When you ask a sales person, their sales manager, or the CEO of the organization how long their sales cycles are, you usually get mixed responses. In some cases, you get blank stares, in other scenarios there is disagreement on the length of the actual cycle.
CEOs in general would like to see sales moving along at a healthy clip, while sales people often underestimate the time it really takes to close a sale.
You can only change what you know
Everybody wants to shorten the sales cycle, but in order to do that you need to first understand the length and the drivers. What do I mean by that?
There are reasons why some sales cycles are longer than others. Some of the areas are out of your control, others can be influenced.
For example, if you target larger organizations with various decision-makers and influencers, your sales cycle will automatically be longer. Sales cycles may be shorter when targeting smaller organizations, but you need to be aware of the payoffs and the trade-offs.
In other words, do those small organizations have budgets available? Are they even a good fit?
How can you control the sales cycle?
One way to control the length of your sales cycle is to be sure that sales team members have all received targeted training. First, sales professionals know what to look for in their ideal client profile, what industries to target, what messaging works or doesn’t, etc. Then, they need to be trained to ask the right questions to not only uncover needs and goals of their prospects, but just as importantly, what to ask to move the sale along.
Following are some questions to ask yourself to focus on drivers which can influence your sales cycle.
How well known is your company/brand?
If your company is well known and you are only introducing a new service or product, it will be easier to get results. However, if your company is not established in the market place, it will take longer to get traction.
Do you know who the decision maker for the offering will be?
If you don’t know who your decision-maker(s) will be, it will take longer to navigate through your prospect organization. Identifying the “influencers” within an organization is key to being successful. Too many sales people have lengthy conversations with people who are not in a position to buy or even influence the final decision-maker(s). So, asking the right questions upfront, making sure that you are talking to the right people, and establishing rapport with the real influencers will help you shorten the cycle.
Do you have a Unique Positioning for your service?
If you don’t know how to differentiate your service from others in your marketplace, it will also add time to your sales cycle. It is therefore of high important to have a Unique Selling Proposition and to craft messaging that will get people’s attention.
Are you adding Value?
Too many sales people focus on the features and benefits of their offering, rather than leading with value. It is important for a prospect to understand how your service/product offering will be of value to them (and remember, it’s different depending on the role of the person).
Are your sales people equipped to sell in a consultative environment?
If they are not, they will not ask the right questions, get stuck with the wrong decision maker and that will have a strong impact on your sales cycle. We have a Sales IQ assessment that helps management determine whether sales people are up to par, or not.
Does your company have a healthy sales culture?
A positive sales culture is very important when it comes to understanding and managing the sales cycle. If you are a CEO, encourage your people to be honest. If you are a sales person, be pro-active in managing expectations.
Are your sales people supported with training?
If your sales people are struggling, provide them with training, but most importantly hire a training organization that you trust and then truly support that methodology.
What is the buying cycle of your prospects?
One area that is out of your control is the buying cycle and budget cycle of your prospects. Identify and understand their budget cycle and then manage your outreach accordingly.
Ideas for Sales Professionals & Sales Managers
All of these areas need to be carefully reviewed and discussed, but not only by sales professionals themselves. If your CEO is involved in these discussions, you will not only have buy-in from the top, but also a profound understanding as to why things might take longer. No sensible CEO will breathe down your neck if you can make a case as to why this process is not yielding immediate results. Keep your CEO engaged and informed and she/he will support your efforts.
If, however, you keep your CEO in the dark and un-informed on how you’ve established the process, she/he will rightfully be impatient.
When you are in a sales management position, invite your CEO to the last part or day of a sales meeting and present a clear and concise plan of action.
When you are a sales person, encourage your manager to provide metrics and results to your CEO.
Recommendations for CEOs
If you are a CEO, ask to be invited to the sales meetings, add your insights and then let your team work their “magic”. Resist the temptation to get involved on a daily basis
You’ll be happier and your team more successful for it!