Sellers today can meet with buyers in several different ways: in-person, virtual, telephone conference calls, or any combination of the three. Before the pandemic, most sellers and buyers met in person, which gave them the opportunity to build rapport face to face. Because everyone in the buying committee was in the same location, sellers believed buyers were less distracted, and sellers could “read the room” to ensure everyone stayed engaged.
For the last two years, virtual sales calls have prevailed. And while most sellers didn’t believe they could be as effective virtually as in-person at the beginning of the pandemic, companies have adapted — and based on their enablement strategies and technology, some have adapted more easily than others. Today, as offices begin to reopen worldwide, face-to-face meetings—with all the stakeholders in the same physical space—are still tough to pull off. As a result, companies are considering hybrid meetings to partially recapture the in-person experience.
A key component of high-performing sales enablement teams is the ability to drive change at scale, and the shift to virtual forward meeting types has tested companies’ abilities to adapt without falling behind. Now, 77 percent of buyers say that technology has significantly changed their expectations of vendor engagements.
So, with so many different modalities available, which one should you use?
Our recent research study, conducted by B2B DecisionLabs and Highspot, found that different formats have a significant impact on your buyers’ attention, engagement, memory, and willingness to act on your message.
The Research Takeaways
In the study, 140 participants were randomly paired and then assigned to one of four groups to watch a live sales presentation.
- Virtual participants (18 pairs) joined the live presentation via Zoom. Each person in the pair joined from a different room.
- Hybrid participants were divided into 16 pairs. One participant in the pair attended the presentation in the same room with the presenter, and the other joined via Zoom.
- Face to Face participants (18 pairs) watched the presentation in the same room as the presenter.
- Phone participants (18 pairs) listened to the presentation over the phone.
During the presentation, each participant was monitored by several pieces of neuroscience equipment, which measured an array of cognitive and affective variables in real time, including attention, motivation, fatigue, and memory. Researchers also measured valence and arousal—two independent neurophysiological systems that helped identify the participants’ emotional state as they watched the presentation.
Here are the key takeaways from the research, and how you can use the findings to make your next presentation a success.
1. Avoid Hybrid Presentations
Proponents of hybrid say it combines “the best of both worlds” — maximizing the benefits of both virtual and in-person interactions.But research shows that the hybrid modality is less enjoyable than virtual and puts people in a negative state of mind. Attendees in the hybrid group also didn’t share a similar experience. That means it’s more difficult to gain consensus from multiple decision-makers in a hybrid environment.
2. Go Virtual for High-Level Presentations
You’ve heard a lot about “Zoom fatigue.” But contrary to popular belief, a virtual environment like Zoom puts people in a positive state of mind. Virtual attendees are also more excited by the content than other presentation methods.
Virtual attendees tend to be less attentive overall, but it doesn’t affect their memories. With the right presentation techniques, most people will remember your main message days later, regardless of how they see or hear it. This can also make it easier for sellers to maximize engagement with follow-up assets that reinforce their value proposition.
3. Share Insights in Person
It might not be feasible to get all the decision-makers in the same room, but if you have the option, an entirely face-to-face presentation is the most effective way to present new insights.
Attendees show the most focused attention when listening to thought-provoking insights in person. They’re also in a more relaxed and positive state of mind, which signals that they trust the content they see.
4. Don’t Disregard the Phone
Virtual and phone attendees shared the most similar experience in terms of engaging with the content throughout the presentation. Even though attendees on the phone couldn’t see the slides, they could still follow along and understand the information.
So, don’t be discouraged if some of your meeting attendees dial in on the phone. You can still deliver an effective presentation and gain consensus from decision-makers, even if some of your attendees can’t see your slides.
How Enablement Can Adapt
The future of enablement will include more ways to engage buyers than ever before. But no matter what modality you use, it’s always about the conversation you have.
Data shows that 74 percent of buyers reach a deal with the first seller that demonstrates value, and that should always be a seller’s primary goal. Whether it’s virtual, in-person, or over the phone, today’s sellers are expected to demonstrate value during every interaction with a buyer.
The perfect sales pitch is something all your sellers should strive for, and knowledge of how presentation formats affect buyers can help your sellers make informed decisions about how best to conduct their pitches.
The Presentation is the Equalizer
In the study, researchers found that a well-crafted sales presentation transcends the method by which it’s delivered. Researchers found that even though each of the four groups experienced the presentation differently, their cognitive experiences and memories were similar.
Why? It’s likely because participants all saw or heard a presentation that followed guidelines that research has shown to make presentations more persuasive and memorable.
At a high level, these research-backed criteria include the following:
- An actionable message repeated throughout the presentation. The main message and its three supporting points were repeated three times verbally and seven times visually.
- Slides that respect design rules, including contrast, balance, harmony, and proximity.
- Fast-paced presentation with motion and animation. The presentation had an average of 33 animations per slide, and slides changed every 30 seconds.
- A combination of logical and emotional language helps viewers build “mental pictures” from the information.
- Effective delivery skills, including hand gestures, modulation, and eye contact.
When you apply these messaging and design principles, you can ensure your audience stays engaged and remembers your main message, no matter how they see or hear it. In fact, 74 percent of all participants in the study remembered what mattered.
Preparing sellers with sales plays packed with great content can help make a less-than-ideal presentation format captivating and relevant.
Overall, researchers found that a hybrid presentation method is less enjoyable and less effective than a fully virtual presentation. So while you might be eager to “get back out there” and start talking to buyers in person again, it’s better to hold off on hybrid meetings.
What about face-to-face meetings? Just because hybrid isn’t optimal, there’s no need to claim “the death of in-person sales.”
There was, after all, a time when people were reluctant to film sports games because they feared people would forgo going to the stadium. And, just like stadiums survived televised broadcasts, concerts survived music-streaming services.
Virtual selling has certainly shaken up the way people buy and sell, and that goes for enablement as well. However, a great enablement strategy is all about adapting to change, while equipping sellers to be prepared and confident during each buyer interaction.
To learn more about how you can put these findings into practice, watch the Highspot, Corporate Visions, and Jobvite webinar, here.
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