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It's time to stop holding our breath waiting for B2B sales to return to the pre-pandemic status quo. B2B buyers and sellers alike prefer our new digital reality.

A full 70-80% of B2B decision-makers say they prefer remote interactions or digital self-service to in-person interactions, according to a McKinsey survey. Video calls, email chats, and data-driven insights have replaced the days of courting prospects and clients with lavish meals and in-person entertainment.

However, as many sellers are experiencing, the shift to remote selling has not always been smooth. Here are four ways sellers can conquer the challenges present in a hybrid selling environment, as well as strategies to catapult them to the top of their sales leaderboards.

1. Adapt to the current environment

Before the pandemic, in-person relationship building was the primary approach to earning the trust and loyalty of B2B customers. The transition from in-person to virtual interactions has proven difficult for "old-fashioned" sellers because their go-to strategy was no longer an option.

To adjust, sellers quickly needed to master virtual networking, Zoom presentations, and decision-making based on data rather than intuition and body language cues.

Although remote selling has proven its benefits, there are also a few downsides. Many sellers are struggling to stand out in a crowded digital market. For salespeople to rise above the competition and cut through market saturation, they must adapt their sales tactics.

One necessary adaptation is to retire aggressive sales tactics such as daily emails or phone call follow-ups. In a time when empathy is crucial, those old-school tactics just don't go over well with buyers.

Instead, sellers should practice active listening during interactions with buyers to better guide them toward solutions tailored to their needs. Taking the time to really listen to buyers allows for the chance to send them individualized, compelling, and valuable messages. Dedicated, personalized content results in higher engagement rates compared with the static, run-of-the-mill content filling their inboxes.

Organizations can better equip their sellers with those skills by providing on-demand sales training and coaching to refresh teams on how to stay at the top of their game, close more deals, and go above and beyond in the sales cycle.

2. Make use of AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is already integrated into sales enablement platforms, and its adoption and use among sellers will continue to grow. Nearly all (97%) respondents to our Annual Sales Enablement Benchmark report said they expect AI capabilities to be added to their sales enablement tools in the next few years.

The adoption of AI has been accelerated by the remote selling and buying environment, which has solidified the importance of AI-guided selling for today's modern sales cycle.

AI also acts as a guide for sellers in remote and hybrid work environments by making smart, data-driven recommendations. AI can identify trends and patterns from previous similar selling situations to recommend a course of action. That intelligence, combined with seller intuition, helps bring an unmatched value to buyers.

3. Streamline the buyer experience

We've all been victim to disjointed buyer experiences, whether trying to fix a billing issue on your water bill, returning an item you purchased online, or calling to switch phone providers. Those situations often require you to give the same background information and explanation of the issue over and over until you finally reach the right service representative.

The bottom line is that disjointed buyer experiences are unenjoyable. Although the experiences previously mentioned are B2C, such instances happen in B2B sales more often than you realize. Some 77% of B2B buyers reported having a complex or difficult experience during their last purchase because of a disjointed buyer experience, Gartner found.

The fix lies in realigning marketing and sales teams to create a cohesive and fluid buying cycle. When Sales and Marketing work together, they become more aware of the buyer's needs, which can save time for both parties.

Communication and collaboration between sellers and marketers ensure the buyer will receive one continuous and harmonious product story.

4. Rethink budget priorities

The pandemic drastically altered all forms of travel, and though some companies are cautiously resuming in-person meetings and events, it's not an option for everyone.

Either way, travel budgets are shifting as companies continue to evaluate their needs. And now that buyer engagements are (and will remain) digital, business leaders need to rethink how to distribute funds historically set aside for travel.

If possible, organizations should implement flexible budgets that can be scaled to accommodate new costs uncovered by the pandemic, at least for the next few years. Spend that was originally meant for travel can be better put toward a tech stack investment that allows sales teams to better navigate their digital sales landscape with more confidence.

Another option is for leaders to swap travel budgets with training that will upskill remote sales teams, such as how to present over Zoom or how to use LinkedIn Sales Navigator.

Such changes will benefit all sellers, not just the few who may be cleared to travel, creating more equity among organizations. Focusing on investments that are most helpful to a hybrid selling environment will help sales teams close more deals and find the best way to create digital relationships with buyers.

Although in-person meetings aren't the norm for now, their elements—meaningful interactions and experiences, that is—are still expected in the digital environment. Sellers who take the time to listen to buyers and provide value through data-backed decisions will succeed. Connections can still be cultivated through videoconferencing.

* * *

Impressing buyers no longer involves steak dinners and rounds of golf, and maybe that's for the better. Bells and whistles don't mean a thing if a seller can't connect and understand a buyer's business problem.

The strongest sellers to emerge from the digital sales landscape will be those who adapt to current market challenges, incorporate technology into their processes, and create a smooth buyer experience.

More Resources on Sales Enablement and Remote Selling

Three Ways to Adapt Your Sales Content for Virtual Selling Success

Four Ways to Tackle Your Sales Enablement Strategy During and After the Pandemic

How the Pandemic Has Made It Harder to Close B2B Deals

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How to Conquer Remote Selling Challenges and Reach the Top of the Leaderboard

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image of Ed Calnan

Ed Calnan is the CRO and a co-founder of Seismic, a global sales enablement platform.

LinkedIn: Ed Calnan

Twitter: @ecalnan