Even as B2B buyers increase their reliance on digital activities, tools, and routes, they crave deep, human connections. In fact, I would argue that empathetic and highly tailored interactions are now more valued than ever.

In LinkedIn’s The State of Sales 2020 report, buyers rated active listening skills higher than relationship building and even projected confidence among sellers, yet most sales organizations don’t necessarily hire with active listening skills in mind. This creates a gap between what buyers want and need and what many sellers can deliver.

As sales leaders reconsider talent and training strategies, they need to think differently about seller attributes and activities. Here are a few relevant ones that we identified in our research process. Sellers must be:

  • Digitally adept. In order to engage in a highly personalized manner at scale, sellers must be adept at using a range of enablement and interactive tools, including sales content, sales engagement, sales social engagement, and others.
  • Collaboratively oriented. As buyers do more on their own, buying committees expand, and procurement departments increase their influence, team selling will continue to become more pervasive. Sellers need to seek out and embrace both internal and external opportunities for collaboration.
  • Optimistically minded. Sellers now face one of the most challenging selling environments of their lifetimes. The ability to tap into positive emotions after setbacks and have the psychological resiliency to move forward are hallmarks of successful sellers.

Although 2020 hasn’t been the year we hoped for or expected, we can make the commitment to put the human element back in selling. Sellers who can effectively create and share videos will do that while differentiating themselves from the competition. Through video messages, buyers can see facial expressions, hand gestures, and personality — all key elements of nonverbal communication that are lost when sellers communicate only through voice calls, email, or text messages.

How can sellers bridge the gap between their current capabilities and the traits that today’s buyers look for? One answer is sales training. In my report, “Now Tech: Sales Training And Services, Q1 2020,” we surveyed the landscape, highlighted 23 providers, and surfaced 15 essential criteria. When it comes to choosing a training provider, the feedback we captured from clients of sales training providers may be instructive. Whether you are reimagining your own internal sales training program or partnering with an external provider, make sure you:

  • Align methodologies and services around buyers. Equip your sales teams to engage and support buyers rather than simply selling to them. Sellers must bring value to the process, deliver insights, and share novel ways of doing things.
  • Use a variety of formats — quizzes, podcasts, and short visual content, as well as interactive tools — to support self-directed learning. These formats and methods are especially important, as Millennials currently make up one-third of the US workforce and will make up 44% of the global workforce by 2025.
  • Consider diversity and inclusion. Several clients cited a lack of diversity in training materials, staff, and language as a significant provider shortcoming.

In tough economic environments, training is often the first budget item to get cut, but that is a big mistake at this moment. To learn more about our findings and the criticality of reskilling and upskilling your sellers, schedule an inquiry with me or engage with me on my LinkedIn or @sheaforr.