How the Rise of AI Changes Sales Training

According to Forbes, 62% of executives believe they will need to retrain or replace more than a quarter of their workforce between now and 2030 due to digitization. Most employees won’t join your company with the skills to lead your team into the future of automation, which is why it’s critical that you’re ready to train your employees on emergent technologies.

There are plenty of upsides to automation: many companies have begun to leverage AI to better understand their customer’s behaviors and preferences so they can sell more personalized products, more accurately predict revenue, and even optimize pricing options for customers. Some companies have started to utilize AI assistants in the sales process to free up their salespeople from having to deal with mundane or repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on increasing revenue through building relationships.

On the other side of the artificial intelligence coin is the notion that robots are taking over the world (and taking our jobs). Not everyone is excited to welcome AI into the workplace; There is a real fear about AI taking over jobs that humans can do and making certain skillsets obsolete. AI is capable of carrying out tasks within carefully delineated boundaries like recognizing certain email as spam, offering you Netflix movie recommendations, or identifying which books you might like to read according to your recent purchases – but there are things it can’t do that you can, like create human connections.

As certain sales activities have been handed over to machines, skills like empathy, decision-making, and collaboration are more important than ever. Where AI can construe predictable customer questions through an assistive chat feature, it cannot make quick judgments on gray-area situations or understand the nuances of emotions – and these are key skills when it comes to selling.

Saleshacker says that, “the more a salesperson understands the emotions invested in a sales interaction, the better her chances of successfully making the sale.”

Unboxed-blog-AI-sales-desk

 

If you’re a salesperson, you can’t succeed without the ability to talk to new people, overcome objections, build strong relationships, and make personal connections. At the end of the day, buying something is an emotional experience for both the seller and the customer and these skills are the things that separate salespeople from sales machines.

As technology continues to advance and improve, it’s important to focus on upskilling your workforce with the emotional intelligence skills they need to succeed while capitalizing on emerging technologies. Here are a couple of ways you can upskill your team:

• Offer personalized training programs that build sales and people skills to bridge the gap between automation and the emotional connection needed to make a sale.

Implement the usage of intelligent apps, AI programs, and other emerging technologies to improve efficiency and empower team members to spend more time on revenue-generating tasks than on busy work.

• Use time-tracking programs to measure each employee output. This way, your employees will be getting trained on a new program, while you pick up on their patterns, strengths, and weakness. This data can determine where an employee needs to be retrained or paired with a mentor who can help.

The future is here! Your employees should know that artificial intelligence isn’t out to hurt them, it’s here to help them work more efficiently and creatively.  Are you ready to see how personalized sales training programs can help your team build better customer relationships and generate more revenue?
Reach out today.

 

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The Rise of Training Podcasts in a Blended Learning Program

Blended learning is not just a trend— technology is being integrated into learning in all sorts of innovative ways, and that includes training podcasts.

Podcasts – digital audio series that users can download or stream – are great at distilling complex topics into digestible pieces, because their informal nature relaxes listeners. People can tune in during their commute, lunch break, or even over the weekend.

Podcasts have proven to be a wildly successful medium to interview creative experts, listen to fictional stories, learn new skills, and more. Training podcasts can be leveraged as part of a larger blended learning program to increase retention and reflection.

Let’s take a look at a few ways to incorporate them.

1. Leadership Training/Soft Skills
Training podcasts are a great way to build leadership skills and emotional intelligence because they push learners to personal reflection more than most training modalities. For instance, leaders can discuss strategies they’ve used to develop skills by giving examples of areas where those skills play a key role. Once the podcast is over, an eLearning course can prompt learns to reflect on the discussions they’ve heard and continue to grow their personal leadership toolkit.

2. Sustainment
Podcasts can also be an excellent resource for sustainment training. After completing a training program, learners’ workbooks can include prompts at 30, 60, and 90 days (or different lengths of time), so they can deep dive on key aspects of the training. At each checkpoint, learners can listen to a podcast, answer prompts to reflect on what they’ve heard, and then have a 1:1 meeting with their manager to discuss what they learned. Training podcasts are a great way to bring back key topics and dig deeper into them, so learners are reminded to incorporate key themes into everyday work.

