Is your sales cycle too long?
Of course it is!
Whether it’s days, weeks or months, most sales pros would agree it’s too long. Instead of months, they want weeks. Instead of weeks, they want days. And instead of days, they want hours!
Not all sales should be sped up. Some are too complicated to rush. Some run into unexpected delays. Others just need more time to simmer before they’re right for closing.
But sales pros could speed up closes with a more efficient sales cycle.
“A well crafted sales process provides more insight about the customer than it does about your sales organization,” says Keenen, author of Gap Selling, and CEO /President at A Sales Guy. “It prevents Sales from selling the ‘wrong way’ to the right people. Know how your customer buys. It makes all the difference.”
From there, here are 11 strategies to speed up the sales process.
If you want to close faster, you need to respond faster to inquiries. Sure customers who opt in to your lead generation material are relatively hot prospects. And in that case, the early bird gets the win.
Almost 80% of customers buy from the first company that responds to them, according to a study by LeadDirect – and that’s whether they asked a question in social media, signed up for a e-newsletter, asked a question, started a chat, etc.
How fast is fast enough? If you want to speed up your sales cycle, do it within an hour of them contacting you. The reward is bountiful: Harvard Business School researchers found that organizations that respond within those first 60 minutes are seven times more likely to win the sale (and close the sale faster).
We’ll beat the dead horse here. This is just one more important reason sales and marketing must be aligned at all times: It helps speed up the sales cycle.
Hold regular “alignment meetings.” Sales needs to know exactly what’s going on with marketing initiatives and what’s in all the content that’s pushed out to prospects. The sales team can share where they stand with prospects in the pipeline, plus their insights from current customers on challenges, concerns, likes and dislikes.
Score your leads
Just over a quarter of leads are qualified when they get to sales, according to research from MarketingSherpa. Poor lead quality will slow down the sales cycle because sales pros spend too much time chasing dead leads and not enough time nurturing good leads.
The better way to handle leads: Score them. Here are six steps to solid lead scoring (click here for the step-by-step plan.)
- Identify your ultimate buyer
- Line up the pivotal data points to score
- Assign the point value
- Set the threshold
- Test and optimize lead scoring before you launch, and
- Follow up and adjust.
Nurture – but don’t smother – leads
When you score leads, you’ll still have some prospects who look great on paper and are receptive to you, but don’t move along smoothly in the pipeline.
They’re worth keeping, but not worth the time you could better use moving other, hotter leads through the sales cycle.
Keep a separate list of casual prospects who you don’t expect to buy in the foreseeable future, but deserve occasional nurturing – not the constant, smothering kind of nurturing.
This won’t clog your pipeline and will give you more time to focus on the most qualified leads.
Schedule and limit non-selling activities
The most efficient way to speed up the sales cycle is to spend more time in contact with customers. The biggest impediments on that are administrative duties and time-sucking distractions, especially email, online research and social media.
Yes, those are parts of the process. But they’re easy distractions (so much so, that the average person checks email 15 times a day, but University of British Columbia researchers found you can be just as effective and less stressed if you checked just three times a day).
The key to winning at this game: Plan and limit these activities. Schedule those three checks – once in the morning after you’ve achieved something, once after lunch and once before you close out the day. Do it for a maximum of 30 minutes. Also, set aside 30-45 minutes for administrative work three times a week. Same goes for online research and posting: Set a limited block of time each or every other day.
Automate repetitive tasks
Many salespeople spend more time reporting their sales activities than actually executing the sales activities! Sales productivity is lost on housekeeping, bookkeeping, data entry and tedious tasks. And the sales cycle wheels slow.
If you use sales automation tools, either train to optimize those that exist in your CRM system or find something that works better from the dozens of providers out there. That way sales development reps and salespeople can spend more time, knowledge and energy on high-value tasks.
Audit your sales cycle to find the tasks sales development reps and salespeople do over and over to prioritize what should be automated. Many organizations start with automating baseline research, data entry and email.
Think harder about the decision-maker
Some salespeople are so excited to get a foot in the door, they’ll talk to anyone who’ll listen. Then they’ll spend too much time talking to the wrong person or people – and slow down the buying process.
Spend more time analyzing the decision-maker and less time making ins with the wrong people. To identify the decision-maker(s) sooner – and get his, her or their attention – know the most common roles in the buying process:
- Initiators begin the buying process (but seldom close it out)
- Influencers persuade others of the need
- Deciders make the purchase decision
- Buyers write the check (after careful review of the ROI), and
- Users execute the product.
Sometimes one person holds all the roles – and you know exactly where to focus all your attention. More often, the roles are spread among many people, and the fastest way to close the sale is to appeal to the needs of each – i.e., talk benefits to deciders and influencers and ROI to buyers, and get users involved in demos.
Set a goal for every call
When you talk or meet with prospects, use the time effectively by setting and agreeing to a mutual goal for the interaction. When you’re both headed in the same direction, you will only talk and act in ways to move you there.
For instance, if it’s a discovery call, you might agree to talking for 15 minutes about the prospects’ current system and expectations for a future purchase. That will give you a guardrail for the conversation, help you recognize if things get off track and avoid sharing or gathering useless information.
At the end of the conversations that included agreed-upon goals, you can confirm the goal was met, then set up the next conversation and the goal for it.
Set your price early
Prospects who are surprised by unexpected costs or fees will slow down the sales cycle. For one, they might not be able to afford the solution with the added cost. Or, they might be more hesitant to move forward because they feel they were hoodwinked.
Be clear about your pricing early in the process so they’re never taken off guard and/or they don’t waste either of yours time talking about a solution they truly don’t have the resources to buy (even if they recognize the value).
Bonus: Early pricing transparency builds trust and gives them ample opportunity to figure out how they can make the purchase happen.
Try sequential, incremental closes
You can get to a final close faster if you use incremental closes along the buying journey.
Get a series of small commitments to engage buyers and increase their investment in the deal. The more they say “yes” to something you offer, the more likely and quickly they’ll say “yes” to the deal.
Plan a request you’ll make at the end of every interaction. You want to make requests that benefit you and the prospect and are more significant each time.
For instance, ask for a direct office or cell number (and offer yours) so it’s easier for you to connect and answer questions. Later, request a demo meeting so you can both see if your solution is a good fit. Then ask the prospect to invite the CFO to another meeting so you can all review numbers.
Make it easier to sign on
You can close sales quicker if you have the capability to sign deals anywhere, any time. You can make it happen with CRM tools that include online contracts that can be signed on a phone, tablet, laptop – anything you both can access on the go.