AI-Based Sales Coaching: Hands-On Virtual Training

AI-Based Sales Coaching: Hands-On Virtual Training

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More and more sales managers are shifting much of their sales training responsibilities to artificial intelligence-based sales coaching, which allows salespeople to continually practice their skills on photorealistic virtual “customers” up to that they have forged the perfect ground.

This new approach to training can be particularly effective with people who have grown up with computer games and are used to interacting with on-screen, computer-generated personalities that challenge them to think, develop strategies and “rolling with” situations and reactions that are often extremely unusual or unexpected.

While the use of AI in sales training is still very new in trucking, a few industry players are gearing up to try the technology — or at least are open to the idea.

Joe Dysart


Ed Ackfeld, director of sales and program management at Yellow Corp., said the LTL carrier is working with Salesforce to integrate its AI-powered sales training system.

Called Einstein Conversation Insights, the software uses AI to listen to sales calls, analyze what’s going on, and then offer sales staff insight into what they think is working and what can be improved.

“AI is going to play an important role in our growth. As younger generations enter our sales force, the need to train faster has never been greater,” Ackfeld said. “In the industry LTL, the amount of information and technical data a good seller needs to know is significant and necessary to be successful.”

Ed Ackfeld


Traditionally, this training often required Yellow’s sales trainers to travel to various parts of the country to familiarize new hires with the company’s sales philosophy and techniques, according to Ackfeld.

But with an AI-based system, much of that travel can be eliminated, he said.

Using AI, we’ll be “able to determine which part of the sales process an individual could use for additional assistance and provide one-on-one training virtually before a sales call,” Ackfeld said. “We used to say it takes a new salesperson a year to be successful in a LTL position. AI can accelerate training and help professionals get there faster. Our goal is to reduce the time to success to 60 days.

Jennifer Karpus-Romain


Jennifer Karpus-Romain, executive director of the Transportation Marketing & Sales Association, also sees real value in AI-powered training, as long as companies see the technology as a value-added element to hone the skills of their workforces. sale rather than a complete replacement.

“Adapting training to include AI allows sales reps to use the technology throughout their initial training, so sales managers can focus their training efforts on more complex, out-of-the-box scenarios,” said declared Karpus-Romain. “When we think of AI and technology as a complement – ​​not a replacement for business – we can really begin to determine how a business can perform at peak performance.”

Geoff Muessig, executive vice president of Pitt Ohio Transportation Group, said he’s also open to the idea of ​​using AI to help refine sales pitches.

But Muessig added that any AI system the company considers should be highly customizable to ensure it incorporates the Pitt Ohio approach to sales.

I would… need to know from our sales people that they would like to be trained in AI.

Geoffrey Muessig, Executive Vice President at Pitt Ohio

Geoff Muessig

That style of selling, Muessig said, is 80% listening to what a customer wants and 20% assuring the customer how Pitt Ohio can meet those needs specifically.

“I would also need our sales people to know that they would like to be trained in AI,” he added.

It makes no sense, Muessig said, to provide AI training without buy-in from the sales force.

Pitt Ohio Transportation Group ranks 50th on Transport Topics’ Top 100 Carriers list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.

Corporate Visions, a sales training company for business-to-business industries such as trucking, said it has already added AI sales coaching featuring photorealistic “customers” that salespeople can practice presenting.

The decision was a no-brainer, according to Tim Riesterer, the company’s chief strategy officer, after validating that AI sales coaching can update many more salespeople simultaneously than traditional methods.

Corporate Visions uses Second Nature AI sales coaching software.

Tim Riesterer


“Previously, our expert consultants would assess a seller’s skills and document feedback manually. It’s very efficient, but many of our customers need to do it quickly and at scale, getting thousands of proficient reps in days,” Riesterer said. “With Second Nature, we train the AI ​​with the best examples of the customer’s message delivery skills and it does the rest: capturing performance, measuring effectiveness, and providing coaching.”

One of the main reasons Second Nature and AI systems like it turn heads is the focus on customization.

Instead of marketing their services as the be-all and end-all for any type of sale right out of the box, software makers work with corporate sales managers to tailor their software to incorporate the skills , approach, tone and other selling qualities. that a manager knows best for his specific business.

For example, an AI-based sales coaching software for a company selling medical diagnostic software to neurosurgeons is going to be customized very differently than an AI-based sales coaching software designed for a company that sells bungee cords to amusement parks.

Either way, once the AI ​​software is customized for a particular business, it’s just a matter of handing the system over to the sales staff to work its magic.

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In practice, pitching with Second Nature is a bit like trying to sell a product or service via a Zoom video call.

As a salesperson, you present a “customer” on your computer screen, roll out your best lines, monitor what the customer is saying, and study how the customer reacts to you so you can change your presentation at any time.

But unlike that live Zoom sales call, the “customer” you offer to use Second Nature and similar systems is actually a photorealistic representation of an AI-powered customer – a “virtual being” who has been programmed to react to your pitch the same way a real person reacts.

So when you present to the on-screen “customer” in an AI-based sales coaching system, the same questions, comments, and even suspicions of skepticism that you would encounter with a human customer are voiced and felt by the “virtual”. customer.”

Multiple personas can be created to simulate customers across the demographic spectrum. In addition, multiple personalities can also be imagined to simulate character quirks, mood swings, unforeseen questions and similar character qualities, which are limited in depth only by the sales manager’s imagination. company that personalizes them.

Yet another powerful component of AI sales coaching: when you present to an AI-powered virtual client, the system also records your every word, movement, and emotional cue – analyzing your performance, second by second, and using this analysis to assess the overall quality of your pitch. The system will tell you how to improve those moments in your pitch that seemed weaker than others.

The result? Salespeople using AI sales coaching can practice over and over again with various AI-powered customer personas until they have their cases for every major personality type their sales manager thinks they’ll encounter.

Additionally, the 24/7 availability of these AI-powered sales trainers ensures that salespeople can train with these systems at their own pace and on their own schedules.

Sales managers also find that these systems change their daily lives in a very positive way. By customizing an AI system to sell using the specific formula that works for their business, for example, sales managers find that they can “program once,” so to speak, and practice endlessly. .

Plus, sales managers looking to get a feel for a new hire’s progress no longer need to listen to a live call or observe a new hire’s performance face-to-face.

Instead, for a presentation performance status report, a sales manager can simply say to a new hire, “Show me your best video presentation so far.”

The use of AI also means that sales managers no longer need to deal with new hires or others who might react negatively to constructive criticism about their presentation ability – or think the sales manager sales targets them unfairly. With AI sales coaching, there’s no one to get mad at, just one standard to achieve.

Yet another major benefit of AI-powered sales coaching: the technology allows a sales manager to update an entire sales force on how to sell a new product or service by simply updating the AI system and passing it on to the sales force.

Admittedly, polishing your sales chops by pitching to a robot might seem counterintuitive in a profession where the art of developing and nurturing a relationship is the beginning and end of everything you’re trying to accomplish.

But if you consider that the bot has the ability and sophistication to assess those soft skills in every way imaginable, AI sales coaching starts to make more sense.

Joe Dysart is a Manhattan-based internet speaker and business consultant. Voice: (631) 438-1142. E-mail:

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