting client relationships.

Take business-to-business (B2B) sales, for example.

According to Gartner, the typical software buyer will spend 17% of the purchase journey meeting with potential suppliers. However, they’ll split that time between multiple companies, meaning they only spend 5–6% with each sales rep.

Distribution of buying groups' time by key buying activities

With so little time to make an impact, conversations must inspire action. Sales communications should be efficient, well-informed and, most importantly, intelligent.

We’ll explore three simple methods to build sales conversational intelligence in a moment. First, let’s look at another way this term is used.

Another definition: Conversational artificial intelligence

Today, conversational intelligence isn’t just referred to as an interpersonal skill. Some use the term to mean leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to extract insights from conversations – especially in sales and marketing.

For example, Ethnu.AI is a conversational intelligence software that uses natural language processing (NLP) to pull data automatically from sales calls, chatbots and other customer interactions.

These conversation analytics improve employee coaching and sales team interactions, ultimately delivering better customer experiences.

How AI and other technologies help conversational intelligence

Sales professionals rely on intelligent conversation to nurture leads and close deals. The latest advancements in technology mean you can achieve more in less time.

The results are shorter sales cycles, better sales quota attainment and increased revenue for your company.

Here are four ways salespeople can harness conversational AI, machine learning and other technologies to enhance customer conversations:

  • Natural language processing. Analyzing language nuances, understanding customer sentiments and enabling real-time personalization lets sales reps tailor their communication to customer needs for more meaningful interactions.

  • Predictive analytics. Anticipating customer preferences and behaviors based on historical data gives sales teams valuable insight. It lets team members address concerns proactively and personalize solutions, which makes conversions more likely.

  • Centralized contact data. With customer relationship management (CRM) software providing a unified view of customer information, reps can understand customers’ needs quickly.

  • Workflow automation. By automating repetitive activities, reps can focus on more strategic and value-added conversations, leading to more effective client interactions.

This union of technology and conversation equips sales teams with a powerful toolkit, unlocking informed decision-making, personalized interactions and a deeper understanding of customer needs.

It also improves sales outcomes and customer experiences, helping organizations become more competitive.

Remember, while technology improves conversations, it can’t automate every interaction. Buyers still value the personal touch that comes from a human salesperson or support rep, especially at critical touchpoints like demos and closing.

How to build conversational intelligence: 3 simple methods

Unlocking more productive and effective conversations is a worthwhile investment for any sales professional.

Here are three activities you can start today that will improve your conversational intelligence.

1. Practice active listening

Active listening involves not only hearing the words spoken but also understanding the emotions and intentions behind them.

Salespeople who practice active listening are better equipped to identify customer needs and tailor their responses accordingly.

Use these tips and tricks to improve your active listening:

  • Remove distractions like background noise and phones

  • Take notes during and after conversations

  • Don’t wait for your turn to talk

  • Never interrupt

  • Treat the buyer like they’re the only person in the world

  • Show you’re listening with words of acknowledgment

As you hone your active listening skills, use them to foster deeper connections and find opportunities for mutual success.

2. Ask more questions

Effective questioning is key to uncovering valuable information and driving productive conversations.

By diving deeper into customer motivations and priorities, you’ll better understand how your products or services can add value.

Open-ended questions that encourage prospects to elaborate on their needs, challenges and goals are best.

For example:

  • “What made you choose your current solution?”

  • “What can we do to help you get more from our product?”

  • “If you could change one thing about our product, what would it be?”

You also demonstrate curiosity with probing questions, as well as a genuine desire to understand your customer’s perspective, fostering trust and rapport.

3. Get comfortable with objections

Sales objections give you the chance to engage in constructive dialogue while building credibility. This mindset will help you get more out of conversations while improving outcomes.

To get more comfortable with objections, work on your empathy and persuasion soft skills. Whenever you face friction in a conversation, consider why the other person might feel that way and how you can reassure them.

Handling objections in sales

For example, if you’re about to close a deal but the buyer gets apprehensive over cost, they may be under pressure from their manager to get a better deal. Highlighting an industry-relevant success story with a tangible return on investment (ROI) helps in this situation.

6 ways to improve conversational intelligence with Pipedrive

The best CRM tools have features that enable more insight-driven, productive customer conversations.

Here are six ways to use Pipedrive’s sales CRM as a conversational intelligence platform.

1. Centralize your contact data

Centralizing contact data in a CRM tool is essential for well-informed sales conversations.

Team members who interact with leads and customers can inform their conversations with details like:

  • Demographic profile

  • Customer journey stage

  • Transaction history

  • Previous interactions

The alternative is for each department to keep contact data in siloed spreadsheets, making it difficult to find and prone to inconsistency. This approach slows productivity.

Data discrepancies (i.e., details recorded differently across spreadsheets) cause disjointed conversations and bottlenecks that damage customer experiences.

