AstraZeneca enlists artificial intelligence for sales rep coaching

AZ's taking the lead in AI use for sales rep coaching, resulting in new insights for managers and better talent development for reps. (AstraZeneca)

AstraZeneca sales reps have some new help in the coaching department. While leaders still manage reps, artificial intelligence—in the form of data generated from thousands of field-coaching forms—now adds machine-learned analysis and advice.  

The result? Improved interactions and better development of sales reps’ strengths, the company reports.

In AZ’s system, managers maintain a dashboard of their coaching activities, said an AZ spokesperson in an email interview.

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“Across dozens of coaching conversations a manager could, at a glance, gauge how focused or balanced they were or whether or not their discussions were specific enough to change a salesperson’s behaviors,” she said, adding that “AI is an important tool that can be used to make managers better leaders: by freeing up time, reducing need to run reports and allowing them to be more creative in the way they coach."

The data used by the AI system comes from self-reported field coaching forms filled by both reps and managers that capture their interactions. The thousands of inputs are analyzed through a rubric plotted against measures that drive business results. Through their dashboards, managers can see sales coaching efforts across many employees and conversations.

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Already, the system is revealing new insights to sales leaders and changing the dynamic between reps and managers to focus on coaching that best helps an individual.

“And it’s based in science—so we know we’re on the right track,” the spokesperson said. “AI has given us a true line of sight into what we’re focused on at multiple organizational levels, which provides us the ability to ask ourselves, ‘is that what we want?’ and ‘is that what we intended?’”

The potential for the future includes things like quicker pickup of trends and transfer of information between reps and managers in different markets.

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