An artificial intelligence (AI) program created to support sales professionals is providing students in Dr. Howard Dover’s professional sales courses with high-level tools that enhance their learning experience.
Dover, director of the Center for Professional Sales at the Naveen Jindal School of Management, incorporated Chorus.ai into his curriculum in January. The platform records sales calls, video conferences and — in the students’ case — role-plays. It then transcribes recordings in real time and analyzes conversations to provide salespeople with useful tips for making improvements.
The Jindal School is the first — and to date, only — university program to use Chorus.ai in the classroom. Based on the experiences of Dover and his students, the San Francisco-based company is now looking to add other universities, said Natalie Severino, vice president, Marketing.
With that in mind, a team from Chorus was on the UT Dallas campus May 2 to shoot a video featuring Dover and several of his students. The company will feature it on their website and use it in promotional and marketing activities.
Severino, who oversaw filming of the video, said she was highly impressed with the students she met at JSOM. “I kept thinking, when do you graduate so I can hire you,” she said.
A big part of JSOM’s professional sales curriculum is role-playing. Students also make sales calls and work with clients.
“Before Chorus, I had to sit down and score every role-play video, which limited the number of role-plays we could do” Dover said. “Now, I can go into Chorus, screen the video and see the summary data. Students get faster feedback. If I do it, it can take up to two weeks.”
The fact that Chorus has taken on some of Dover’s time-consuming tasks may make it possible for more students to be enrolled in professional sales courses. But immediately, it allowed the class to do two role-plays per week versus only four to five per semester previously.
However, the biggest benefit for Dover is the positive effect use of the platform has had on students.
Dover had what he called a ‘sleeper student’ in his class. “The student was able to do the work, but was struggling,” Dover said. With Chorus, Dover saw a big improvement in the work, and the student told me that they’d been watching the videos of the other students’ role-plays. Before that, this person might not have passed this course, but they finished in the top six in the class.”
Professional sales students who were interviewed for the video were Taylor Barrington, a senior in business administration; Karianna Barreto, a junior in marketing; Ghazaleh (Tina) Hassanimanshadi, a senior in marketing; Connor DeShong, a senior in emerging media and communications; and Lucia (Lucy) Arguello, a junior in global business. They agreed that the biggest benefit of Chorus.ai for them was having the ability to watch videos of other students’ role-plays.
“I didn’t get Chorus at first,” said Barrington, “When I did, I realized that being able to watch others’ videos is its greatest asset. We all have different selling strategies, and I was able to watch the way the other students did things, and it helped me advance.”
Chorus’ analysis of student role-plays tells them if, for example, they repeat words or phrases, such as “um” or “you know.” It also tells them the percentage of time that they — the salesperson — did the talking. It also scores them on popular themes like BANT — budget, authority, needs and timeline — and other methods in sales.
Karianna Barreto said the program helped her to gauge where she was in the sales process by watching videos of the other students and reading the analyses of her own role-plays. “I realized that I was talking too much,” she said. “Now, my questions are much more strategic. If I’m doing all the talking, I’m not doing any listening.”
Student Connor DeShong said he liked the quick feedback that Chorus affords. He also watched the other students’ videos to help him improve his sales calls and role-plays. “It improved my confidence,” he said. “I also use Chorus when I have follow-up calls. In advance, I listen to my first call again, and then I know what I need to talk about on the follow-up.”
Going forward, Dover will continue to look at AI to see what it can do for students. He also will let other universities know about his experience with Chorus.ai in the classroom. This summer, that experience is likely to be included in his address to the 8th Annual Sales Educators’ Academy at Rollins College in Orlando, Fla. The academy has named him “Resident Scholar on Sales Technology,” a responsibility that means he is on the meeting agenda each year to discuss technology trends that affect the sales profession.
The Chorus.ai video is the second in a little more than a year to feature Dover and his students. In 2018, Salesforce featured them in a documentary called The Story of Sales. Dover has used Salesforce, a cloud-based customer-relations management product, in his curriculum for several years.
— Glenda Vosburgh