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The twin disruptions of the Covid 19 pandemic and the arrival of Industry 4.0 has transformed the way businesses communicate with customers. Multiple reports from the likes of McKinsey, Gartner, PwC, Deloitte and World Economic Forum have indicated that Virtual Sales, which has become the norm due to the ongoing pandemic, will continue to thrive in the post-pandemic era.

Thus, business leaders need a clear strategy to enable and support the Sales Development Representatives in a Virtual Selling Environment. Progressive leaders have realized that they need to stop assuming that live meeting practices transfer seamlessly to virtual settings. They have understood the importance of preparing themselves to sustain in a virtual selling environment by developing the skillset of their sales team through training and coaching.

Here are some key statistics on virtual sales:

  • Business Leaders expect 58% of the sales force will operate only by virtual means (up from 24% working virtually pre-pandemic).
  • 42% of business leaders have permanently transitioned all Sales Development Representatives to Virtual Roles, and another 37% are considering it this year.
  • 79% business leaders reckon a shift to hybrid Model to Sales post-pandemic (Virtual plus on-field Sales-Force)
  • 85% of business leaders believe virtual sales force can significantly reduce cost, improve efficiencies and be one of the critical drivers for the growth of their businesses
  • 80% B2B customers prefer making purchases digitally
  • 74% of Business Leaders have recently updated their Virtual seller skills profile for selling online.
  • 61% of Business Leaders are already investing in new technology to enable virtual Selling.
  • 87% of Business Leaders say their top business priority is bridging the Skill Gap through customized training and L&D programs.

[Gartner, McKinsey reports]

Being abreast with the current trends and aligning strategies to be in line with “The future of Work” will be critical for all business owners in these uncertain times. As seen in the statistics above, the way forward for businesses will be to upskill and reskill their existing SDR’s through training on Virtual Sales.

In this whitepaper, we will deep dive into the topic of Virtual Sales Training and discuss its criticality in the rapidly changing Business Climate.

Table Of Content:

  1. Virtual Selling and The Global Shift to Virtual Sales
  2. The Global Skill shortage in Virtual Sales and the need for virtual training
  3. The key skills for modern Sales Development Representatives
  4. Developing a winning Virtual Sales Training Program
Virtual sales training

#1: The global shift to virtual sales

Gartner defines Virtual Sales as “the collection of processes and technologies by which Sales Development Representatives engage with customers remotely through both synchronous and asynchronous communications.”

But, what does Synchronous and Asynchronous communications mean in the definition above?

  1. Synchronous Communication: This entails live customer interactions, such as pre-meeting planning, virtual meeting engagement and post-meeting follow-ups.
  2. Asynchronous Communication: This includes providing customers with opportunities to independently review the information and engage with tools on supplier websites, microsites and so forth while ensuring continuity as customers transition between channels.

In simple words, Virtual sales can be defined as “the sale of products or services by Sales Development personnel by reaching customers through phone, email, video prospecting, virtual presentations and other virtual means.”

Due to the ongoing pandemic and social distancing regulations, Virtual Selling has become synonymous with Selling. It has become an indispensable part of the Business Continuity Plan and a necessary characteristic for the survival of businesses. Virtual Selling is not a flash in the pan phenomenon that will lose traction once the pandemic is over. Businesses have now tried, tested and experienced the benefits of virtual Selling.

The three most essential benefits of Virtual Sales compared to traditional in-person sales are: –

  1. Time and cost-benefit: It is clear that running an inside sales team is less expensive than running a field-based SDR Team. Every year, businesses spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel. They no longer have to. Businesses that follow the best practices and have the right skills to sell virtually can close deals at the same hit ratio as in-person Selling. Thus, it saves not only money but also time.
  2. Improved Scalability: Now, businesses can look for customers across the globe and need not depend on their traditional customer base. It provides flexibility to explore new arenas to prospect customers. Since it’s an eco-system shift, i.e. both customers and sellers prefer the virtual mode, businesses have realized that investing in Virtual Sales is a win-win for them.
  3. Omni-channel Communication: Virtual model places a myriad of tools in the seller’s hands to communicate with the customer. Through Video-Prospecting, Email Communication, Voice Messaging, Social Media Marketing, and other innovative tactics, businesses can surround the customer through multiple channels.

Thus, we can convincingly say that Virtual Selling as a competency will be the most important driver of Sales in the present and future business environment.

Virtual presentation tips

#2: The Global Skill shortage in Virtual Sales

“The world is in the midst of a reskilling crisis. More than 1 billion individuals must be reskilled by 2030”. The World Economic Forum raised the alarm in the global business community in October 2020.

McKinsey Global Institute states that 375 million people, or 14% of the total workforce, would have to acquire new skills. Furthermore,

Eighty-seven per cent of executives said they were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce.

