2019 is still young and brings a breath of fresh air to companies - a good opportunity to implement resolutions and take a closer look on sales training. In times of constant digital transformation, sales reps face new challenges. The Objective Management Group, a leading company in sales force evaluations, identified shortfalls in sales effectiveness, execution, and realized potential. While 60% of sales professionals show weak levels of responsibility, 65% feel uncomfortable discussing money. Controlling emotions is a struggle to 64% of all salespeople while only 53% are marginally able to sell value. It comes as no surprise that around 25% are in need to improve their presentation and relationship building skills.
One might say, training cures it all.
But it’s not that simple. Although U.S. companies invested $87.6 billion in sales training over the last year, a recent study by the Association for Talent Development found that the real barrier to successful training is a lack of time: 43% of participants admit to suffer from time constraints and scheduling conflicts in their daily routine. Given the importance of training, this is problematic. Studies show that sales training is needed to improve sales force motivation (Attia, Honeycutt, & Fakhr, 2013; Liu, 1996), effectiveness (Attia, Honeycutt, & Jantan, 2006; Piercy, Craven, & Morgan, 1998), and performance (Pelham, 2002).
Especially in today’s digitized market, sellers face a new reality. On-demand purchasing behavior and an excess supply of goods require sales reps to find new ways to own the sales process, and to stand out (Attia, Honeycutt, & Leach, 2005). At the same time, another challenge to overcome is the increasing customer expectation to communicate personally (Bari, 2018). The pace of change is high, and the pressure to keep up weighs heavy. Time is running short for training practices. According to Fatemi (2018), 50% of sales managers are too busy to train and develop their sales teams on top of their daily management tasks.
Unfortunately, this results in a lack of qualified, tailored and consistent feedback, which is highly needed to engage salespeople and foster fruitful growth. In this regard, one-size-fits-all does not work. Training needs to be flexible and repetitive to ensure lasting behavioral change. Thus, many companies already started turning to AI and data-based online coaching solutions.
Artificial Intelligence - a better way to train?
Artificial Intelligence, short AI, is more than just a buzzword. Based on stored data information about each individual sales reps communication skills, performance and learning curve, an AI-based training solution overcomes time and quality constraints.
Let’s start with the salespeople. Through AI, their training experience becomes more flexible. It can be as simple as uploading a video of a pitch or role-play exercise. Due to intelligent video analysis, AI gives tailored feedback on pitching skills, including communication and personality, coupled with individualized recommendations for improvement. This makes training much more personal and easier to learn. Also, AI-based training is not tied to a specific time or space. Finally, it is possible to receive and use the right information immediately when it is needed (Attia, Honeycutt, & Leach, 2005). In contrast to yearly appointments with managers, sales reps can access the learning solution anytime, receiving instant and consistent feedback whenever needed.
Managers can assess and monitor these data and, with more time at disposal, focus on unsolved and long-term communication struggles of their reps. Moreover, they can develop best-practice approaches to improve the overall sales performance of their team. In the end, AI-based training solutions not only save time but reduce costs.
AI will play a vital role in the future of sales training. Are you ready for it?
retorio is a communication coach, which helps your employees to become better emotional communicators - direct and effective, at all times. retorio makes sure that your employees send the right messages by analyzing human communication skills and their personality. Our AI automatically compares the performance to your predefined soft-skill criteria. Your benefits: monitor faster, self-reflect, and detect possible weak points of your employees already at an early stage and derive tailored means faster. Never has an increase in sales and communicative performance been easier.
ATD Research (September 2018). Sales Coaching by ATD Research: Building a Successful Sales Force. Retrieved from: https://www.td.org/research-reports/sales-coaching [28.12.2018]
Attia, A. M., Honeycutt Jr, E. D., & Leach, M. P. (2005). A three-stage model for assessing and improving sales force training and development. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 25(3), 253-268.
Attia, A. M., Honeycutt, E. D., & Jantan, M. A. (2006). Global sales training: In search of antecedent, mediating and consequence variables. Industrial Marketing Management, 37, 181-190.
Attia, A. M., Honeycutt, E. D., & Fakhr, R. (2013). Sales training evaluation: An integrated framework and research agenda. Journal of Selling & Major Account Management, 13(1), 33-44.
Bari, H. (November 30, 2018). Why Sales Coaching is So Hard and 6 Ways AI Is Making it Easier and Better. Customer Think. Retrieved from: http://customerthink.com/why-sales-coaching-is-so-hard-and-6-ways-ai-is-making-it-easier-and-better/ [28.12.2018]
Fatemi, F. (2018, February 28). 4 Ways AI Is Transforming Sales Organizations. Forbes. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/falonfatemi/2018/02/28/4-ways-ai-is-transforming-sales-organizations/#39ac18885942 [28.12.2018]
Liu, S. (1996). Motivating salespersons in Hong Kong and People's Republic of China. International Journal of Management, 13(2), 179−183.
Objective Management Group (2018). Selling Competencies. Retrieved from: https://stats.objectivemanagement.com/529 [29.12.2018]
Pelham, A. (2002). An exploratory model and initial test of the influence of firm level consulting-oriented sales force programs on sales force performance. Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 22(2), 97−109.
Piercy, N. F., Craven, D. W., & Morgan, N. A. (1998). Sales force performance and behavior-based management processes in business to business sales organizations. European Journal of Marketing, 32, 79−100.