5 “C”s to boost sales performance in a hybrid environment

Is your organization considering shifting away from traditional sales model to drive additional revenue and boost sales employee performance? According to a recent McKinsey study, hybrid sales drive up to 50 percent more revenue by developing a more engaging customer experience. Hybrid selling is expected to become the dominant selling strategy by 2024 as customer preferences and remote-first engagement are changing. 

So how does a company transition from what WAS before, to what IS now? 

The answer to this question is a critical component in determining whether or not a business will continue to be competitive in the new era.

Employee Expectations

Now that they have had a taste of working from home, employees expect a more flexible environment. Many companies are turning to a hybrid environment in response. Some allow portions of the week to be divided among working and home and reporting to the on-site location, while others maintain a more finite reporting structure by considering either full-time remote or full-time on-site options. Finally, there are more and more businesses deciding to implement a little of both.

This latter trend of hybrid working is becoming more prevalent. A hybrid option gives employees a taste of both worlds, while maintaining a physical environment for face-to-face collaboration. And employee satisfaction in the workplace is key in attracting and keeping top talent. In fact, a study conducted by Owl Labs indicates that 84% of respondents would “even willing to take a pay cut,” if it meant their working environment would make them happier.

Add to this some clear evidence of the effectiveness employees can have if given a chance to work from home and you have a trend worth consideration at the very least.

But what does this mean for the customer experience?

Customer Expectations

A shift in employee expectations cannot come at the expense of the customer, however. Companies have to adapt to the shifting needs of the customer as well.  This isn’t something that is going away soon. As more adaptation leads to better and more diverse technologies, businesses who learn to adjust their priorities toward client-centric thinking will experience the most growth.

Companies need a way to interact with customers on their terms. There needs to be collaborative tools to dig into customer expectations so the client's need doesn’t go unnoticed. When the need is clear, the sale is fluid and it is easier to follow-up with the specific product or service as the solution.

Essentially, businesses need strategic tools and techniques for continued growth in a hybrid environment. This article will serve to flesh out what those tools and techniques look like. Organized into 5 key strategies, it will take you through the 5 ‘C’s of Conquering Sales in a Hybrid Environment, including tactics to:

  1. Consider
  2. Coach
  3. Convert
  4. Communicate
  5. Collaborate

Let’s dig in!

1. Consider: Adopt a Buyer-Oriented View

The first tactic is simply adjusting the business sales view from a product-oriented, or “Hey, look how good our product is!” approach, in favor of a client-oriented, or “Hey, how can we help you?” view.

One way to help align to this new thinking is to focus on value over company or technology. This means taking a look at the value a product or service has and training your sales team to lead with that. It is no longer enough to have a great product; you have to answer a need – nothing else matters. 

A few sample areas to focus on instead include:

  • Expertise: what expertise is represented on the team that came up with the technology? What expertise is represented in your company? These are the questions to answer in your sales pitch or piece.
  • Resources: blogs, articles and white papers are good ways to promote your company’s products, without overtly selling them.
  • Insight: consider what customers may be researching when they are looking for a business solution and offer links to related information from your website.

Another tactic to think like a customer is to keep it short and simple. On this point, businesses may or may not agree, but the key to sales in this changing environment is a shift to shorter, bite-sized, consumable content. This is what customers get on a daily basis from their social media and other similar technology, and this is what they’ve come to expect. To introduce your product to this market, you need to keep your sales messages quick and concise.

The third tactic in this section is for businesses to do their homework on clients. Speaking to the tactic before, this new world of instant gratification has led to a need for quick business adaptation in the way they approach consumers. There is more focus on convincing and persuading than ever before, and even less time in which to accomplish it. Consumers need to instantly feel as if they are understood and supported, to help them move from consideration to purchase on the buying cycle. If businesses better prepare for client meetings, they have an easy platform for trust and eventual conversion to customer.

A fourth and final way that is growing increasingly popular, is the trend to think like a designer. Referred to as “design thinking”, this methodology involves building up ideas to address a client, rather than the traditional analytical way of breaking things down. This can help by:

  • Redefining the customer pain point, to tailor your new product solutions accordingly,
  • Allowing multiple team members to collaborate on a solution,
  • Putting the client needs ahead of what a business thinks may make money,
  • Leading to an instantly-marketable product.

This answers the question of focus, but let’s switch gears and look at the team we have to bring these ideas to life. Let’s look at preparing our sales team.

