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Sales practices and technology need to evolve faster than ever before to help support the move to digital-first and hybrid selling.

Fully 57% of buyers say they prefer to engage with companies through digital channels, according to a Salesforce study, and companies report that nearly one-third of the deals they close are completely virtual.

Moreover, 86% of all buyers—and a whopping 92% of Millennial and Gen Z buyers—say they prefer to be sold to virtually, a study from Showpad found.

And yet, are sellers adequately prepared and properly trained for a digital-first and hybrid world?

Buyers have higher expectations than ever, and they want sellers to meet them where they are, regardless of the channel.

But sellers may not have the necessary training to do so right now, even as the Salesforce study highlighted that 82% of sellers have had to quickly adapt to new ways of selling in the face of global challenges.

Sales training can be littered with outdated strategies that do not translate well into a hybrid environment. Thus, sales leaders need to ensure they are using the latest tools and technologies to prepare today's salespeople.

1. Skip traditional sales training methods

The reason certain training methods are incompatible with today's selling environment is that sellers, like most other people, can sometimes be stubborn.

Sellers will embrace certain sales approaches because "That's how it's always been," or "That's how they were taught how to do it." But in a hybrid world they need to adapt with the changing times to engage buyers.

Sellers who have more experience are likely to have been trained when ideas such as cold-calling or emailing the buyer directly were effective, but they are not so much anymore. The average email open rate for businesses across all industries is 19.7%—an indication that the method is falling out of favor.

Sellers may also fear that their teams are not taking the necessary steps toward embracing a digital reality. Fully 79% of sellers say they have a clear understanding of digital-first selling, and 74% say their company has a standardized system for it; yet, just 37% say their sales teams fully incorporate digital selling, according to the Showpad study. As a consequence of poor digital sales deployment, businesses have lost $1.6 million in annual revenue, and sellers have lost $210,000 annually in commissions.

Sales teams must ensure everyone has the same modern training, regardless of when they joined the company or how long they have been in the industry.

No matter how much experience a seller has, everyone must be on the same page for digital-first selling. That means getting rid of outdated software and replacing it with new technologies that enable streamlined video calls and that also incorporate AI and automation features to help build the buyer-seller relationship virtually.

In today's world of hybrid and remote work, it is critical that newer employees still have an opportunity to shadow and understand selling best-practices that may not be expressly written down in any training manual. They must have as much well-rounded training as possible through real-life experiences, in addition to all the sales resources provided to them.

Organizations can also look outside the company for training, perhaps hiring outside selling coaches to deliver thoughtful and compelling insights from the industry. That allows sellers to learn from a more diverse group of salespeople who have different selling experiences and tips for closing deals.

However, the sheer amount of resources a seller has is a challenge in itself—one that can be solved by consolidating it.

2. Build a central knowledge hub

In today's digital world, the overwhelming surplus of resources and platforms makes it difficult for sellers to parse through it all, especially in hybrid environments where company resources are splintered.

Constant digital evolution requires that sellers have an easy way to access everything, and that means setting up an internal hub that all employees can use to access tools, tricks, and strategies for selling.

Such a hub should highlight the latest sales technologies, from new CRM and SaaS tools to sales enablement platforms buyers can use. Sales enablement technology in particular is helpful for sellers because it allows them to differentiate between effective and ineffective sales methods.

The central knowledge hub should also offer demos and training courses so sellers can understand and use them fully in their everyday work.

Outside of the hub, sellers should also be encouraged to invest in themselves and upskill individually. Through self-learning, sellers can share new knowledge with others, enabling all concerned to continuously grow and develop as they evolve with the changing times.

To ensure sellers have the right tools at their disposal, organizations should also offer learning stipends to salespeople so they can delve into new sales methods and approaches they want to learn more about.

3. Create a buyer-led approach

Buyers are more in control of the selling process than ever before, having unlimited access to a variety of information and tools that can make it harder for sellers to reach them.

However, buyers also want sellers to be more than just sellers; they expect them to act as sophisticated, trusted advisers, and sellers must live up to that expectation.

Because that is a relatively new development in the sales journey, many sellers do not have the training needed to meet buyers where they are and compel them to lead their own journey to purchase. That is why they must learn to carefully consider all facets of the buyer's needs and embrace a buyer-led approach to selling.

Sellers need to find the touchpoints buyers may use to contact a company, and they should aggregate data from those touchpoints, building a complete and holistic profile of each buyer before they eventually connect with the buyer.

When they do speak with buyers, sellers must be sure to provide a thought-provoking and personalized experience to draw them in further. Based on the buyer's profile, sellers must address the buyer's unique pain points, the reasons the buyer is coming to the seller, and provide reassurance.

To close the deal, buyers want sellers to provide them with an emotional experience during the sales process so they are confident in what they are buying. Buyers are skeptical about the logic and rationale behind sellers' motivations, and they would rather have an emotional reason to make that big purchasing decision.

The digital age is not just about the newest technology but also about the new expectations a buyer has—and what the sellers need to meet them at that inflection point.

* * *

Success in sales has always depended on how well a seller can meet a buyer's expectations, and that is quintessential today. In the digital-first age, it is up to sellers as well as their organization to ensure they know exactly what buyers expect and how to be valuable and trusted advisers to them.

Sales training is an evolving process, and it will have to adapt as the industry and buyers change. Providing sellers with the right tools, resources, and technologies to understand the current climate will ensure business revenue continues to grow, regardless of economic headwinds.

More Resources on Sales Training

The Most Effective Sales Training Approaches

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

How to Upgrade Your Sales Teams for Remote Success

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Hybrid Selling Is Here to Stay, But Is Your Team Trained for It?

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image of Jay Burrous

Jay Burrous is the vice-president of North America enterprise sales at Showpad, a sales enablement operating system.

LinkedIn: Jay Burrous