May 14, 2024

How A.I. is Reshaping Sales Training

Alex is a pain in the butt. He's short-tempered and stressed out. However, he is my current prospect and I've got to win him over. My goal today is to book a follow-up sales discovery call with Alex.

Since he hasn't responded to my email, I've got to get on the phone to book this appointment.

My inside information tells me his sales enablement team is under pressure because the newest sales numbers came in and they are grim. Their pipelines are nowhere near where they should be, and several team members have recently quit saying in their exit interviews that they did not receive enough sales training. Alex needs to fix this and while I know I can help him, he doesn't want to take my call.

“This is Alex, who’s this?”

Ouch. Rough way to answer a phone call.

I explain the reason for my call.

“How did you get my number?” He’s annoyed.

I explain that I’ve spoken to other sales leaders in his company and that I have a specific reason for calling him. My goal here is to keep Alex on the line long enough to break through his initial defensiveness. This guy doesn’t like people calling him unannounced, which is understandable.

The conversation continues, and he’s tough. He throws a few common objections, but he is listening.

A few minutes later, I can feel that I’m losing Alex. I make one more gambit to get him interested enough to book a follow-up call. I tell him that I'm using new A.I. tools that help salespeople strengthen their conversations with prospects and customers. Will this get his attention?

Kyle, you're talking about A.I.? This sounds like more buzz words. I'm not interested.

He hangs up on me.

20 seconds later, my report is ready. I score 68% overall. My pacing and tone were good, but I failed to get to the 80% grade in order to get Alex to agree to a follow up call. Like I said, he’s tough.

I know this because I designed him that way.

You've got 30 seconds to win over Alex. Go.

Alex is my A.I. bot. I didn't create him from scratch, I license him. I’m not a techie but give me a few minutes and I can program him to act however I want. For any of my clients he can be an existing prospect who wants to see a presentation or a customer discussing renewal options. He can be from any organization with any challenges, needs, budgets and whatever else we want him to be.

Welcome to the new world of communications training.

A.I. is here and bots are beginning to interact with reps, helping them with onboarding and sharpening ongoing messaging skills. Reps can practice their pitching, objection handling, qualification and more. They can practice in a safe environment where they can make mistakes, so they don't make mistakes when they talk to real customers.

The timing could not be better. In previous posts, I’ve argued that we’re in a sales team recession. For decades giant outsourced call centers have flooded companies with unsolicited junk calls making it more difficult to connect with the right people. At the same time, social selling emerged, replacing the phone as the main tool for prospecting.  Email and chat became the main way reps communicate with prospects and clients. Don't get me wrong, it's revolutionized how we get our message out into the world, but one BIG consequence is that many customer-facing reps have lost professional conversational skills.

Today many salespeople have only ever worked in digital-first environment. Social selling and digital communication is only part of having an effective sales approach. Reps need to know how to pick up the phone (or meet face-to-face) and say the right things.

Call reluctance has grown.

If you’ve heard the excuse “I sent an email and haven’t heard back” then you're likely working with someone who need help strengthening their phone skills.

Have them give Alex a call. We’ll start him out in a bad mood. Let’s see how they do. A report will provide all the details of what’s working and areas for improvement. This will help us create customized training content for each rep. Alex will always be a click of a button away to help practice, practice, practice.

I continue to follow the A.I. developments with a mix of optimism and trepidation. This technology is going to take us on a rollercoaster ride but little nuggets like these training bots are one great example of how A.I. can help our teams today. As we speed into this digital-first era of communication, it is the human skills we will need the most.

Reach out if you want to talk with Alex and his gang.


For those of you who do not know me, I build sales pipelines, provide sales training and coaching and develop leadership training programs that help companies increase business across regions and prepare next-gen leaders for tomorrow's global threats and #hybridwork opportunities.

I wrote a book about the lessons learned, good, bad and ugly, when expanding into foreign markets called The Accidental Business Nomad: A Survival Guide for Working Across a Shrinking Planet. It looks at the hyper-globalization era over the last few decades and the lessons learned about working across cultures. It won the Axiom Business Book Award and has been translated into traditional Chinese.

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