How Peer-To-Peer Coaching Can Help Sales Reps Unlock The Power Of Generative AI

By Ketan Karkhanis, General Manager and EVP for Sales Cloud at Salesforce

The sales profession has entered a new era — one in which nearly seven out of 10 reps say selling is harder than ever.

Inflation and economic headwinds make it more challenging to close deals. The protracted fallout from the pandemic and the growing share of millennial buyers means most interactions take place virtually, making it harder to gain customer insights and build relationships.

Reps need to be even more digitally savvy, juggling new technologies and embracing new ways of working. Customers — increasingly armed with information and sky-high expectations — are looking for guidance, not a hard sell. Meanwhile, sales teams face pressure to grow revenue without boosting expenses.

While emerging technologies like generative AI can help sales teams across industries thrive in this new paradigm, many sales professionals need help to harness these new tools. Mentorship and peer-to-peer coaching however are the secret sauce to helping sales teams make the most of new tech.

The benefits and barriers to generative AI

Generative AI is now widely accessible. We’ve reached an inflection point in which this technology can profoundly transform the sales process.

A recent survey found that reps spend less than 30% of their time selling. They spend the remaining hours on tasks like research, sending emails, data entry, and generating proposals.

One of the biggest payoffs of AI is to view the tech itself as a mentor. At Salesforce, we’ve created an enablement product that offers outcome-based learning and coaching with the help of our AI solution Einstein. Reps can receive real-time feedback on their talk-to-listen ratio, the best way to handle an objection, and other actionable insights.

Generative AI could also cut the time required for these activities dramatically, perhaps even doubling reps’ capacity. It could essentially become a dedicated assistant: writing drafts of emails and quotes, updating a CRM, generating analytics, doing automated outreach based on website leads, reminding reps of high-priority tasks, and providing in-depth prospect research. This support can make sales teams more efficient, productive, improve job satisfaction, and free up time for more meaningful engagement with customers.

Despite the clear benefits of generative AI, most teams are not utilizing it to its full potential.

Some have a misconception that there’s a ramp-up period to learn this new technology before it has an impact. Instead, it’s helpful to think of generative AI more like GPS — if its creators did their job, you shouldn’t need to understand the tech to use it.

Generative AI can also feel like a black box, leaving reps unsure whether it’s secure and compliant, and whether they can trust its output. Generative AI responses have an air of confidence — it’s part of what makes the tech so impressive — but it also poses a risk when users can’t see behind the scenes to know how it arrived at that response.

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The power of learning together

The key to getting beyond these challenges is investing in peer-to-peer coaching and mentorship. Most sales professionals will tell you that they’ve learned their most valuable lessons from colleagues and leaders, not an eight-hour training or quiz. In the past, this knowledge exchange occurred when people overheard each other’s calls or bumped into each other in hallways. With the move to a hybrid work environment here to stay, those interactions are less likely to happen spontaneously. Business leaders need to proactively invest in virtual pathways to coaching and mentorship.

While generative AI is transformative, there’s no substitute for a real-life network. Earlier this year, we introduced Salesblazer, the largest and most successful community of sales professionals. It’s a place where anyone in sales — regardless of experience, industry, or preferred tools — can come to learn, connect, and grow their careers. Members can pick up the latest sales skills through Trailhead, our free learning platform, and content from leading influencers and experts, including renowned lecturer and author of “How to Win Friends & Influence People” Dale Carnegie.

They can boost their resumes by earning a Sales Representative Certification. And they can engage in rich discussions and share best practices with peers, including around cutting-edge technologies. For Meghan Perez, a sales manager at Grubhub, conversations on Salesblazer have sparked her interest in applying generative AI. “I’m excited about the opportunity to incorporate AI technology into our sales processes,” she says. Communities like Salesblazer provide the support structure sales professionals need to adopt generative AI successfully.

Succeeding through community

Today’s rapidly evolving sales environment poses no shortage of challenges for sales teams, but no rep has to solve these alone. Tapping the potential of generative AI can help sales teams navigate obstacles and unlock unimaginable success. Peer-to-peer coaching with the help of generative AI can help reps embrace and build on learnings from this transformative technology, close more deals and build rewarding careers.

Through continuous, collaborative learning, sales professionals can position themselves to help their companies thrive in an ever-changing landscape.

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