Mastering Virtual Selling: Strategies to Bridge the Skills Gap

The digital age and the disruptions arising from COVID-19 have revolutionized the way businesses sell their products and services, but the transition to virtual sales has been a difficult one for many organizations and sales professionals. With buyers complaining about unprepared reps and sales teams struggling to perform due to lack of training, it’s clear that businesses need to take action to ensure their salespeople have the tools and competencies they need to succeed. In this article, we’ll examine the current state of the virtual sales landscape and discuss how online sales training and creating a culture of continuous learning can bridge the virtual sales skills gap. Finally, we’ll discuss how to expand, enhance, and centralize training programs to maximize your sales training approach.

The state of virtual sales

The virtual sales landscape is a challenge for businesses and sales teams alike. While complexity and tech stacks continue to grow for many organizations, some still struggle to keep up with the changing market and adapt their processes accordingly.

These difficulties are well-illustrated by four core statistics:

1. According to a survey, 82% of B2B decision-makers believe that sales reps are unprepared to effectively engage with potential customers.

2. Meanwhile, more than half (58%) of buyers complain that sales reps are unable to answer their questions effectively.

3. A widespread lack of consistent training compounds this problem — Salesforce reports that 58% of sales reps find virtual sales more difficult than in-person sales.

4. That same report found that 40% of respondents found their virtual sales training inadequate.

It’s clear that businesses must take steps now if they wish to remain competitive in this new age of digital selling. Sales professionals are openly acknowledging that a lack of accessible guidance leaves them on the frontlines feeling lost and overwhelmed as they try to navigate unfamiliar territory. Business leaders are starting to listen but must recognize that the key to keeping their sales teams and customers happy is providing the tools, resources, and support employees needed in this rapidly evolving environment.

New sales landscape, new training approach

Remote-first sales organizations increasingly rely on virtual sales processes to close deals. But with this new paradigm comes new challenges for sales teams who are used to forming relationships, communicating, collaborating, and closing in-person. Leaders in L&D are also realizing that traditional, instructor-led training methods are not always well-suited for teaching virtual sales techniques and strategies. This is where implementing online training solutions can help organizations bridge the virtual sales skills gap by offering micro learning opportunities and just-in-time learning resources, which have been shown to improve productivity and learner retention.

Research shows that micro learning and just-in-time training can significantly enhance learner engagement and retention rates compared to traditional forms of instruction such as lectures or long videos. Micro learning content such as short videos, interactive quizzes, or game elements can serve as powerful tools for keeping learners engaged while they learn new concepts quickly and easily.  Micro learning is a highly effective approach to delivering bite-sized pieces of information on demand. It allows learners to access content when they need it most, without having to spend time searching or completing lengthy courses.

Just-in-time learning also helps to bridge the virtual sales skills gap by providing learners with targeted, up-to-date information when and where they need it most. For instance, a salesperson might leverage just-in-time learning by referring to learning aid – which they can access via their mobile or desktop browser, online or offline – during a customer interaction or sales call. Both of these approaches to online sales training allow for more efficient knowledge transfer within an organization and ensure that employees stay up to date on industry trends and best practices.

Organizations that provide their sales teams with effective online training using micro learning and just-in-time resources will be better equipped for success in the virtual sales environment than those that rely solely on traditional classroom style instruction methods. Offering employees quick access to relevant data enables them to make informed decisions faster, thus increasing productivity while also providing them with a competitive edge.

Sales teams need frequent, cross-functional training

Creating a culture of continuous learning and improvement is essential for any organization that wants to stay competitive, and this is especially true when it comes to virtual selling. Regular trainings can help sales teams develop the skills they need to succeed in this new environment, while also providing them with an opportunity to stay motivated and engaged.

Regularly scheduled training sessions are a great way to ensure that your team remains up-to-date on the latest developments in the industry, as well as on changes in customer preferences and buying behavior. These sessions should be tailored to the specific needs of each team member, so that everyone can benefit from them. Additionally, curating external learning resources like whitepapers, videos, or webinars into your courses and learning paths can help keep learners informed about the wider marketplace.

Providing frequent training opportunities – whether in-person or asynchronous – can also promote cross-functional collaboration within an organization. By offering sales training materials in a centralized platform and making them accessible to all teams across the organization, or by gathering members of multiple teams for a virtual in-person training, an organization can increase the cross-functional impact of those trainings.  Learning leaders and sales managers can use online learning tools to help stakeholders from across different disciplines share ideas and strategies for successful virtual selling. This kind of cross-functional collaboration not only helps create a stronger team dynamic but can also lead to more effective selling campaigns in the long run.

Finally, regular and accessible trainings help boost morale among team members who may be feeling overwhelmed by their workloads or struggling with technical issues related to online sales platforms. Providing employees with ongoing opportunities for personal growth through training sessions will not only help improve their job satisfaction levels but will also make them feel valued by their employer — which ultimately leads to greater loyalty towards the company’s brand and products.

Sales coaching has to be scalable

The highest-performing companies spend more time coaching their sales teams, but coaching is a high-touch endeavor. In fact, a recent report from CSO found that scalable coaching was a top priority among sales teams. Managers who are accustomed to analog mentorship and are tasked with mentoring remotely may not know where to start. Using a cloud-based learning solution could help these managers scale their mentorship efforts, while making the tools for sales training more accessible to everyone in the organization.

A learning management system (LMS) may help companies make coaching and mentoring more scalable by enabling managers to create personalized online learning paths for their sales reps. Learning paths are collections of courses and resources that are specifically tailored to particular cohorts of learners. By creating these learning paths, managers can ensure that each rep is receiving the training they need in order to be successful, without having to invest a significant amount of time in one-on-one mentorship.

Additionally, using an LMS can streamline the way that managers track their sales team’s progress and provide feedback. Features like manager dashboards can illustrate each salesperson’s grades, engagement metrics, milestones, and course completions. This centralized approach to learning management gives managers a more efficient way to offer support and advice on an ongoing basis, while also saving them time by providing automation capabilities. Providing sales training through an LMS also provides organizations with better visibility into high-level metrics, by giving them the tools to measure performance over time. This helps businesses set goals and identify areas where sales reps might need additional development or training.

Finally, using an LMS means that the same educational material can be shared with multiple team members simultaneously – something that wouldn’t be possible if relying solely on in-person instruction. This allows teams to quickly access relevant information when needed and ensures all members of the team are up-to-date with the latest strategies for virtual selling success.

Most sales leaders would agree that in order to address the complexity of today’s sales landscape, organizations need to invest in training that will empower sales teams and improve cross-functional visibility and collaboration. Business can improve the knowledge, skills, morale and motivation of their sales teams, without spending time and budget on in-person trainings. Meeting the needs of virtual sellers requires a virtual solution. That’s why investing in an online sales training solution is no longer optional.