Cold calls are still an integral part of the sales game. While many of today’s sales approaches are about researching prospects, building relationships, and ensuring they come back with five-star service, there’s always the need for a cold intro with most customers.
On average, the cold calls you and your team make will result in a sale 6.3% of the time. And even if you switch to a more account-based, referral-based process, your sales reps will spend a good portion of their time making a critical sales pitch that persuades buyers to buy. It might be a cold intro, a warm recommendation for a specific product line, or an upsell — but high-quality sales pitches will always matter. With that in mind, the real question is: how do you ensure those sales pitches are the best they can be?
Personalized one-on-one training sessions can’t be the answer; they take up too many hours. Practicing with genuine leads also doesn’t cut it, as you risk wasting good leads and hurting your organization’s brand. But AI-based tools — which can individually train and assess salespeople at scale — offer an exciting new potential for helping all of your salespeople (rookies and stars alike) hone in on their best pitches. Here, we explore:
- What buyers want to hear and receive from salespeople
- The soft skills and strategies salespeople need most in a post-COVID world
- How AI can help train them on all of those skills, including the most critical set: conversational skills
Buyers Expect a New Type of Service in the Post-COVID World
In an interview with Motley Fool, DocuSign COO Scott Orich said this about the paradigm shift in sales pitching, especially in B2B contexts:
“As reps, before we think about jumping on a plane, we need to think about how we build a relationship and credibility with our customers. A lot of sellers defined themselves at those big meetings. Now we’ve got to be great without them. This is a major shift for sellers.”
Buyers are becoming more comfortable with remote meetings and video calls, especially if they’re B2B purchasers. However, this removes many of the person-to-person sales strategies that many vendors have honed for years. Instead of relying on meetings in hotel conference rooms, dinners, events, and happy hours, sellers will need to hone the communication aspects of their presentation: tone of voice, wording, and (most importantly) active listening. These elements matter more to the buyer because many other parts of a big sales pitch have become obsolete.
The same interview noted these changed buyer expectations and motivations:
- They need empathy: Buyers are looking for sellers who can identify their pain points and develop a valuable solution, not just spin their problems into a pitch.
- They’re facing uncertainty: Buyers are facing tough economic times and they’re under just as much pressure to reduce spending as your teams are to increase revenue. They need to know how your products or services will work precisely, but they don’t want overpromises.
- They want help: We’re talking about sales pitches, of course. But it’s essential to eliminate the context of a sales pitch as a hard sell. Instead, your pitch should be about helping your client. How can you provide the most value for them, even if it doesn’t create the most value for you? How will you be a trusted collaborator? What are you bringing to the table? Buyers are looking for answers to these questions.
How Sellers and Sales Teams Have Adapted to the Changes
Because of all of these changes in buyer behavior, salespeople have to adapt to become the best in their niche. It’s not enough to moderately adopt changes and new best practices. That leaves your organization halfway between “always be closing” and “here’s how we can help” — a sort of toothless uncertainty that allows competitors to muscle in. Successful organizations had seen the changing tide (which was already coming before the COVID-19 pandemic) and started adopting processes:
- Relationship- and account-based selling, which is all about retaining clients for a profitable long-term partnership
- More technology and different channels: Traditional sales efforts involved in-person meetings, calls, and emails. Today’s partially, or fully remote efforts include video chats, emails, calls on phones and computers, customer-facing AI chatbots, and more. Also, they involve more passive sales technology for buyers who like to do research before really being approached, including blog posts, webinars, videos, and reviews.
- Customer success and RevOps do not separate sales, marketing, or customer service teams. The old (and reasonably contentious) silos of sales, marketing, and service were already on their way out. But now they’re getting a more active push. In today’s RevOps structures, sales and marketing teams work together to stay on the same page. Salespeople operate as consultants and account managers. Everything is about the customer experience throughout the whole cycle of sales and product use. Your team’s obligations no longer stop when the signature is on the dotted line.
This new paradigm is intuitive if you’re looking from the outside in. But it’s hard if you’re coming out of years of operating a different way. That’s why training your team on the newest buyer preferences — and training them now — should be your top revenue priority.
But you can’t do that with just the sales manager or a couple of training managers guiding this ship. That’s where AI comes in. Let’s take a closer look.
Related: What Will Happen with AI in 2023
How to Upgrade Your Sales Team Training With AI
AI-powered sales training tools and enablement software incorporate artificial intelligence to help with high-volume or tedious tasks that human operators can’t do or can’t do with the same precision as computers. Some of this you may already have in your company’s tech stack: AI reporting, automatic data entry, and machine learning that can assist with complex lead scoring. These options have been in the news and companies’ systems for years.
But the same underlying principles can just as easily apply to training your salespeople on the right way to do a sales pitch. Sales pitches include hundreds of different variables (such as tone of voice, word choice, pauses, verbal stumbles, use of the buyers’ names, and more) that can all be measured, assessed, and analyzed into either a feedback report or more usefully, into targeted suggestions for the most effective improvement.
Is AI Up to the Challenge?
It almost sounds like magic: analyzing the effectiveness of one human’s sales pitch to another (generally considered a wholly qualitative or ‘artful’ pursuit) is very different from forecasting. But a well-trained AI can break down all the components that make up a “good” sales pitch, score salespeople participating in a simulation, and then give feedback about which metrics need the most improvement.
While buyers and untrained humans can generally gauge whether a pitch was effective, it’s more work to determine why it went well or poorly. Stand-out factors can be easy to identify — “he kept getting my name wrong” or “she knew exactly what problem I was trying to solve” — are helpful feedback, but they aren’t comprehensive. Trained salespeople can pick up even more: too-long pauses, voice quavers, and failure to use the proper terminology for the buyer. Outstanding ones can maybe track multiple factors at once. But AI has far fewer limitations and can track thousands of elements all at once throughout the conversation. People will never be able to do that.
How AI Can Assess Soft Skills and Sales Pitches
AI can assess soft skills by comparing simulations and practice pitches against large databases of properly labeled examples. If a sales rep delivers a speech similar to hundreds of excellent ones in the tone of voice and word speed, the AI knows that this pitch was also fantastic in those attributes. If the degree of active listening exhibited mirrored hundreds of other pitches labeled as “poor quality,” then the AI knows what the sales rep did wrong.
That is a relatively simple overview of the process. Instead of just those two surface-level examples, imagine thousands or tens of thousands of simultaneous conclusions from the AI about a single simulated sales pitch.
How AI Can Train Sales People on Soft Skills and Sales Pitches
Once the AI knows where a sales pitch falls on the spectrum in hundreds of different aspects, it can turn those insights into helpful training advice. Rather than give a sales rep a spreadsheet with hundreds of numbers, it can isolate the metrics that matter most (such as one that needs the most growth or is essential for dozens of secondary attributes) and “fill in the blank” with the right prompts and advice.
Each time, salespeople will get feedback. They can practice again with this feedback in mind and then receive a new score—every exercise results in a sales pitch that gets closer and closer to perfection in a measurable way.
Implement AI-Based Training to Quickly Upskill Your Salespeople and Meet New Buyer Expectations
At Quantified, we’re all about helping sales reps get the measurable assessments and soft skills training they want or need to become more robust sellers in today’s marketplace. Our AI-powered training tool is an expert trainer in the art of sales pitches and conversations. Every team member can receive a baseline behavioral and conversation IQ (C-IQ) score; then, they can immediately improve that score in bite-sized exercises with real-time, objective feedback. Schedule a demo to see it put into practice.