How to Use AI to Improve Sales Readiness
A popular rule—and one Malcolm Gladwell included in his book Outliers—says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any field. That isn’t 100% correct. The number is an average, and the practice must be “deliberate.” But the overall message is true: Practice is still necessary to retain knowledge and achieve high performance levels.
In fact, Brandon Hall Group research found high-performing organizations are more likely to provide opportunities to practice and apply knowledge.
“Organizations where learning is having a strong, positive impact on outcomes such as individual performance, time to productivity, employee engagement and turnover are far more likely to provide both methods to reinforce learning and opportunities to practice or apply knowledge,” according to their report, Practice Makes Perfect: Making Learning Stick.
In addition, Brandon Hall Group found that companies were keen to find ways to deliver hands-on practice-type learning experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though that environment presented many challenges, 75% of companies used hands-on practice learning to some degree and 90% found it to be at least somewhat effective.
Practice can’t occur in a vacuum, however. Learners can’t expect to try out their new knowledge and skills and think it will make lessons stick. There should be a feedback loop around the practice. Learners need to know if they are applying what they’ve learned properly, or whether there are areas where they need to go back to the original material. Challenges occur when managers have large teams and can’t give the hands-on guidance that makes practice so beneficial.
How AI Improves Sales Training and Practice
This is where technology—especially artificial intelligence (AI)—comes into play. AI-powered tools can be trained to spot moments in videos where practice is done correctly, as well as highlight areas in need of improvement. This information can then be passed along to managers who can focus directly on the improvement opportunities, rather than needing to sift through hours of recorded material.
For example, sales leaders use it to make sure their teams hit all the right notes in these conversations and properly overcome objections. By recording and analyzing sales reps practicing their pitches, Conversation Intelligence can highlight correct and incorrect words or phrases, as well as speech patterns (too many “ums” and “ahs”).
The AI parses the conversation, checking it against the topics the rep is addressing. The tool can provide instant in-the-flow feedback without distracting or interrupting the rep. It can also provide a picture of overall performance tracked against ideal standards or high-performing sales reps.
More critically, though, the technology makes it easier for sales leaders and managers to provide meaningful coaching opportunities. Rather than spending precious time with the small, easy-to-fix things, managers can get into more strategic coaching to boost performance.
In addition, when sales reps deliver a pitch well or overcome an objection, their recordings can be used to train other reps on best practices. They can reside in the library with all the other sales content, and the system can pull them based on keywords and topics and present them to learners who need help.
Sales organizations can also leverage AI to give sales reps continual follow-up on their progress, targeted to their demonstrated knowledge and ability. Rather than making ongoing learning repetitive by constantly referencing the same elements, sales reps can get unique interactions at set intervals that reflect where they are in the learning process.
Practice Not Only Makes Perfect; It Help Reps Make Quota
In today’s competitive sales world, every sales conversation is critical. You can’t afford to have sales reps making mistakes. Sales call mistakes = lost deals. With an AI-powered tool like Conversation Intelligence, though, sales reps can practice pitches, get automated feedback, and receive customized coaching before going out into the field.
But the learning and practice doesn’t stop there. Sales managers can also use Conversation Intelligence to analyze real sales calls, providing digital ride-alongs. The call intelligence technology lets managers observe exactly how sellers interact with buyers in the field, the precise language they use, how they describe the company’s value proposition, and how they handle objections.
Sales managers can use the call data to:
- Pinpoint sellers’ mistakes
- Identify missed opportunities
- Determine where deals have been lost
- Prevent sellers from losing deals
- Analyze best practices to sell smarter
Sales managers can then give reps personalized just-in-time learning or content automatically based on conversation content.
Not only will the sales team’s productivity skyrocket, but sellers will achieve greater success. Sales reps will have better conversations with buyers, will more effectively convey the value of what they’re selling, will get more meetings, and will achieve quota.
Download Practice Makes Perfect: Making Learning Stick and get key research findings to help you deliver hands-on practice for learning and ensure sales reps retain knowledge and achieve high performance levels.