It helps that a majority of sales meetings are happening over video and being recorded.
But sales managers simply don’t have time to sift through thousands of hours of calls to find the nuggets of feedback that will unlock greater potential in their salespeople.
These days, AI is everywhere you look. (Case in point: ChatGPT has become the fastest-growing user app in history, gaining 100 million users in the past 2 months.)
So I got excited about one of the most amplifying uses of AI:
AI as a tool not to replace sales professionals and sales managers, but to support them in the ongoing need for personalized coaching and feedback, delivered consistently and without bias, across sales teams.
Table of contents
- Use AI to improve sellers’ presentation skills
- Use AI to uncover opportunities in conversation
- Use AI to provide judgment-free feedback
How to use AI as a sales coach
The technology is evolving all the time. Here, today, are three ways you can use artificial intelligence to elevate your sales coaching.
1. Use AI to help sellers improve their presentation skills
I once had a ballet teacher who said, “1% improvements on a daily basis are the guarantees of success.”
Turns out, this gem of wisdom is backed by research.
I was lucky, as an athlete and professional dancer. I had a series of coaches by my side, every day, to nudge me towards improvement.
Not everyone has this luxury. In the world of professional selling, managers can only do so much when it comes to consistent, personalized feedback across distributed sales teams.
With an AI coach, you can unleash a personal sidekick for every single member of your team.
Not only can this AI coach be on every call. Some AI coaches can even provide nudges in real-time (to nudge the seller if they are talking too much, looking away from the camera when making an important point and so much more).
For example: You are on a demo call and you notice your seller is talking animatedly while looking off to the side. This makes them look distracted and the prospect is losing interest.
Once upon a time, you would have quietly pinged them on Slack to get them to refocus — and probably wished there was a way to do this more effectively.
A tool like the Virtual Sapiens Sidekick would pick up on this virtual presence ‘faux pas’, and prompt the seller to look back into their lens through a nudge, delivered to them in real time:
(This is the individual seller/user’s view. Sidekick dashboard enlarged for detail)
Once the seller corrects their behavior, they receive subtle, positive reinforcement from the AI coach.
And more importantly, they regain the attention of the client, who now feels like the primary intended audience.
With AI coaches in the mix, gone are the days of the awkward Slack pings like “move back from the camera” or “stop touching your face.”
You and your seller(s) get to be fully present on that important video call, knowing all virtual communication best practices are being followed, and nothing is getting lost in digital translation.
Learn more about body language for video: 3 Body Language Hacks for Sales Videos
2. Lean on an AI coach to help uncover opportunities in sales conversations
We don’t know what we don’t know.
Having AI provide a consistent and comprehensive analysis of our performance across emails, phone calls, video calls can shed light on blind spots — and opportunities — we never would have realized.
For example: Your new AE is in conversation with a prospect, who says, casually, “We’re also considering your competitor.”
There are a host of conversational AI tools that can pick up on keywords or phrases that indicate progress in a deal. In this example, if the AE is using Outreach.io’s conversation intelligence tool, Kaia, the AI-powered virtual assistant will suggest sales enablement-made competitive insights during the call, in real time.
Rather running the risk of looking inexperienced or unprepared in front of a customer, AEs have the most updated messaging on tap to answer any customer question in the moment.
And later, you and your team can review these insights together, learning from them and refining demos and conversations based on trends the AI can help us identify.
A CRO recently told me that his sellers feel they can be more present in the call when they have their AI systems supporting them in this way:
- The AI does the brunt work in real-time
- The AI does the aggregating across events
- You and your team get to collaborate on how these insights can improve your success
3. Leverage an AI coach for feedback delivered without judgment
Giving constructive feedback is hard.
AI can add an objective buffer between the seller receiving the feedback, and the manager working to help the seller incorporate feedback.
Particularly with things that are very personal, like communication style, having an AI coach support improvement can provide a foundation for more fruitful conversation.
For instance, it is hard to receive feedback on our facial expressions. It is also hard to give feedback to someone about something as personal as the way they emote. It’s quite common to send the impression that we are bored/angry/disengaged when we are actually thinking or focusing hard on something.
An AI coach can pick up on this behavior and reflect it back in a more neutral way.
An example in action: You and one of your sellers get off a call. It didn’t go particularly well and the whole event felt low energy.
When a call is low energy, the level of engagement plummets. And you’ve squandered a HUGE opportunity to connect with your prospect, and distinguish yourself from your competition.
If an AI coach is being used in-cal, the seller would receive a post-call summary highlighting specific areas in need of improvement. We can see an example of their ‘Energy and Expression’ reading as displayed by the Virtual Sapiens Sidekick below:
The seller will quickly see that the call was perceived to be low energy because they didn’t vary their facial expressions much, and their vocal variety was low (read, they were monotone).
The seller and manager receive similar breakdowns and the conversation then becomes about creatively coming up with ways to change this behavior, instead of awkwardly trying to tell someone they look like they’d rather be somewhere else on an important call.
How to start using AI as a sales coach
First, shop around the various tools available specifically for empowering sales teams.
Second, get to know your tools. The insights leveraged in AI coaching tools can be used to inform coaching, but can also be overwhelming.
Developing a strategy around which insights are relevant to your team is critical. It’s worth taking the time to understand how these AI insights can be used strategically — otherwise it’s easy to get caught in the noise.
Finally, and this is true of any AI-based technology including ChatGPT and others, understand your tools’ blindspots. We are at the very beginning stages of leveraging AI as a super-powered assistant and coach. At the moment, we are in a stage of providing as much data as possible, based on what the technology can analyze and access. Most tools today do a good job of showing you all of the data, but the actionable insights are where the real value is.
This is where human intelligence and understanding of context is critical — a great example of the forming relationship between AI and human interaction.
Why AI won’t replace human sales coaching
Using AI to replace — instead of coach and amplify — is a mistake.
Particularly in communication exchanges, humans are looking for authenticity and for real connection. You cannot build trust without these things, and AI, if used as a replacement, can undermine more than it can help.
As a sales manager, keep these points in mind as you navigate your sales tech stack and support your hybrid team. When you do this well, you have accessed an untapped advantage — yours for the taking.
What other use cases have you seen for AI as a human coach? Share below!
Edited by Kendra Fortmeyer @ Sales Hacker 2023