The effectiveness of a company’s sales force has historically had a major, if not decisive, impact on its ability to grow its revenues, profits, and market share. Although recent years have seen significant changes in the ways buyers approach their purchasing decisions, effective selling remains an indispensable key to marketplace success.
In today’s increasingly challenging sales environment, the use of AI for sales calls is becoming a game changer. Selling today is much harder than it used to be, according to 69% of respondents to a recent Salesforce survey. So sellers need to be better prepared than ever in terms of their product, industry, and customer knowledge as well as their selling skills. Yet, according to statistics collected by Spotio, more than half of today’s sales reps lack basic selling skills.
So we’re at an exact moment in time where employing AI for sales calls and sales training can be transformative.
The Importance of Leveraging AI for Sales Calls
Issues such as supply chain disruptions and rising inflation have made today’s sales environment significantly more challenging. In response to such conditions, as well as to advancements in digital technology that provide easy access to a wide range of information, buyers have become more demanding in what they require from the salespeople with whom they interact.
Today’s corporate buyers are no longer content to follow the traditional pattern of essentially waiting for sales reps to contact them and try to sell them on a product. Instead, they’ve become far more proactive and independent. They often start by conducting their own product research and, according to Spotio’s statistics, will have already gathered 57-70% of the information they need before ever contacting a sales organization.
When they finally do meet with a sales rep, they demand a high degree of added value from that person’s input. Meeting those demands requires deep preparation by reps to understand the needs and pain points of customers and to create presentations that address those needs.
Yet, as Spotio reports, 42% of reps feel they don’t have enough information before making a sales call, and 58% of buyers say reps aren’t able to answer their questions effectively. Plus, reps often struggle during sales calls due to inadequate training (only 32% say they’ve received excellent sales training or coaching).
Today’s AI sales enablement solutions can help sellers overcome both of these challenges. First, such platforms provide reps with sophisticated information retrieval and analysis tools that make pre-sales call research far quicker, more efficient, and more comprehensive than was previously possible. Plus, AI-based sales training and coaching can help reps incorporate new selling skills that make them more effective in their interactions with customers.
Why Traditional Approaches to Selling Fall Short
In today’s environment, traditional approaches to preparing for and conducting sales calls are no longer adequate. But the use of AI for sales calls and training can bridge the gap.
Historically, salespeople have started the sales process by researching possible prospects to understand their customers’ needs and pain points. Reps then reach out to qualified prospects by phone, email, or text message in the hope of scheduling a meeting in which they’ll be able to give a presentation or product demonstration. Finally, if the sale isn’t closed during the first meeting, the rep follows up to continue to cultivate the prospect.
This traditional process can be time-consuming, inefficient, and costly. On average, it takes between five and eight contact attempts to even initiate a conversation or meeting with a new prospect. Multiple additional contacts are normally required because 80% of sales aren’t closed until the fifth to twelfth contact. As Spotio reports, with the average in-person sales call costing $308, and each inside sales contact costing about $50, the traditional process can be both tedious and expensive.
And the sales training picture isn’t any better. The average company spends $2,020 per salesperson on sales training each year. Yet, 26% of reps believe the training they receive is ineffective. And they have a point—research shows that between 85% and 90% of traditional sales training has no lasting impact after 120 days.
How AI is Changing the Sales Equation
Today’s advanced AI-based sales enablement solutions can have a huge impact in mitigating the deficiencies of traditional approaches to selling.
AI is being used to automate procedures, such as data entry, report generation, and repetitive workflows, thereby giving reps more time to devote to preparing for their selling encounters. Perhaps more importantly, today’s advanced AI is helping reps to improve the efficiency, depth, and comprehensiveness of that preparation.
According to McKinsey, the key to success in today’s sales environment is for sellers to “find customers by harnessing comprehensive data on customer intent preferences, and deploying analytics that translate those insights into impact.” AI sales platforms excel at digesting huge amounts of information to deliver concise and relevant insights concerning customer needs and behaviors. By providing more time and better information, an AI sales enablement solution can multiply a rep’s effectiveness—according to the Salesforce survey, high-performing reps are 1.9x more likely than others to use AI.
