A sales team is the heart of the revenue engine for any business, but only a well-trained sales team can provide the level of growth your organization needs. G2 puts the importance of sales training in much starker terms: “Effective sales coaching can improve win rates by as much as 29%. If your sales reps don’t feel they are learning and growing in your organization, you risk losing upwards of 60% of your entire workforce within four years.” But how do you get there? In a hyper-competitive hiring market where everything from salaries to bonuses to employee culture and hybrid work models makes finding and retaining the right team harder than ever, where is the room for training? When your organization sticks to traditional sales training programs, it can be an impossible dilemma: training is expensive and time-intensive but must be done. Great sales training means your top performers might be poached, but you must provide the best possible training. In this guide, we’ll examine the flaws of traditional sales training, which can tie back to all of these drawbacks, and how AI-powered sales training outperforms outdated models. More than providing training that leads to increased sales, making the switch can resolve company culture, burnout, and turnover issues. Let’s take a look.
A Quick History of Traditional Sales Training
Sales have been part of human societies even before the first currency was invented, with people bartering goods for different goods and services. Market squares, coins, and accounting gradually developed throughout history. More recently, other notable figures have popped up in glamorized sales history, from Benjamin Franklin launching his insurance company to Frank Woolworth using a now-standard pearl of sales wisdom: the 50% off sale.
Toward the middle of the 20th century, even Ivy league universities were offering sales courses, though modern counterparts focused more on entrepreneurship and business than pure sales. This leaves book writers, gurus, and companies as the primary sales strategies and tactics teachers. Over the past fifty years, it’s become even more entrenched as the responsibility of companies to train, retrain, and push salespeople to adopt best practices.
Most Common Methods of Sales Training
In many organizations, sales training looks like a four- to eight-week “course” for BDRs and entry-level sales reps, where they’re rapidly pushed through product information courses, cold-calling routines, and training sessions on company systems. Sales managers train groups of new employees and provide one-on-one coaching when they can. HR, more senior sales reps, and sales support staff are sometimes roped in to provide greater context. Eventually, new sales reps are unleashed on leads for “real-world” practice; these might be cold, warm, or purchased leads. As technology catches up, traditional sales methods improve but don’t substantively change. Some of the most common forms of sales training are:
- In-person instructor-led training with an experienced sales rep delivering information to a group of new salespeople
- Virtual instructor-led training follows the same model but can be either live or pre-recorded for easier access
- Digital sales training often comes in modules of information that sales reps are later tested on
Individual coaching might also occur as part of a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) or if the organization assigns mentors to incoming sales reps. These are all signs of a system making do with limited resources. In traditional sales training paradigms, companies must train sales reps to make them valuable to the organization. Still, they must balance that with the need to keep the revenue coming.
Limitations of Traditional Sales Training
You’ve probably seen the drawbacks and limitations of traditional sales training in your current organization or your past roles at different companies: they aren’t efficient for improving sales or retaining top-quality salespeople. Some of the specific limitations traditional sales training incurs are:
Sporadic Training Sessions
Aside from a new-hire training camp, many salespeople don’t receive consistent or ongoing training. There may be annual reviews or quarterly updates for new products, but most sales reps are left without a way to grow their skills or try new tactics. This is especially difficult in organizations that have sales managers provide their training. Sales managers have duties that often must be prioritized over training; good sales managers also don’t necessarily possess the ability to provide good training.
This sporadic schedule also means training over new products, add-ons, and revenue goals will either be late or never happen.
Lack of Personalized Coaching
En-masse coaching is good for the basics, but that’s where it ends. Experienced sales reps (as well as sales reps in specific niches) need personalized training to refine their techniques. In-person training demands one-on-one setups. But even sales coaching might not be able to hone in on precisely the right teaching points.
Dull or Generalized Content and Exercises
General sales training doesn’t engage sales reps. The content is often dull, passive, and repetitive, especially for employees who have previously gone through sales training with your organization (or at previous employers’ organizations). When disengaged from the outset, they won’t pick up on minor differences in your processes. This can also contribute to general employee unhappiness. Remember G2’s statistic from the beginning of this article: when employees aren’t growing and progressing, they’ll leave.
Competitors Are Moving Onto Better Training Paradigms
Many organizations already know these flaws—and are acting to eliminate them. You might see your business falling behind if your organization tries to muscle through inefficient, traditional processes.
