>Every Friday morning I have a sales meeting with myself. Just thirty minutes to review what I actually accomplished this past week, and where my energy and time is focused in the next few weeks as it relates to sales. A simple sales coaching session that holds me accountable for the networking, sales and sales follow-up calls I am making and how much actual revenue I am putting on the books.

This past week, I had a huge revelation. All of the clients I currently have, all of the business I am actually booking, and all of the business actually hitting my bottom line is there because of networking opportunities, market positioning or referral. Not one piece of business I have booked in the past six months months, or that I have set to close in the next three is a piece of business I booked through what are thought of as traditional sales methods.

Now this is fascinating to me for a number of reasons. First, I hear from so many of my peers how frustrated they are and how burned out that are making traditional sales calls. They continually share with me how much they are struggling and just can’t seem to close the deal.  Second, this knowledge truly revealed to me how much the consumer is in complete control of the buying cycle. Our economy has seriously shifted from a push economy to a pull economy. Now, the consumer is deciding when, where and from whom they are going to buy. And third, looking at my current sales tracking sheet and comparing it to tracking sheets from two years ago (yes I am that big a nerd, and I actually hold on to those things) I noticed how much my sales behaviors have changed from actual sales calling to more of market positioning and networking.

Now these observations are fascinating to me, because I believe most of us – due to this shift in the economy – are going about sales all wrong. First, you need to understand what it means to move from a push economy to a pull economy. That shift puts the consumer in complete control of the buying cycle, and they will decide when, where and from whom the are going to buy. You as the seller are not only not in control of when the sale will close, but you have to create so much trust and value on the front end to even be in the running.

Secondly, you need to understand how trust and value are created when it relates to sales in this economy. Trust and value are the new ROI (return on investment). Trust and value are what make people part with their money. We, as consumers, trust what we have heard of before, what we hear others talking about, and what our friends recommend, in essence the sellers reputation.  Value is created in a number of ways, but on the front end of the sale it is created in much the same way as trust. What do we know about this person and what they offer? What do my friends and colleagues believe is the value? And have I seen, read or heard anything about this person or company that would make me believe time with them could be beneficial?

As sellers, once we know and understand this, it changes the way we approach the entire sales cycle. It makes sense that if we have to build trust and create value with potential prospects, before we are ever make a sales call, then this shifts our time and energy as it relates to sales behaviors.

The networking (community involvement, industry organizations, one-on-one coffees and lunches) and marketing (blogging, article writing, speaking, advertising etc..) become a far more significant piece of the sales cycle than ever have before. If you want the consumer to choose you, buy your product and service, then they need to have built some form of relationship with you before you ever walk through their door. You build that reputation through networking, referrals, and positioning yourself as an expert in your field through writing, speaking and possibly advertising. And that reputation continues to move the sale along after you have made an actual sales call.

No, in the is economy you cannot close the sale, but through redefining your sales behaviors you can create an environment where the opportunities become greater and the sales close for you.