Love it or hate it, virtual presenting is here for the long haul and YOU need to be good at it.

That’s what the smart folks over at Gartner Research think. And honestly, after looking at all of the various data I’ve seen published since the COVID-19 pandemic began, I think they’re right.

But don’t take my word for it… after all, if you torture data long enough it will say anything you want it to—right?

Here are the stats behind the belief that virtual selling is here to stay:

  • Gartner projects that 74% of companies will adopt remote work permanently for some employees and that by 2024 only 25% of business meetings will happen in person.
  • Gartner stated that by 2025, 80% of all B2B sales transactions between sellers and buyers will occur through digital channels.
  • Research fielded by the Mays Business School over at Texas A&M found that up to 30% of the workforce reports they’ll likely carry out their tasks from a remote location by 2024. (Turns out even Aggies can see the writing on the wall 😉 )
  • AirBnB research found 64% of people polled said they’re interested in living away from the company, then traveling to the office occasionally.

I could go on, but you’ve probably seen the same or similar data points yourself. Post-COVID, buyers are really comfortable with buying from salespeople they’ve never met face-to-face and employees are planning to maintain at least some level of WFH flexibility going forward.

That’s why, love it or hate it, virtual presenting is here for the long haul. And that’s why YOU and your sales teams need to invest in the best virtual sales training you can find to become exceptional virtual sellers. In fact, that same Texas A&M study found that 75% of chief sales officers are emphasizing virtual selling skills for their reps to prepare for this cultural evolution. Smart folks, those chief sales officers.

What Virtual Selling Skills Do Salespeople Need To Improve?

Is it enough to simply invest in sales training to improve your sales teams’ video sales call efforts? You know, make sure they can rock a Zoom sales call. Unfortunately, no. Because this post-pandemic cultural shift is so much more than that. Specifically, in a world of virtual sales, the sales call starts well before the actual sales call. Let me explain.

Numerous research studies have shown that over 70% of potential buyers are self-educating via Google searches, asking friends and colleagues for suggestions via social media, and reading freely available online content before they even bother to alert a salesperson they’re in the market for a product or service. And that’s important to you because until those invisible buyers decide to turn off their Klingon cloaking device, they’re what I call an Invisible Sale. They can see you, but you can’t see them.

Which brings us to a second important point. Those same invisible buyers aren’t just researching the company, they’re researching the salesperson too. One recent study of B2B buyers revealed 82% of them claimed they looked up a salesperson’s LinkedIn profile before deciding whether to respond to the salesperson or not. In another study that focused more on the SMB marketplace, the numbers were lower, 36% overall, but the study also asked about looking up a salesperson’s other social media profiles. I find the Gen Z data especially interesting… don’t you?

What Kind of Virtual Sales Training Do Salespeople Need Today?

In a digital-centric, remote-working environment where a salesperson is far less likely to ever meet their sales prospects face-to-face, it’s imperative that you arm your sales teams with seven key virtual selling skills:

  • Social Reconnaissance: The most powerful use of Google and social media platforms isn’t connection, it’s profiling. Yes, the data is unstructured and in some cases hidden behind privacy walls, but with the right sales training, your sales teams can become NSA level profilers, able to build insightful sales prospect dossiers to help them build rapport on all of their sales calls — virtual and physical.
  • Social Reputation Management: Your sales teams need to understand the power of small changes to things like the avatar they choose to use on platforms like LinkedIn. Did you know that simply changing the background of your avatar can actually influence someone’s willingness to do business with them.
  • Social Prospecting: You never get a second chance to make a first impression via social media. In fact, it’s the easiest platform for a sales prospect to ignore you or outright block your ability to contact them. And probably the platform they’re most likely to do both. If for no other reason than that, you need to make sure your sales teams understand HOW and more importantly, WHEN to move from regular conversation to one designed to convert that conversation to a customer.
  • Digital Sales Nurturing: In a world where you can’t rely on your ability to BUY a sales prospects’ attention (lunch, dinner, drinks or an invitation to a ball game or a show), you need to teach your sales teams how to EARN that sales prospects’ attention through smart, digitally powered content selling strategies and tactics. You have to teach them how to make their emails and social media outreach so valuable that the sales prospect actually looks forward to receiving them.
  • Managing Virtual Sales Calls Training: The presentation that works in the boardroom usually fails in the Zoom room. The dynamics of virtual sales calls are completely different and call for an approach that is equally different and purposely designed to work in a virtual environment. If you’ve just shipped the boardroom presentation training to a virtual format with little-to-no editing, don’t be shocked when you don’t get the same results.
  • Designing Your Pitch Materials for Virtual Sales: In the same vein as the above, don’t just teach your salespeople how to deliver better Zoom Sales Calls, arm your salespeople with sales decks designed to support successful virtual sales calls. The ugly, too much type on one page, sales script that your sales teams read from the screen with poor design and horrible visual appeal, are just making it harder on your sales teams.
    Invest in redesigning those presentation materials to work harder vs making your sales teams work harder. Or, if your sales teams love making their own sales decks, invest in a bit of sales deck design training so they can build effective vs defective sales decks.
  • Closing Self-Educating Sales Prospects: Today’s Self-Educating Buyers are fundamentally different from the buyers of old. They’re better informed (sometimes even more informed than the salesperson selling to them), better prepared, and truly believe that they have the upper hand because they feel smarter. And that completely changes the seller/buyer dynamic, especially during those important initial sales conversations and sales calls. BUT, self-educated buyers have blind-spots. Questions they didn’t know to ask, misinformation found during their research, undiscovered information, etc., that once identified by the seller, tilts the balance of power back to even or maybe even slightly in favor of your salesperson. We call it Aikido Selling and it’s an essential skill for every salesperson today.

Honestly, with the right virtual sales training, there isn’t any reason you or your salespeople should hate virtual selling. It’s more efficient, allows them to spend more time at home with family and friends vs airplanes and hotels, and best of all, research has shown that when done well, it can actually be more effective at closing more deals and helping them make more money.