Prospective buyers are generally reluctant to speak to sellers, which is one of the most considerable roadblocks salespeople face. And there are many factors that contribute to this reluctance beyond simple disinterest. For one thing, the sales landscape has dramatically and rapidly shifted in recent years. Since the late twenty-tens and accelerating through COVID-19, the sales process has become much more complex. Risk management has become a top priority for buyers, and that means that potential purchases take more time and energy to vet and justify. Not only that, but more people and mechanisms are statistically involved in the purchase process than any other time in recent history.

From buying committees to risk mitigation strategies to C-suite involvement in the buying process, the number of variables at play for a given purchase is sometimes staggering. That means that while the world is constantly speeding up, the same cannot be said for major business purchasing. Research also shows that buyers are doing far more of their own self-directed research once they’ve identified or budgeted for a need. They accumulate a huge mass of information and often maintain poor screening processes. On top of that, their ability to do this work for themselves, even if it slows them down in the long run, makes them feel disinclined to engage with sellers. In fact, research shows that business-to-business (B2B) buyers only spend 5% to 6% of their time meeting with an actual sales rep, after they’ve done their own research. And when they do engage with them, it’s fairly late in the process.

Since there is no sign of things returning to the way they were before, the important point to remember is this: As our contexts and our audiences’ wants and needs evolve, sellers must evolve with them. Those who find themselves clinging to old and tired methods will see themselves becoming less relevant, and their success rates are almost guaranteed to steadily decline, if they haven’t already.

It’s beyond time for salespeople to dispense with their outdated playbook and adopt a more nuanced and flexible approach. This is where the hybrid seller model comes into play. The hybrid seller refers to a salesperson who remains flexible in order to manage the new and ever-changing sales environment. Adaptability lies at the very heart of this model. And it is this attribute that has become the grounds of sales success.

But these questions remain: what are the central features of this model? And what should organizations be aware of when hiring, training and coaching their sales teams to thrive in this new age of selling?

Key Competencies of the Hybrid Seller

1. The hybrid seller is adept with digital tools. This characteristic likely comes as no surprise. In an era where the workforce is far less constrained by physical location and where time has become a more precious commodity, mastering digital tools allows the seller to penetrate the well-guarded buyer’s space more effectively. That’s because using tools like digital meeting software enable buyers to feel like accepting a meeting won’t infringe on this space. In other words, a potential buyer who’d be hard-pressed to agree to an in-person meeting, especially if it requires travel, might be more inclined to accept a short video call. In the latter scenario, they get to keep what they value (time) mostly intact and learn the value of the seller’s offering.

2. The hybrid seller connects with all the buying levels of the sales process. This means that salespeople should develop the ability to negotiate effectively with everyone, from junior team members to CEOs. That’s simply because sales trends unequivocally demonstrate that high-level decision makers are increasingly engaging in the purchasing process. As a result, salespeople must become skilled at communicating the value of what they sell all the way up the chain. This difficult task requires a nuanced understanding of the different audiences in play. That is, it calls for an awareness of their unique wants and needs and an ability to address them.

3. The hybrid seller helps prospects navigate the buying process. Research is clear that once buyers identify a need, they generally prefer self-directed research over other methods of purchasing inquiry. That often creates a scenario where they’re flooded with a wide spectrum of information from many sources, with varying degrees of credibility. But the hybrid seller, who understands this reality, aligns with the buyer’s decision process, timeline and requirements to filter out unnecessary, contradictory or distracting information. That is, the hybrid seller’s value lies with their ability to make the buyer’s process more efficient, while inspiring confidence in a sound decision.

4. The hybrid seller implements effective account planning and management. While it might seem easy to just fly by the seat of your pants, it’s virtually impossible for salespeople to make efficient use of their time and efforts without account planning and management. That’s because this work requires them to clearly pin down what they know about a particular prospect and, perhaps more importantly, what they don’t know. Highlighting these gaps leads to the discovery of new opportunities, enriching the seller’s process and improving success across the board.

If the hybrid seller described here matches what you see in your sales teams, then perhaps now is a moment to celebrate as well as increase your efforts to foster continued growth in this direction. However, many organizations will discover that their teams are stuck, unable to move beyond old methodologies that brought them so much success in the past. In other words, many teams remain constrained by their own inability to remove their gaze from the past (and what worked then) and bring it to the present, rapidly changing moment that foregrounds a future in flux. These organizations have a considerable amount of internal work to do. That might mean tapping into those underused in-house resources; it might also mean seeking outside support. But doing nothing isn’t an option.