3. Increase engagement and understanding
When added as part of a blended pre-learning program before a live instructor-led course, podcasts help get early buy-in from participants. Before a course starts, learners gain insight into the topic at hand, and then apply it once the course begins. When facilitators and company leaders get involved within the podcast, as interviewers or interviewees, it can add weight to key topics and get learners to focus even more.

Podcasts are a popular creative tool, and it’s exciting to see their applications in learning and development, since they deliver such a dynamic experience. As trends change and companies innovate, you’ll see that the organizations that embrace new tools and methods of storytelling will start to implement training podcasts as a way to make learning more creative and objective.

Need help navigating these new trends? Let us help. Schedule a free training consultation with one of our training content experts to learn how!

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What Brené Brown Teaches Us About Effective Leadership Training

After recently finishing Brené Brown’s newest book, Dare to Lead, I already think it’s my favorite book of the year – and it’s not even summer yet! I resonated so much with this book personally, and as someone who professionally helps organizations grow their teams, it was hard to ignore what Brown’s message means for how we develop effective leadership training.

Brown defines a leader as “anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.”

Throughout the book, she answers the question leaders in organizations ranging from entrepreneurial startups to Fortune 50 companies are asking: How do you cultivate braver, more daring leaders, and how do you embed the value of courage in your culture?

What struck me was that I’ve always thought of courage as an inherent trait; however, thankfully for Brené Brown, I now understand it differently. In Brown’s words, “it is less about who people are, and more about how they behave and show up in difficult situations.”

And fortunately, courage is a collection of four skill sets that we can learn. Yes. Learn!

The four courage skill sets are:

  • Rumbling with Vulnerability
  • Living into Our Values
  • Braving Trust
  • Learning to Rise

Most effective leadership training today contain these four components. Let’s look more closely at how we can teach and develop these skills in our content.

 

Four Effective Leadership Training Components

1. Rumbling with Vulnerability

If we want to develop daring leaders that push our organizations forward, we must create environments where our leaders and teams can be vulnerable. Brown defines vulnerability as, “the emotion we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” And I think we can all agree that in our work, we encounter at least two of these on a regular basis. After all, some of the most life changing inventions of all time – the lightbulb, air travel, and the iPhone – definitely didn’t come in the world without a little uncertainty and risk.

Creating Psychologically Safe Environments

Brown writes, “If we want to people to fully show up, to bring their whole selves including their unarmored, whole hearts – so that we can innovate, solve problems, and serve people – we have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected.”

Google’s five-year study on highly productive teams found that psychological safety – team members feeling safe to take risks and be vulnerable in front of each other – was “far and away the most important of the five dynamics that set successful teams apart.”

So, how do we train our leaders to create these kinds of environments? We need to train leaders on listening, honesty, and keeping confidence with a heavy emphasis on emotional intelligence.

We also need to teach that courage and fear are not mutually exclusive. You can feel brave and afraid at the same time. This is vulnerability and it’s okay. When our leaders are beating this drum and encouraging their teams to embrace these feelings, we’ll get innovation and creative-problem solving as a result.

We Need to Rumble

According to Brown, a rumble is a “discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and problem solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.”

And in order for our teams to rumble with vulnerability, we need to empower our leaders against rewarding armoring behaviors like blaming, shaming, cynicism, perfectionism, and emotional stoicism. It’s time to take the armor off, and when it’s laid to the side, we’ll get teams that can fully thrive and create groundbreaking work.

 

2. Living into Our Values

Organizations and Leaders Need to Define their Values

In the organizational development world, we hear about values a lot. Many of our organizations have them (if yours doesn’t, advocate to make them a priority), but how many of us have taken the time to define our own values? The foundation of effective leadership training should be helping your leaders intentionally define their values. Brown recommends having just two values. Why? Because according to her research, “The participants who demonstrated the most willingness to rumble with vulnerability and practice courage tethered their behavior to one or two values, not ten. At some point, if everything on the list is important, then nothing is truly a driver for you. It’s just a gauzy list of feel-good words.”

