The impact of AI on managing sales talent
It's time to make use of that virtual assistant in your sales process, says Mark Savinson.
"Interest and awareness of AI is at a fever pitch. Every industry and every organisation should be evaluating AI to see how it will affect their business processes and go-to-market efficiencies.” According to IDC.
Some businesses are looking at AI-driven sales enablement as a way to consistently replicate successful sales outcomes and streamline the sales process, but I've experienced first-hand the pros and cons of the software and the advantages and potential pitfalls for the companies who invest in it and the sales enablement teams who must support it.
Building a new standard
Unequivocally, the biggest advantage AI-driven sales enablement can provide an organisation is access to a 'standardised sales model'. The introduction of the standardised sales model is one of the most important enhancements to the sales process since the wide-spread adoption of CRM 20 plus years ago.
As the name suggests, it enables organisations to construct a sales model based on how it believes their ideal sales opportunities should be constructed to achieve business goals, not just how they have been constructed in the past.
AI acts like a highly qualified assistant, intelligently learning from real-time sales activities, refining the standard model and recalibrating associated content and behavioural suggestions.
As sales leaders live through one of the biggest changes in the way B2B customers engage in the buying process, this is potentially huge. Implemented correctly, the model even has the agility to reflect the needs of different sales channels and buying habits across industries or regions.
Highly qualified sales assistant
With the standard model set up correctly, the in-built tools then guide sales teams through the buying process. Intelligent content management serves up recommended content to build customer engagement, appease concerns and deliver relevant proof points based on job role, for example.
Opportunity verifiers improve the operational efficiency of the sales process by acting as guard rails. They steer sales people toward analysing their own deal pipeline, remedying missed or overlooked steps and do so without requiring handholding from management.
Wrapping all this together is the software’s ability to analyse how close each deal is to the standard model and rate it, so that effort can be directed towards only the most winnable deals.
In this context, the power of AI to enhance the sales process is clear. It acts like a highly qualified assistant, intelligently learning from real-time sales activities, refining the standard model and recalibrating associated content and behavioural suggestions.
Formula One performance
So far, so incredible, but as any sales enablement person worth their salt will be crying out, the technology alone can only do so much.
Moving companies away from how sales deals have been constructed in the past invariably means moving to something new. This is both good and necessary. However, if sales enablement software is to be truly transformational organisations deploying it need to support sales teams to use it correctly.
This is much more than product training. This is equipping them with the necessary skills and knowledge to competently action the required steps of the standard model.
It is here that the best sales enablement platforms, and arguably trainers, come into their own.
Like a Formula One car will get you around a track faster than a standard vehicle, modern sales enablement platforms will undoubtedly accelerate deal overview, reduce time to deal closure and improve selling outcomes. However, just like in Formula One, the vehicle can only do so much. The skill and knowledge of the individual behind the wheel still steers the final outcome.
AI driven just-in-time learning
The best AI-driven sales enablement platforms now include the ability to serve up learning and coaching material tied to job role and function. Organisations can build learning programs into the software that support the sales models they advocate. Making them role specific ensures each team member gets a tailored learning path.
In this way, sales leaders ensure that their team develops the necessary skills and knowledge to act on the insights the software provides, without stepping away from the field.
Managers know where to focus their coaching and reps have access to content focussed on the essential skills to do their job because it is built into the fabric of the sales process. Even better, intrinsically linking sales and learning ensures that learning and development investment is only ever tied to business outcomes.
In this way, the Formula One car (AI) and the highly skilled driver (sales reps) are united. All that is required is a good support team (sales enablement/HR) to ensure the right behaviours and skills are reinforced and fine-tuned through manager-led coaching, and an organisation really can drive the ultimate sales performance.
AI potential unleashed
My experience is that AI-driven sales enablement software undoubtedly has the ability to elevate sales team performance. However, to truly lead the pack, in sales just as in F1, it comes down to the engine. Take time at the beginning to ensure the right standard models are loaded.
Add the right skills and knowledge coaching and support the system with a committed manager-led coaching program. With this well-oiled machine ready-to-go, a podium finish is guaranteed.
About the author
Mark Savinson is CEO of Strategy to Revenue
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