Everyone knows that time is money, but perhaps sales folks are the only ones to realize just how true this saying actually is. Every second you spend with an uncertain prospect is time that you could be spending generating more business. And of course, lengthy sales cycles can also hit you where it hurts the most – your forecast – when unexpected.
Every salesperson dreams of the quick close, but the reality is that these unicorns are few and far between. However, there are definite reasons behind why some sales drag out longer than others, and real strategies your team can use to speed things along. Here are three hurdles that may be slowing down your sales cycle, and how to clear them.
You’re barking up the wrong tree.
Of course you want to believe that your company’s solution is the silver bullet for every business out there. But the reality is that leveraging your product or service is not everyone’s number one priority – and that’s okay. What’s not okay is failing to identify who these people are and adjust your lead generation and outreach strategies accordingly.
One way to do this is to first determine how long your recently won deals sat in your pipeline. It also helps to look at those that were lost but spent considerable time in one pipeline stage or another before dropping out.
Next, take any deals that took longer than what you have determined is a reasonable cycle length for your business, and segment them by various lead profile dimensions. These include:
– Lead source
– Contact title
– Company size
– Company industry
– Number of decision makers
– Solutions already in use
Do you notice any trends? Are these deals mostly from a particular industry, or using a certain competitive solution? If so, it may be time to rethink the way you prioritize leads with these characteristics to help shorten your average sales cycle and help reps focus on prospects with a faster time to close.
However, it’s important to make sure that you’re not ruling out any prospects whose lengthy sales cycles are accommodated for by high deal values. To make sure that you’re not sacrificing value for speed, you should also examine their lead yield. You can learn exactly how to do that here in this blog post.
Your sales process isn’t doing you any favors.
A good sales process is the backbone of any successful sales organization. By establishing a common language and set of expectations, a sales process keeps sales reps from veering off course, as well as provides leadership with the ability to easily track deal progression. However, sometimes companies forget that, while consistently adhering to your process steps is critical, your sales process is supposed to work for your organization – not the other way around.
Often, slow sales cycles can be the product of unnecessary or misplaced process steps that a company has simply been conditioned to take. As such, the best organizations consistently review and revise their sales processes to make sure every step counts. One quick and effective way to do this is to utilize a stage duration analysis report like the one shown below.
This report allows you to see, on average, how much time deals are spending in each of your sales pipeline stages. If you notice deals getting hung up or dropping out in a certain spot, it’s time to reevaluate the information and actions required in the process steps for that stage.
Pro Tip: Some process steps can’t be avoided, but can be sped up. Choose a CRM or sales platform with the ability to automatically capture data around activities like calling and emailing to help streamline these necessary yet time-consuming tasks.
Your reps are too focused on “the close.”
This probably seems pretty ironic – how can focusing on closing actually delay closing? But it can. When reps are so focused on getting a deal to the final stages, they often miss critical steps and opportunities for influence throughout the entire sales cycle. This can backfire and cause deals to stall right at the end of the road as potential customers are still coming to grips with what’s happening.
As Base sales manager Mason Davis advises, “The best results come from when you take the stress out of the close. As long as you know when it’s coming and there are no unknowns, it makes everyone feel a lot more comfortable. It’s actually all about having mini closes that lead up to it. They don’t have to agree to anything upfront, but they know that IF we get to a certain place, certain things will happen.”
Davis recommends building this strategy into your sales cycle to help keep momentum going. “Ask questions like, ‘After this demo, if you like what you see, would you be willing to agree to a proof of concept?’ You still have to prove that you are the right solution, but you are prepping them to take next steps and move toward the close.”
Ideally, your sales cycle should function as a well-oiled machine. But just like any other machine, it needs routine maintenance to keep it functioning at top speed. Try these three tips for a faster sales cycle, and for advice on how to more effectively construct your sales pipeline from the ground-up, download this free eBook: 3 Keys to Unlocking a Scientific Sales Pipeline.