Translate Values from Ideals to Behaviors

It’s not enough for organizations and leaders to just identify values, we have to teach people the skills they need to demonstrate them. I think Brown explains it best when she says, “The reason why we roll our eyes when people start talking about values is that everyone talks a big values game but very few people actually practice one.”

And the proof is in the pudding, according to Brown, “Only about 10 percent of organizations have operationalized their values into teachable and observable behaviors that are used to train their employees and hold them accountable.” Yikes!

This means that our leadership training needs to clearly outline how the organization’s and leader’s values translate into specific behaviors. Here’s an example of what this looks like from Brown’s organization. “Be Brave” is the organizational value and below that are the three behaviors to support it.

Be Brave
  • I set clear boundaries with others.
  • I lean into difficult conversations, meetings, and decisions.
  • I talk to people, not about them.

3. Braving Trust

Without trust, we have no connection, and if we can’t connect, vulnerability has no place. Trust is so vital to our teamwork that in Fortune’s research done for the annual list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For, they found that, “Trust between managers and employees is the primary defining characteristic of the very best workplaces.”

Brown takes our understanding of trust even further by defining the seven elements of trust (she calls this The BRAVING Inventory), so leaders have the language they need to give constructive feedback to their teams. She says, “Rather than rumbling generally about trustworthiness and using the word trust, we need to point to specific behaviors. We need to be able to identify exactly where the breach lies and then speak to it.” Your leadership training should be speaking to these seven elements too.

The BRAVING Inventory – The Seven Elements of Trust
  • Boundaries: You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask.
  • Reliability: You do what you say you’ll do.
  • Accountability: You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends.
  • Vault: You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share.
  • Integrity: You choose courage over comfort.
  • Nonjudgement: We can talk about how we feel and ask for help without judgment.
  • Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.

4. Learning to Rise

Daring leaders also need resilience skills. Brown says, “We can’t expect people to be brave and risk failure if they’re not prepped for hard landings.” Effective leadership training wouldn’t be complete without content on these skills. Brown has created a process called Learning to Rise that outlines how to be resilient.

The Learning to Rise Process
  • The Reckoning: Knowing that we’re emotionally hooked and then getting curious about it.
  • The Rumble: Acknowledging the stories (often untrue and based on our fears and insecurities) we tell ourselves to make meaning of hard situations.
  • The Revolution: Taking off the armor and rumbling with vulnerability, living into our values, braving trust with open hearts, and learning to rise so we re-claim authorship of our own stories and lives is the revolution.

In the spirit of Brené Brown, I’ll be vulnerable with you. Writing this post was challenging! Dare to Lead is chock-full of wisdom that should not only impact how we create meaningful and effective leadership training for our organizations, but also how we personally lead ourselves and our teams. Brown gives us so much valuable information that can be applied to leadership training (definitely read the book for yourself), and the four components you just read about are what I think is missing from leadership training today.

I’m so grateful for Brené Brown and the work she’s doing to help us step into daring leadership. When these tactics are incorporated into our leadership training, we’ll get the results we’re looking for and arm our leaders with the meaningful information and skills they need to be successful.

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ATD 2019 – Are You Ready to Take Action?

Where can you meet Oprah AND Unboxed in person? Only at the world’s largest talent development conference, of course! The ATD 2019 Conference is fast approaching, and we’re excited to join L&D professionals from across the country. Come say hello to us at Booth #1425!

Starting with the End in Mind

Once the conference is over, the question becomes, how do you take your new learnings and opportunities and really make an impact back at the office?

Consider this: without reinforcement, 50% of information is forgotten within one hour and 90% is forgotten within a week. It seems disappointing that you might walk away with only 10% of the inspiring content you hear at ATD.

If you keep that thought going, of that 10% of information that you remember from ATD, how much of that are you going to use to implement change for your learners? How much of what you implement will learners retain? And the million-dollar question, how much of what learners get trained on will impact their performance and ultimately your company’s bottom line?

