There’s no question that the pandemic brought significant changes to the way buyers and sellers interact. But today, as the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us, sellers are wondering: What changes are here to stay?
Recently, Bob Basiliere, Vice President of Sales at Allego, and Wayne St. Amand, Chief Marketing Officer at Allego, joined Gerhard Gschwandtner, Founder and CEO of SellingPower magazine, to explore this topic. Here are four takeaways for how to provide sellers with the resources they need to navigate the evolving world of hybrid selling.
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Since 2020, the idea of how to adjust selling skills and methodology has been evolving.
In 2020, when the pandemic first hit, sellers took their skills, knowledge, and methods and moved them online. But these sellers soon realized that success would require more than just moving in-person strategies to a video conference call.
“Virtual selling on Zoom is a misconception,” Bob Basiliere says. “Creating an exceptional experience that reaches today’s buyers requires a more thoughtful combination of tools and techniques.”
Today, buyers are much more likely to control when and how they consume information. Accenture reports that 80% of buyers now want to navigate the sales process themselves. Sellers must adapt to this new paradigm and combine skills, technology, and fresh thinking to orchestrate the sales process for the buyer.
That orchestration requires a combination of frontstage and backstage activities.
“There will always be interactions that happen in front of the customer,” says Basiliere. “Those synchronous conversations are considered frontstage activities. The backstage activities are those asynchronous experiences the buyer consumes on their own time, in their own way.”
This combination of backstage and frontstage activities provides a framework that sellers can use to support buyers and achieve success in this virtual selling market. That adjustment is critical, says Wayne St. Amand.
“Sellers must now adjust to the new expectations of virtual buyers. For sales leaders, this means emphasizing sales training and coaching to ensure their teams are fully equipped for virtual selling success,” notes St. Amand.
When the pandemic first hit, sellers relied on email to share content and information that they used to share in person. But iterative email is arduous, requiring the buyer to track long threads and download documents. Even worse, your email is sitting in the buyer’s inbox next to emails from other competitors.
The overwhelming nature of email led the team at Allego to think of new, self-navigable ways buyers could share content. Using Allego technology, they created the Digital Sales Room. In this private, secure, virtual “room,” sellers can share information and content relevant to the sale. The buyer can then consume this information anytime they choose and share access with other influencers in their organization.
On an ongoing basis, the seller can add a wealth of content to the Digital Sales Room, including videos of meetings, relevant sales content, PowerPoint decks, proposals, meeting agendas, and notes. Moreover, conversations can happen within the Digital Sales Room, providing an archive for instant messages and video calls.
“The Digital Sales Room is an excellent resource for these backstage, asynchronous communications,” Basiliere says. “The technology makes it easy for buyers to self-navigate relevant content and information and share it with others in their organization. Plus, sellers have the confidence of knowing buyers are only consuming information related to their product or service.”
Gerhard Gschwandtner adds, “Research shows 72% of buyers don’t want to interact with sellers, making a resource like the Digital Sales Room critical to a successful sales process.”
This secure, virtual space keeps pace with today’s savvy buyers, most of whom are much better prepared and knowledgeable than buyers of the past.
“Today’s buyers do much more research before talking to a seller, consulting various sources,” St. Amand says. “By making the Digital Sales Room a collaborative site with up-to-date, relevant, high-quality information, the seller becomes one of those trusted resources.”
Personalization is another way to keep the buyer engaged with the Digital Sales Room. The seller can personalize all aspects of the room to make it a wholly branded experience customized to the seller.
Many organizations report that sales have remained flat or declined over the last year. But Basiliere says numbers alone don’t tell the whole story.
He notes, “What companies need to measure is how well sellers adapted to selling virtually. Has the organization built new skills and capabilities among sellers that will help them adapt to virtual selling? Most of all, is the way we are selling today sustainable?”
Gschwandtner says creating sustainable results starts with onboarding. And for today’s sellers, that means combining face-to-face communications with asynchronous learning and coaching to deliver a fantastic onboarding experience.
While sellers will always go through some formal training, much of what they learn today happens in the flow of work. That means companies must provide accessible, bite-size content that sellers can easily access in their moment of need.
Gschwandtner agrees with this approach and believes that the future of learning will be embedded in the workflow.
“When sellers have a specific need or request, they don’t refer to the training resources. Instead, they will do what they do in their personal lives and go to YouTube. Companies need to offer sellers a corporate version of this easily accessible content,” notes St. Amand.
Effective coaches help sellers prepare for their performance and provide feedback after the performance. One of the advantages of remote selling is a record of all meetings. This record means the manager can use technology to support the seller in this process.
“No sales manager has time to go back and listen to hours of calls,” Basiliere says. “But technology can help the manager be more effective with their time and their coaching.”
For example, a seller can create a recording of their presentation and the sales manager can use technology to show where the seller needs help. Is the seller talking too fast? Using too many filler words? Do they incorrectly represent the message?
By highlighting potential issues, the manager knows which seller needs coaching and what areas need improvement.
These recordings can also highlight top performers, and excerpts that demonstrate best practices can be shared with other sellers. In addition, the seller can share a call with the manager to gain insight into how to manage a particular selling situation or account.
The recorded calls are also a vital resource for marketing. By reviewing these interactions and seeing how content gets used, marketers can better understand what content is working and what is not and how to iterate appropriately.
Today’s buyers are smarter, more agile, and in control of how they interact with sellers. Smart sellers must understand this new buying experience and provide content, information, and connections in ways that buyers demand.
“By and large, buyers don’t want to engage face to face with sellers that often,” says Basiliere. “That means that 65-70% of the seller’s effort will be backstage and only 30% frontstage.”
Sellers, therefore, must be upskilled to understand this new sales process better and race ahead of the competition. In addition, the seller must have access to the tools and methodologies that enable them to keep pace with the knowledgeable seller and provide the right information in the right format at the right time. That’s today’s virtual sales environment.
Interested in more virtual selling best practices? To learn how you can prepare your team for virtual selling, download Demystifying Sales Enablement: How to Plan for the Next Normal.