Many Pipedrive users benefit from its ability to centralize contact data, including

Permission settings ensure the right types of users across organizations can retrieve information as needed.

Note: Pipedrive’s export and import capabilities make it easy to transfer data from spreadsheets and other CRM tools into your new, easy-to-use customer database

2. Pull insights from contact timelines

If you’re on Pipedrive’s Professional plan or a higher pricing tier, you can use the contacts timeline view to understand when, how often and how you interact with leads and customers.

Pipedrive Contacts timeline screenshot

This information adds context to your conversations. When you can see a buyer’s journey so far, it’s much easier to personalize your conversation approach.

Say a lead goes cold and you move on, but one year later they inquire about a new product. Seeing in Pipedrive that you last spoke to this person via phone about an older solution, you can start the conversation with something like:

I know we last spoke about the launch version of our software and you had some concerns about the connectivity. We’ve updated a few features and added some integrations you’ll love.

This kind of context makes it much faster and easier to find common ground with prospects, leads and existing customers – which means more trust and a higher chance of conversion.

3. Add conversational intelligence integrations

Pipedrive integrates with various conversational intelligence tools that can extract insights from your interactions automatically.

For example, the Call IQ integration records, transcribes and summarizes calls. It pulls out key points, analyzes customer sentiment and suggests next steps. It saves you manual effort so you can apply findings and improve conversations.

Other conversational intelligence integrations to try with Pipedrive include:

You can use Pipedrive integrations to streamline general customer communications, making conversations more convenient and enjoyable for you and your audience.

Pipedrive marketplace integrations

Some apps let you call contacts from within the Pipedrive interface, like CloudTalk and JustCall. You can reduce app-switching and add phone call notes to your CRM contact data in real time.

There are also integrations for Slack, Gmail and Facebook Messenger. You can talk to colleagues and customers through their favorite channels without changing screens or losing important data.

4. Free time for research and personalization with the AI Sales Assistant

Pipedrive’s AI Sales Assistant makes recommendations to organize your workload and make better decisions.

It analyzes your deals, contacts and emails, then tells you what to work on next, which sales metrics to track and how you can improve processes.

By taking some administrative responsibilities off your plate, this sales intelligence tool frees you to have more thoughtful, personalized and intelligent conversations.

That time back is crucial because 19% of respondents in our State of Sales and Marketing Report said they spend most of their working day on administrative tasks.

Which of the following tasks do you spend most of your day working on?

You might use the time you gain from AI support to:

  • Dive deeper into non-sales chats and build stronger rapport with leads

  • Research your audience on social media to understand their needs better

  • Visit a hot lead in person rather than call so you make a better impression

  • Work on a cold calling script to enhance your conversations

  • Refine valuable soft skills like emotional intelligence and active listening

You can open your Sales Assistant panel by clicking the lightbulb icon in the top right corner of the Pipedrive interface.

Note: Pipedrive’s AI Sales Assistant can boost the quality level of conversations you have with leads right out of the box. However, it’ll also become smarter as it adapts to your industry, needs and sales patterns

5. Segment customers for more relevant and efficient interactions

Segmenting your audience with Pipedrive enables targeted and personalized interactions with different customer groups.

By categorizing leads and customers based on specific criteria like demographics, behavior and purchase history, you can tailor conversations to address the unique needs of each segment. Pipedrive can help you organize your work more efficiently too.

For example, you could identify a group of customers interested in a particular product category and spend your day calling only those people.

You can then have the same challenges, features and recommendations top-of-mind for every conversation instead of switching between different types of customers and potentially getting confused or having to find new information.

Alternatively, you could segment your audience by sentiment scores and work through your most difficult conversations in one block.

6. Map your pipeline to tailor your conversations

Customers at different stages of the buying journey want different information from interactions.

By mapping your sales pipeline, you can see where each lead is and make informed decisions about how to approach upcoming calls.

For example, a lead who’s passed the “demo” stage of your sales pipeline is more likely to be thinking about your solution’s features than weighing pricing or contract options.

You might start your next conversation by getting their point of view on where your solution will be most and least helpful, then work on overcoming those objections.

A lead entering the negotiation stage is likely thinking about their budget or getting a manager’s approval. The best way to approach that conversation is to focus on returns and outcomes by helping them justify the investment with data and case studies.

Note: Many CRMs have pipeline views, but Pipedrive lets you customize pipeline stages. You can then map the sales process accurately and get clearer insights to inform conversations.

Final thoughts

Conversational rituals are crucial in all sales organizations. Refining how you approach lead and customer interactions – ultimately conducting them more intelligently – is a simple way to hit targets faster and outperform competitors.

“Intelligence” implies lots of manual thinking. However, there are plenty of technologies to help you make the limited time you have with each buyer more effective and efficient.

From CRM software like Pipedrive to AI and machine learning, the tools at your disposal can help you achieve better sales outcomes today.

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