Everyday more of us livestreaming, using things like Zoom, Streamyard and Restream among other platforms. But that doesn’t mean asynchronous video is a thing of the past. I recently spoke with Michael Litt, cofounder and CEO video platform Vidyard, to understand the importance of asynchronous video and why you might need to put to use more than ever, especially within your sales process.
Below is an edited transcript of a portion of our conversation. Click the embedded SoundCloud player to hear the full conversation.
Evolution of video in business over the last two years
Brent Leary: How has the use of video evolved from the beginning of the pandemic to where we are today?
Michael Litt: There’s a few angles that I can take this from. I think the first and likely most relatable is that everyone, all of a sudden, had to get comfortable using video, not necessarily asynchronous and recorded video, but specifically the process of being on camera and having live communications like this.
The difference between the way we use video in this context, and the way we existed pre pandemic is that all of a sudden, everybody started looking at themselves all day long. And one of biggest limiting factors to people using video prior to the pandemic, and I think it still exists, is this discomfort with seeing yourself on camera, this discomfort with hearing your own voice, with seeing yourself talk. The easy, easy solve for that is to turn off self-view in Zoom, but not too many people do that.
It forced a generation that was uncomfortable with video to get comfortable with video in order to continue being productive. And that accelerated the use of video in all formats, I think, from B2C and B2B, internal and external communication across organizations. So that’s probably one of the bigger trends.
The next generation of buyers and sellers come from the land of consumers where they’re, let’s call them gen Zs, or gen Zeds. They’re spending time on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, you name it and all of those products are primarily driven by asynchronous video communication. And that’s communicating with friends, that’s communicating with brands. And so that generation coming into the buying and selling workplace always anticipated and wanted video to be a part of that, and adopted our technologies much faster than older generations, realistically.
However, again, back to my previous point, the pandemic accelerated everyone’s opportunity to use video. What we’ve seen as an evolutionary process via the pandemic, is that we have a lot of customer-facing teams that initially felt like, “Okay, we’re going to use synchronous video. We’re going to talk to our customers via Zoom.” But then of course, Zoom fatigue set in and people were spending all day in synchronous video meetings and experiences, and so started to look for ways of engaging on an asynchronous basis.
Text and email, et cetera, worked, but asynchronous video, AKA recorded video, is a really great way of still establishing your personal brand, your personality, but on the terms that your customer is willing to receive those, which is in their inbox when they’re able to watch it.
Video and Sales Today
And if you think about a modern sales organization, pre-pandemic, they were spending time in the field. They were going to visit customers. It was steak dinners. It was golf games. It was what I now coined traditional selling. There was massive budgets, travel and entertainment budgets associated to those behaviors that all of a sudden weren’t being spent. So those budgets went to zero, and CFOs rejoiced, and took a small percentage of that money, and gave it to the sales organization to invest in technologies such as sales, cadence solutions, easier methods of profiling customers, things like asynchronous video, which is what we do at Vidyard, and found that they were able to have more touch points per day, and be more productive at a fraction of the cost of the sales process.
And so what really ended up happening is this evolution from field selling, and being in the field, and traveling, and spending time with customers, this evolution happened from that to doing that inside and using technology for design for, and giving people more flexibility in their day to interact asynchronously, to watch content when they watch when they want, and I think that’s a mega trend that’s left the world in likely a much better place, not withstanding current events.
So that’s a pretty substantial evolution that was accelerated. And I think it would’ve taken probably 10 years, but it was accelerated in the span of two years and we see those habits persisting today.
Moving Budgets from Steak Dinners to Video Cameras
Brent Leary: Is part of the money being saved from less travel and steak dinners for prospects being put into employees audio-video capabilities in their homes?
Michael Litt: Absolutely. I love that comment, steak dinners and home studios. I’ll use a very, very clear example. I flew from Toronto to New York on March 16th, 2020 for one meeting and it took me… I left my front door at 3:30 AM, and I walked back in that door at 1:30 AM the following day. And so just under a 24-hour period of my life for one one-hour meeting, a flight that cost, I think, $650 round trip, and a lunch meeting that costs probably somewhere in the area of 150 to $200, plus all of the unproductivity of being on a plane, being in transit, not meeting with other people, not being able to stack your day the way we do now in 30 minute increments of just sheer productivity.
So the total cost of that trip easily, easily goes into the two to $3,000 range when you add in the productivity benefits, et cetera, which just so happens to be roughly the cost of getting a DSLR camera, a nice lens, a laptop stand, a ring light, and the things you need to create very good quality video experiences at home. And the reality is that’s an investment, right? That investment carries forward.
I will never again make that trip to New York for that one meeting because I’ve invested in this high quality experience. I can have that meeting that lasts one hour and immediately after that, get into something internal, get in talking to another partner, any other customer, and all that collectivity loss no longer happens. So the relative efficiency here is absolutely incredible and this is always the promise of technology. It’s lowering the cost of these interactions. And so, yeah, there’s been a massive investment here.
No More Fleeting Moments
And the other piece I would comment on, when you meet in person, that meeting is fleeting. That memory ultimately disappears. But when you’re meeting in digital context, these experiences can be recorded. If you’re thinking about a sales process, not everybody’s available to be in the room. While you record that Zoom meeting, that meeting is now available for those who weren’t present to view it and watch it.
As a sales rep, for instance, that means that you basically leave this kind of lasting version of yourself that sells when you’re onto something else. And so the productivity increase of using recorded video, not withstanding being able to stack meetings, is absolutely incredible, which is why I think this is the way organizations are choosing to be a business moving forwards. And just over the last year, we saw a 300% increase in user growth.