How AI-Powered Sales Coaching Is Changing the Game
The core underlying problem with traditional sales training is that it’s inefficient, which manifests in delays, disconnect, and disengagement. But AI-powered sales coaching through online platforms addresses many of those shortcomings. Let’s explore this new paradigm and how it can directly counter the drawbacks of your current processes.
What Is AI-Powered Sales Coaching?
AI-powered sales coaching platforms are online tools that create personalized training courses for sales professionals. The system considered your organization’s industry, unique needs, preferred sales strategies, and goals. Then it builds increasingly personalized profiles on each of its users: each sales rep’s strengths, weaknesses, habits, and more — to curate and outright create different learning opportunities. Because it is AI-powered, it can quickly learn from patterns and trends to provide objective feedback, decide the following steps, and make rigorous practice sessions or assessments targeting where sales reps need to grow.
Underneath that layer of interactive performance is data collection. AI-powered sales coaching platforms amass data about users’ performance, training frequency, metrics, and more. Companies can ensure their sales teams are progressing and have objective data for performance reviews, forecasting sales outcomes, and more.
Benefits of AI-Powered Sales Coaching
While that overview already highlights many of the ways each level of your organization benefits from AI-powered sales coaching, consider these benefits in more depth:
24/7 Availability and Access
Sales reps can’t access their mentors or managers 24/7. But online platforms grant 24/7 employee access so sales reps can complete training at times that fit their schedules. That availability can also help ambitious salespeople move through training exercises faster to level up and land more sales. It also enables you to ensure remote sales forces and field agents stay on the same page regarding techniques, promotions, and standard operating procedures. Your management teams will also have 24/7 access to data for last-minute employee insights and information you can pull up during late-night Zoom calls.
Personalized Content and Coaching
AI-powered platforms can devote virtually endless space and energy to analyzing each sales rep’s unique strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and growth to ensure they get the most effective training possible. Employees will be able to learn in the best formats and interactions for their learning profile, and they won’t need to waste time on skills they’ve already mastered. This makes training more engaging, helpful, and streamlined, transforming it from training to coaching. To succeed, sales reps need to find their unique selling style within your company’s framework, and AI-powered instruction is built to help.
AI simulation also focuses on the company- or industry-specific details.
When employees can see measurable improvements in their sales abilities, they’ll become more engaged in the process and are much more likely to complete the training without dragging their heels. They also stay more engaged in their career at your organization (especially if you combine advanced learning opportunities with advanced money-making potential.
Everyone learns best when they can get immediate insights and feedback. An AI platform provides in-the-moment feedback so sales professionals can quickly adapt and integrate new methods into their standard approaches in any scenario. Along with immediacy, AI platforms guarantee greater objectivity. Assessments won’t be clouded by subjectivity, either due to workplace politics or the subjective sales preferences of a training manager.
The objective feedback, especially accumulated over time, also sets the groundwork for robust profiles on employee performance, growth, and potential. Managers and leadership teams can better evaluate star performers and lackluster agents to determine the right action.
On an organization-wide level, AI platforms also learn what approaches your company prefers so it can replicate training results across large sales teams and regional branches. You can also standard “go live” metrics for new salespeople so they can meet their goals and start engaging genuine leads based on their capabilities, not an arbitrary schedule.
No One Is “Practicing” on Real Leads
One of the most significant downsides of traditional training is that sales reps need a real person to practice with, whether that’s another sales rep, the training manager, or a lead. When new agents start “practicing” on leads, this doesn’t just increase the risk of losing potentially valuable customers. It can also skew your revenue team’s metrics regarding conversion rates, marketing campaigns, and forecasted goals. When you switch to AI-based simulations and scenarios, that doesn’t happen. Training simulations can use dialogue from Zoom and Teams for realism and immediacy. Sales reps sharpen their skills without sacrificing leads, and you’ll see better ROI for sales and marketing initiatives.
Shift to AI-Powered Sales Coaching With Quantified
Traditional sales training has obvious shortcomings that your company had to make do with until technology could catch up. But now, AI-powered training portals and simulations are robust enough to create personalized learning tracks for your sales reps so they can grow their skills efficiently and effectively. Want to see what that change looks like with Quantified? Contact us today for a demo or to learn more about our unique AI-powered sales coaching solution.