[https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/beyond-hiring-how-companies-are-reskilling-to-address-talent-gaps]

Business leaders in all industries must figure out how to adapt to the rapidly changing conditions and how to match SDR’s to new sales activities. The challenge that business owners face is how can they reskill and upskill their workforce in the post-pandemic era to deliver new business models. To do this, businesses have to commit to reskilling and training by increasing their learning budgets. Companies will be better prepared for future disruptions if they develop this muscle.

The key statistic, though, is that less than half of business leaders have a clear sense of how to address the problem of reskilling, training and L&D investment while also addressing the current business priorities.

In the case of Virtual Sales, research has shown that:

  • Only 25% of SDR’s are competent in Virtual Sales.
  • Only 26% of buyers say sellers are skilled listeners in a virtual medium
  • Just 16% of buyers say sellers are effective at making the ROI case when selling virtually.
  • Only 26% of buyers believe sellers are skilled at leading a thorough needs discovery virtually.
  • 34% of buyers report that sellers are skilled at showing them what’s possible or how to solve a problem.

What these stats unmistakably prove is the need for Virtual Sales Training for the workforce. In further sections of the white paper, we will systematically look at how businesses can tackle this issue of developing Virtual Sales Training methods by following a systematic process.

Virtual selling program

#3: The key skills for modern SDRs

The skillset required for modern SDR’s is quite different from a traditional SDR. A new age SDR must be an all-rounder. They must be equipped to use technology as an enabler to meet the customer demands and build trust with the customers through virtual means. A new age SDR skillset is broader, more creative and needs a diverse set of skills. Here are the selling skills that an SDR must have to succeed in the present and future business environment:

 

#1: Social Selling

The art of social Selling is always to give first. This is often done via social media sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest, but it may also be done offline. Sharing relevant information, engaging directly with prospective buyers and consumers, personal branding, and social listening are all examples of social selling methods. Although it is mainly utilized for B2B (business-to-business) selling or carefully researched consumer purchases, social Selling is gaining appeal in a number of sectors (e.g., financial advisory services, automotive, realty). Since long before the Internet, C2C businesses (also known as direct selling companies) have used social selling methods (i.e. relationship development). Many of those methods are now being adopted by B2B and B2C businesses as they are transferred to social media platforms.

But how do you make your conversation valuable for the person, and how can you find ways to connect?

  • Social listening on LinkedIn
  • The law of reciprocity
  • Reactive listening and proactive listening
  • Empathic listening
  • Finding the ‘hook’ to make a genuine connection

#2: Video prospecting

A sales development representative will film and deliver a short, customized video to a prospect as part of their video prospecting strategy. Prospecting videos are usually delivered through email, but they may also be sent via text or as a private message on LinkedIn or other social media sites. The aim here is to replace dull, plain text emails with something more visually appealing and interesting. Your message stays the same with video email prospecting; it’s simply presented in a new manner.

These videos are kept short and to the point, since prospecting videos are one of your first contacts with prospective clients. Sales representatives should provide a brief introduction, explain why they’re contacting you, and explain how they can assist. It’s recommended that your prospecting videos be between 30 seconds and 1 minute long. Because the video is shorter, your prospect is more likely to watch the whole message and hear all you have to say. Standing out in the inbox, distinguishing yourself, humanizing the sales process, and more are all advantages of video prospecting.

Some of the aspects for which SDR’s need training are

  • Posture and tonality for cold calling via videos
  • Templates for effective prospecting
  • Prospecting methodology and sequencing
  • Building a 60-second video pitch

#3: Virtual presentations

Virtual presentations enable you to present to more people at the same time, thanks to group video conferencing systems like Zoom that may accommodate hundreds of participants each meeting. To participate, meeting participants need a device with an internet connection, which significantly simplifies logistics compared to a conventional in-office presentation, which often necessitates arranging travel arrangements, blocking a few days to travel, and reserving a conference room. Even so, you can’t be certain that everyone will show up on the agreed-upon day and time until the meeting starts.

While virtual presentations are handy, they are not always easy for you or your audience members. We’ve all been through the agony of unsuccessful virtual presentations caused by lousy audio or video quality or presenters who don’t feel entirely at ease manipulating controls to transmit material. Furthermore, when you are not physically presenting to an audience face to face, you must work twice as hard to create a connection and keep their attention.

How do you make the presentation more attractive and create interaction?

  • Non-verbal communication skills for video calls
  • How to tell your personal story
  • A conversational pitch deck for that 1st meeting
  • Virtual presenting skills

 

#4: Storytelling

Telling a story virtually can be a challenge. Connecting with your customers through stories is the best way to build rapport and trust. A story that pinches a nerve makes a lasting impact on the minds of the customer. SDR’s have to acquire these skills to be successful in their sales roles. It’s about, how do you introduce yourself smoothly? And how do you bridge your story to the company you work for? With storytelling, you will be able to build trust on a personal level before starting your presentation.

Here are some skills which need training:

  • Non-verbal communication skills for video calls
  • How to tell your personal story
  • A conversational pitch deck for that 1st meeting
  • Virtual presenting skills

#5: Referral selling

Cold calling is the easiest thing there is; you’ve got nothing to lose. The worst that can happen is that your ego gets a little dented. Asking for a warm introduction via referral selling is the most difficult sales technique that requires proper sales training. Some of the aspects that need training are:

  • The right timing for referral selling.
  • How to ask for referrals?
  • Referral selling is done the virtual way.