Brent Leary: One of the things that people still don’t get right, or don’t take into consideration when they start using this kind of approach using video to engage, some people get excited because it looks pretty cool. It looks nice. I don’t have to get on a plane. I don’t have to do X amount of different things. But, what things do they not understand or they not fully bake into this before they jump into using this kind of approach?
Michael Litt: One, I think you have to be concise. There’s no question about it. Our lives have become incredibly transactional through the pandemic and because of this ability of stacking meetings and moving on, so the next thing, the next thing, the next thing, the next thing, people have too many meetings in their day. They’re too tied up in stuff.
Whereas we used to have that time and space between meetings and travel just to think, and just to process. A lot of us have filled that with more meetings, more perceived productivity, et cetera. And so what that means is when you’re stepping into the arena of asynchronous video, you have to keep that in mind. And it’s a tool that you need to leverage for very concise, very impactful moments in the process.
Updating the Sales Process with Video
A really great example of this is I’m running a sales process that’s going to involve communicating with a customer via SMS, via email, via recorded video, and via synchronous video. These are kind of the four main channels that I’m using. And you’ll notice that I haven’t included meeting in person.
SMS and texts are great ways of just quick, hey, how’re you doing, quick updates. Maybe we’re trying to coordinate an easy meeting. What we’re doing there is creating a touch point inside of a new channel, a new context with the customer, right? They’ve got their phone on them at all times. If you can build that relationship and get to that point of sending text messages, et cetera, that’s an incredibly productive method of building those types of relationships.
Email is used for longer form engagements and is a method of sharing those asynchronous video files, is a method of sharing the recordings of those synchronous meetings. And each one of those touch points has to be, I think, relevant to where you’re at in the sales process. And it isn’t an invitation to send an hour long video recording and a walkthrough demo that the customer didn’t necessarily ask for.
You have to apply a lot of the same kind of figurative concepts to the way you would run a process and a customer engagement process in person to using these asynchronous tools. But the beautiful thing about them is that you get the chance to rerecord what you said. You get the chance to practice. You get the chance to be concise. And the difference between that and a boardroom meeting is that there’s no do-overs in a boardroom meeting. You go into that meeting and you botch it, that’s it. That’s your single chance.
But, you record a video that doesn’t sound quite right. Maybe you’re being a little too verbose and not concise enough. It’s really easy to recreate that.
Things to Consider Before Diving Into Video for Sales
Brent Leary: What things need to consider before fully integrating asynchronous video into these important processes like sales?
Michael Litt: Yeah, that’s a great comment, Brent. The one thing that digital technologies in the communication stack allow us to do is capture an understanding of who’s clicking those links, who’s opening them, how much time they’re spending in them, and we’ve been able to do that with emails. We’ve been able to do that with links and emails. We’ve been able to do that with white papers, et cetera, for a very long period of time.
The difference with video is that we can see exactly how much of that piece of content was watched, and by whom, which sections of it were re-watched, et cetera. And because video is such a comprehensive medium, because it is so effective at telling a story, and sharing visuals, and taking someone through a journey, that data is incredibly important. We call that digital body language. And so that’s a massive, massive component.
Your point around the close one deal is very accurate, and me being able to open Salesforce and seeing that this deal was won means the rep did all the productive things, but being able to see on that account record which videos were viewed in the process, which customer case studies were effective and totally consumed by the customer and shared by the customer, because that helps marketing understand their investment in those types of resources.
Which sellers are sending videos that the prospect is watching that’s attached to a more successful close rate? How are those sellers communicating in those videos versus ones who are maybe being less productive and less successful?
We’ve got an upcoming integration with Gong, which is going to start to surface some of the material that’s being shared and talked about inside a video for the purposes of better rep coaching.
The cool thing about video is that it again, gives you this express piece of information from what the buyer or the consumer is telling you based on how much of it they watch. But the evolution is that we’re going to be able to provide coaching via this Gong integration to better help sellers and communicators tell their story and learn how to become better at the craft, but based on the data that comes from those viewers as well.
Video and Automation
Brent Leary: Will we get to a point with video that in addition to speech to text transcription, will AI be able to also process the video, analyze and identify most important parts of a 60-minute-long recording, and create the clips for us without us having to manually do it? All of that is a time killer.
Michael Litt: I think so. I think without question. It’s funny, we ran a fun Halloween campaign where we basically profiled a seller with a sales AI that gets added to a Zoom call just like Gong, or Chorus, or any of these applications for Salesloft get added to a Zoom call, but the AI had its own voice and got introduced to the buyer. And by the end of this kind of small 10-minute long kind of spoof video, the AI has locked the sales rep out of the house, and is just totally running the day, and really running the sales conversations because, of course, the house has an automated lock with a ring camera outside and the whole household is kind of fully automated and rich with the AI.
That’s probably an extreme, dystopian version of that, but there’s no doubt that if these applications can tell you in a kind of post-call environment where you were successful, how much time you spent listening, what tools you used, the things you said, how you presented pricing, et cetera, they can do that during the conversation as well.
And we’re at a stage where the computational capabilities of these computers and the sheer amount of data that’s they have in their learning systems can start to surface these recommendations. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it already does exist, and I just am not aware of it, but I would suggest that this type of thing is coming relatively soon because we have the data, and we have the technology, and now it’s just marrying that up with the appropriate experience.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.