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The sweeping talent shortage across industries is hitting sales teams hard — and this should be cause for concern among tech decision-makers.

For instance, the U.S. tech industry is expected to hire more than any other sector this Q4. Yet, HR and talent acquisition teams are struggling to fill sales roles, making it harder for tech companies to sustain growth without a robust sales team to lead the charge.

There’s no denying the limited amount of top sales talent. But the talent shortage in sales isn’t solely a recruiting problem — it’s also an on-boarding and training problem. If tech executives want to get ahead of this issue, they should consider how AI and other tech can help bolster their sales departments.  

Antiquated methods lead to bad outcomes

Sales training programs often start with a crash course of onsite learning and some even require travel to a headquarter office location. Hours-long training sessions in a conference room can create a mundane learning environment for new employees and drive up unnecessary costs and time for employers.

These types of programs also take a long time to develop employees into effective contributors. On average, it takes nine months of training for a new employee to become a competent sales performer. Given the long development timeline and high-pressure nature of sales, it’s no surprise the average annual turnover rate for U.S sales professionals is 27%. Tech companies also typically see some of the highest sales turnover rates of any industry.

Sales professionals also aren’t set up for success with on-the-job training. Most teams leverage scripts and manually review phone call recordings to perfect interactions with prospects and customers. However, static scripts are simply a template and aren’t a useful tool when a salesperson needs to adjust their approach or react to a prospect or customer on the fly.

Additionally, team leads can only sit in on one call at all times to provide assisted coaching, leaving other employees without help for difficult scenarios. Manually reviewing call recordings to assess quality is both time-consuming and costly. Only reviewing a few phone calls at a time also leaves organizations with a call visibility gap of knowledge and learnings.

Prove the 80-20 rule wrong

The 80-20 rule says that 80% of an organization’s revenue comes from 20% of its sales representatives. And while the rule has been largely true historically for sales teams, AI and other technology can help business leaders go beyond the limitations of this rule to find efficiencies.

These tools can reduce on-boarding time, give representatives tools to improve their skills at a faster rate and ultimately, make the rest of a sales team — the other 80% — perform like the top 20% of representatives. There are three ways tech executives can take advantage of AI and other technologies to improve on-boarding and training processes:

Real-time coaching

Since sales managers can only listen in to one call at a time, an AI-powered assistant can eradicate this inconvenience by acting as another sales manager supporting employees — especially new hires.

An AI assistant analyzes calls in real time to deliver on-screen coaching advice to representatives. For instance, if a prospect mentions a competitor during a call, the AI assistant can provide a SWOT analysis that a representative can use to highlight their company’s product or service differentiators. The assistant can also provide sample responses (backed by conversation intelligence) to help employees navigate any objections they receive on the call.

Ultimately, these abilities help empower new sales talent to navigate difficult situations and feel more comfortable as they ramp up during their on-boarding progression.

Conversation intelligence

Instead of manually listening to sales calls one by one, AI can analyze every call with conversation intelligence software.

When it comes to training, conversation intelligence software ups the capabilities of the call script. Instead of relying on limited manually reviewed calls, use all of the insights from top sales performers to create a call script that encompasses best practices.

Leverage AI to perform keyword identification and determine the right language to use when closing a deal. AI can also provide sentiment scoring to establish which tones and behaviors click with prospects and customers to drive successful outcomes. These collective actions can then be applied to call scripts and training materials so they can be easily rolled out to new hires.  

Self-guided learning

Package up the insights and information provided by AI on a digital learning management system to create a self-guided training program. A digital learning management system also enables employees to complete training on any device and on demand, whether they’re at home or in the office.

Additionally, new hires can also listen to the best recorded calls analyzed by conversation intelligence and view screen recordings of representatives using an AI-powered assistant to get comfortable with the sales approach before they begin live calls. Self-guided learning also encourages self pacing. New hires don’t need to feel overwhelmed and can learn at their own speed by taking quizzes or tests after each training module to fully absorb and understand best sales practices.

Make sales a cutting-edge part of the organization

The most valuable intellectual property (IP) for sales is team knowledge. With the help of AI and self-guided learning, organizations can turn that IP into tangible on-boarding and training tools to help attract and retain top sales talent. And as workers quit their jobs in record numbers as part of the Great Resignation, investing in employees’ success carries even more weight in today’s job market.

The bottom line: It’s been a long time coming for sales on-boarding and training to change — it’s now on tech executives to empower their sales teams with the right tools. (The author Greg Armor is executive vice president at and the views expressed in this article are his own)

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