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6 Ways to Shorten your Sales Cycle

Posted on: July 1st, 2017 by Monika No Comments

When you ask a sales person, their sales manager, or the CEO of an organization how long their sales cycle is, 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 and managers often underestimate the time it really takes to close a sale.

You can only change what you know

Everybody wants to shorten their 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 for your offering?

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 should 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.

1) 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.

2) 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.

3) Do you have a Unique Positioning for your service?

If you don’t know how to differentiate your service from others in the marketplace, it will also add time to your sales cycle. It is therefore of high importance to have a Unique Selling Proposition and to craft messaging that will get people’s attention.

4) 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).

5) 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.

6) 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.

Here are some 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 will be more successful for it!

Who is Your Audience?

Posted on: November 14th, 2016 by Monika No Comments

Understanding who your audience is will shorten your sales cycle and make you more effective. It will also help you maximize your time and be more relevant to the people you engage.

The other day I got a connection request from LinkedIn. The person’s profile was very scarce, because the young lady had just started out in sales and the reason I accepted her request was simple.

“I am on a mission to elevate the reputation of sales and its practitioners”

so what better opportunity than being connected with a person who is starting this difficult career.

A couple of days after I connected with her she sent me a request through LinkedIn offering her service (what else is new?). The email contained the following phrase:

My guess is before you retire you’ll probably change jobs…which means you’ll go a “recruiting process” about 100 times. It’s like professional frog kissing… and there’s always one slimy one.

Who is your Audience?

Aside from the fact that the email missed a word (through), the proposition was fairly attractive. Very politely I wrote back (because I believe in business courtesy) that I was not interested, because of my background (which she should have researched before sending the email).” I am not a sales person looking for a job, but a business owner, so the offer is not relevant to me” was my response.

At that point, the only appropriate answer to me should have been a nice “Thank you for clarifying“.

BUT, there was another email that landed in my inbox just the next day, stating the following:

I understand! Thanks so much for your response, in fact “”thank you but I’m not interested”” is our most common response. When you have 90 seconds, check this video.

It’s not that I am not interested, I am not your target audience!

At that point I decided to write this blog, because there is a pattern here and readers of my articles know that I usually pick topics that showcase common mistakes or misunderstandings.

Being not interested is quite different from not being qualified.

So, what are the differences?

Sometimes, service offerings are very compelling, really suited for my business needs but I might not be interested because of budget restraints, not having enough time to look at the offering, or any other valid reason that keeps me from pursuing the offer.

It ain’t me babe!

Not being qualified for a service offering means that the person who approaches you didn’t do their research. They don’t know enough about you and/or your company, or you are not the decision maker for the product/service offering.

If you don’t do your research as a sales person, you might end up targeting people who are not qualified to begin with. This young lady was obviously trained to search out contacts on LinkedIn, using the keyword “sales” and not qualifying them any further.  Qualifying potential buyers is key when prospecting for new business.

Too many sales people spend way too much time chasing prospects that are not a good match for their service offering. That’s why some sales pipelines are dry, because too much time is spent to engaging with the wrong audiences.

Don’t be a time waster to yourself or others

When prospecting, develop a prospect avatar so you understand who is qualified for your service offering and determine who is not. This will not only help you prospect more effectively, it will also keep you from being a time waster to the people you target.

How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle: 4 Useful Tips

Posted on: December 4th, 2013 by Monika No Comments

During a prospecting call the other week we came across the question on HOW we help our clients shorten the sales cycle. It’s something that is an integral part of our Consultative Sales Certification Training Program – helping our clients to shorten the cycle by up to 25%. A valid question, right? So I decided I would share our response with the sales community.

Many sales people are under the impression that the surest ways to shorten the sales cycle is to either increase activity and/or to follow-up more aggressively.

Strategically shortening your sales cycle has nothing to do with making more phone calls but everything to do with understanding your audiences and their situation.

In a nutshell, here is the response that we offered our prospect:

Understand Your Audiences

First things first! You need to understand who your contacts are and their roles in the decision making process. There are the financial (=economic) buyers, users, technical influencers, coach influencers, etc. And you need to understand the logic they use in making decisions and the motivation of each.

For example, a CFO might look for cost savings and want the bottom-line improvements while a user of a service or a product will want to hear about what’s in it for them –  how your solution will help them in their daily job. Some influencers can act as your coach, helping you understand the structure of the organization and the buying process and the preferences of other buyers.  All of these people will have different roles and responsibilities and also different personalities. Understanding who you are dealing with and catering to those people’s needs is essential in shortening the sales cycle. Very often sales people focus only on a limited number of “influencers”, they move the sale along to only find out that there is no budget for what they are offering.

Gain Commitments Along The Way

Managing expectations and strategically gaining commitments at every step of the way is another essential factor in shortening the sales cycle. If you ask your prospects at every step of the process if what you are offering is in line with their expectations, you will stay on course and there will be no big surprises in the end. Too often sales people are looking for an easy “yes” rather than being honest with themselves and asking the tough questions. This can surely lead to frustration and confusion. Sometimes it’s best to realize that your offering might not be best suited for a particular prospect and that it’s time to move on. On the positive side this means that you then have more time to focus on the prospects that actually are a good fit. It also means that your clients will be more profitable and they will certainly be happier as well.

Speak Your Customer’s Language

Not everybody speaks the same language. Yes, in the business world we mostly speak English but that doesn’t mean that we process information the same way. Some people like to hear things while others want to read material. Some of us prefer in-person meetings, others would rather be on the phone, or prefer to mostly use email. Email is a good communications tool, for some the best, but not everybody is comfortable communicating that way. Understanding what communication style your prospect prefers and how they best digest information is essential when it comes to shortening your sales cycle.

Be of Value to Your Prospect/Customer

Remember, it’s not about you or your service/product – it’s all about them.  People respond to offerings that are relevant to them and can realistically help them move their business forward. If you don’t have something of value to say or offer, don’t even engage. That doesn’t mean that you should never call or reach out to your prospect or existing client, but it does mean that you should be prepared and have something of interest to say. Maybe you came across an industry article that you could share, or you have a special promotion. But don’t just engage for the sake of activity. It not only bogs you down, it is without value to your prospect or customer and it actually a waste of their time.

In closing, what is really important in shortening the sales cycle is moving from an activity driven model to a strategic approach where you plan and execute each step in your customer’s best interest.