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More and more sales managers are handing over much of their sales training responsibilities to AI-powered sales coaching, which allows salespeople to continuously practice their skills on photo-realistic, virtual “customers” until they’ve crafted the perfect pitch.
This new approach to training can be especially effective with people who have grown up with computer games and are used to interacting with on-screen computer-generated personalities that challenge them to think, strategize and “roll” in situations and situations. reactions that are often extreme. unusual or unexpected.
While the use of AI in sales training is still very new in the trucking industry, there are a few industry players gearing up to give the technology a try — or at least are open to the idea.
Ed Ackfeld, director of sales and program management at Yellow Corp., said the less-than-truckloader is partnering with Salesforce to bring its AI-powered sales training system on board.
Called Einstein Conversation Insights, the software uses AI to listen to sales conversations, analyze what’s going on, and then give sales staff clues about what it thinks works and what needs improvement.
“AI will play an important role in our growth. With younger generations entering our sales team, the need to train faster has never been more important,” said Ackfeld. “In the LTL industry, the amount of information and technical data a good salesperson needs to know is significant and necessary to be successful.”
Traditionally, Yellow sales trainers had to travel to different parts of the country to teach new recruits about the company’s sales philosophy and techniques, according to Ackfeld.
But with an AI-based system, much of that travel could be eliminated, he said.
Using AI, we can “identify which part of the sales process an individual could use additional support and provide one-on-one training virtually prior to a sales call,” Ackfeld said. “We used to say it takes a year for a new salesperson to be very successful in an LTL sales role. AI can speed up training and help professionals get there faster. Our goal is to reduce the success time to 60 days.”
Jennifer Karpus-Romain, executive director at the Transportation Marketing & Sales Association, also sees real value in AI-based training, as long as companies see the technology as a value-added component to improve the skills of their sales force rather than a complete replacement .
“By adapting training to include AI, sales reps can use technology during their initial training, allowing sales managers to focus their training efforts on more complex, out-of-the-box scenarios,” said Karpus-Romain. “If we view AI and technology as a complement — not a replacement for operations — we can really begin to figure out how a business can perform at its best.”
Geoff Muessig, executive vice president of Pitt Ohio Transportation Group, said he’s also open to the idea of using AI to improve sales pitches.
But Muessig added that any AI system the company would consider would have to be highly customizable to ensure it would integrate the Pitt Ohio approach to sales.
I should know from our sellers that they want to be trained using AI.
Geoffrey Muessig, executive vice president at Pitt Ohio
That sales style, Muessig said, comes down to 80% listening to what a customer wants and 20% assuring the customer how Pitt Ohio can meet those needs specifically.
“I should also know from our sales reps that they want to be trained using AI,” he added.
There’s no point, Muessig said, in introducing AI training without buy-in from the sales force.
Corporate Visions, a sales training company for business-to-business-focused industries like trucking, said it has already added AI sales coaching with photorealistic “clients” that sales reps can practice pitching.
According to Tim Riesterer, the company’s chief strategy officer, the move was a no-brainer, after it was confirmed that AI sales coaching can notify many more salespeople at once than traditional methods.
Corporate Visions uses Second Nature AI sales coaching software.
“In the past, our expert advisors assessed a salesperson’s skills and manually documented the feedback. This is very effective, but many of our customers need to do this quickly and at scale, so that thousands of reps can become proficient in a matter of days,” said Riesterer. “With Second Nature, we train the AI with the best examples of the customer’s message delivery skills and it does the rest – recording performance, measuring effectiveness and providing coaching.”
One of the main reasons why Second Nature and such AI systems are attracting attention is their emphasis on customization.
Rather than market their services as being all-important to any form of sales, the software makers work with the company’s sales managers to tailor their software to the skills, approach, tone, and other qualities of selling. that a manager knows work best in his or her specific company.
For example, AI-powered sales coaching software for a company that sells medical diagnostics software to neurosurgeons will be customized very differently from AI sales coaching software tailored for a company that sells bungee cords to theme parks.
Anyway, once the AI software is customized for a particular business, it’s just a matter of handing the system over to the sales force to work its magic.
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In practice, pitching with Second Nature is a lot like trying to sell a product or service through a Zoom video call.
As a salesperson, you pitch to a “client” on your computer screen, roll out your best lines, follow what the client says, and study how the client responds to you, so you can adjust your pitch at any time.
But unlike that live sales pitch on Zoom, the “customer” you pitch to using Second Nature and similar systems is actually an AI-powered, photo-realistic representation of a customer – a “virtual being” programmed to respond to your pitch the same way a real person responds.
So as you make your pitch to the on-screen “customer” in an AI-powered sales coaching system, the same questions, comments, and even hints of skepticism that you would encounter with a human customer are expressed and moved by the virtual “customer.”
Multiple personalities can be created to simulate customers from across the demographic spectrum. In addition, multiple personalities can also be created to simulate character traits, mood swings, unforeseen questions, and similar character traits, which are only limited in depth by the imagination of the company’s sales manager who customizes them.
Yet another powerful part of AI sales coaching: As you make your pitch to an AI-powered virtual client, the system also records all your words, movements and emotional cues – analyzing your performance, second by second, and using that analysis to help you report on the overall quality of your pitch. The system lets you know how to improve moments in your pitch that seemed weaker than others.
The result? Salespeople using AI sales coaching can practice over and over with different AI-powered customer personalities until they get their pitch just right for every major personality type their sales manager thinks they will encounter.
In addition, the 24/7 availability of these AI-powered sales trainers means salespeople can train with these systems at their own pace and on their own schedule.
Sales managers also notice that these systems change their daily lives in a very positive way. By customizing an AI system to sell using the specific formula that works for their company, for example, sales managers find they can “program once” and train indefinitely, so to speak.
In addition, sales managers who want to get a sense of how far a new hire has progressed no longer need to listen in live or see in person how a new hire is performing.
Instead, for a pitch performance status report, a sales manager can simply say to a new hire, “Show me your best pitch yet on video.”
The use of AI also means that sales managers no longer have to deal with new hires or others who may react negatively to constructive criticism regarding their pitching skills – or feel that the sales manager is unfairly targeting them for criticism. With AI sales coaching, there’s no one to be mad at – just a standard to reach.
Yet another great benefit of AI-powered sales coaching: the technology enables a sales manager to educate an entire sales team on how to sell a new product or service simply by updating the AI system and pass this on to the sales staff.
Admittedly, polishing your sales talents by pitching to a robot may sound counterintuitive in a profession where the art of developing and nurturing a relationship is the beginning and end of everything you’re trying to achieve.
But when you consider that the robot has the ability and sophistication to assess those relationship skills from every conceivable aspect, AI sales coaching starts to make more sense.
Joe Dysart is an internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan. Voice: (631) 438-1142. E-mail: email@example.com
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