VP Product and Design at Brainshark
Selling with AI and intelligent assistants could transform the entire sales funnel. Training machines and humans for sales using AI sounds very interesting. Isn’t it? However, technology providers are still exploring the best possibilities of coaching virtual agents at the same level (maybe, even more!) as that of human sales reps. AI in sales coaching and enablement is a complex scenario, yet a delectable one.
Therefore, to have a crystal clear idea of how modern sales teams can use AI and machine learning for sales coaching, we spoke to Sandeep Soman, VP Product and Design at Brainshark.
Tell us about your role at Brainshark and the team/technology you handle?
I head Product & Design at Brainshark and work with some of the sharpest people on the planet developing a sales readiness platform used by thousands of customers. We are centered on innovation with exceptional user experience. This enables our customers to deliver better content, prepare their reps with flexible training and ensure reps stay on message in their interactions with their sellers.
What is the current state of AI-driven B2B sales coaching technology in 2018?
Following the trends in most market segments, AI is making huge inroads into the B2B sales coaching landscape in 2018. Most of the AI-driven tools emerging now in the market focus on sales data analytics and call handling to predict behaviors that will most likely lead to a successful win. Big players like a Salesforce Einstein to smaller players like a Chorus.ai and Gong.io are enjoying tremendous success with buyers as they attempt to bring in efficiencies to their sales processes. We at Brainshark believe AI-driven technologies and tools will permeate every aspect of sales – there will be some hits and misses for sure, but overall sales coaching is primed for a huge leap forward, and Brainshark is uniquely positioned to lead the charge here.
What are the core tenets of your latest product—Machine Analysis?
At Brainshark, we firmly believe that AI-driven tools of today are primarily focused on sales analytics and miss the boat on helping sellers be situationally ready for the three-foot conversations with their buyers. Questions such as “How are you different from the competition for feature X?” or “How is your company dealing with GDPR framework?” require your reps to stay on message and deliver an effective response every single time to gain credibility with the buyer.
Automated “micro-assessments” with consistent feedback and scoring to evaluate real-life sales scenarios form the basis for Brainshark’s Machine Analysis.
Our AI engine is designed to be taught what phrases or keywords to look for and, conversely, what to avoid as sellers submit their video responses. In addition to these, we can also figure out if sellers used too many filler words or spoke too fast and even the level of comprehension. All this is processed by our AI engine after it automatically transcribes video responses to such scenarios and generates an overall machine score. This enables sales managers to save time and streamline the coaching process, and quickly identify specific areas to improve with sellers before they get in front of a buyer.
How did you prepare for the new AI/machine learning-powered sales coaching technology? How long was it in your incubation and testing phase?
Brainshark Labs is our innovation theatre where we love to tinker with new technologies. Last year, we built a prototype with Microsoft HoloLens that essentially put reps into real-life scenarios, complete with hologram buyers on the other side of the table that they had to interact with to move the deal forward. It was a ton of fun, and we learned a lot about AI and cognitive services, pieces of which have made their way into the product today in the form of Machine Analysis.
How would Machine Analysis impart sales coaching to new and experienced reps?
Brainshark’s platform is built to support any sales readiness requirement. For new hire onboarding, for example, a rep could be issued a video coaching activity on delivering the company elevator pitch. Via Brainshark, the rep would record a short video of themselves delivering the pitch and submit it for review. Machine Analysis can then auto-score and analyze the video for things like coverage of key topics, speaking rate, emotions exhibited and more. This input can be used by the reps as a practice tool to improve their performance while streamlining the process for managers who can use the Machine Analysis to prioritize their own feedback and coaching.
The same types of video coaching activities can also be issued to your existing, experienced sales force on a continuous basis for areas like new product pitches, objection handling – the list is endless.
What challenges to sales coaching would Machine Analysis mitigate?
First, it helps managers and sales enablement leaders save time and streamline the coaching process. This is especially valuable for anyone tasked with the readiness of large or distributed teams, and thus has a lot of coaching videos to review. The Machine Analysis allows managers to more quickly identify areas that need to be addressed so they can better prioritize their coaching efforts. It also enables reps to get feedback faster to improve performance without being entirely reliant on a human reviewer.
Another benefit is that the machine is an unbiased observer, so the analysis and feedback will be free of the inconsistencies that can come up of when, say, multiple managers are involved in the review process.
What is the current state of B2B sales coaching technology in 2018?
Sales coaching technology – and specifically video coaching tools – have become a really hot area for the sales enablement space, especially within the past two years. It’s in part driven by the understanding that sales teams have different training requirements than other employees. It’s not enough that a seller simply completes an online training course, you also need to be able to assess that they can demonstrate mastery of that material before they get in front of a buyer. Video-based assessments are a powerful and practical way to administer these assessments, even if your sales force is distributed in locations all over the map (as many are).
It’s also driven by the continued emphasis on sales coaching as a vital ingredient for sales productivity. Everyone agrees on the value of effective coaching – and there’s plenty of data to back up the benefits – but many organizations still struggle to do it well or consistently. Sales coaching technology can help close that gap.
What does your product roadmap for ‘AI in sales’ look like? Are you focusing on social selling and video for sales in 2018-2020?
Machine Analysis with topic coverage is just the tip of the iceberg for us to expand our AI footprint. We are currently looking at several aspects of the sales readiness journey including actionable insights, smart recommendations and much more. Stay tuned!
Thanks for chatting with us, Sandeep.
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