2. Coach: Train the Sales Team

One of a businesses most valued assets is a sales team. If this team isn’t positioned to promote effectively, none of the work behind the product or service will matter. 

It is time to invest in training for both new and existing employees!

Onboarding: Training New Sales Team Members

Don’t make the critical mistake of treating this as an afterthought – a trained workforce is the first and best investment a business can make in this changing environment. While developing the current team consideration for the future team has to be made as well. How easily they are able to adapt to the businesses’ culture will determine how quickly they can move from training to actual sales. This is where they are most productive.

However, this is not as easy as it used to be given the switch towards a hybrid work environment.  Employees just aren’t always in the same place at the same time. Add to that the challenge of getting trained on a new way of thinking, as your business is adapting, and you have a recipe for confusion. The best way is to capture the pivotal changes and lessons learned from an organizational perspective, and incorporate them into the onboarding training.

That said, there is still continuing education that needs to happen for your existing sales team members.

Development: Training Existing Sales Team Members

Your existing team could be easier or more difficult to train, depending on the amount and severity of bad habits that may exist. Like any other discipline, training away bad habits could take extra time and effort, but this shouldn’t discourage the need to power through anyway. As noted, a sales force, especially an already-functioning team, is one of the businesses most valuable assets.

In this evolving age, education and training need to be flexible. If you want to make sure your team is dedicated to implementing the training, a business should prioritize a more approachable platform on which to complete it.

That said, there is also a rising need to focus on training salespeople to perform well on digital platforms as well. As consumers rely more on the digital world to influence their buying decisions, sales teams need to be able to respond effectively. Businesses should focus on adding digital sales training to their overall training program to keep up with changes in the consumer buying market.

Two important skills to focus on include social selling and content marketing.

Once in place, training should be an evolving process going forward. The change from a traditional to a hybrid workforce happened relatively quickly, thanks to economic factors like the pandemic, and there is no telling when another factor could shift the landscape again. Continual training allows the team, both old and new, to better pivot when needed. This agility will make a sales team more effective in this changing environment. 

Now we move on to the “how” question. How does a business capitalize on the changing landscape, while maintaining 360-degree communication between client, company and a hybrid sales team?

3. Convert: Time to Update Technologies

Another key strategy to remaining effective in a hybrid environment is to update technologies that keep your team relevant. A business needs to consider which traditional software will no longer work and begin the process of sourcing new, more effective options. Companies must seek a framework that supports the flexible workforce of the future. 

Probably the quickest and most pivotal technologies include: 

  • Scheduling Software: a robust system for tracking open projects and following employee activity across time zones is important to growth. Businesses can use software for virtual time keeping or to notify team members when something needs special attention. Many options on the market today offer real-time tracking capabilities that are both employee-facing and customer-facing.
  • Communication Software: here is where another serious investment should take place, as the easier it is to communicate, the more effective your sales become. This is not just limited to staff either, communication with the client is just as important. Implementing a tool that would allow a client to “peek in” on the status of work in place, goes a long way to improving client trust.
  • Video-Conferencing Software: this is a key trend in all business fields, where the pandemic forced less face-to-face meetings, consumers are still finding a need to connect with the brand on a more realistic basis. Videos help businesses bridge this gap.

Whichever technologies a business chooses to implement, the fact that an upgrade is needed is crucial to understand. The average consumer of today is less concerned with interacting with salespeople than interacting virtually with your brand. That is not to contradict the fact that a visual presence is still needed. It is merely showing that a large part of the sales cycle is influenced by online capabilities. 

To that point, when you look at the progression of AI trends in research, digital buyer behavior data is now the new formula for effective sales leads. AI technology can now easily track and recover data such as:

  • Which sites a consumer recently visited
  • How many times a consumer visited recent sites
  • What content the buyer read or watched
  • What seminar or online event a buyer attended
  • What, if any, engagement the buyer has had with sales members

Data like this could make or break a business. In fact, a sales team with access to better consumer buying data can better decide which customers are closer to a sale than others. Using your sales team in the closing phase of the customer journey can increase their effectiveness as a whole.

4. Communicate: Keep Everyone Connected

A shift of this nature takes time and communication. Building the right mix of hybrid workforce can be challenging enough, but if communication breaks down, it spells disaster.

There are essentially two-main forms of communication a company may encounter: synchronous and asynchronous.