Well, enough of that glass is half empty stuff! There is hope and you’ll be amazed at how easy it can be to implement the change your company needs.

The answer is simple and yet overlooked: Action-oriented learning. It’s the transfer of knowledge and ideas into real, on-the-job, actions that translate into better performing employees. Learning should never be a one-time, static event. Following the intake of new information, a learner should immediately have an action or a way to put into practice what was just learned in order to reinforce and retain that information. While this is not a brand-new idea or concept, it is difficult to put into practice for a variety of reasons including lack of buy-in, funding, or time.

Our goal for the ATD 2019 conference and training in general, for that matter, is for you and your learners to take meaningful action that will positively impact behaviors and your company’s goals.

 

Hear from Leaders at LinkedIn and Hilton

Any learning philosophy is only as good as its results. We’ll be featuring our work with L&D leaders from LinkedIn and Hilton, and the success they’ve had with action-oriented experiences to engage and challenge modern learners while driving large-scale change.

Join unboxed’s panel discussion on principles of the modern learner on sunday, may 19th from 1:30 – 2:30 p.m. ET

Email hello@unboxedtechnology.com if you’d like us to save you a seat!

 

Experience a One-of-a-Kind AR Demo

We also can’t forget to mention our Booth #1425. Stop by during the expo hours to experience some of the ways we’re using AR in training today. You can also meet some friendly Unboxed team members and pick up some “action-oriented” swag.

ATD 2019 brian leach

Don’t Miss Out on All the Action

Lastly, if you haven’t yet registered, you can do that here.

Already registered? Add us to your conference agenda and be sure to come say hi to us at Booth #1425.

Whether you’re attending or not, join the conversation on Twitter by following @unboxedtech and make sure to tag us using the official conference hashtag #atd2019.

 

See you in D.C.!

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Video Challenges for Sales Teams: Uncover the Possibilities

When an organization rolls out a new product, it can take a while for the sales team to get on board. Even if they’re excited about the product itself, learning another set of features, benefits, and messaging can feel like just another thing they don’t have time for.

So, what can you do to increase speed to competency and drive excitement for a new product?

Recently, Unboxed partnered with a pharmaceutical organization rolling out a new product at a nation-wide launch. They’d been working hard for months to build marketing collateral and training to support the sales team, and they were looking to do something special to increase excitement and sustain learning beyond the launch event. They needed a creative way to prove that the sales team could execute what they’d learned in the intensive in-person and online training.

Together, we landed on what we called a “Show What You Know” video challenge. The goal was to engage the sales team’s naturally competitive drive by giving them a chance to show what they knew in a public setting—and get rewarded for it.

Here’s how it would work:

1. Learners would record a video of themselves demonstrating the training techniques they learned during training.

2. Learners would upload their best pitch to the training portal (LMS).

3. Training leaders would review each video, selecting the best pitches to share live on the portal, and sharing feedback with those that need improvement.

4. Learners would earn coins and accolades from peers and leaders.

Prior to rolling out “Show What You Know”, we created a dedicated space for the challenge inside the learning portal and even released a hype video to explain the video challenge.

Upon implementation, we saw high rates of engagement from the start, but the results were what was most surprising. The training team found that no one, not even the top performers on the sales team, was able to execute on all of the required messaging they’d learned in training. These results uncovered gaps in the training and gave leaders an opportunity to directly address those gaps, provide more practice sessions, and continue moving the team toward excellence.

As a bonus, we spliced together highlights from the best-uploaded videos to emphasize key skill areas. We bookended the videos with a skills overview, giving learners several examples of what good looks like so they could continue to practice. The challenge was a great success.

We gathered a few key takeaways from “Show What You Know”  that you may be able to apply to your own program:

• Learners may know less than they think they do. Going into the challenge, most learners reported being confident with the new product info they had learned in training. The video challenge revealed what we know to be true: that knowledge acquisition is entirely different than practical application.

