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Shorten the Sales Cycle Close Deals Faster

November 25, 2013

You know you have given your sales team all the tools they need.  You have structured an effective sales process, provided them with quality leads, given them best practice training, gotten their buy-in, helped them to set challenging but achievable goals and still their close ratio is too low.

The number one complaint from business owners is that their salespeople do not close enough deals.

My first question: “How long is the Sales Cycle?”

Typical response:  “It varies”

“Okay, on average, how long is the sales cycle?”

Silence………

Here’s where I give them the “You are going to answer me, right?” look.

Response: “It can be anywhere from one week to four months.”

UNACCEPTABLE

However, there are several reasons why the sales cycle is taking longer than it used to. It might be related to the approach of your salespeople and some of it might be today’s changing market.  Here are four reasons to think about.

  1.  People are not as trusting as they were years ago. Today’s customer wants every detail of the transaction in place before they are willing to buy.  Make sure your sales staff is prepared with a checklist of details involved in the sale.
  2. Sales people often try to come up with a quick solution rather than taking the time to truly understand the impact of the company’s problem.  A hurried solution can often lead to a cost that’s higher than the problem itself.
  3. Decision makers and decision influencers are not on board with the product or service and perhaps haven’t even been approached.  Is your sales staff selling to the wrong audience?
  4. Change is too risky.  Have your sales people overcome the objections to change and presented all the benefit so that your customer understands that the risk of not buying is riskier than the buy?

There are many discussions about the sales process and not enough about the sales cycle.

The sales process is a living, breathing, and ever changing road map on how to get sales.  It should never be taken as a railroad track.  A careful analysis of the sales process will uncover the sales cycle time and identify where improvements can be made.

There are some very simple fixes; like analyzing how long it takes to respond to a lead or prospect.  I have read statistics that say the salesperson who responds the fastest gets 75% of the business.

Do you respond to a product or service request within 24 hours?  If not, this is the first area to look at in reducing the Sales Cycle.  I was with a client the other day who was complaining about the number of deals that his salespeople were closing. After some discussion we discovered it was taking a week to respond to a lead request.  So we changed that; now the sales people respond to a lead within 24 hours.

The Devil is In the Details.

The next approach was to attack the “bottlenecks”- those areas of the process which takes the most time to complete.

First Bottleneck

When responding to a lead the first goal is to get an appointment .The first appointment’s goal should be to qualify the prospect and then to get a second appointment for the demonstration of the product.  This is quite logical. You want to qualify and understand the situation and true need before you do a demo. Be sure that you have the right parties, decision makers, influencers, etc., to participate in the demo.

Here are two tips to shorten the sales cycle before the appointment takes place.

ñ          Do a thorough qualifying appointment and immediately set the demo appointment.

ñ          Make sure your sales staff has a deep understanding of the customer’s problem before they do a demonstration or offer a solution.

Second Bottleneck

Waiting for a prospect to review a contract can slow down your sales cycle. I had one client who would wait for their prospects to review a 10 page contract before the sale was closed.  This was adding up to three weeks to their sales cycle. This can be a symptom of the non-trusting market of today and can also be an indicator that the decision makers were not present at the sale presentation.

Here are a few steps to take to reduce the approval process.

ñ           Hand-deliver all contracts. You can leverage this appointment to solidify and deepen the relationship. Review the contract with the prospect and highlight areas of the contract which need the most explanation or in which you hear the most objections. Be an Objection Hunter.

ñ          Have your sales people get the names and title of the people who will be reviewing the contract so they can offer direct help to answer questions or concerns.

ñ          Set a follow up date of no longer than 3 days.

Moral of the story, if you do not understand the process, then you cannot reduce the cycle time; which means that your Salespeople will not close; which means you will NOT reach your revenue goal.

Contact me for a free 30 minute consultation on more ways to get your sales people to close more deals.

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