Four Exciting Applications of Generative AI for Sales Managers
The role of a frontline sales manager (FLSM) is challenging. From supporting sellers and providing coaching to handling administrative tasks and reporting to leadership, they have a lot on their plates. At the same time, sales managers are becoming even more overloaded with administrative responsibilities, reporting requirements, and countless internal meetings. Let's look at some ways generative AI can help frontline managers free up time for coaching, leading, and developing their teams.
The Promise of Generative AI for Sales
A significant portion of a frontline manager's time is often consumed by internal activities, leaving them with limited time for external customer interactions, professional development of their team, and strategic deal coaching. Adding to the pressure they face, their performance is visible and closely scrutinized across the sales organization as results are readily available and often shared company-wide.
As highlighted in Microsoft's Work Trend Index: Will AI Fix Work?, the promise of Generative AI is that it can free up time by automating mundane tasks and letting managers focus on deep work, innovation, and creativity, as opposed to completely replacing workers.
How Generative AI Is Transforming Frontline Sales Management
Inspired by a presentation and insights given by Greg Hessong at the Gartner CSO forum in May 2023, let's take a look at four exciting and emerging applications of Generative AI that will impact the FLSM.
1. Pipeline Management and Forecasting
Forecasting which deals will close and when is one of the most challenging jobs of the FLSM as forecasts are time-consuming and often inaccurate because of the unreliability (or complete lack of) CRM data. Because of that, managers rely heavily on seller input and intuition, which does not always produce the best results.
AI can remove the guesswork from this process and improve forecast accuracy. By analyzing past deal performance, it can predict more accurate win rates and time-to-close based on deal size, customer engagement levels, qualification criteria, etc. Managers can then gain clear visibility into areas that require attention and spend time coaching the deal and the rep to close the gaps identified.
As a result, less time is spent diagnosing issues, allowing more space for resolutions. Pipeline projections and gaps to target can be quickly reviewed, and overall pipeline growth, health, and velocity can be evaluated for future periods. Identifying the right mix of opportunities to achieve annual sales goals becomes easier, and identifying stuck or dead deals becomes more apparent.
2. Deal Coaching
Determining where to focus deal coaching efforts is challenging without accurate data and access to real-time insights about the deal progress. Managers often don't have the visibility and specific indicators they need to identify deal-specific risk factors.
AI can help quickly identify red flags in each deal, allowing managers to review seller and buyer interactions compared to successful deals of a similar type in the past and investigate sudden changes in buyer behavior (or lack of it).
In addition, managers can review key moments in recorded calls, using Conversational Intelligence to guide their discussions to better understand the context behind roadblocks and provide coaching based on tangible examples, as opposed to anecdotes and judgments.
3. Sales Rep Performance Management
When managing the performance of their sales team, FLSMs often struggle to pinpoint the causes of underperformance. They can be quick to jump to conclusions and use their experience to guide their diagnosis rather than leveraging data and insights to inform their actions.
AI enables managers to rank sellers and compare performance across numerous key metrics. By analyzing call recordings, seller actions, and win rates, AI can help inform what top performers are doing differently than their peers. For struggling reps, it becomes easier to highlight areas of improvement and incorporate these findings into a performance improvement plan.
4. Skills Coaching and Rep Professional Development
Managers often struggle to identify a rep's specific skill gaps and they frequently resort to their experience and judgments to inform their coaching. The lack of a consistent coaching process can create resentment toward coaching from the reps and become a roadblock for future development opportunities.
Conversational intelligence applications help highlight key development areas by analyzing numerous calls. Additional analysis can correlate selling skills with reps' performance and call attention to areas that will be most impactful for the rep to focus on.
Generative AI can be used to determine common skills that differentiate top performers from the rest of the team. This input can allow the manager to tailor their coaching and skill development plans based on AI recommendations.
Generative AI applications, such as ChatGPT, hold immense promise for frontline sales managers (FLSMs) in enhancing their effectiveness and productivity. By automating mundane tasks and streamlining critical processes, AI enables FLSMs to focus on developing strategic initiatives, coaching their teams, and fostering innovation.
AI-driven pipeline management and forecasting offer accurate insights into deal performance, win rates, and time-to-close. By leveraging historical data and customer engagement levels, FLSMs can effectively identify areas requiring attention, coach their reps, and optimize pipeline growth and velocity.
Generative AI empowers FLSMs in deal coaching by providing specific insights and detecting red flags in each deal. With the ability to analyze buyer interactions and compare them to successful deals, AI assists managers in understanding roadblocks and providing targeted coaching based on tangible examples.
AI assists in sales rep performance management by ranking sellers across key metrics. By analyzing call recordings, actions, and win rates, FLSMs can identify top performers and uncover actionable insights to improve struggling reps' performance through targeted coaching and development plans.
Generative AI enhances skills coaching and rep professional development. AI-powered conversational intelligence applications can identify skill gaps, correlate selling skills with performance, and provide tailored coaching recommendations for FLSMs by analyzing individual or multiple calls.
Generative AI offers an array of applications that can transform the way sales managers operate. By leveraging AI-powered solutions, organizations can empower their sales managers and create high-performing sales teams.
About Ray Makela
Ray Makela is the General Manager of the Sales Readiness Group, A Part of SBI. He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation, and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.
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