Looking at the skillsets required for modern Sales Development Representatives, it is clear that such people with such diverse skill sets are tough to find in the job market. Thus, the way forward for business leaders has to be to develop these skillsets internally through Virtual Sales Training. So, the next question is how do you develop a winning Virtual Sales Training Program?

#4: Developing a winning Virtual Sales Training

According to research, just 25% of SDR’s utilize virtual methods effectively. Therefore, offering virtual training is critical in improving results and effectiveness. Updated skills in account management, customer success, momentum building, stakeholder management, and customer risk mitigation are crucial for sustaining business.

Here are some guidelines on developing a winning Virtual Sales Training Program:

Prioritize Virtual Sales Training that will have the most significant impact on your business:

Design training around a typical problem that SDR’s encounter. Qualification, for example. When SDR’s pursue poorly qualified prospects, they spend time on bad fits while overlooking excellent leads. By ensuring focus on the main limitation and mapping the issue, businesses can clearly define the problem statement. The training module should be aligned to the key performance indicators (KPI’s) of the SDR’s which ensures the right impact and also helps in measuring the impact.

Have SMART Virtual Training Goals:

Random training without a clear purpose is a waste of time and money. The Sales Training Program should be clearly aligned to the organizational objectives. Create training programs that are SMART, i.e., Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. For example, you identify increasing sales conversion by 5% in the coming quarter as an organizational goal. Now you have to define a SMART Virtual Training Program for SDR’s to achieve it.

You identify leads going to waste as the specific goal in this endeavour.

S- Specific- Virtual Sales Training on Leads going to waste

M- Measurable- Increase sales conversion by 5%

A- Achievable- Based on industry standards and scope for improvement, you determine that it’s achievable.

R- Realistic- You determine that it’s realistic with 5-7 hours of Virtual Training.

T- Time-bound- You want the results next quarter, so you need to plan the training schedule within the next two weeks to create maximum impact

Keep the training sessions short:

The typical human attention span has shrunk so drastically that it is now less than that of a goldfish, according to a startling assertion made by Microsoft in its newest study. What does this mean for Virtual Training? It means the shorter the training, the better the results. According to a survey of learning experts, 94 per cent of respondents chose short-form modules — courses lasting 10 minutes or less — for skills training. Furthermore, 65% said that the typical eLearning programme provided too much material at once, sometimes overwhelming the learner. Therefore, bear these facts in mind while designing your Virtual Training Programme.

 

Use Hybrid learning techniques to improve efficiency:

Short videos, self-study, live cohort sessions, group activities, social engagement, gamification, and completion badges are all things to consider while developing a winning Virtual Training Program. According to multiple academic research papers, these hybrid programmes have the highest levels of participation, enjoyment, and completion.

 

Training sessions must be a simulation of real-world business situations:

Simulation training is used as a tool to teach trainees about the skills needed in the real world. It provides a lifelike point-of-care learning experience and has been widely used in Sales Training. Role-plays and real customer interactions based on learnings from the training are the best way to internalize for the trainees.

 

Training should be in smaller groups for full involvement of SDR’s:

Studies have proven that whenever the group size is more than 9, accountability and involvement starts decreasing, and when it is more than 30, accountability and involvement diminishes at an exponential rate. Therefore, it’s recommended to have group-size that are smaller to improve involvement and responsibility of learning.

 

Keep it simple:

Simplify the training to the extent that even a 12-year-old kid can understand it. If a 12-year-old kid does not understand your training sessions, be assured that there is scope to simplify it further. The simpler it is to understand, the higher the impact.

 

Periodic assessments and refresher sessions:

Virtual training has the benefit of being flexible. Barbara Oakley, who has dedicated her life to devising methods for improving learning methods, says learning should be inter-spaced to help form chunks of information in our minds. This technique should be kept in mind while devising Virtual Sales Training for your Sales Development Personnel. Periodic assessments and refresher sessions help SDR’s to learn more effectively.

Conclusion

Selling in the Virtual space is an entirely different ball game compared to selling in-person. Business Leaders have identified that the skills needed to succeed in selling virtually are unique. The skillset required by a new age Sales Development Representative is diverse, including video-prospecting, Social Selling, Content writing, virtual presentations, Virtual storytelling and referral selling. Such skill sets are not readily available in the marketplace. Thus, training the SDR’s on selling Virtually is among the top priorities for business leaders.

To do this, Business leaders need a clear strategy to enable and support the Sales Development Representatives. This strategy must be aligned to the business objective, must have clearly set SMART goals and should be designed to facilitate effective sales training for the virtual world.

If business leaders deliver by using the best practices in Virtual Sales Training, then this can be a game-changer for them that would catapult their business revenues, scalability and improve customer experience.

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Virtual sales training