Sales Readiness Tools: The Role of AI-Based Training

Computer with Sales Readiness Tools

Sales Readiness Tools for Virtual Sales Interactions

Regardless of their industry, sales teams around the world have been forced to transform their sales-readiness programs. In the process, sales managers have found the way they deliver training has become even more pivotal

The following data from Harvard Business Review (HBR) can be helpful in illustrating current sales dynamics:

Despite changes, the marketing-sales process remains the same

In order to complete the sale, first, a digital engagement must take place, followed by targeted seller interaction. Historically, the goals of more robust sales and marketing integration have been to move deals through those steps as seamlessly as possible and eliminate friction. They’re also aimed at aligning metrics and data. Sometimes, even incentives and reporting structures that ensure the handoff from digital to human sales goes smoothly. This reality continues as of today.

Digital buying dominates, with limitations 

However, with B2B buying evolving to more digitally-driven behavior, much of the above commercial model is out of date. Take a look at the following Gartner research, from a pre-pandemic survey of 750 B2B customer stakeholders involved in complex solutions purchases, cited by the same HBR reference above: 

  • Customer interactions with supplier sales teams account for only 17% of total buying time. 
  • A majority of their purchases constituted independent online learning (27%), independent offline learning (18%), and building consensus across a wide range of internal and external stakeholder groups (22% and 11%, respectively).
  • Even though it is a small percentage, this 17% of purchase activity represents all suppliers rather than each individual supplier. Sales teams have only a very small window of opportunity to interact with customers directly – perhaps 5 to 6% of total decision consideration time.

Sales reps have less time to interact with clients than ever before 

Those few moments of direct interaction pose the biggest challenge to many sales leaders today. In general, companies have less in-person access to their prospects, making it difficult for them to influence purchase decisions and shape customer preferences.

It becomes imperative to have a well-trained sales team with skills relevant to building meaningful connections in such an environment. New sales readiness tools should be held to a higher standard and, most importantly, incorporate an automated and scaled digital training and coaching component.

Related: Leveraging AI for Better Sales Conversation Training & Coaching

How Are Sales Leaders Preparing to Improve Sales Readiness?

A number of forward-looking sales managers are preparing to make a permanent transition to virtual sales. Despite a gradual return to some in-person activities, this approach will remain for the foreseeable future. Such change implies fine-tuning sales readiness tools.

According to Gartner, chief sales officers (CSOs) are preparing for a more permanent shift to a virtual selling reality. 

  • By the end of 2021, CSOs expected 58% of their sales force to be virtual (up from 24% pre-pandemic). 
  • Over a third of CSOs plan to permanently move some or all of their field salespeople into virtual roles, and another third is considering it. 
  • There is no doubt that progressive sales enablement leaders are developing sales teams for a far more significant virtual sales presence than was anticipated before the pandemic began. 

A part of this change is deeply understanding the concept of sales readiness and how it differs from sales enablement. Sales enablement encompasses activities and responsibilities that impact the entire sales process to increase results and productivity. On the other hand, sales readiness focuses on certifying that salespeople have the skills and knowledge necessary to have effective conversations during the entire buyer’s journey. 

A technological solution featuring Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based behavioral coaching plays an instrumental role in the sales readiness tools update process. Readiness aims to prepare sales representatives to close more and higher-value deals. In addition, it implies conducting productive, engaging, and credible conversations that leave customers and prospects happy and motivated.

Training should be a priority if you decide to use a readiness-driven approach. The proper training-focused sales readiness tools can enable your reps to practice the new messaging, body language, and facial expressions on their own. Instead of manually assessing sales representatives during live role plays, advanced conversation intelligence solutions will allow you to evaluate representatives automatically and objectively, whether at home or anywhere else a video call takes place. At the same time, it will let them predict, with high accuracy, how customers will respond to them.

Sales Readiness: Get Started

By now, you know more about the current landscape and have a clear understanding of what sales readiness is; you can now put together a quick list of tasks you can start working on. It is essential to prepare your sales teams and each rep with the skills necessary to have quality conversations every time.

These action items can help you get started besides updating the sales readiness tools that prioritize training, as mentioned above.

1) Give importance to effective coaching

Training and coaching goals go hand in hand. It is evident that if you must include sales readiness tools focused on training, you must also refine your skills and tools to provide effective coaching. An advanced technology solution can help you tackle both with precision, automation – and at scale.

Adding a cutting-edge platform to your efforts can be an excellent approach.

Related: What to Look for in an Online Sales Training Platform

2) Review training-based sales readiness tools

This guide has made evident that training is a significant component of sales readiness. Obviously, your sales reps must understand your business, your industry, and the products or services you sell. Besides learning these key concepts, they also need to retain and refresh information constantly. But these skills are just the start.

