Managers are busy people. They often have large teams of direct reports to evaluate, observe, answer questions from and report on – not to mention their other job responsibilities. One-on-one coaching often falls by the wayside, yet it’s a hugely important tool for managers to use to engage and retain employees and even to improve organizational performance. How can managers make the most of the time they have to provide the most effective coaching and feedback to their employees?
Two new training provider partnerships are exploring the possibility of using artificial intelligence (AI) to help. Last month, Mandel Communications announced a partnership with Orai on a free communication coaching app that uses AI to provide instant feedback on speech, including clarity, the use of filler words, pacing and energy. This feedback is based on computational linguistics research and a data set of, according to co-founder Danish Dhamani, “thousands of people with different accents, different languages … speaking across the world.” The app also includes Mandel’s communication skills training and the ability to send recordings to users’ managers and coaches for continued development. The company also offers the ability to create custom content for a company’s specific messaging.
Also last month, ScaleX and Specialized Sales Systems announced a new “coaching as a service” partnership for sales and business development representatives. The service uses ExecVision’s speech analytics software to record sales conversations and then one 30-minute coaching session per week to provide feedback. The companies are also exploring the use of AI to provide automatic feedback, freeing up some time in those coaching sessions to focus on the development opportunities a computer still can’t provide. “We can essentially deliver asynchronous coaching,” says Specialized Sales Systems managing director Matt McDarby: coaching that’s “self-powered, self-serve, but still has the power of the [human] coach behind it.”
Corporate Visions also launched a new virtual fluency coaching product in January. “Online, recorded fluency coaching may seem like a radical departure from the in-person, event-based classroom model that’s been the de facto standard of the training world for decades,” said Tim Reisterer, chief strategy and research officer. “But it shows the potential to deliver what sales training has always been about: behavior change and demonstrated command and ownership of the content. By shifting the focus squarely to observable practice, custom coaching, and demonstrated proficiency, this approach can deliver against those core training ideals.”
From “new-in-career” employees and professionals in transition to sales reps and senior executives, Mandel principal and vice president of solutions design and client engagement Diane Burgess Faber believes this type of coaching is “game-changing.” The ability of individuals to practice in private, receive unbiased feedback and self-assess, and the ability of organizations to track that learning and even calculate and report on ROI, meets a huge need in the market, she says. “It’s going to accelerate” both learning and coaching and provide the in-demand, hard-to-obtain soft skills metrics that organizations have bene looking for. McDarby agrees, saying that with the AI looking for key behaviors in users’ speech, and then the coach providing personalized development, “what you have is a coaching effort that’s got a lot more scale.”
The key, according to Chad Burmeister, co-founder and CEO of ScaleX, is, quoting ConnectAndSell.com CEO Chris Beall, “not to accelerate suck.” (Or, to use McDarby’s “more elegant phrase,” follow “the cadence of excellence.”) In other words, be strategic. Make sure you’re implementing the right technology, the right methodology and the right coaching, so that your reps are doing the right activities and having the right conversations. When you’re using AI and generating the high sales velocity Burmeister says this type of coaching will generate (he claims ScaleX can increase reps’ meetings to 25 to 50 per month), you want to accelerate performance, not suck.
Research has found that when implemented effectively, sales coaching has a significant impact on sales professionals’ job performance. Since additional research has found that on average, buyers only rate sellers with an average grade of “C,” it’s clear that better coaching is needed to build trust between parties and improve organizational performance. The research is similar for non-sales professionals: Coaching is a popular and important way to improve individual and organizational effectiveness. As managers fight to manage not only their employees but their time, it’s good to know that AI can help.