The weapons are words.
The stakes? Billions of dollars in valuation.
The combatants? Chorus.ai and Gong.io, two companies that have raised over $50M to build and dominate a category known as — well, that depends on how this plays out.
Both companies were founded in 2015. Both promised to make your sales team more successful through AI. Both do that by analyzing recordings of your sales calls to answer big questions: How can my worst reps be more like my best ones? Which of our messages are resonating? Why are we winning or losing deals?
Until recently, both companies described their offerings as part of a category called “conversation intelligence.” Here’s Gong’s website a couple of months…
In the 1990s, I ran the New York City Marathon three times.
Each year, the night before the race, I would attend a carbo-load party at a popular running club. Joining hundreds of other runners, I would stuff my face with pasta in the hopes of not “hitting the wall” — running out of carbs to power my muscles across the finish line.
The final year I ran the race, the club invited a celebrity running coach to be the dinner’s guest speaker. I don’t remember his name, but I’ll never forget his message:
“Not to ruin your meal,” he said, “but the best long-distance runners now know that the absolute worst thing you can do the night before a marathon is to carbo-load.” …
Two weeks ago, I found myself with a ticket to SaaStr Annual, so I roamed the sponsor area, listening to pitches from SaaS startups large and small.
Conference booths are a great place to gauge how deeply a company’s pitch (a.k.a. strategic narrative) has permeated its ranks because they’re usually staffed by a mix of sales, marketing and product people. Or haven’t permeated those ranks: One sales rep told me if I wanted to hear a really good version of the pitch, it was too bad because his CEO, who would be back shortly, was really good at that.
As you might expect, I mostly heard product-centered descriptions: “We’re a __ platform that does x, y and z.” But as Drift’s David Cancel is fond of saying, markets are so crowded now that you can no longer differentiate on product and features. Instead, differentiation is about building a connection to customers. And it’s certainly easier to do that if everything everyone does at your company is in service of a strategic narrative—that is, a story about getting customers to a desirable, difficult-to-reach Promised Land. …