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4 Ways to Prepare for AI-Assisted Sales

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Artificial intelligence (AI) for sales – buzzword or solution?

It’s here, and it’s real. AI-driven sales tech is emerging as a practical answer for many of the challenges facing sales leaders, trainers, managers, coaches, and sales enablement pros.

B2B sales is evolving, and the Zoom boom of 2020 has only accelerated those changes. AI simply helps you make better business decisions. But if AI is the future of sales, how do you position your organization today to take advantage of it?

How to prepare your team to embrace AI-assisted sales

AI adoption challenges remain a roadblock for many businesses. Three quarters of executives report they struggle with how to scale artificial intelligence. To leverage the power of AI-assisted sales, organizations must first prepare their sellers for this technological revolution. Here are four things you need to know.

1. Start with why

In the words of Simon Sinek, “starting with why” can help teams find greater clarity and change the way businesses operate. And when it comes to AI, a mental reset is necessary.

This is because when salespeople hear about AI, they often react strongly in one of two ways. The first reaction is that AI is the “big brother” that management is bringing in to keep tabs on reps. Today, for example, some companies are using AI to monitor how many hours employees are actually working by secretly analyzing their webcams.

The second common reaction is that AI is a joke: untested, unproven, and often wrong. Many believe that when it comes to sales coaching, AI-generated feedback is either going to be a waste of time at best and wrong at worst.

But managers want the ability to record and listen to calls. That’s difficult to do at scale because they’re so busy. Having an AI assistant to point to the calls that need coaching is immensely valuable.

The way to address this is to clearly communicate why AI coaching can be useful. AI needs to be positioned as an assistant, not to replace insight from peers and managers, but as a way to point out places in a sales conversation where language, tonality, subject matter, and more could be improved.

“When reps know their calls are being observed, and they also have AI to give them feedback, we create a model where AI is not threatening but truly an assistant to the rep,” says Chester Liu, VP of Growth at Allego.

AI can be used beneficially to reduce filler words, improve self-confidence, and help reps stay both on-message and on-process. When you explain how AI allows sales managers to review more calls and provide more precise feedback that directly benefits each individual seller and allows them to close more deals, they’ll understand the why.

2. Foster a data-driven mindset

To pave the way for AI use, your organization must have a culture that relies on data as well as intuition and experience. Successful data-driven companies embed data into core business functions and have a “data culture” that permeates the company from the top down.

“My motto is ‘People don’t do what you expect, they do what you inspect,’” Liu says.

Sales leaders can influence their teams to be data-driven in a number of ways. This includes being transparent about using your data to make decisions and making sure everyone on the team who needs access to data has it. Be strategic about which metrics you want to measure. These will rise to the forefront of your team’s attention.

Practical suggestions for putting data front and center include creating dashboards that include relevant metrics such as number of meetings and number of sales qualified opportunities for inside sales reps or number (or percent) of reps making quota and wins / losses against competitors for account executives.

“Making data highly visible drives behavior. The fact that I make the ADR metrics very public means they will make their calls and emails because they see it and know that others are looking at it as well,” says Liu. “We lead off every week with a review of metrics. They know I will show it and discuss it.”

Be clear about the metrics you want your team to measure and report on and start meetings by reviewing metrics as a team as part of a larger conversation of deals in progress.

3. Evaluate your sales tech

AI-assisted selling requires that the recommendations be easily accessible in the flow of work for managers and sellers. To meet the goal of just-in-time, personalized guidance, your solution must be device agnostic.

The challenge is understanding the rapidly evolving market of sales technologies in which mergers and new rounds of funding fuel product innovation and constantly change the options sales leaders can consider.

Today’s sales enablement platforms use AI to scale coaching, content recommendations, and drive learning and knowledge retention. AI is used extensively to automatically transcribe seller conversations and provide analytics to managers such as messaging adherence, rate of speech, talk time ratios, themes, and other metrics.

Begin by conducting an audit of your current sales tools to get a holistic view of the capabilities you have in-house. Most organizations use multiple tools but the core tech stack typically includes an LMS, CMS, coaching tool, reinforcement tool, and call coaching. Managing multiple tools is costly from an administrative and financial perspective.

Next, identify management challenges or perennial problem spots that can be improved or scaled with the use of AI. Educate yourself on current tools by reading analyst reports to understand the current landscape. Consider an all-in-one sales enablement solution that offers AI-driven learning, content, collaboration, and coaching

4. Train your team

The inner workings of the best AI-powered solutions are invisible to their users, simply surfacing recommendations without the need for a degree in computer science. One of AI’s most powerful benefits is the ability to generate next-best-actions based on call performance. But you and your team must be set up for success with training to fully leverage these.

AI works best when it applies a consistent set of rules around how reps should articulate your core positioning, messaging, and differentiation. By analyzing recorded calls and identifying terms such as specific topics, competitors, buyer objections, for example, AI can give sellers suggestions for appropriate buyer content to follow up with, personalized coaching, and remediation training.

To enable reps to move deals forward with AI-powered recommendations you must train them first. Begin by preparing your team with sessions on your platform’s capabilities, how to access the recommendations, and how to interpret and act on them. Work with your vendor to develop training materials and courses. Familiarize yourself and your team with platform interfaces and dashboards.

Next, create lists of preferred phrases, keywords, and desired behaviors. AI can help call out areas of improvement when you can’t listen to every call. Once you identify triggers and automate the coaching, you can push out reminders automatically.

For example, you may want your sellers to use “investment” instead of “cost” and then reinforce this behavior by sending sellers a remedial video, explaining why you want to talk about investment instead of cost. Or on early stage calls, you may want to identify when a product or competitor name is being mentioned before the deal moves into the pipeline. This can trigger key points to remember when up against that competitor.

Using AI is an iterative process. Your platform (and you) will get smarter, more precise, and more helpful over time as you refine the topics and behaviors you want to influence.

Embrace the potential of AI

To be successful with AI-assisted sales, organizations must first accept, then adopt, and finally embrace AI. The more that your company establishes an analytics and data-centric mindset now, the easier it will be for sellers and other revenue-generating teams to transition to the future of AI-assisted virtual selling.

The business of sales is changing. Those relying on traditional approaches will be left behind. The most successful sales teams will adapt to the changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, implementing sales enablement solutions with strong AI capabilities.

Those who do adapt are poised to be high performers able to drive greater revenue for their companies. Buyers will win, too. Sellers will become valuable partners who provide critical education and information on the path to purchase.

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