Even the most sceptical sales team can be won over to AI with the right approach.
For many businesses, AI is like a new star recruit who everyone feels nervous around and a bit wary of. This is largely because of the myths that still persist about AI taking jobs, requiring employees to become data scientists, or snooping on customers.
And yet AI has the potential to empower employees and drive sales success. What it needs then is a proper introduction, not a sudden announcement at a staff meeting or hastily circulated memo that makes sales – arguably one of the lively parts of any business – feel like it’s turning into a technical process rather than a valuable and talented team. The results can be damaging if those on the sales team fail to adopt or take advantage of the AI capabilities in their CRM, or try to find ways to work around it.
So rather than let your technology investment go to waste, figure out an approach to AI onboarding that isn’t threatening and can integrate usefully and naturally into the sales team’s day-to-day life.
If you were introducing a new team member to a client, would you bring them to a meeting unannounced, tell everyone their name and expect the relationship to thrive? No! You’d lay the groundwork – selling your new hire to the client before they ever meet.
So, instead of calling your team into a meeting, telling them AI is now here, and launching straight into a discussion about the technology itself, lay the groundwork.
Start by discussing the team’s own data: win rates, losses, goals and progress. These should be numbers the team already trusts and values, so they’ll be sure to pay attention.
Only then should you move the discussion into a business case about how AI might improve those numbers. Develop your best forecast or estimate based on how AI could identify additional opportunities, avoid costly mistakes or predict otherwise unforeseen events. This positions AI as a tool useful to the team’s success – not something that will undermine success.
Sales reps don’t love admin, whether it’s creating and submitting reports, scheduling meetings, answering emails or updating customer records. The reality is, that admin also takes them away from the one thing they’re all good at and the very thing they earn commission on – selling – and the average sales rep spends just 34% of their time selling.
Show, don’t tell, your team how powerful reclaiming some of that time back would be. Most sales reps love a little competition – they thrive on achieving a goal! So set up a game with reps racing each other and the clock. Choose two reps with healthy egos that won’t be bruised by losing, and give them a bunch of data to input into a spreadsheet to create a sales report, and a stack of emails to answer and correlate with calendar information to book meetings – ask them to ensure they update customer records as they go. Use a stopwatch and give them 20 minutes to complete the task. Meanwhile, have a third rep complete the same task using Einstein Voice – you’ll need to make sure they’re familiar with using it.
When time’s up, congratulate the rep who accomplished more of the tasks. But before declaring them the winner, talk about how AI can automate the process of syncing email and calendar information, updating your CRM and eliminating much of what we use spreadsheets for today. And ask the rep who was using AI what they would do with the extra time they didn't spend on admin. The whole team will see for themselves that the right technology can free them up to do higher value tasks.
When technology behaves like a person – hello Siri and Alexa – it feels less intimidating. So why not give your new AI capabilities the same advantage?
Connect with your marketing department to develop a representative image you’ll use to associate with your new AI capabilities. Show the AI persona’s face on screen in your team meeting, and talk about them as though you are introducing a new admin assistant who will be helping out the team.
When AirAsia launched its AI chatbot Ava, she was introduced like any other member of the team. In Ava’s case, the team spoke about the skills she (yes, you refer to her as a she) could offer, such as answering common customer questions and managing their enquiries, at the same time freeing up the customer service staff to handle the more complex cases that required a human touch.
The point is to demonstrate that if this were an all-star human being with exceptional capabilities, they would be enthusiastically welcomed. So why not do the same for the technology that can deliver those capabilities?
Getting the new technology’s harshest critics to pitch it can be a great way to turn a sceptic into a fully fledged AI advocate.
Sales people thrive on competition and coming up with ingenious ways to sway even the most resistant customers. You can turn that to your advantage as you bring in AI.
After walking through your business case and demonstrating AI’s ability to supercharge CRM, challenge members of the team to do an on-the-spot pitch as though they needed to convince the company to try the technology out. Offer a real prize for the rep who delivers the most convincing pitch, and maybe add bonus points for those who would characterise themselves as uneasy or doubtful about AI in the office. It’s a useful technique for helping the team get comfortable with the benefits of AI features in their CRM and turning sceptics into fans.
Getting fully comfortable with a new team member can take time. But when that new team member is AI, it’s worth putting effort into introducing and onboarding it with an awareness of your team’s potential reluctance and a creative approach to overcoming it.
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