8 Stages of the Sales Cycle & How to Accelerate Them

How to accelerate and optimise your sales cycle

Understanding the various stages of the sales cycle is paramount to achieving success in the competitive world of selling. This article delves into the eight crucial sales cycle stages, from prospecting to closing the deal, and provides expert tips on accelerating each stage. Whether you are in your sales career, mastering the sales cycle stages and implementing effective strategies can significantly enhance your sales performance and increase your revenue. Let’s get into it!

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 comprises a series of steps taken to get to a close. The typical B2B sales cycle stages are as follows:

  1. Prospecting
  2. Connection
  3. Qualifying
  4. Nurturing Leads
  5. Presenting
  6. Handling Objections
  7. Closing the Deal
  8. Following Up & Generating Referrals

It’s important to note that 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.

8 Stages of the Sales Cycle

Before we delve into how to optimize and shorten your sales cycle stages, let’s quickly recap the stages of a typical sales cycle:

Stage 1: Prospecting for Leads

Prospecting for leads involves promoting your business, services, or products to the customers you wish to attract, Typically by advertising and public relations. Targeting parameters are applied to optimize the reach of your message to the correct potential buyers. 

Stage 2: Connecting with Leads

Once you have your list of leads handy, you need to start contacting them through channels that are most relevant to them: like, email, phone-call, face-face, LinkedIn messaging, LinkedIn Voice messaging, and so on.

Stage 3: Qualifying Leads

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: Nurturing Leads

Once hooked, it’s imperative to incentivize customers to keep progressing – offer a free ebook, white paper, or even a webinar; educational content lets you quickly gauge whether your customer is interested enough to continue.

Stage 5: Presenting Solutions

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 personalized business needs of your prospect.

Stage 6: Handling Objections

Now, you need to thoroughly understand, uncover and handle objections and their related issues. 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: Closing the Deal

Once you’re confident the prospect is ready to buy, you can continue to close the sale. You can use several different sales closing techniques to close the deal: the assumptive close and trial closes, amongst others.

Stage 8: Following Up & Generating 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 up-selling or cross-selling will be far more successful.

infographic liste ing the 8 stages of a sales cycle

Types of Sales Cycle Lengths

Optimizing 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 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 is this important? Well, 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 4-6 months range 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: This is when your sales cycle can’t always be short because reps may need to insert additional steps or spend most of their time trying to reach the decision-maker of a company, which can take longer than a year.

Tips for Accelerating the Sales Cycle Stages

You may agree that sales should be a marathon, not a sprint. But a question always arises in our work with international sales teams, managers, and leaders: “How can I shorten my sales cycle?”

Having an efficient, reliable, and consistent sales cycle that is optimized is crucial for determining which parts of your sales process are working and which aren’t. By analyzing your sales cycle deeper, you can determine where bottlenecks begin and the cause of delays in making the sale.

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. Using this information, you can refine the steps where customers often lose focus and interest to reengage them:

1. Score Leads

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. While you may find that your sales pipeline is tighter, your sales will increase.

2. Reduce Low-Value Work

Removing low-value grunt work such as manual data handling, filing, and organizing is a no-brainer when it comes to shortening your sales cycle. The rise of sales technology has really 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 many 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 personalized way.

Suppose customers feel they can open up to you and share their perspectives and opinions. In that case, you’ll be far more likely to develop a trust-based relationship, meaning closing that deal will be faster and easier.

4. Handle Objections Early

Whether you’re an objection handler or hater, the prospect’s 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.

5. Personalize Each Experience

Whether you love it or hate it, personalization 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. Prioritize Easy Leads

One of the fastest ways to shrink your sales cycle time is to prioritize the leads who are most likely to buy – and may have already expressed an interest in getting the ball rolling quicker.

To achieve this, ensure you ask plenty of timeline-related questions when first connecting so you know who to help first.

7. Eliminate Cold leads

Taking the time to clean and organize 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 archiving 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 your offering before you do anything else. Not sure where to start?

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. The great thing about social proof is that it’s your actual customers telling the story of how your solution solved their problems. Prospects are far more likely to agree to the deal if they see others benefit from your solution.

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