Synchronous Communication

This is an instantaneous communication form that offers immediate reaction and response.  Most in-person communication, like what happens in a traditional office setting, falls into this category.

This level of communication requires a little more planning to be effective in a hybrid environment. A company should strategize different software solutions that could provide support for the remote team as on-site ones. 

Some examples of this type of communication that would need to be considered in planning for a hybrid workplace include: 

  • One-on-one meetings
  • Complex project strategizing
  • Emergency notifications
  • Team-building activities
  • “Water-cooler” meetings

A focus on synchronous communication for both remote and in-office teams can help foster a sense of camaraderie that could be lost in the hybrid model.

Asynchronous Communication

Asynchronous communication, unlike synchronous communication, does NOT happen in real time. This form of communication seems to lend itself to the hybrid workforce, as it is an accessible form of communication for both remote and in-office teams.

This form of communication allows time for processing and a longer time-frame to respond. This is beneficial for employees wanting to provide a more thought-out response, or for those unable to respond immediately. If managed correctly, asynchronous communication can help hybrid teams stay in touch no matter where they are located.

No matter which form of communication you look at, there needs to be a well-defined process or tool that can address the needs of both remote and in-office teams. Effective communication tools will ensure your team works productively in any location.

5. Collaborate: Foster Collective Intelligence

The last and important step in creating a strategy to sell in a hybrid environment includes collaboration. We know what team-building looks like face-to-face, and we’ve seen what Zoom can do for the virtual collaboration space, but what does a hybrid of that look like? 

What do companies need to consider when addressing collaboration in a hybrid work environment? We recommend looking at it from a three-pronged perspective. 

Consider how the hybrid team will be represented and how they will participate in collaboration situations, like meetings, conferences or company training.

Representation

How a hybrid team is represented is really referring to how inclusive your collaboration strategies are in representing both internal and external teams. Having a way for both remote and in-office teams to collaborate, that also considers how they are represented in that meeting, is a critical step in identifying tools to work for effective hybrid collaboration.

Participation

When we think of participation from a traditional standpoint, we would normally make sure that all stakeholders in a project were scheduled for the meeting during normal business hours. How that translates in a hybrid environment is a bit trickier. 

The more a business adopts newer technologies for collaboration, the easier it will be to adjust to a hybrid model.

Businesses should consider robust collaboration tools that address all the needs of a hybrid workforce. These all-in-one options can save money and time in the long-run by streamlining company collaboration on one platform.

Therefore, look for participative software that includes:

  • Real-time engagement capabilities for both employees and stakeholders.
  • Live project feeds that collect feedback both on-site and remotely.
  • Team and project alignment on one platform.
  • An editable project management system visible by team members and project managers alike.

Key Takeaways

The pandemic has changed how we look at the workforce of the future. Studies have shown many benefits to adopting a hybrid workforce that includes some room for the remote employee, so how do companies adjust and adopt? 

Here are a few things to remember when considering your company’s response to this growing workforce trend:

  • Manage Employee Expectations: to thrive in a hybrid environment, businesses must consider the employee’s expectations. As it stands, a good number of employees would rather take a pay-cut than deal with an unfulfilling or unrealistic working environment.
  • Cater to Customer Expectations: the consumer of today has changed the way it consumes information and technology. As a result, businesses need to change the way in which they sell. Businesses must adopt a more customer-oriented sales approach in favor of a more traditional product-centered focus. In short, the more adaptation a business makes the more it can meet the needs of the ever-changing consumer.
  • Convert to New Technologies: this is one of the most important decisions businesses have to consider for the future of their company. And with such choices, it is easy to get overwhelmed. 

Focus on technologies that include:

  • Collaboration tools to keep your in-house and remote teams participating equally.
  • Real-time participation tools that foster equal representation for a hybrid workforce.
  • Team and project alignment capabilities.

Some form of remote work is an inevitable trend, and if businesses invest in effective collaboration tools they can adjust to this new trend with ease. Keep in mind that those businesses considering a hybrid model can anticipate a more positive response from the current workforce than those who do not. But even those that attract top talent, won’t be able to hold on to them if they do not adapt to more inclusive collaboration tools.

Collaboration has long been a key component to the working office, but with hybrid workforces on the rise, many businesses have not yet prioritized technology upgrades. To survive in the new era of a hybrid workforce, businesses must improve their framework for collaboration. This includes strategically choosing software that supports their corporate culture, whatever that looks like.

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