• Learners love learning from their peers. After the challenge, releasing the spliced videos allowed learners to see several examples of how they could implement key skills and build a more natural approach to their sales pitch. Because these examples were from their peers, they felt authentic, relevant, and timely.

• Sustainment is key. Be strategic about when to roll out a post-training challenge. Gather your initial results, and continue to refine as you go in order to have the most impact.

Have questions about your own sustainment plan?

Need a sustainment strategy that will allow your team to identify learning gaps? Contact Unboxed today for a strategy that works for your learners.

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Why Your Best Individual Contributor Isn’t Ready to be a People Manager

If you’re a leader in your organization, chances are you’re able to pinpoint your top performer. It’s only natural to want to reward that team member with a promotion and give them a platform to make more waves within your organization. But have you stopped to consider that, according to ATD, 60% of people managers underperform or fail within their first two years?

Where does this 60% rate come from? By promoting your best individual contributor, you’re asking them to work with a new set of skills. They’re filling a role they may not be prepared for and your remaining team is scrambling to fill the gap.

So,  before you jump to handing out that promotion, take a moment to ask yourself the following questions.

 

Are They Prepared to be a People Manager?

 

People Manager Leadership 1

Much like Liam Neeson in Taken, your top contributor has “a very particular set of skills.” But how many of these skills transfer to the role of a people manager?

It goes back to the concept of Maker versus Manager. Your best individual contributor is a Maker—they focus on creating a specific product or owning a specific service. Managers on the other hand focus on the organization as a whole, company and team goals, and the professional development of their direct reports.

That means your team member will go from day-to-day tasks that focus on creating or making, to a role that’s focused on owning the professional development and performance of other employees — and with that comes a complete shift in their schedules, too. They’ll go from large blocks of brainstorming and heads down time to a calendar full of performance reviews, 1:1s with their direct reports, and ongoing strategy meetings.

This change can be jarring. The stress that comes with being promoted outside of their skill set could mean they begin to feel (for the first time) they aren’t excelling in their role. That sense of personal disappointment leads to a lack of fulfillment and, ultimately, the end of that top performer’s journey with your organization.

A Grovo survey of 500 managers found that 87 percent of managers wish they’d had more training before their promotion.

To help set the employee up for success, offer them a leadership training program to build key people management skills. The training should be multi-faceted and should include self-paced courses, coaching via 1:1 meetings, videos or simulations. Across these modalities, you’ll want to teach your team member the best ways to give feedback, build up their coaching skills, and remind them the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication styles and emotional intelligence.

Are You Prepared to Fill the Void?

Pulling your best individual contributor away from the day-to-day tasks they’ve come to be so good at means you should have a plan in place for how you’ll fill that gap. If you don’t, you may see an impact on your business in terms of quality and service speed, and your customers may even take notice.

You also don’t want your other team members to feel overburdened once you’ve promoted your top performer. If they do, there’s a trickle-down effect that could mean an increase in stress level and decrease in morale.

In order to get ahead of those concerns, make sure you have training in place to help the other team members level up to match the top performer’s current skills.

Their training should be targeted to the specific role and level you’re trying to fill. To kick off the training, use a Behaviorally Anchored Rating Scale (or BARS Chart) to define what not acceptable, good, and great looks like in that vacant role. Then, use it to gauge where your current team members fall and create targeted improvement plans based on their areas of opportunity.

For added sustainment, use a 30, 60, 90-day action plan to help set milestones and measure achievements as they work to improve their skills according to that BARS Chart. Then, meet with these employees at the 30-day, 60-day, and 90-day benchmarks to see if they’re tracking on their current goals.

To be sure you’re ready to make that staffing change, you have to do everything you can to prepare and get ahead of that 60% statistic. This means investing in developing your top performer’s leadership skills and training their replacement. This two-pronged training approach is essential to making sure the transition for your best individual contributor and your team as a whole is as smooth as possible.

Need a hand? We have over a decade of training experience and can help find the perfect blend of training for your unique situation. Want to hear more about self-paced course options, videos or simulations, BARS Charts, or 30, 60, 90-day action plans?  Give us a call.

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