Shortening the sales cycle has become a priority for companies working with b2b sales in recent years. And rightly so, the more time that passes by, the more difficult it can become to close opportunities.
If we break it down, there are 2 major components that companies can act upon to shorten their b2b sales cycle: the first being systems and processes and the other is developing the team’s sales skills. The latter will require the most effort from the sales managers, given that 62% of sellers have 20% or less of the required skills to be successful in sales.
If a company is without a sales process, this pretty much ensures that the representatives will fail to have an optimized sales cycle. When a sales process is structured, and well-defined, with criteria-based steps that provide estimations of how long it should take to execute, then it becomes much easier to manage the sales cycle.
With a structured sales process for each opportunity, it‘s possible to quickly identify if the process has lost momentum and target exactly at which stage there is a slowdown. This does not necessarily mean that the same steps will stretch out between one representative and another. With a formalized sales process in place you can now distinguish between process (organizational patterns) and skill issues (individual patterns).
The sales process could be compared to a road map. If I would drive without a map, solely relying on gut feel, I’d get into a lot more detours compared to being equipped with a detailed map showing me the most effective route to my destination. The sales process ensures the shortest path from point A to point B, from the first conversation to closing the deal.
Many sales people still don’t consistently define and agree on the next step to take with the potential client at the end of each and every single meeting or conversation. This is a skill that representatives must develop to be able to maintain momentum through the sales pipeline. The objectives, expectations, action points and timing of these steps must be mutually agreed upon between the representative and the potential customer for them to effectively help the prospect move forward in their buying journey.
By always defining the next step, sales people avoid falling into “catch-up mode”, which extends the sales cycle and unnecessarily introduces an element of risk that can drastically decrease the chance of winning the deal. Without a defined step to work towards, the sales person is almost back to square one; they have surrendered all control and must begin to chase the prospect again. Weeks can pass between one meeting and another, simply because there was no clear path defined and momentum was lost. A dynamic sales process ensures the sales person always knows the next waypoint on the journey with the client.
A subtle but important consequence of not setting the next step is the increased difficulty in obtaining any form of decisions by potential customers. And by decision, I don’t just mean the final commitment of purchase, but all the intermediate decisions needed to advance the sales process. Sales people should regularly ask "Do you want to stop here, or would you like us to move forward?”.
The three ways to reduce the length of sales cycles we have addressed so far are rather technical. However, improving attitudes and beliefs is part of the organizations or individuals sales DNA. The wrong attitude can limit the sales person from executing the sales methodology and process correctly which in turn has a tremendous effect on the length of the sales cycle.
These limiting beliefs can take the following forms:
• “Sales cycles are long in the markets I sell to”
• “Sales cycles are long with the type of companies that I sell to”
• “Sales cycles are long in our industry”
• “Given the current economic climate, it's normal that sales cycles lengthen”
• “Prospects increasingly need more time to make their buying decisions”
When representatives operate from the perception that sales cycles "must" be long, naturally their sales cycles will stretch out.
A representative who takes a significant amount of time when buying something themselves, comparing, evaluating and researching where to find the best price before making a purchasing decision, will actually have a longer sales cycle than a representative who forms his own purchasing decisions faster and more effectively. It makes the sales representative vulnerable when facing prospects that are dragging out their decision process. That individual can see the emotional aspect of the sales cycle and sympathizes with the buyer on a psychological level, therefore subconsciously approving the drawn out sales process.
These 5 factors can have a great effect in shortening the length of the sales cycles for companies working with complex b2b sales, addressing them can be the difference between successfully reaching your revenue targets or constantly watching deals get pushed back time and again, eventually becoming nothing but another lost opportunity.
Entrepreneur, business owner, speaker, trainer, coach, adviser, blogger and expert about sales force performance and business growth… I'm all of it and none of it at the same time. Want to know why? I take an integrated approach to know where your company needs help to get from where it is right now to where you wanted to be. My clients know me for telling them what they need to hear, instead of what they want to hear. They value the depth of my expertise, the science behind my framework and the predictability of my insights. While most try to fix salespeople by working on factors that influence sales, I concentrate first on the scientific causes of underachievement and overachievement of sales organizations. I build profitable sales culture by working on the essential components that increase an organizations probability of generating profitable sales.