There is also a fundamental component to training, which is soft skills. Until recently, it was not possible to detect or measure them without manual and subjective processes that consume a lot of your time and are not scalable across a sales organization. Therefore, their importance in educational programs was not so great.

Today, these skills are highly valued, and the right technology can help you spot, enhance, and assess them in real-time and at scale. Next, you will receive advice on the features an ideal tool should have.

Features to Look for in Training-Focused Sales Readiness Tools

The way people communicate changed forever in 2020. In today’s world, video conferencing is no longer a trend. It has become the new norm for businesses across many diverse industries, and sales teams are no exception. 

As it turns out, even though these new virtual channels pose a number of challenges, companies are now more in control of their teams’ communication abilities than ever before. If your organization wants to take its sales ability and readiness from great to extraordinary, read the following information to learn what you need from an effective training tool.

1) Advanced technology that is at the forefront of its field

Today, there is a solution that combines AI with behavioral science and experiential learning to provide you with a comprehensive and practical system to develop your reps’ skills in a way that’s effective, scalable and personalized. You can gain deep, objective insight into what is working and what isn’t working so even the best salespeople can learn how to improve their performance.

The traditional methods of training salespeople do not enable you to develop this capability. Through interactive, experiential learning platforms, you will be able to gather the most accurate and reliable data. As well as enhancing the communication and relationship-building skills of your team on a continuous basis, you will also be able to provide valuable advice and guidance.

It is essential that you have a world-class platform that provides the following features in order to facilitate the design of your readiness-minded training program:

  • Experiential learning
  • Milestone motivators
  • Video and transcript library
  • Behavioral assessments
  • Personalized feedback
  • Aspirational and competitive benchmarking
  • Role-based scenarios
  • Guided learning journeys
  • Progress tracker
  • Tips and best practices

A platform should be much more than just another online course. By leveraging sight, sound, and language data from real conversations, the platform should identify skills gaps and opportunities for improvement.

2) Capabilities for assessment, development and improvement

It is not enough just to pick a background and clothes that would enable your reps’ video communication to succeed. You will want to pay attention to the way your salespeople say things as well as their body language, tone and likeability just as much, if not more, than what they say. 

The effectiveness of their argument will depend on the delivery of it, which is what determines whether their speech closes the sale or fails to do so. Whether they are selling in person or online is irrelevant. 

With video conferencing technology, salespeople will likely have to confront several new challenges, including a less personal interaction, in order to engage, convince, and inspire prospective customers.

Suppose you have a science-driven, training-focused sales readiness tool. In that case, it can provide you with a way of analyzing individual speakers both in person and virtually and giving them feedback to compare their performance over the two channels.

It may also be able to assist you in identifying specific communication characteristics and how they align and differ from those for in-person communication and virtual interactions in general. With these key insights in hand, you’ll be able to coach your team to deliver a more effective message both through screens and in in-person scenarios.

If you choose the right tool, you will be able to discover how your sales organization and individual reps can improve and learn, pinpointing where gaps exist and what you can do to overcome them. It will also allow you to generate individual development plans that you can use to create long-term behavioral change among your managers, reps and future talent based on your goals and objectives. 

Your organization could benefit from a powerful training tool focused on sales readiness that automatically tracks and analyzes connections for organizational improvement, delivering metrics to support achieving goals.

3) Integrations

You can seamlessly gather the data you need to provide salespeople personalized feedback and coaching by connecting the training-focused sales readiness tool to the solutions you already use. The best way to maximize the benefits of such a platform is to integrate it with your video conferencing, calendaring, customer relationship management, and other systems.

4) Incorporated reporting capabilities

You will be able to demonstrate measurable results and identify skills gaps throughout the organization by using analytics and reporting. Your sales reps will be able to improve their productivity and potentially close more sales by using a training-focused sales readiness tool that will offer them the relevant, personal information and feedback they need. The tool will provide versatile reporting and resources for reps to improve their performance.

Be Sales Readiness-Ready with the Help of AI

By using the right sales-readiness platform with personalized feedback, you can train your sales team with effective communication skills, such as how to listen and ask the right questions. You can use the tool to provide your sales team with self-directed practice scenarios and guided practice so they can improve their skills and exceed their sales plans.

Quantified’s AI technology helps sales reps close more deals by allowing them to establish better human connections than they ever have before. Our software supports a broader range of sales readiness functions than simple training. Our AI-based solution analyzes customer-facing conversations, scores the performance along behavioral dimensions, and provides your people with automated feedback, coaching, and measurement, enabling your people to become top performers. 

Boost your sales reps’ communications and drive their results by using Quantified’s unique personal analytics, feedback, and development plans. Request a demo now.