Rethinking sales training with ChatGPT
Chatbots can make sales training more efficient and scalable
Many years before Alec Baldwin murdered a cinematographer on the set of a movie, he was known for playing a motivational sales trainer in the movie version of David Mamet’s play Glengarry Glen Ross. You can watch the classic scene here
While this makes for good entertainment, it doesn’t actually tell you much about how to close sales. For that, you need some actual sales training. Sales training, when done correctly, helps new sales representatives close tricky sales. Usually, a sales rep will present a tricky problem she is having with a client. She will present it to the sales trainer and her fellow sales reps. The sales trainer will help the rep, and her colleagues, work through the problem. They will come up with a plan to close the client.
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While this works, it’s expensive to do. It takes sales representatives away from selling, and it requires sales leadership who know how to train sales representatives. Further, it’s not really scalable. You can’t help multiple sales reps at the same time. Instead, the trainer has to help each one sequentially. The company tries to account for this by having all the sales reps in the same room learning from each other’s problems, but that comes at the cost of taking time away from making sales.
What if there were a different way? What if a sales representative could learn how to create a robust and structured prompt for a sales-focused version of ChatGPT—call it SalesGPT—so that an AI could help her figure out how to close a sale? Sound far-fetched? Consider the following contrived prompt:
I need sales advice. I sell plumbing fixtures for J&W Plumbing Supply, and one of my biggest customers is AW Realty, Inc., which manages waste disposal facilities in the midwest. I've been speaking with their facilities manager, Jim, over the past few weeks, about a $100,000 order he has been thinking of placing with us. However, he tells me that this boss, Alice, wants to use our biggest competitor, AXE Plumbing Inc. Generate a list of bullet points that I can use in my next call with him about why J&W Plumbing can better serve his boss' needs than can AXE.
Now, take a look at ChatGPT’s output:
Here are some possible bullet points you can use to persuade Jim that J&W Plumbing Supply is a better choice than AXE Plumbing Inc. for his boss' needs:
Experience: J&W Plumbing Supply has been providing plumbing fixtures for more than 30 years. We have a deep understanding of the plumbing industry and have worked with clients in various sectors, including waste disposal facilities like the ones managed by AW Realty, Inc. Our experience enables us to deliver high-quality products and provide excellent customer service.
Product quality: J&W Plumbing Supply carries a wide range of high-quality plumbing fixtures from reputable manufacturers. We carefully select the products we offer to ensure that they meet the highest standards of durability, efficiency, and safety. We stand behind our products and offer warranties and guarantees that provide our clients with peace of mind.
Pricing: We understand that pricing is a significant factor in making purchasing decisions. At J&W Plumbing Supply, we offer competitive pricing for our products, and we work with clients to find solutions that fit their budget. We believe that our pricing is reasonable and fair, and we are committed to delivering value for money.
Availability: We maintain a large inventory of plumbing fixtures at our warehouse, and we can quickly fulfill orders of any size. We have established relationships with manufacturers and suppliers, which means that we can offer our clients a wide range of products and deliver them on time.
Customer service: At J&W Plumbing Supply, we believe that excellent customer service is critical to building long-term relationships with our clients. We are committed to providing prompt and responsive service to our clients, from the initial consultation to after-sales support. Our team of experts is available to answer any questions, provide advice, and help clients make informed decisions.
Partnership: We value our relationship with AW Realty, Inc. and see ourselves as a partner in their success. We are committed to understanding their needs and working with them to find the best solutions. We believe that by working together, we can achieve mutual success and build a long-term, trusting relationship.
You can use these bullet points to illustrate to Jim why J&W Plumbing Supply is the best choice for AW Realty, Inc. and to address any concerns or objections he may have about using our products. Remember to be confident, knowledgeable, and empathetic in your approach, and focus on how we can help AW Realty, Inc. achieve their goals. Good luck!
