We’re excited to bring Transform 2022 back to life on July 19th and virtually July 20-28. Join AI and data leaders for sensible conversations and exciting networking opportunities. Register today!
While the zoom business boomed almost overnight in the early days of the epidemic, Michelle Dotson, head of sales capabilities at video conferencing leader, knew it was more important than ever to prepare sellers for each sales scenario.
“We’re training, we’re coaching, we’re mentoring, we’re practicing,” Michelle Dotson, head of sales capabilities at Zoom, told VentureBeat. But with Zoom transitioning from its core video conferencing product to new services ranging from contact centers to communication intelligence, traditional one-on-one coaching and role play by sales managers and simple LMS learning modules were no longer enough.
“The only way to scale quickly was with AI,” she said.
Zoom deployed AI-generated avatars to train the sales team
That’s where Jenny came in. Over the past year, Zoom has deployed AI-generated incarnations of Second Nature for onboard and train sales team members. Tel Aviv-based Second Nature was founded in 2018 to address the main challenge facing large-scale organizations today: how to effectively increase vendors’ knowledge to advance revenue, confidence and skills. It was formally launched in January 2022 in the Series A funding round with $ 12.5 million, including Zoom’s investment.
“AI takes the burden off of sales managers to train many people at once,” Dotson said. Instead, Jenny is trained to play a sales potential role and have one-on-one conversations with sellers who need to practice pitch or introduction to new products.
“She’s not looking at you,” Dotson said. “Conversations with Jenny will guide me through my style, my speed. Have I actually shared relevant talking points that are necessary to understand my point? Was I a fighter? Did i hear Jenny is really like a coach and guide and almost like a mentor.
Salesmanship is a hotspot for AI
According to Gartner, by 2025, three-quarters of B2B sales organizations will outperform traditional sales playbooks with AI-guided sales solutions. And sales capability, which Gartner defines as “the process of providing a sales organization with information, materials and tools that help sellers sell more efficiently,” is a particularly hot spot for AI-powered tools right now.
Fast-growing unicorns such as gong and chorus are advancing in this space. But Second Nature maintains that it is the only product that enables sales representatives to practice their sales conversations using natural language.
“The ones my team has fun with – sometimes we adapt the training and how hard it is to impress,” she said. “Sometimes he’s a little bit agile, sometimes he’s very friendly. Depending on the segment or market they are pitching for, we try to adjust Jenny to match her so that she is relevant and real. ”
Dotson added that Jenny could be adjusted based on the seller’s skills. “If you’re an experienced salesperson, you don’t want an easy one,” she said. “You want a real conversation where she’s trying to be more objective and say, ‘I don’t need it. I don’t want it. I don’t know what you’re talking about.'”
Zoom uses a variety of AI-generated avatars
Recently, Zoom has formed various sales capable teams, Jenny has acquired several companies. “Now we have Penny, we have Manny, we have Danny,” Dotson said. “Our AI is all-encompassing and diverse and includes diverse races, ethnicities and languages.”
In addition, as Zoom and Second Nature continue to tweak Jenny, Dotson said AI-driven conversations have become increasingly natural.
“He understands the zoom, how our vendors sell and how to speak their style,” she said. “It almost feels real, like she already knows what we need to do. So over time, the two biggest things are the ones that have become more diverse and experienced.
Jenny learns what Zoom wants to teach
Ariel Hitron, CEO of Second Nature, said AI has also learned more complex sales skills that want to teach zoom. “We started by focusing more on product knowledge, including how to position certain products in a competitive situation,” he said. “As Zoom has added more best practices about sales skills, such as negotiation, how you bring the discussion closer, we’ve added that.”
Hitron added that Zoom, with its multiple products, stages and buyers, could have different markets, whether it sells to an enterprise, healthcare organization or university. “It’s a different conversation, so he quickly becomes a master,” he said. “Now with the use of AI, you can actually cover many more permutations one after the other as opposed to getting information from a module or a sales trainer.”
Pre-training in AI is the key to success
Part of what makes Jenny successful is the pre-work to set her up, Dotson said. “I think a lot of people assume you’re just logging in and that’s easy, here’s the deck and I’m done,” she explained. “But there’s a lot of work to be done in this space and space where you can communicate.”
Before Zoom started production training on Jenny, Dotson said 10-20 people practice with her first. “The more time you spend training and practicing with her before she launches, the less things will throw her away,” she explained.
Dotson said there has been a dramatic increase in the number of hours people practice each quarter, with sales representatives averaging 46 minutes per practice selling new tools, products or processes. “For me, it’s a clear sign that he’s successful, in that people want to use the tool,” she said. “It’s 46 minutes that we gave back to each manager. And some of them have 10 people, spread all over the world. ”
The future for AI-based sales training on Zoom
Ideally, Dotson said that in the future Jenny Zoom will be an integral part of IQ for Sales, a secret sales sales offer for the company that was launched in April. “It will be a dream pair.”
Recent comments about the inclusion of Emotion AI technology in Zoom IQ have been criticized and chatted online. Dotson acknowledged that adding Jenny’s abilities to the solution would not be possible for everyone.
“Not every company is ready for this – it’s AI,” she said. “So you need to have the right culture in the company so that it can really train that way and give people real-time feedback.”
But she believes early adoption will pay off. “Early adopters today are risk takers who break the mold,” she said. “I think companies that do not use AI will be behind in the near future. There will be a line, ‘Have you used AI and are you scaling, or are you behind the turn?’ ”
Once organizations see the value of deploying AI in their sales potential efforts, she added, they will be open to bringing it into their workplace. “You have to learn about it first, how it can align with what you want to do,” she said.
Venturebeat’s mission Transformative Enterprise is about to become a digital town square for technology decision makers to gain knowledge about technology and transactions. Learn more about membership.