Usually, when the boss shows a new employee around the office, everyone tries to offer a warm welcome. It could just be a quick smile or nod if you’re on the phone, but in other cases you might take the time to ask a fresh hire about their previous background and personal interests. Overall, the reception is often a pretty warm one.
Part of this can be preconceived ideas about AI, based on what people in the company might have already heard from their peers in other organizations that have implemented the technology. There will be other employees, however, who simply don’t know enough about what AI is, let alone how it would work with a CRM or how they would explain their use of AI to customers. This could trigger fears about losing control of critical parts of the sales process, feeling as though you’re now doing the bidding of a machine or that you’ll suddenly need to become a data scientist in order to use CRM from now on.
None of these things are true, but they manifest themselves when AI isn’t introduced properly to the organization as a whole. Unlike the onboarding process of a human being, who might get escorted from one cubicle to another, AI might simply be announced through an internal memo or at a staff meeting. Suddenly sales — arguably one of the most personal parts of any business — appears to be turning into a more technical process.
This can have damaging repercussions 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. Rather than let your investment in the technology go to waste, it behooves more firms to think about what “AI onboarding” means and the most natural way to integrate it into the sales team’s day-to-day life. Here’s how to take AI from something threatening to a reality within sales.
If you’re ready to start using CRM that includes AI capabilities, it might be best not to start the team discussion with the technology itself. Instead, approach it the way reps might pitch their customers and prospects. Bring up the data you have on the team’s performance: win rates, losses, goals and progress to date. These should all be numbers the team already trusts, and they are key to how they’re compensated, so they’ll be sure to pay attention.
Then, move the discussion into a business case about what the use of AI could mean the next time you review these numbers as a team. Develop your best forecast or estimate based on how AI could identify additional opportunities, avoid costly mistakes or predict otherwise unforeseen events. This will position AI as less of a fad or tech trend but an obvious next step in the evolution of selling.
This won’t always work in some cultures, but try setting up two reps at the front of the room, each armed with their laptop. Give them a bunch of data to input into a spreadsheet, or a bunch of emails they’ll need to answer and correlate with calendar information. Use a stopwatch and give them a finite amount of time to work within. Encourage the rest of the room to cheer them on, even if it distracts them (because that’s what happens in real life all the time).
Once the time’s up, congratulate who accomplished more of the tasks you assigned. Before declaring them the winner, however, talk about how AI can automate the process of syncing email and calendar information, creating new contact lists and eliminating much of what we use spreadsheets for today. They’ll come to understand that there are certain things technology is better to do, and things that it could free human beings to do instead.
There’s a reason virtual assistants like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa use a soothing but realistic-sounding human voice to interact with people. When technology acts more like human beings we tend to feel less intimidated by it. So why not do the same thing with AI-based CRM?
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 a screen in your team meeting, and talk about them as though you were introducing a new admin assistant who would be helping out the sales department.
In this case, though, you’ll be able to talk about the skills this particular assistant can offer, such as analyzing opportunity engagement activity and external news at the same time to make sure reps don’t miss any critical business developments. Mention how they’ll help create more accurate forecasts.
You could get playful with this and even give your AI persona its own name, as voted on by the sales group. The point is to demonstrate that if this were an all-star human being with exceptional capabilities, they would be immediately loved. So why not fall in love with technology that can do the same thing?
Sales people are notoriously competitive, and often ingenious in creating an argument that sways even the most skeptical customers. You can turn that to your advantage as you bring in AI.
After walking through your business case and demoing the tool, 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 who delivers the most convincing pitch, and maybe add bonus points for those who would characterize themselves as uneasy or doubtful about AI in the office. When they’re forced to pitch the way they do your products and services, they’ll force themselves to open their minds just a little bit more.
It may take time for the team to get fully comfortable with AI features in their CRM. When they begin to see the results, however, they’ll not only become comfortable — they’ll wonder why they didn’t welcome the technology even sooner.