Why you need AI for successful fluency coaching

BY:  Rebecca Herson
March 3, 2022
8 MIN. READING

As part of our new partnership with Corporate Visions (CVI), a leading provider of B2B training programs, we presented a series of webinars discussing the challenges in scaling up sales coaching in a way that ensures sales employee fluency in sales conversations.

Fluency coaching is the vital next step

Sales enablement and marketing teams invest a lot of time developing sales messages, but are teams actually using them? This is the question asked by Doug Hutton, SVP of Products at Corporate Visions, in one of the webinars. The solution is for sales enablement and management teams to find new strategies to drive usage.

Doug talks about three crucial steps that are needed to achieve this goal:

– Enforce observable practice
– Provide coaching and feedback
– Fix and improve performance

But this can be easier said than done, especially when you’re rolling out new messaging. Human sales coaching can only get you so far.

Why you need AI for fluency coaching

Having a manager who is an awesome coach is the most important factor in driving success in an organization. But relying on managers to assure fluency coaching simply isn’t working, for one main, overarching reason: you can’t scale them.

In the typical B2B company, each seller holds anything from 20-30 up to several hundred different types of conversations each week, and needs to be coached for each one. Multiply that by the number of salespeople in your team, and you’re looking at a massive number of coaching interactions in any given organization.

A survey found that 87% of sellers say they want more coaching, so companies need to step up to the mark and scale up their coaching cadences. But that’s tough when you’re relying on managers to make it happen, and they’re busy with other things.

Managers have other priorities

It’s rare for managers to coach to specific conversation skills and types, not least because they’re usually – and quite reasonably – focused on issues like sales pipelines and deal timings. But if managers don’t coach salespeople to win those early conversations, the deals can’t progress as fast as you’d like.

Call recording data is going unused

Some companies turn to call recordings and call recording platforms to resolve this challenge, but that has its downsides too. There aren’t many managers who have time to review the mountain of recordings waiting for them, so call recording data goes, if not totally unused, certainly not used as often as it could be.

Sales enablement is overstretched

Additionally, it doesn’t help that sales enablement personnel are increasingly overworked. The average company has a ratio of approximately 1 sales enablement professional for every 50-100 salespeople. That means that one person is trying to change the behaviors of tens of sellers.

Enter AI for fluency coaching. When you use AI to coach salespeople to have fluent sales conversations, you’ll gain:

  • Immediate and consistent real time coaching
  • Insight into which representatives are stellar and which need more support
  • Instant scalability
  • Visibility into readiness across the entire organization

How Zoom leveraged AI to expand their coaching

Zoom discovered all this from the inside out. It’s well known for its video meetings, but as the pandemic progressed, the company wanted to educate its audience about all its additional products that offer more ways to keep people connected. At the same time, it was onboarding hundreds of new sales employees to keep up with expanding demand.

Zoom needed all its sellers to be incredibly proficient in all the features of all its products, but it had 8 product lines, 5 buyer personas, 5 industries, and 5 different sales situations, which worked out at 1000 different types of conversations that salespeople had to ace.

Existing coaching strategies couldn’t scale

Their first thought was to train up more managers to handle sales coaching, but, as Mike Fisher, Zoom’s Head of Sales Productivity and AI Enablement, quickly realized, “it just wouldn’t scale.”

They briefly considered using sales recording tools, but realized that they could lose far too many leads while salespeople make and learn from their mistakes.

So, as Mike put it, they wondered if they could find a simulator, like those used by pilots before they fly a real plane, and they found the solution in AI fluency coaching. Read more about the creative ways that Zoom used Second Nature to scale up its sales certification programs.

AI builds sellers’ “muscle memory”

Zoom introduced Jenny, Second Nature’s AI-powered sales coaching simulation, as a member of the sales enablement team. With Jenny, Zoom was able to offer salespeople:

  • Unlimited practice
  • Real time feedback
  • A judgment-free practice environment
  • Detailed scoring and guidance

“Just getting the reps to simply practice when Jenny simulates that objection or that reponse built the muscle memory, so when it actually happened in the field the rep didn’t get punched in the face,” said Mike, adding “Mike Tyson said that everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face, so what we did was have Jenny punch salespeople in the face in advance, so they were ready in the field.”

Managers gain visibility into sales team readiness

Besides the benefits for salespeople, AI fluency coaching also helped sales managers. With AI, Zoom’s managers could enjoy full visibility into each salesperson’s performance, seeing how well each representative mastered product knowledge, their style of presentation, and pace, so they know exactly which sellers need more time and support, and which are steaming ahead on their own.

On top of that, watching the variations in scores revealed when there was a team-wide issue with a specific point or message, so managers would know that they need to cover that topic in more depth.

What AI coaching can’t do

Despite all this enthusiasm about AI fluency coaching, it’s worth remembering that it’s not a silver bullet and it has its limitations. AI can’t and shouldn’t replace actual one-on-one coaching or role plays; instead, it makes them more effective. As Mike observed, “This was not about recreating a customer conversation and saying we don’t need to do role playing any more.”

AI also doesn’t recreate what it’s like to be in the room with a CIO about to run negotiations. It’s a simulation, not a recreation.

Finally, AI solutions need to be trained. You need to prepare your AI solution to know what “good” looks like and to simulate customer conversations, so it knows what objections might come up and which stories and messaging should be used.

AI is a vital tool for sales conversation fluency coaching

Scaling up your sales coaching can be an immense challenge – unless you bring in AI. With the help of an AI sales coaching solution like Second Nature, you can invite enormous sales teams to practice as many types of sales conversations as they like, as often as they like, while delivering consistent, meaningful feedback for users and valuable insight into sales team readiness for sales managers.

Contact Second Nature to learn more and schedule a demo.

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About the author

Rebecca Herson

Rebecca is head of marketing at Second Nature.

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