Sales enablement and AI
At its core, sales enablement is about getting the best out of your sales reps. It’s about continuously supporting teams of sales reps in their revenue-generating tasks. There’s no real “end” point; you complete onboarding and there’s more coaching and training to do.
Even if you somehow trained every rep to the point that they had mastered every tool in your tech stack, there are always new tools arriving on the scene. There are always new sales methodologies, techniques, and wisdom to pass onto your sales teams.
You get the point: sales enablement is about continuous support.
We all know it’s a tough task, and sales enablement professionals are often the unsung heroes of organizations. Many have small teams with big goals, so sales enablement departments need (and deserve) all the help they can get.
That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in.
Britannica defines AI as “the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings”. In short? Technology assists us in our lives.
You probably don’t need the dictionary definition to know what AI is though, as it has become increasingly mainstream in everyday life over the past decade or so.
We’re all familiar with Alexa and Siri, the digital AI assistants in our phones and homes that help us keep track of our to-do lists and so on. ChatGPT burst into public consciousness in late 2022 and prompted an AI 'arms race' between the likes of Google and Microsoft.
Those in the sales realm who have been paying attention, however, are also familiar with the rise of AI in that landscape over the same time period.
AI has incredible potential when used in a sales environment, and best of all, it’s not limited to one area. It can be used to help sales enablement achieve its goals in a number of both direct and indirect ways.
In this article, we’ll talk about:
There's even more to AI in sales enablement that than, but for the time being we'll cover these three key areas.
AI for coaching and training
Coaching and training a large team can be a hard task for a sales enablement team. You’re stretched thin designing programs and content, delivering these training sessions, managing the tech stack, and much more.
Often you literally will not have enough time to support every rep in the way you want, and that will inevitably hurt their performance.
This is where AI can come in from a coaching and training perspective. Remember, AI is not here to replace human intervention, just supplement and support the human aspects of training.
Today, sales enablement departments use virtual AI sales coaches. These virtual coaches allow reps to roleplay typical sales scenarios in a safe environment, as many times as they like. It means they can get comfortable with their pitch and delivery in a semi-real environment, and a human coach can give the final sign-off and tips once the rep feels ready.
Virtual coaches are capable of providing feedback to both reps and leadership. So if a rep is struggling in a particular scenario, that will be flagged and can be addressed by a human coach.
At the Sales Enablement Festival in October 2021, Head of Sales Enablement at Zoom Michelle Dotson discussed her experience with AI coaches, and shared her insights on just how much it can help an enablement department.
You can watch her presentation, as well as every event replay in SEC’s library, OnDemand with an SEC membership.
This technology will, undoubtedly, continue to improve in utility over time, but even today. Virtual coaches allow reps to practice with no pressure, at a comfort level that was previously hard to achieve.
All this while receiving valuable feedback from the virtual coach, and saving sales managers and sales enablement leads’ time.
AI is here, and it is here to help and support your sales enablement efforts.
Using AI to increase sales effectiveness
It’s quite obvious how a virtual AI sales coach can help your sales enablement efforts. It allows for a piece of your enablement training to be delegated.
However, AI’s applications in sales go beyond just coaching. There’s a wealth of opportunities for reps to incorporate AI into their day-to-day selling, which all increase the effectiveness of their sales methods.
A common term you’ll hear when it comes to AI in sales is “AI-guided selling”.
Our Sales Enablement Forecast 2022 report found that 10.7% of respondents believed that AI-guided selling would be a trend in 2023, with many stating that AI will be ‘huge’ 18+ months from now.
Get the ball rolling on AI-guided selling in your organization today, and you might just find yourself 18 months ahead of the curve when compared to your competitors.
But what actually is AI-guided selling?
Quite simply, it’s selling guided by artificial intelligence. AI solutions will be able to extract sales-related information in order to provide focused, real-time advice to sellers as they sell.
These solutions provide in-the-moment, proactive advice to sellers as they work to close a deal with a prospect. This could include content suggestions based on the fact that the prospect mentioned a particular competitor, for example.
As AI-guided selling becomes more popular, sellers will find that key pieces of information are delivered to them, rather than having to spend time searching.
From a sales enablement perspective, it will mean that sellers get more value from content, will spend more time selling, and ultimately close more deals because you’ll have provided AI support for them as they work.
Our friends at Seismic go into more detail on AI-guided selling, and why it’ll transform sales, in this whitepaper:
At our Future of Sales Festival in June 2021, Winnie Palmer explained AI-guided selling’s processes, and exactly how the data that the AI provides to a seller is created:
“In the world of virtual selling, every buyer engagement generates data that drives and delivers insight into sales activities.
“When data like this is aggregated across multiple systems within your entire GTM tech stack, the organization can then create a comprehensive view of sales activities. When you combine contextual data and collect the data at scale, it becomes a lot more valuable than any data an individual seller can analyze.
“Your sellers are enabled with just-in-time information to deliver a truly engaging and compelling buyer experience dynamically in real-time.”
Ultimately, it’s about supporting sellers in a way that allows them to enhance the buyer experience.
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AI as a time-saving tool
One of the biggest benefits of AI is its ability to save sellers’ time, streamlining the sales process. The automation of mundane or repetitive tasks can enhance sales productivity and efficiency.
SEC spoke to Arup Chakravarti in December 2021, and speaking on the benefits of AI he said:
“Fundamentally it’s a time-saver. At the end of the day, a lot of what we do in terms of sales enablement is about trying to generate productivity by reshaping where a salesperson or an account manager is spending their time.
“We know that one of the biggest productivity drags is when a salesperson or an account manager has to spend time doing admin, spend time in the CRM system, and has to spend time planning and researching.”
If sales enablers can leverage AI automation systems, they can remove a large amount of so-called “busy work”. The result is sales reps that spend more time selling and less time working on documentation, research, and other administrative tasks.
AI automation, such as intelligent segmentation, instills confidence in reps. It eliminates the guesswork in prospect outreach and allows them to reach out to a prospect with the knowledge that they’re working from high-quality information which has been analyzed by AI automation solutions.
By no means have we covered every sales enablement/AI use case in this article; instead I wanted to highlight some of the enablement possibilities that are happening right now, not in some distant future.
Virtual coaches are not something from the latest edition of The Matrix, they exist right now. AI-guided selling systems are real, here, and expected to explode in popularity very soon. AI automation is being used by organizations across the world on a daily basis.
Artificial intelligence is here, and it’s already supporting sales enablers in the same way that sales enablers support their reps.
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