SAP weighs in on conversational AI and its effect on pre-sales learning

BY:  Rebecca Herson
September 29, 2021
Updated on February 22, 2023

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SAP, a market leader in enterprise software for managing business operations and customer relations, has proven itself an ally to companies around the world that use its ERP and other solutions. When SAP was looking for a way to scale up the company’s pre-sales academy, it turned to Second Nature for help.

Susan Greenberg, global presales readiness lead at SAP, joined Second Nature’s CEO Ariel Hitron to talk about a recent case study she presented during the Sales Enablement Soiree Americas 2021 event. They discussed how SAP scaled up sales coaching and conversations using AI to meet the company’s growing needs.

SAP partners with Second Nature

SAP’s experience with Second Nature and Jenny first started with an objection-handling class at the company. A big takeaway from the class was that many of the salespeople taking part wanted more practice. With this in mind, SAP looked for ways to scale up the training process.

Turning to Second Nature, the SAP sales coaching team worked with Jenny to enhance its objection-handling training efforts. Greenberg and her colleagues were happy to see the end results. Not only did the salespeople involved enjoy the process, they were onboard with using the program to get more practice.

“When you’re working with Jenny, it’s like you’re having a conversation with your sales coach and mentor, and she does a great job of being a role-play partner,” Susan told Ariel in the interview.

Jenny works by using conversational AI to talk with the salesperson, throwing objections or asking questions just like a potential prospect would. In fact, sales practice with Jenny is just like having a real, natural conversation. Sales reps can even ask the AI questions.

Applying conversational AI to pre-sales learning

Word spread quickly about the success SAP had after using Jenny for sales-objection training, and the company realized that Jenny could help its pre-sales academy find a solution for scaling industry certifications for pre-sales training.

The pre-sales academy is responsible for teaching employees at the company how to better demonstrate the products that SAP sells. The pre-sale process is important with any sales team, as it’s the initial point of contact between sales reps and customers. Unfortunately, SAP was finding that properly training salespeople in pre-sales was proving difficult — there just wasn’t enough time for sales managers to devote toward training while still keeping up with their own duties.

Initially, the pre-sales academy had tried pitch practice using videotaped interviews with industry experts. The goal was for salespeople to listen to the interviews and apply what they learned by making in-person practice pitches to sales and pre-sales managers. But, this method didn’t scale well because it was mostly a “one-and-done” (to use affair (tu use Susan’s phrase) due to time constraints. In the end, the salespeople didn’t get the opportunity to practice, and they simply moved on and got their certification, regardless of the outcome.

Jenny really made the difference

With Jenny, the SAP pre-sales academy team was shocked to find that salespeople were able to do, on average, a little over four practice sessions instead of the single session they were doing before.

Using conversational AI, the academy was able to scale its efforts, which wouldn’t have been possible with simply using faculty members. The final results speak for themselves, Susan said; salespeople who trained with Jenny were able to improve their pre-sales pitch results about 20% from the first session to the last.

Susan’s own experience with Jenny

As proof of Jenny’s effectiveness, Susan shared her own experience with Jenny, which showed her the value of using conversational AI with all types of sales training. When she practiced with Jenny, she was not particularly familiar with the industry she was practicing for.

She said she did well with the opening and closing parts of the sales discussion, according to Jenny, but when it came to the middle part, where she wasn’t quite familiar with the subject matter, she found that she didn’t do as well. Jenny was able to tell her what skills to focus on to improve going forward.

“Everybody from a VP down to these entry, new-hire, early talent employees had a different experience with Jenny, but they all found consistently that they prefer the experience with Jenny to the one that they had been doing before,” Greenberg said.

The power of conversational AI and pre-sales learning

As with most parts of the overall sales conversation between your salespeople and a potential client, pre-sales is an important aspect.

To see more of Ariel’s discussion with Susan from SAP about the importance of conversational AI and its impact on the pre-sales learning experience, watch the video.

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About the author

Rebecca Herson

Rebecca is head of marketing at Second Nature.

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