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Virtual Sales Is Here To Stay – The Latest Research Tells Us Why

A virtual sales call on a desktop computer
[@DAVID PRADO/Stocksy United]

About half of the sales reps we surveyed say they’ll now mostly sell remotely, a change that underscores the need for a digital collaboration hub.

Virtual selling is no longer just a trend. It’s the way we work. More than half of sellers expect to primarily sell virtually moving forward, according to recent Salesforce research. But 61% of those same sellers say it’s harder to sell virtually. 

With advancements in technology and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), salespeople now have the tools they need to find leads and close sales quickly — without leaving home. In fact, sales reps are increasingly likely to chat with a customer or prospect through a video chat rather than meet them in a conference room.

The shift to virtual extends beyond the video call. A recent Gartner Trend Insight Report, shined a spotlight on the new “digital sales room” as the heart of virtual selling. This digital collaboration space, such as Slack, allows sales teams, experts from across the company, and outside partners to communicate and work together in dedicated channels from anywhere, in a true digital headquarters (HQ).

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Celebrated sales coach and speaker Larry Long Jr. said he’s seen this in spades across all industries. “Virtual sales is definitely the new normal. Businesses can have this imposed on them, or they can write a new script. The best organizations are writing their own playbook.”

Long said the key to making this “new norm” work is to keep customers and sales reps engaged and motivated – and use all the tech tools at their disposal.

Also key: Make sure your virtual sales tools are integrated so you don’t muddy the communication waters. Even better, find one platform that gives you everything you need to collaborate virtually — from making calls to sharing files and deal updates. As research firm Forrester noted last year, the companies with the best cross-team alignment — and streamlined revenue operations — use “one system for all customer data across all departments.” It’s in this digital HQ where productivity (and sales) really takes off.

How virtual sales affect sales teams

The implications of virtual selling extend beyond the sales call, too. Managers are rethinking sales staffing models. They’re increasingly filling the ranks of in-office reps and sales development staff instead of bolstering field sales teams. 

Our 2021 research examined high-performing teams (those at companies with increased year-over-year revenue) and found they were more likely to hire inside sales staff. Adoption of new technology like video-conferencing tools, AI software, collaboration platforms like Slack, and mobile apps made this possible. A year later, 83% agree that having integrated technology makes sales a more appealing career path.

Does this mean field sales reps can get comfortable at their home offices? Not at all. Field sales plays an important role in building customer relationships: 71% of sales reps said building personal rapport has a substantial impact on converting a prospect.  

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Bring in more training and team support

Rapport helps, but it’s not quite enough. Our research revealed that they need more support than they’re getting. Fewer U.S. sales reps report receiving training in 2022 compared to 2021, while nearly 40% say they lack the training to successfully sell virtually. One in three reps report their mental health has declined. 

The biggest pitfall of virtual sales training, said Long, is sticking with the status quo. “I’ve seen sales managers do the same training while expecting different results. You’ve got to rewrite the equation.” 

His advice: 

  • Schedule regular check-ins with reps who need ongoing motivation in isolated work-from-home environments.
  • Provide guidance on keeping sales calls impactful and short (around 30 minutes).
  • Offer ideas for making calls interactive, such as mini question-and-answer sessions, polls, and collaborative whiteboard idea mapping. 

Customers expect connected, personalized — and most importantly fast — engagement from sales teams and brands. The rules of engagement shift a little each day, and the data shows virtual selling has been on the rise. Given this shift, sales teams that can adapt quickly will be increasingly effective in a digital-first sales environment.

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Jeffrey Steen Editor, Salesblazer

As a business and marketing writer for 15 years, Jeffrey specializes in skill-up content at Salesforce. His work touches on everything from sales fundamentals to employee coaching, leadership best practices, and growth strategies.

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