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It’s not only hybrid work that has become a new norm in the post-pandemic world. Just like workers demand flexible hybrid work opportunities, 86% of consumers prefer making purchases through hybrid sales channels, as TechRepublic reported in July 2022.

The recent State of Selling Survey of Showpad—a sales enablement technology company—reveals just how significant the hybrid selling trend has become for businesses. Organizations not equipped with the right tools, technology and resources, are losing $1.6 million in annual revenue due to poor digital sales deployment. Additionally, sellers, also poorly equipped, lose nearly $210,000 in commissions annually.

Gartner revealed during the pandemic that 60% of CSOs expected their sales force to remain operating virtually. Virtual selling options were eyed not only for their attraction among consumers but for their potential to cut down costs, open new sales channels and reach new audiences. Seventy-four percent of CSOs told Gartner they updated their seller skills profile to adapt to modern sales, and 61% began investing in new technologies.

Hendrik Isebaert, CEO of Showpad, spoke to TechRepublic to shed light on the pressing issues of hybrid selling and why it is a trend that is here to stay.

“It’s widely accepted that we now live in a hybrid world,” Isebaert said. He added that since the pandemic accelerated hybrid models, the scale and magnitude of the hybrid landscape have grown exponentially. “Alongside the array of technologies available to support it, its features and functionalities are infinite, and in a B2B setting, hybrid selling affords an always-on or asynchronous approach, meaning organizations never need to stop selling, ultimately boosting revenue generation opportunities,” Isebaert explained.

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The benefits of hybrid selling

Showpad’s survey reveals that 79% of sellers clearly understand digital-first selling, and 74% say their company has a standardized system. Still, only 37% believe their sales teams fully incorporate digital selling. According to the study, 43% of sellers say digital-first sales is a “must-have expectation of buyers,” and 30% say it is a “differentiator to win” in their respective industries.

Hybrid selling, in contrast with traditional brick and mortar, is not dependent on location limitations. The buyer and seller no longer have to be in the same place simultaneously. “This means you can hire the best salespeople, wherever they are in the world, and target the most promising customers, regardless of location,” Isebaert said.

Bringing down the proximity barrier between buyers and sells, hybrid selling can increase productivity, coverage area, and give organizations the ability to work readily around customer availability. “A brick and mortar strategy can result in silos across a business—whereas a robust hybrid approach tends to have universality and connectivity baked into its sales mindset,” Isebaert explained.

Technology, resources and tools are essential for successful hybrid selling operations. But it is not just about purchasing the proper hardware, software, platforms and services. Skilling and training workers and sellers, and connecting sales channels are just as essential. It is also critical for companies to understand their sales cycles, where face-to-face delivers the greatest value  and its impact amongst buyers, and where virtual engagements suffice or are preferable.

Augmented reality, sales enablement platforms, virtual demos and social media

The McKinsey B2B Pulse Survey signaled in early 2021 that omnichannel in B2B was a reality and not a future novelty. Customers want them all when given a choice between in-person, remote and e-commerce, McKinsey said. Eight in ten B2B decision-makers say that omnichannel is more effective than traditional methods.

“As retail experiences became e-tail experiences, and generations of in-person customers became online consumers, the demand for enhanced online product experiences grew at pace,” Isebaert said. New technologies like augmented reality have matured and are now being used by leading hybrid sellers in their direct-to-consumer sales channels.

Showpad concludes that social media, augmented reality and modern sales enablement platforms are the technologies that can transform the sales experience. “Augmented reality sales experiences have instigated a fundamental shift in B2B sales,” Isebaert said. He assures that businesses should start engaging in these practices to get ahead, and future-proof the B2B sales experience while delivering enhanced customer journeys.

Sales enablement platforms—solutions that bring people and technology together throughout the sales cycle—are being used to optimize innovation in hybrid sales. With the proper enablement infrastructure, sellers can boost revenue generation through virtual deal rooms, creating greater opportunities for buyer-seller collaboration, surfacing crucial analytics and insights about customer needs and ultimately streamlining sales journeys—accelerating the pathway to deal closure. According to Markets and Markets, some of the leading sales enablement platform vendors are SAP, Bigtincan, Upland Software, Highspot, Seismic, Showpad, ClientPoint, Pitcher and Qstream.

Companies are also using virtual product demos to provide a more engaging and personalized experience for buyers. And internally, virtual product demos are used to accelerate and enhance the training of sales representatives by providing an efficient way for new hires to become familiar with a company’s products and services.

To maximize outreach, companies excelling in hybrid selling use social media platforms. These social channels outperform professional networks or companies’ websites. Showpad´s survey says that Facebook is the platform used most frequently to make business purchases with 69%, followed by Instagram with 57%, YouTube with 48% and LinkedIn at 29%.

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The gaps and deficits holding back hybrid selling

While 71% of sellers believe their organization is investing enough in technology to support sales teams, 53% of sales representatives say they could use more training on digital sales and 20% have little or no training at all.

Half of the surveyed sellers say they need better technology and platforming, and 44% say they need a sales or revenue enablement platform. According to Showpad, this means that sellers see the value in digital tactics and tools, but organizations have not prioritized it, significantly impacting the bottom line.

“Hybrid selling is sometimes regarded as an unknown quantity, which can induce fear or reticence. However, when distilled, it’s simply the next wave of the B2B selling evolution,” Isebaert said.

Isebaert believes that B2B hybridity will be mainstream in five years and companies should be asking whether they will embrace it now or be late to the show. According to Showpad, businesses using digital selling have increased revenue by an average of 35%.

“It was the same issue with the digital revolution 25 years ago when companies asked themselves: Should we have a website? Or seven years ago when companies were asking: Should we be on social media?” Isebaert said.

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