In today’s highly competitive business environment, the companies that reap the greatest marketplace benefits find ways to optimize their sales organization’s performance. Research shows that businesses that do a good job of honing the skills of their sales staff perform 17% better than those that don’t. That’s why many organizations now consider using artificial intelligence (AI) in sales enablement indispensable for boosting revenues.
In this article, we look at why an effective sales enablement process is critical for increasing revenues and how today’s highly sophisticated, AI-enabled sales coaching platforms can lift a company’s sales enablement efforts to previously unattainable heights.
The Importance of AI in Sales Enablement
Gartner explains the concept of sales enablement this way:
“Sales enablement is the process of providing the sales organization with the information, content and tools that help salespeople sell more effectively… Sales enablement is key in scaling the sales organization beyond a handful of overachievers. It provides all salespeople with the best practices, knowledge, tools and resources required to be successful.”
A modern AI platform can substantially improve a company’s sales enablement efforts. At the most basic level, it can be used to automate sales data analyses and other aspects of the selling process. But far more importantly, it can help your team members change their behavior to maximize their sales effectiveness. That’s because the way sales reps interact on a personal level with customers significantly impacts their ability to sell, beyond the tools they use or the knowledge they display.
The best way for reps to acquire needed people skills is through coaching by a more experienced colleague, usually a sales manager. But most sales managers simply don’t have the time to work individually with each rep to provide personalized instruction and feedback to help them make the behavioral changes that lead to greater sales success. In fact, almost half of sales managers (47%) spend less than a half hour per week coaching each individual on their sales teams.
That’s where AI in sales enablement can be a game changer. It allows you to provide highly personalized coaching at scale throughout your organization. While the amount of time and attention a human coach can devote to training a sales rep is severely limited, AI coaches have no limits on the amount of time they can spend working individually with each of your reps.
The Importance of Soft Skills in Sales Enablement
An effective sales enablement process will impart both hard and soft skills. Hard skills focus on objective information and targeted procedures relating to the sales environment, including, for example, comprehensive knowledge about the product, industry, and customer. On the other hand, soft skills have to do with how a salesperson interacts with customers on a personal level. Here’s how one industry authority explains the concept:
“Soft skill is the ability to interact in a socially acceptable way, communicate effectively, listen, manage time effectively, and exhibit empathy.”
Although many companies focus their sales training on effectively teaching hard skills, soft skills have a greater impact on sales success. M.S. Rao, Ph.D., the Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, puts it this way:
“Both soft and hard skills are essential for organizations to achieve their goals and objectives. Given the choice between the two, it is soft skills that are more important than hard skills. It is easy to teach hard skills but tough to train soft skills to employees”
Imparting soft skills is much more difficult than teaching hard skills. Helping sales reps improve their ability to “communicate effectively, listen, manage time effectively, and exhibit empathy” requires changing behavioral habits that may have been built up over a lifetime. That can only be done through regular, personalized coaching. But, as we’ve seen, it’s simply not practical for busy sales managers to provide the type of individualized, hands-on coaching that sales reps need.
How AI Can Help Your Team Gain the Soft Skills They Need
Gartner expert Dave Egloff describes how sales coaching should ideally be done:
“Sales managers should observe the seller in action. Soon after, the manager can constructively identify what went well, and what could be improved… If development is needed, focus on what needs to improve and connect the seller to how they can improve.”
In practice, such a program would require that sales managers either accompany reps on calls or review hours of audio or video recordings of actual sales calls made by their reps. Then they would need to create true-to-life selling scenarios that allow reps to improve by practicing appropriate behaviors for each situation. Finally, the sales manager would have to provide personalized feedback for each rep to guide the behavioral changes needed for improvement.
As mentioned, very few busy sales managers have the time (or the skills) to implement such a program consistently. But with AI in sales enablement, you can do exactly that.
How AI Sales Enablement Software Works with Your Sales Team
A state-of-the-art AI sales enablement platform will be equipped to analyze video and audio recordings of actual or simulated interactions between individual reps and customers. It can then objectively evaluate the salesperson’s visual and vocal delivery and the messaging content presented to the customer.
When it’s not possible or appropriate to record real customer interactions, the AI platform can set up highly realistic simulated scenarios based on the information you supply about your products and customers. And it can customize those scenarios to enact typical sales conversations by incorporating specific questions you want the simulated customer to ask.
What allows AI sales enablement platforms to work such magic is a comprehensive machine learning training regime that involves reviewing and analyzing a large number of video and audio recordings of actual (or realistically simulated) interactions between salespeople and customers. The training scenarios are chosen to highlight both best and worst practices.
The AI platform calculates metrics that quantitatively describe specific behaviors observed in its training scenarios. It then uses those metrics to evaluate the behaviors exhibited by your reps during their real or simulated interactions with customers, providing them with individualized feedback and recommendations to help them improve.
AI Training Lets Your Reps Take Ownership of Their Development
To build a training program that makes the best use of AI-based sales enablement, sales managers should work with their team members to develop personalized goals and action plans for improvement. As one Gartner report declares,
“Personalized role-based training becomes a real possibility as organizations use machine learning to identify an individual’s learning style and then present them information in the way they can best use it.”
It’s important to recognize that AI in sales enablement assists—but doesn’t replace—the sales manager or coach. No cyber coach can provide the personal touch vital for maintaining sales reps’ morale and engagement throughout the training process—that’s something only an empathetic human colleague can do.
But what AI technology can do better than humans is to deliver individualized sales coaching at scale. An AI sales coach can guide reps through a personalized improvement process based on each individual’s learning style. It’s available whenever team members want to engage with it, 24 hours a day. And they don’t even have to be on-site—they can access the system from any internet-enabled device wherever they may be.
Individuals can record themselves practicing new behaviors to improve their interactions with customers. The AI can then objectively and quantitatively assess how well the rep performed, showing them how they compare to peers and to the ideal behaviors exhibited by master sellers. Reps can iterate through the process again and again, implementing changes at their own pace and checking to see how they did until they master needed behaviors. And they can do so in private, without the pressure of a manager looking over their shoulder.
The fact that reps can engage in AI-based training when they want to and receive immediate, objective, personalized, and confidential feedback is critically important. It allows them to make guided adjustments to their selling behaviors, see the results of each change, and be encouraged by their progress. The result is that reps are more likely to feel they are in control of their improvement program—that they, in effect, own it. And that, in turn, means they are more likely to remain committed to the process.
The Importance of Having the Right AI Platform
One of the best opportunities today’s businesses have for boosting revenues is by leveraging AI to maximize the effectiveness of their sales enablement programs. When sales reps relate more naturally and empathetically with customers, the natural result is more sales. So, it’s not surprising that the software marketplace website G2 reports that 84% of their reps meet their quotas when employers provide best-in-class sales enablement software.
One solution that fully merits that “best-in-class” label is the Quantified AI sales enablement platform. Quantified measures more than a thousand behaviors across 24 conversation skills to assess how an individual rep is performing. It provides precisely the kind of data-based, individualized coaching that has proven effective in helping sellers improve their performance. Those measurements produce standardized scores and rankings that allow reps to improve by comparing themselves with—and emulating the selling behaviors of—the top sales performers across your organization. Contact us today to see how you can boost your company’s revenue by leveraging Quantified’s state-of-the-art AI capabilities.