This is some pretty solid advice! And the reason it is so good is because the prompt was so good. Let’s take a closer look at the prompt, as this will help us understand how ChatGPT, or a sales-focused version of it, can help sales reps close more deals and reduce or eliminate the need for a sales trainer. The prompt has the following qualities:
it is specific
it provides context
it uses discrete keywords
it provides a concrete instruction to ChatGPT as to what the desired output is
In other words, our sales rep is using ChatGPT as a simulator, to simulate a sales transaction. To quote Arnold Kling: “People want to use ChatGPT to look up information. It might be good for that. But I think that it is at least as important as a simulation tool.”
And, in fact, if we ask ChatGPT to write us a short manual about how to best use it, it gives us this:
Hello! I'm ChatGPT, a language model trained by OpenAI, designed to help answer your questions and assist you with a wide range of tasks. Here's a quick user manual to help you get the most out of our interactions:
Asking questions: Feel free to ask me anything you're curious about, from factual queries to subjective opinions. I can help with topics in various fields like science, technology, history, pop culture, and more.
Clarification: If you're unsure about my response, feel free to ask for clarification or more information. I will do my best to provide you with a clear and concise answer.
Specificity: The more specific your question is, the better I can assist you. If your question is too broad, I may not be able to provide a satisfactory answer.
Respectful Communication: I am here to help you and I am programmed to be polite and respectful. I ask that you also communicate respectfully and avoid using offensive language or hate speech.
Limitations: While I have access to a vast array of information, there are limits to what I can provide. I don't have personal experience or emotions and don't have access to current events beyond my knowledge cutoff (September 2021). If you require help beyond my capabilities, I'll do my best to suggest additional resources.
Privacy: Your privacy is important to me. I do not retain any personal information that you provide me during our interactions, and I won't share it with anyone.
Fun and Learning: While I'm primarily here to assist you, I'm also here to have fun and learn. Feel free to share jokes, riddles, or trivia with me, or ask me questions that challenge me.
That's it! I hope this user manual helps you make the most of our interactions, and feel free to reach out to me anytime you have a question or just want to chat.
Take a look at the third item in its list: specificity. The more specific a prompt is, the better the output a user will get. So our sales rep should learn how to properly interrogate ChatGPT. Doing so requires that she construct a coherent, well-structured, and verbose explanation of her problem. The explanation ought to include relevant background information and context, and a concrete and discrete instruction indicating what sort of output she expects. In other words, in order to properly interrogate an AI, you have to be an active participant in your dialogue with it.
Let’s get, well, more specific about what “specificity” means in ChatGPT’s response above. Consider the following prompt in response to its manual: Help me understand specificity. What tips do you have for me to make my prompts to you more specific? Here’s its response:
Sure, I'd be happy to help you understand specificity and provide some tips for making your prompts to me more specific.
Specificity is important because it helps me understand exactly what you're looking for and provide a more accurate and helpful response. The more specific your prompt is, the easier it is for me to narrow down my search and provide the information you need.
Here are some tips to help you make your prompts more specific:
Identify the key information: Think about the most important information you need to know or the most important aspect of your question. This will help you focus your prompt on what's most important and make it more specific.
Use relevant keywords: Use specific keywords that relate to your question or topic. This will help me understand what you're looking for and find information that's relevant to your question.
Provide context: Provide some context around your question or topic. This can help me understand the background and the scope of your question, which can help me provide a more specific response.
Be clear and concise: Use clear and concise language in your prompt. Avoid using vague or ambiguous terms that could be interpreted in different ways. This will help me understand exactly what you're looking for and provide a more specific response.
Ask follow-up questions: If you're not sure how to make your prompt more specific, don't be afraid to ask follow-up questions. I can help guide you to a more specific prompt by asking for clarification or more information.
By following these tips, you can make your prompts more specific and help me provide you with a more accurate and helpful response.
And this helps us really distill what’s going on when your prompt is well-structured and specific. A well-structured and specific prompt provides ChatGPT with sufficient information to provide you with a useful response.
