80 Percent of Salespeople Find it Harder to Engage with Buyers Through Virtual Meetings

January 25, 2023

Showpad’s Modern Salesperson Survey reveals that hybrid working is reducing commissions due to an inability to read body language and creating less alignment between teams

Showpad, the global leader in sales enablement technology, has released findings from its Modern Salesperson Survey, which analyzed sellers from U.S. organizations and found that 80% of salespeople believe virtual meetings make it harder to engage with buyers and on average, 40% believe it’s costing them sales personally.

The increase in flexibility offered by hybrid working since the pandemic has been considered a bonus for employees, with Showpad’s research showing that many job candidates would not consider a position if it didn’t offer a hybrid work option. But this perk could be less of a ‘bonus’ for salespeople who rely on commission. In fact, 57% of salespeople are losing out on more than $1.2M in commission. While 10% say their sales have held steady over the transition to hybrid working, just nine percent say they have increased, showing the move to hybrid is only benefitting a few in sales-based roles.

Body Language Challenges
Forty-two percent of sellers say that virtual meetings make it difficult for sellers to make a connection with buyers over a screen. According to the study, 65% of salespeople say that as they can’t read the buyer’s body language, it’s harder to gauge whether a pitch or proposition is landing or how successful the interaction was overall. Virtual meetings also eliminate the ability for sellers to engage in client hospitality by taking them out for meals, drinks or nice experiences (37%) and poor online connections can create awkwardness (37%).

Body language is critical during the sales process as without it, salespeople cannot tell if buyers understand what they are saying well enough (45%). The study also highlighted that 43% of salespeople are placed at a disadvantage as they cannot use their own body language effectively as a seller. From the data, 39% believe that a lack of a physical connection – like the inability to give a handshake – hurts the buyer-seller relationship. According to the survey, more than a third of sellers (38%) are left to wonder how well the meeting went when it takes place virtually.

“As we navigate a hybrid working environment, it’s more crucial than ever to be mindful of our own and others’ body language,” said Adrianne Carter, a body language expert, with 11+ years of experience. “While in-person interactions allow us to read body language more intuitively, it’s still possible to read and send intentional cues virtually. It may take a bit more effort, but the benefits of paying attention to body language in virtual meetings are well worth it.”

Carter continued, “For example, when meeting in person, there’s often a few minutes of casual conversation that helps to build rapport and establish a connection before diving into the purpose of the meeting. However, virtual meetings tend to jump straight into the business at hand. To build that same sense of connection and rapport virtually, salespeople should consider starting meetings with some light, informal conversation – perhaps discussing something interesting in their background or the buyer’s background. This will help to establish a sense of camaraderie before getting down to business.”

Less Organizational Alignment
The survey also highlights other challenges businesses face due to hybrid working. Eighty two percent believe that not always working in the office is affecting interactions between their department and other departments within the business.

There are several key implications of organizational misalignment, with 50% of sellers indicating that having mixed messaging reaching clients or prospects is the key issue. Other challenges include not aligning on campaigns – and as such not maximizing effectiveness (47%) – and not always having easy access to the latest marketing materials (39%). A lack of alignment across departments also means that salespeople are not getting to learn from their colleagues in other areas of the business (28%) or understand how other departments function (31%).

Trust Issues
While 94% of sellers agree that it is important to be able to show up as trusted advisers to clients rather than just a salesperson in order to win their business, there are some hindrances. According to the survey, a lack of knowledge (40%) and a lack of training (29%) are hampering salespeople’s abilities to build trust with clients. These hindrances imply that there are still many salespeople who are not being adequately trained and provided with the right resources to sell effectively – especially in a virtual setting. From the research, 36% of sellers contend that there is a lack of tools while 36% believe there is a lack of best practices in their organizations which impacts their ability to act as a trusted adviser to clients.

While hybrid work has its share of drawbacks, increased technology use could help sellers circumvent some of these issues and close more deals. Salespeople believe that video chat and screen-sharing tools (42%) and meeting analytics (40%) will be instrumental in helping seal deals. According to the survey, more than a third of salespeople believe that augmented/virtual reality (36%), the Metaverse (33%) and scheduling software (37%) will be important technologies for sellers. And, 47% have already used the Metaverse while 42% have used augmented/virtual reality in sales meetings within the last six months.

“In many industries, face-to-face time with clients or prospects is still key to driving growth and closing sales. However, in even the most traditional businesses, technology plays an immense role in keeping buyers engaged and informed throughout the sales cycle,” said Hendrik Isebaert, CEO of Showpad. “Every organization’s go-to-market strategy – and therefore the ways in which customers buy from them – is unique, and organizations need to adopt sales enablement strategies that fit their particular business needs. This approach will ensure that sellers can act as trusted advisers throughout the sales process, meeting their buyers wherever they are and filling in information gaps accordingly. Flexibility is key for sellers to talk to customers in a differentiated way, adding value to every interaction.”


About the Survey
The study includes a sample of 514 sellers across the technology, manufacturing and finance industries that had annual revenues ranging from $2M to $1B. Job titles surveyed included practitioners, managers, directors, and executives across sales, marketing and enablement teams.

80 Percent of Salespeople Find it Harder to Engage with Buyers Through Virtual Meetings