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Artificial Intelligence as a Sales Tool


Everywhere you turn the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) pops up, it’s ubiquitous in discussions ranging from the future of mankind to the efficient operation of business. If you are like many people, you may have tried sampling the AI thing via one of the several web portals to this powerful system. Under the heading of true confessions, I dabbled with one of these systems, asking questions about my hometown, testing to see if this evil cloud knew anything about me and even asked some questions about a few clients. Overall, my first impression was that either the free versions were holding back on their true power, or that a truly useful version of AI is a few years away.

After several weeks of thinking about the whole thing, I decided to give it a second chance. I took a different approach. I started simply and worked my way through the sales process. Eureka, I stumbled on something I believe is both powerful and accessible—AI as a sales tool. Join me as we wade hip deep into my new approach to AI.

AI is the perfect sales training tool

Research for my latest book, The New Sales Guy Project, brought me in contact with hundreds of young salespeople struggling to gather traction in their territories. Most were struggling with the normal things—getting appointments, managing their territory and positioning themselves as solution sellers. One of the biggest points these new salespeople struggled with in their effort to differentiate themselves from other sellers is developing deep product skills.

Distributor organizations sell the products of hundreds of manufacturers, spanning dozens of technologies and containing hundreds of thousands of products. Gaining even a cursory understanding of all these products and technologies is daunting for new sellers and even difficult for those with years of experience.

Factory schools and local training delivered by supplier sales teams were, until recently, the only method to deliver this information. Today, IMARK University offers an extensive array of courses for distributor employees, but sometimes a seller needs something quick and easy to polish their product knowledge. Quick, easy and free would be the best option. I believe AI is uniquely able to fill this void.

ChatGPT is advertised as having more than 100 million users as of January 2023. While there are other perhaps even better machines available, I am using this system as an example throughout this article. I am using the free version of the system to illustrate the power of the free tool. Let’s move ahead through a training-related exercise.

We are going to select a product to learn about. In this case, we randomly selected emergency exit lights. It could have been nearly any product or technology. We selected it because we wanted to use something readers from across a wide range of industries could visualize. Testing indicates the experience is similar to other less common and/or more complex items.

We will highlight the questions we asked the AI chat and its answers:

Question 1: Can we assume you are an expert on emergency lighting products used in the United States?

This question prepares the AI system to improve the overall answers generated in the next questions. The answer to the question was a very wordy version of yes.

Question 2: Who would be interested in purchasing emergency lighting products and why?

For the sake of brevity, we edited the response to highlight contractors, but others appeared in the list:

“Several entities and types of individuals may be interested in purchasing emergency lighting for various reasons. Here are some examples:

  • Contractors and Electricians: Professionals in the construction industry often install emergency lighting systems in new buildings or retrofit existing structures to meet safety regulations and provide adequate emergency illumination.”

Question 3: What would a contractor or electrician be most interested in with the product?

“Contractors and electricians would have specific interests and considerations when it comes to emergency lighting products. Here are some aspects that may be of particular interest to them:

  1. Compliance with Building Codes and Regulations: Contractors and electricians must ensure that the emergency lighting products they install comply with relevant building codes, regulations and safety standards. They need to be familiar with the requirements set forth by local authorities and ensure that the products they choose meet those specifications.
  2. Reliability and Performance: Contractors and electricians prioritize reliable and high-performance emergency lighting products. They look for lights that have a long lifespan, efficient battery backup systems and durable construction to withstand potential hazards. Products with features like self-testing and self-diagnostic capabilities can also be appealing, as they simplify maintenance and ensure ongoing functionality.
  3. Installation Ease: Contractors and electricians seek emergency lighting products that are easy to install. Products with clear installation instructions, versatile mounting options and user-friendly wiring connections can save time and effort during the installation process.
  4. Flexibility and Scalability: Contractors often work on projects of varying scales and requirements. They may prefer emergency lighting systems that offer flexibility and scalability, allowing them to customize the setup according to the specific needs of the building or space. This can include options for different types of fixtures, adjustable brightness levels and the ability to expand the system if needed.
  5. Maintenance and Serviceability: Contractors and electricians consider the maintenance requirements and serviceability of emergency lighting products. They may prefer products that offer easy access for maintenance and troubleshooting, such as quick-replaceable batteries, modular designs or accessible control panels.
  6. Cost-Effectiveness: Contractors and electricians are often mindful of budget considerations. They may seek emergency lighting products that provide a balance between quality and cost-effectiveness, taking into account factors like initial purchase price, long-term maintenance costs and energy efficiency.
  7. Supplier Support: Contractors and electricians may value strong relationships with suppliers who offer technical support, training resources and reliable customer service. Having access to product documentation, warranty information and responsive support channels can enhance their overall experience when working with emergency lighting products.