So let’s continue our contrived sales situation from earlier in this post. Our sales rep is back from another call with Jim, and she enters this prompt:
OK! I just got off a call with Jim, and this is the latest from him: (1) he's concerned about his job at AW Realty, so we're really selling to his boss here; (2) he likes working with me and my associates at J&W Plumbing Supply more than he likes working with the people at AXE Plumbing; (3) so if he could, he would give us the business; (4) but as he says, he has to please his boss, Alice; (4) Alice likes AXE Plumbing Inc more than she likes J&W Plumbing. So I'd like some help thinking of how Jim and I can convince Alice that J&W Plumbing Supply is superior to Axe Plumbing Inc.
Note how this prompt uses all of the tips that ChatGPT provides: it identifies key information (Alice is the final decision-maker here, and she likes J&W’s competitor); it uses specific key words (Jim, Alice, “please his boss”, “I can convince Alice that J&W Plumbing Supply is superior,” etc.); it provides context; it is clear and concise; and it is a follow up question to the earlier prompt.
And here’s ChatGPT’s response to this second prompt:
Based on what you've shared, it seems like you and Jim have a good rapport and a strong relationship. This is a great foundation for persuading Alice that J&W Plumbing Supply is the right choice for her company. Here are some ideas for how you and Jim can convince Alice to choose J&W Plumbing Supply over AXE Plumbing Inc:
Highlight J&W Plumbing's experience and expertise: Emphasize the fact that J&W Plumbing Supply has been in business for over 30 years and has extensive experience working with clients in the waste disposal industry. Highlight your team's expertise and knowledge of plumbing fixtures, and emphasize that you can provide tailored solutions that meet AW Realty's specific needs.
Showcase J&W Plumbing's superior product quality: Highlight the high-quality plumbing fixtures offered by J&W Plumbing Supply, and explain how they can benefit AW Realty's waste disposal facilities. Discuss how these fixtures are more durable, efficient, and safe than those offered by AXE Plumbing.
Discuss J&W Plumbing's competitive pricing: Explain how J&W Plumbing Supply offers competitive pricing and can work within AW Realty's budget to provide cost-effective solutions. You can also explain how working with J&W Plumbing can lead to long-term cost savings due to the superior quality of the fixtures.
Emphasize J&W Plumbing's excellent customer service: Discuss how J&W Plumbing Supply is committed to providing prompt, responsive customer service to AW Realty, and how your team can assist with product selection, installation, and ongoing support. You can also discuss how J&W Plumbing can provide ongoing maintenance and repairs to ensure the plumbing fixtures continue to operate optimally.
Position J&W Plumbing as a strategic partner: Emphasize how J&W Plumbing Supply is invested in the success of AW Realty and can work collaboratively to achieve their goals. Explain how J&W Plumbing can provide customized solutions and ongoing support to ensure that AW Realty's waste disposal facilities operate at peak efficiency.
Overall, it's important to focus on the benefits that J&W Plumbing Supply can provide to AW Realty, and to position your company as a superior choice to AXE Plumbing Inc. By emphasizing your expertise, superior product quality, competitive pricing, excellent customer service, and strategic partnership, you and Jim can make a compelling case to Alice that J&W Plumbing Supply is the right choice for her company. Good luck!
Now imagine if a team of sales reps were all trained similarly.
So let’s review. The conventional sales training system presents a number of problems:
it requires all sales reps and a sales trainer to sit in the same room and review problematic sales, in order that all sales reps can learn
it’s not scalable—each problematic case has to be examined sequentially
A ChatGPT-enabled sales training process solves both of these problems. Sales reps need only learn how to create good prompts for ChatGPT. They can interrogate the AI about how best to solve tricky sales problems, and close more clients, all while avoiding having to use precious time in a classroom.
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The ability to simulate, role play and reflect/abstract our learnings may be one of the best features of GPT. Thanks for sharing!