Creating a high-performance sales team has its limitations when it comes to human-led training and performance management. Without the proper training and support needed to guide new sales managers, they tend to learn through trial and error — emphasis on the error.
Sales coaching is a significant factor in driving sales. However, you can’t teach what you don’t fully understand or without the proper tools. Both inexperienced and experienced sales managers typically struggle to be good coaches due to a lack of:
Time waits for no-one — whether it be scheduling conflicts or other issues, the primary hurdle between sales managers and effective sales coaching is having adequate time to efficiently carry out their coaching plan. This is also something that directly affects the quality of feedback they’re able to provide.
How can a sales manager be expected to allocate the proper amount of time to a full employee review if pressed for time during the coaching session? Additionally, not everyone learns in the same manner. Most sales coaching methodologies are geared towards coaching the sales team as a whole rather than on an individual level.
Not only is consistency challenging to achieve by these standards, but it also leaves plenty of room for bias. That goes for both recency and confirmation bias, which guarantees a disproportionate impact on employees’ feedback. Regardless of whether a sales manager is experienced or not, their credibility lies in their visual success while the lack of tangible benefits can take away from the recognition o a job being well done.
Coaching your sales team as a whole is incredibly challenging. Sales readiness calls for a flexible coaching plan that focuses on the individual roles of the sales reps and their individual performances, strengths, and weaknesses. Coaching on an individual level also calls for taking the time and effort to regularly get to know each employee and regularly track their progress. Once again, time is a luxury that most sales managers cannot afford.
The typical sales manager got to where they are because of their excellent performance as a sales rep. They’re often promoted without the necessary tools and training that translates to efficient coaching. The result is inconsistent approaches to coaching, and a “learn as you go” mentality. This usually has a negative effect on the performance and confidence of the sales team.
So how do you address the needs and limitations of sales coaching on an organizational level? Today in 2020, you integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI) to fill in the gaps. The applications of Artificial Intelligence in business are endless. Compared to humans, AI has the capacity to crunch numbers, identify patterns, process large amounts of information, and make data-driven decisions in just a fraction of a second.
AI is precisely the tool that can help sales managers to make coaching second nature for their team. By assisting them with qualitative decision making and freeing up their time, AI allows them to shift their focus to how they can add value to their organization. Some of the essential benefits of AI sales coaching involve improving your teams’ soft skills, human capabilities, and customer experience.
AI, without a doubt, can take over simple task automation. According to the World Economic Forum, the future of job skill sets will involve technical, social, emotional, and higher-cognitive thinking in terms of problem-solving. The thought process behind this is that with computers running the show, we as humans begin to crave human connection to help us address complex problems to satisfy our emotional needs. As a result, there’s a higher demand for emotional intelligence and soft skills in the workplace, which are coincidentally the two things that make humans human.
AI technology in sales coaching also can offer feedback in real-time, impacting actual human traits and interactions. For example, Microsoft’s Powerpoint Presenter Coach offers feedback while individuals practice their presentations in front of the computer. The AI tool’s feedback ranges from pacing, pinging filler words, and non-inclusive language, preventing users from only reading off the slides. This type of coaching is needed on an individual and scalable level to strengthen human capabilities for both sales and personal growth.
Studies show a direct correlation between customer service and business outcomes. In fact, 93% of customers are more likely to make repeat purchases or remain with a service provider when the customer service is above par. AI coaching tools also analyze pitch, tone, and other vocal cues for real-time guidance. This allows customer service representatives to become more empathetic and develop better conversational skills that create a personal relationship with customers.
One key factor to consider when coaching a sales team in a virtual environment utilizing AI is that you’re most likely working with a multi-generational team. Virtually coaching a multi-generational workforce should be anything but a casual affair. It requires an understanding of the different generations within your organization as well as a functional and formal approach to coaching. If you want to optimize your virtual coaching methods, you must concede with virtual coaching best practices — per generation.
First, you must clearly define your objectives and then choose the right tools to help you and your sales reps achieve those goals. Secondly, if you’re integrating virtual coaching sessions, it’s critical that you treat them as formal meetings. There must be professionalism and accountability during each session. That means minimizing all distractions, refraining from multitasking, and dedicating your allotted time to connect with your employees. Lastly, it’s essential to bridge the gap between field experience and sales training. Remember, each individual learns differently, as does each generation. You’re going to have to consider those different learning needs and find an appropriate way to relate to each employee to get the most out of each training session.
Utilizing AI technology can streamline your sales coaching efforts making your team much more efficient and effective. With the right tools, understanding, and approach, every sales manager can implement the proper structure and discipline needed for their team’s overall success.
At Michigan and Manchester, we help clients design and implement clear, actionable, and engaging sales enablement strategies. We do our best work in service of leaders who trust us to bring the elusive Win Within Reach™. Learn more by following us on Twitter @winwithinreach or visiting www.michiganmanchester.com