Manufacturer Armstrong Steel saved 8% of its revenue adding artificial intelligence to its sales coaching. Here's how they saved hours a week and better trained their team.
Guest author Brooke Gerhardt is a sales director at Armstrong Steel.
As a sales leader for the past ten years, I’ve spent thousands of hours listening to digital sales calls looking for the best examples to use in training. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought: I wish I could just listen to every call, without needing to listen to every call.
Now, thanks to artificial intelligence (AI), it’s finally possible – all while saving hours of time every day, and never missing another key moment.
At Armstrong Steel — where we sell and manufacture steel buildings — we’re doing everything we can to get ready for new kinds of selling. Bringing in conversational intelligence has been a big part of making digital-first change happen.
Our sales reps are constantly fielding technical questions about engineering, and these questions are changing all the time. So it’s not the easiest place to come in and hit the phones off the bat, and the training never stops. That’s true whether you’re a sales rep or a sales leader like me.
It’s also why using conversational intelligence has been a game-changer. How does it work? Machine learning algorithms take in sales calls and understand what was said. Then, artificial intelligence (AI) finds key moments and brings them to our attention: the competitors being mentioned, how customers are responding to pricing, and the questions that come up again and again.
In the end, we’re left with a better understanding of what’s going on. We can discover best practices that we’d otherwise miss, and we can fill in knowledge gaps wherever they exist.
Here are the four most powerful ways sales leaders can use AI to help reps make better calls. And when you’re ready, learn more about how to skill up your teams for the future by streaming our video series, Simply Put.
Tip #1: Monitor product trends
In our business, staying on top of trends is everything. We need to track what products our customers are asking about to keep our training focused on what really matters.
To track trends, we use Sales Cloud’s Einstein Call Coaching, which uses AI to help us understand what’s going on in calls.
Sales leaders and sales operations train the AI to focus on the keywords that matter most to their business. In our case, we trained the AI to hone in on keywords having to do with design options we care about. Then we let the algorithms do their thing. They use natural language processing to flag important moments in conversations. The dashboard then lets me find these moments in seconds. We’ve gone from hunting information down to serving information up.
Tip #2: Track the competition
To handle objections effectively, you need to have a grip on what the competition is offering. AI can make it faster and easier to track what our competitors are up to — their pricing, promotions, and products — to avoid getting blind-sided on a call. AI guides us to insights in seconds that would otherwise take hours to find. And it gives us the full picture of the competitive landscape. What types of warranties are competitors offering? Have they changed their materials? What’s making them stand out — and can we improve in that area, too?
Tracking competitors also shows us which companies are falling off the map, so we can make sure we don’t follow suit.
Tip #3: Help sales reps avoid mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes. For sales reps, that might look like overpromising on what the product can do or selling below cost. AI helps our team stop and learn before we make these costly errors. Keywords help us track common pitfalls, so sales leaders are immediately notified when they come up in conversation.
If the rep misspeaks, we can swoop in and adjust customers’ expectations before mistakes get put into writing. That’s crucial, because it’s much harder to correct a mistake after the customer has made a purchase.
Since we absorb the cost of many mistakes on calls, stopping these mistakes from happening has really propelled our revenue growth. So far, conversational intelligence has saved us about 8% of our overall revenue. We expect to reduce errors by 40-50% over time, as we improve our training and coaching processes to address common mistakes and train reps to avoid them.
Tip #4: Speed up call reviews
Call reviews are when sales leaders listen to sales call recordings to see where reps might need improvement or where they deserve recognition. Key performance metrics, such as conversions or contract value, tell only part of the story. These call reviews provide useful context on why our reps may, or may not, be hitting their numbers.
Now, AI makes the call review process faster and easier. It focuses our attention on the right calls and keywords to follow, and it shows us when it’s okay to skip parts of the call that are less important.
AI has saved us 60% of the time we used to spend going through sales calls. That’s hours every week. Before we’d go through calls manually. Now we simply click on keywords. It’s also helped us avoid reviewing calls that don’t matter. We’ve eliminated the number of calls we listen to by 40%, because we trust machine learning to help.
In the end, it’s human intelligence — not artificial intelligence — that does the important work. With all that time freed up, we can refocus our attention where it really counts: on coaching our digital sales reps to build relationships and win.
Being future-ready is about people and technology
Future-ready manufacturers are 2.2x more likely to have moved their sales systems to the cloud, a new study from Salesforce shows. At Armstrong Steel we’ve come to think of ourselves as future-ready, and pairing our call coaching with CRM technology is a big part of that.