You may well agree that sales should be a marathon and not a sprint – but in our work with international sales teams, managers and leaders, there’s always a question that comes up repeatedly, “how can I shorten my sales cycle?” While there’s not a one size fits all answer to this question, there are several things you can do to accelerate your efforts, excitement, enthusiasm – and hopefully – your revenue. Read on to discover how to accelerate your sales cycle using our nine expert tips!
What is a sales cycle?
The term ‘sales cycle’ refers to how long it takes to go from ‘new prospect’ to ‘closed deal’. The sales cycle is made up of a series of steps taken to get to a close. The typical sales cycle length varies greatly between B2C and B2B sales. In a retail scenario it might take minutes to go from “hello” to receiving payment at the cashier, whereas in a B2B scenario, the sales cycle can take months and in some cases years.
Why is optimisation of a sales cycle important?
Having an efficient, reliable and consistent sales cycle that is optimised, is crucial for determining which parts of your sales process are working and which aren’t. By analysing your sales cycle at a deeper level, you can determine where bottlenecks begin and the cause of delays for making the sale. Using this information, salespeople can refine the steps where customers often lose focus and interest to reengage them.
What are the stages of a sales cycle?
Before we delve into how to optimise and shorten your sales cycle, let’s quickly recap the stages of a typical cycle:
Stage 1: Prospect
Prospecting involves promoting your business, services, or products to the customers you wish to attract; Typically, by using advertising and public relations. Targeting parameters are applied to optimize the reach of your message to the correct potential buyers.
Stage 2: Connect
Once you have your list of leads handy, you need to start contacting them through channels that are most relevant to them: for instance, email, phone-call, face-face, LinkedIn messaging, LinkedIn Voice messaging and so on.
Stage 3: Qualify
Now your prospect is interested; it’s time to determine whether they’re a suitable match for your offering by learning more about their business, needs, pain points and challenges.
Stage 4: Nurture
Once hooked, it’s imperative to incentivize customers to keep progressing – offer a free ebook, white paper, or even a webinar; by using educational content, you can quickly gauge whether your customer is interested enough to continue.
Stage 5: Present
Next, it’s time for the presentation, also known as a sales demo. Your sales presentation is usually built around your pitch template to ensure that you’re hitting on the personalised business needs of your prospect.
Stage 6: Handle objections
Now you need to thoroughly understand and uncover all objections and the issues related to them. You’ll frequently find that the real problem isn’t what the buyer tells you initially – instead, it’s your responsibility to get to the root of the objection.
Stage 7: Close the deal
Once you’re confident the prospect is ready to buy, you can continue to close the sale. There are several different sales techniques for closing the deal: the assumptive close and trial closes.
Stage 8: Follow up & generate referrals
The sales cycle doesn’t end when you close a deal. There’s still work to be done to retain and gain referrals from happy and content customers who are well supported after their purchase. By working to continue to delight and please your customers, your relationship will continue to grow – meaning that your chances of upselling or cross-selling will be far more successful.
Sales cycle lengths and their importance
Optimising your sales cycle isn’t an exact process and will take plenty of refining to ensure you’ve got every stage down to a predictable level. When businesses start, their sales activities are often sporadic, meaning that they don’t know the average length of their sales cycle. However, at its most basic level, a sales cycle length is the total number of days it takes for a deal to close. Why’s this important? Well, as As Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it!” Not sure where you might fit? Discover the three most common types of sales cycle lengths below:
- Conventional sales cycle: within the range of 4-6 months and often follows the sales cycle process outlined above to maintain this length.
- Long/Short sales cycle: Short sales cycles are often around one month, whereas the complete opposite of a long sales cycle is around 12 months.
- Complete sales cycle: is when your sales cycle can’t always be short because reps may need to insert additional steps, or spend the majority of their time trying to reach the decision-maker of a company and therefore can take longer than a year.
How to accelerate your sales cycle
You want to shorten your sales cycle – but don’t know where to start! That’s why we’ve created a list of our favourite tips for accelerating sales cycles. Check them out below:
1. Score leads in your pipeline
Evaluating leads as they come in is a great method for identifying which prospects are worth your time and which aren’t – saving you time and effort. For this reason, however, you may find that your sales pipeline is tighter – but sales will increase.
2. Reduce low-value work
Removing low-value grunt work such as manual data handling, filing, and organising is a no brainer when it comes to shortening your sales cycle. Because really, the rise of sales technology has made this issue defunct – if you know how to automate repetitive tasks, that is. At the lowest level, a CRM should help sales reps reduce their time with these tasks – at the highest level, there are tons of options for artificial intelligence run applications that this a step further.
3. Use trial closes
While traditional closing techniques depend on asking a customer to decide on their purchase, a trial close asks the customer to share their opinion or perspective on the offering. This closing technique enables you to address their needs in a much more personalised way. Because if customers feel as if they can open up to you, share their perspectives and opinions – you’ll be far more likely to develop a relationship built on trust, meaning that closing that deal will be faster and easier.
4. Handle objections early
Whether you’re an objection handler or hater – prospects objections won’t just disappear because you ignore them! You need to address them immediately if you want to progress your prospect through the sales cycle – otherwise, they may grow stronger as you try to push the sale on them. Try to delve into their concerns, challenges and pain points early on by asking provocative questions that get your prospect thinking about the situation as an entirety.
5. Personalise each experience
Whether you love it or hate it, personalisation is everything these days -people love the sound and look of their names. The fact is, no one wants to buy from a nameless brand or company to whom they can’t connect, which is why using your prospect’s names naturally in your sales email subject line or at the start of a phone call will help build trust quicker – leading to a speedier sale.
6. Prioritise easy leads
One of the fastest ways to shrink your sales cycle time is to prioritise the leads who are most likely to buy – and may have already expressed an interest in getting the ball rolling a lot quicker. To achieve this, ensure you ask plenty of timeline related questions when first connecting; that way, you know who to help first.
7. Clean your CRM to eliminate cold leads
Taking the time to clean and organise your CRM is invaluable for ensuring you have up to date information and a clear roadmap for the prospects you have. Ensure you delete contacts who have unsubscribed, bounced or faded into the distance and segment cold leads to archive their records to ensure they’re excluded from future contact – so your reps don’t waste their time on cold leads unlikely to convert.
8. Present a clear value proposition
What’s really in it for me? That is what every prospect immediately wants to know. Why should they, or anyone for that fact – buy your product or service? If you don’t want to waste your time or lose your prospect’s interest, you need to find or create the value proposition to what you are offering before you do anything else. Not sure where to start? Read: How To Create An Expert Value Proposition in Sales To Differentiate
9. Use social proof
For many prospects, knowing they’re not alone is a significant deciding factor in whether or not they’ll buy your product or service. That’s why we recommend you leverage social proof at almost every stage of the sales cycle because the great thing about social proof is that it’s your actual customers telling the story of how your solution solved their problem. Prospects are always far more likely to agree to the deal if they’ve seen other people benefit from your solution.
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