By considering these factors, contractors and electricians can select and install emergency lighting products that meet safety standards, perform reliably and provide peace of mind to their clients.”

Question 4: Can you create a 10-question multiple choice competency test for the electrical salesperson?

“Here’s a multiple-choice competency test with 10 questions for an electrical salesperson specializing in emergency lighting products:

  1. Which of the following is a key component of an emergency lighting system? a.) Junction box b.) Conduit pipe c.) Exit sign d.) Voltage regulator
  2. Maintained emergency lighting refers to a system that: a.) Operates only during a power outage b.) Operates continuously, even during normal power supply c.) Requires regular maintenance to remain functional d.) Is not required by safety codes
  3. Which type of emergency lighting fixture is commonly used to illuminate exit paths and escape routes? a.) Floodlights b.) Wall sconces c.) Recessed troffers d.) Exit signs
  4. What is the purpose of a battery backup system in an emergency lighting setup? a.) To provide continuous power to non-emergency lighting fixtures b.) To supply power to critical electrical equipment during emergencies c.) To recharge the batteries of the emergency lighting fixtures d.) To ensure emergency lights remain functional during power outages
  5. How are emergency lighting systems typically activated during a power outage or emergency situation? a.) Through motion sensors b.) Via remote control c.) Automatically through an internal switch d.) By manual operation of a switch
  6. Which of the following is a recognized certification for emergency lighting products? a.) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) b.) International Electrotechnical Commission c.) National Electrical Code d.) Underwriters Laboratories
  7. Which safety code or standard is commonly followed for emergency lighting in the United States? a.) NFPA 70 b.) International Building Code c.) OSHA regulations d.) ANSI/NEMA WC 27500
  8. Self-testing and self-diagnostic capabilities in emergency lighting systems: a.) Enable remote monitoring of emergency lights b.) Allow for automatic testing and reporting of system faults c.) Provide emergency lighting in the absence of power supply d.) Improve energy efficiency of emergency lighting fixtures
  9. When assessing project requirements, which of the following information is important for selecting suitable emergency lighting products? a.) Budget and cost considerations b.) Architectural design preferences c.) Availability of local suppliers d.) Seasonal weather conditions
  10. How would you handle a customer complaint or issue related to emergency lighting products? a.) Ignore the complaint and hope it resolves itself b.) Redirect the customer to the manufacturer for support c.) Actively listen to the customer, empathize and provide appropriate solutions d.) Deny any responsibility and avoid taking further action

The test is a big deal

One of the chief complaints of vendors providing local training is the need to constantly cover the basics for new salespeople added to the distributor’s team. Conversely, sales managers require experienced salespeople to sit through hours of boring product overviews under the misplaced thought that “a refresher course is appropriate.” Time is wasted, and unenthusiastic senior salespeople fidget through the session. Local supplier salespeople walk away feeling the distributor isn’t really interested in promoting their products. Why not invest a few minutes to measure competency before requiring attendance?

It is not especially rare to discover supplier sales reps are not particularly well versed in sales training. The training morphs into a potpourri of product features with little attention paid to connecting the dots on customer needs. The distributor sellers sitting through the training are likely to hear details about high-quality fasteners provided without any discussion on why the fasteners save time or somehow improve the customer’s situation. A trainer reviewing the short test will better understand precisely what needs to be presented. Selling points and competitive advantages are more closely coupled with the information provided during training.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, research indicates adult learners comprehend and retain more when presented with important points ahead of the training. Handing out the test at the beginning of training underscores what’s important. Those being trained can focus on the questions during the sales meeting to gain a deeper understanding of important points.

Time investment is minimal

All of the information gathered and presented here came from less than four minutes on ChatGPT. I have run similar exercises on literally hundreds of product types. There is no rocket science involved. Sellers can glean this type of information on their own. Today, customers expect more from their sellers and technology may well be the answer.

Be the first distributor in your market to put this ever-expanding tool to work.