However, the biggest impact of AI on a company’s sales effectiveness may well be in the area of sales training.
How Advancements in AI Technology are Impacting Sales Training
In its sales statistics report, Spotio makes a critical point:
“Untrained salespeople doom companies. Organizations that spend more time training reps see better sales numbers.”
As we’ve seen, most traditional sales training is ineffective. But why is that the case? A recent Forbes article provides an answer:
“One of the most compelling reasons why sales training programs fail is that there isn’t enough reinforcement in the form of coaching to make the training stick…salespeople forget the skills and knowledge they have gleaned.”
The problem is that most traditional sales training focuses on imparting information rather than changing selling behaviors through one-on-one coaching that enables reps to learn by doing. As a recent PhD dissertation declares, both research and practical experience demonstrate that sales coaching is vital to improving a salesperson’s job performance.
Yet, only about 15% of sales managers believe their organizations provide adequate coaching for their sales force. The problem is time. Sales managers, who typically are responsible for coaching their teams, simply don’t have enough time to provide the individual attention their reps need.
But today’s advanced, AI-enabled sales training solutions, with their ability to quantitatively assess each individual’s selling behaviors and interactions, can do exactly that and do it at scale.
How AI Technology Transforms Sales Training
Modern AI sales training platforms, especially when combined with cutting-edge advancements, such as the human-like language capabilities of generative AI chatbots, can substantially automate the coaching process. They do so by involving reps in highly realistic role-play simulations. Role-play is a key ingredient of the coaching process. As a McKinsey report notes:
“All high-performing sales organizations that we encountered also make extensive use of role-playing as a coaching technique.”
An AI platform can enact personalized role-play simulations that are keyed to each rep’s individual learning style and improvement needs. Reps record themselves interacting with a virtual customer in a typical sales call scenario while they practice the selling skills they want to acquire or improve.
Benefits of AI-Enabled Role-Play for Sales Calls
Because the virtual customer (usually represented by a realistic avatar) is AI-enabled, it is an active participant in the simulated sales call, asking and answering questions or perhaps raising objections in response to what the rep says or does, just as a real customer might.
When a simulation is completed, the AI coach analyzes the video/audio record of the session and produces immediate, quantitative, objective feedback that the rep can use in correcting mistakes or improving specific behaviors. Because the rep can run the simulation whenever and as often as they desire, they can practice new skills over and over until they are mastered.
One of the greatest benefits of this approach is that the AI provides an objective analysis of a rep’s behavior without the sales manager or coworkers having to be present. Because AI-based role-playing can be done in private, reps don’t feel intimidated by having to perform, and perhaps make embarrassing mistakes, under the watchful gaze of their sales manager or peers. Plus, the rep can have confidence that the AI’s evaluation is entirely objective and not an opinion that might have been affected by a human observer’s personality, prejudices, or mood.
AI-based sales coaching allows sales team members to practice and get feedback on the exact skills they want to improve, in a safe and convenient environment. And that translates directly to increased confidence and competence as they engage in real sales calls in the field.
AI for Sales Calls and Training Changes the Game for Sales Teams
Using AI for sales calls in general, and for sales training and coaching in particular, allows sellers to prepare themselves more efficiently and comprehensively for successful selling, saving their companies time and money while increasing sales (Spotio’s statistics reveal that every dollar a company invests in effective sales training returns $29 in incremental revenues).If you’d like to see how AI sales training can be a game changer for your company, a good place to start is with the Quantified Simulator. It’s a state-of-the-art AI sales training platform that uses the product, customer, and conversation data you supply to enact highly realistic role-play simulations. It then analyzes those sessions to provide accurate metrics that will help your sellers steadily improve their skills. To request a demo, please contact us today.