Market Watch: Collaborative Selling

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New technologies are putting a twist on the old saying, "It's not what you know, but who you know." Advances in SFA, data collection, knowledge management, and privacy have made collaborative selling easier and more fruitful. This means large organizations with vast networks of valuable contacts and resources from employees can share that information in a secure, private, and effective way. The basic concept of collaborative selling is that users search their company database for a target company or industry. The results often include a ranked list of colleagues that may have useful contacts at the target company. The users then request introductions from their colleagues. Many products also provide a collaborative workspace, where members of the sales team and subject-matter experts can assemble to resolve issues or brainstorm. "Sales processes have been complex for a long time and, increasingly, the products we are selling are more complex," says Denis Pombriant, vice president and director of CRM practice at the Aberdeen Group. "That means, increasingly, a sales rep can't do the job him- or herself. They often need presales technical support, executive support, and support from a variety of people in their organizations. The problem is that for every person added to the sales process, you are adding more complexity and making it even more difficult to share information." Geoffrey Hyatt, cofounder and CEO of Boston-based Contact Network Corp., which provides a team selling application, says that typical companies access less than 30 percent of their potential network of contacts. Collaborative selling proponents claim it helps companies realize higher close rates, shorten the sales cycle, and gain higher-value deals. According to a survey conducted by Involve Technology, maker of collaborative selling application StreetSmarts, 93 percent of those surveyed said team selling increases closure rates; 94 percent said it gets new sales reps up to speed faster; and 88 percent said it reduces lost sales opportunities. "There is more interest in collaborative selling, because for the first time over the past couple of years technology has finally evolved to support and deal with it," Pombriant says. "This is a case of enabling a methodology through technology."
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