Soft Skills Remain Critical in B2B’s Virtual Selling World

February 16, 2022

This article is included in these additional categories:

B2B | Business of Marketing | Customer Engagement | Customer-Centric | Industries | Lead Generation & Management | Staffing

While soft skills are considered important skills for marketers, it stands to reason that being able to establish trust and develop a rapport with customers is even more important for salespeople, especially when selling virtually. Indeed, these are considered essential skills by B2B sales leaders, per a report [download page] from ValueSelling Associates and Training Industry, Inc. 

Some 61% of the more than 450 sales leaders and sales enablement decision-makers surveyed say that establishing credibility and trustworthiness is one of the essential sales behaviors for engaging with customers in virtual selling. This is followed by developing rapport with people (55%). These soft skills are considered more important to sales leaders than skills such as managing sales calls effectively (38%) and tailoring presentations contextually (22%). 

Essential Sales Behaviors Throughout the Sales Cycle

Early on in the process, when virtual sellers are prospecting and qualifying leads, asking good questions and actively listening are the most cited essential sales behavior by respondents (56%). This view is shared by B2B buyers, with research from LinkedIn showing that B2B buyers consider active listening as the top trait they value in salespeople

Although being tenacious in follow-up and articulating value are also considered critical behaviors for prospecting and qualifying leads in virtual selling, these behaviors were considered essential by considerably fewer respondents (39% and 37%, respectively). 

Maintaining a rapport with buyers is considered one of the most essential sales behaviors during the negotiation stage of virtual selling, with close to half (48%) of respondents saying as much. Another essential behavior during this stage is being able to quantify value to the buyer. In fact, other research supports the idea that being able to demonstrate ROI or value can have a positive impact on the decision to buy.

The importance of soft skills continues into closing deals in virtual selling, where the most cited essential sales behavior is maintaining relationships with existing customers (56%). More respondents considered this essential than ensuring a smooth transition to the service team (40%) or outlining what success looks like for the buyer and seller (39%).

Measuring Sales Effectiveness

Despite sales leaders considering credibility (71%), trust (74%) and rapport (65%) always or frequently essential in the current environment, few are actually using these behaviors to measure performance. Nearly all (98%) respondents say they are measuring their sales team’s performance, however, only one-quarter are directly measuring sales behavior. Instead, they are turning to data such as sales coaching data or reports (57%) and supervisor ratings (55%). Fewer also are measuring sales effectiveness using data from sales enablement platform metrics (38%) and through KPIs set by the company in the CRM platform (31%). 

The full report can be found here

About the Data: Findings are based on a survey of 464 B2B sales leaders and sales enablement decision-makers. 

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