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Advice for Meetings Industry Sales Reps: Understanding the NEW Sales Process

This post is by Sales Expert Colleen Francis, who has been coaching our Greenfield sales professionals for several years now.  Many of our sales approaches and "tips" we learned from Colleen!

Welcome to a New Year! One that I think demands a new understanding of how we sell, and how buyers are buying. 

In recent years, buyers in the sales process have become increasingly educated, and with that, the sales process has undergone a transformation. In order for your team to be successful in selling, it's essential to understand and adapt to the new buying and selling process, which is now driven largely by the seller. The sales team has transitioned from leading the sales process to guiding it, and understanding this change helps to provide guidance for your sales reps in their role in the process. 

The Old Sales Process 

Let's start by taking a look at what a standard sales process used to look like. In a standard selling process, the salesperson was typically in control, driving the sales process from finding the right prospect through to the close. In the old sales process, the selling organization controlled about 70% of the sales cycle, with the client participating about 30% of the time through giving the selling organization information and helping to guide the development of the solution. 

A sales rep would begin with prospecting and research. By going online, looking for information and networking, our sales team would identify our targets in a process completely driven and controlled by the sales side. We'd then build rapport with our targets through smart, well-researched conversations. 

The next step for a sales rep was always qualifying the prospect. Through a variety of questions, sales reps would determine whether the prospect was a good fit for the product or solution and, if so, would move forward with developing a solution. This qualification was done from the sales side; knowing our solution, we'd research the prospect's business and determine whether the solution would work for them. 

The sales process would close out with a presentation and the closure of the business--a 50/50 give and take between the prospect and the salesperson. 

For years, this was a standard sales process, but in today's selling market, things have changed dramatically--and as a result, sales teams must adapt in order to fit the buyers' expectations and needs. 

The New Sales Process 

The new sales process still begins with research and prospecting, but an important transformation has taken place. Today, the research and prospecting process is dominated by the prospect. They go online, research who has solutions for the problems they're facing, read case studies and talk to their colleagues. 

This shift is so dramatic that recent studies show that only 3% of all new sales transacted are resulting from an outbound sales call from a salesperson to a buyer. Instead of waiting to be contacted by a sales rep, the prospect visits your website and determines whether or not you're qualified to do business with them, not the other way around. They request information, fill out "contact us forms" and download free materials. Prospects are taking action and reaching out to us more than ever before! 

As we move through the middle of the new sales process--qualification and solution development--we also see it is largely controlled by the prospect. Why? Because they have a better understanding of what they're looking for and what's available on the market than they ever have had before. 

Instead of leading the process, it's now the job of a sales team to guide the prospect through the process. A smart sales team will simultaneously make sure the prospect is a good fit for their business, but the new sales process dictates much more give and take at this stage. 

Presentation and closing phases still require a 50/50 effort from both the prospect and the sales team, but the tenor of closing a sale now involves guiding the buying decision instead of leading it, or facilitating instead of selling. 

By understanding the shift in the sales process and the increased control of the prospect, sales teams can better leverage this new decision-making and buying process. Solution selling is dead, and agile, engaging sales teams are the way to sell in the future.

Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions ( Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.

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