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article imageQ&A: Nature vs. Nurture - Are good salespeople born or made? Special

By Tim Sandle     Sep 24, 2019 in Business
Theresa O’Neil, CMO at Showpad, discusses with Digital Journal how sales organizations can uplevel their middle-of-the-pack performers with artificial intelligence driven training and coaching technology.
In 2015, Forrester predicted that by 2020, one million U.S. B2B salespeople would lose their jobs to self-service e-commerce. As buyers increasingly research products on their own without the help of sales reps and purchase autonomously via e-commerce portals, analysts believed there wasn’t as much of a space for traditional reps in the digital age.
However, four years later, Forrester sees a shift in the landscape, as B2B buyers not only demand more advanced e-commerce portals, but personalized, next-level interactions with sales reps. Rather than cutting their roles out of the equation, organizations need to embrace the capabilities of their top performers, and replicate that among their middle-of-the-pack players.
Theresa O’Neil, CMO at Showpad, believes that with smart training and coaching tools driven by AI, sales organizations can take mid-level performers and give them the skills and guidance to meet buyers’ needs for better buying experiences. She explains more to Digital Journal.
Digital Journal: How has the role of the salesperson evolved over time?
Theresa O’Neil: As B2B buyer expectations have changed, so has the role of the salesperson. Today’s buyers are starting their journeys online, conducting research on their own. By the time they engage with a salesperson, they are more educated and informed, which means the stakes for the salesperson are high.
Today, buyers need sales reps to help them make sense of their options, quantify the value of their purchases and guide them through the increasingly complex buying process. And while the sales process has become increasingly digital, the role of the salesperson has remained important. We recently conducted a study that found 70% of B2B buyers still want to interact with sales reps, and 38% of buyers find interacting with a sales rep superior to gathering information on their own. Because of this, sellers must ensure they’re providing value that buyers can’t get elsewhere.
DJ: Is there such a thing as a natural salesperson?
O’Neil: There will always be sellers who have a natural flair for sales, but the good news is that with the help of smart tools, middle-of-the-pack reps can become top sellers too. Specifically, sales enablement solutions make it easy for sellers to find and personalize the right content and develop their skills with digital training and coaching - all of which helps them engage today’s informed buyers. Sales enablement technology also gives sales managers unprecedented visibility into the performance and skills of their teams. Managers can then identify and correct skill gaps early and coach their teams on the finer points of winning a sale to systematically improve performance. Some platforms even enable reps to study the pitches of the top-performing members of their team, which allow mid-performing reps to learn from their peers and build their own skills over time.
DJ: How can sales leaders turn more sales reps into top performers?
O’Neil:The secret to turning a mid-performer into a top seller lies in sales coaching, yet most sales managers don’t have enough time to coach their teams. Almost half (46%) of front line sales managers lead teams with 11 or more reps, while 79% manage at least one remote employee. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that one in three sales managers don’t have enough time to provide the coaching necessary to drive their team’s success.
Sales managers need tools that will enable them to coach their increasingly large and disparate teams digitally and at scale. Over time, and as sales reps work with multiple managers at the organization, these team members can leverage both technology and sales leaders’ insights to improve their skills and become the top quota-meeting and exceeding performers.
DJ: How can technology, in general, improve salesperson performance?
O’Neil:Technology improves seller performance by making it easier for salespeople to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively. Technology, specifically sales enablement technology, empowers sellers with the right tools, content and information to articulate unique value and deliver a better buying experience. In turn, sellers can increase the time they spend selling and reduce the time they spend looking for or creating content, as well as use prescriptive onboarding to get the knowledge and skills they need to ramp and hit quota faster.
DJ: With artificial intelligence specifically, how can this assist the sales rep?
O’Neil:The biggest way that AI helps sales reps is by delivering the content and training they need, when they need it. Technology platforms capture data on seller interactions. That data then fuels AI-powered contextual recommendations and next steps that sellers can use to optimize buyer engagement and boost their chances of success.
DJ: How important is training and coaching in the modern sales world?
O’Neil:Given the high expectations buyers have for sales reps and their purchase experiences, it’s absolutely crucial that sales reps are trained and coached at the highest level so they can provide the interactions buyers expect. In a crowded B2B landscape, smart, skilled and knowledgeable salespeople that know how to articulate value can be the difference between making the sale or not.
Proper training and coaching in the modern sales world separates those sales reps who are truly just in it to sell, versus those who can serve as trusted advisors. Because of this, it’s crucial sales organizations invest in next-level training and coaching technology in order to compete at the level that today’s B2B buyers expect.
More about salesperson, Sales, Marketing, B2b
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