Every sale goes through the same basic cycle, from prospecting for leads all the way through to asking for referrals from your new customer. But the length of this cycle can vary greatly depending on the product or service you're selling, along with a few other factors.
In most cases, the more expensive a product is, the longer the average sales cycle will be. From the prospect's point of view, expensive purchases are riskier and require more research and general decision-making time before he'll agree to buy. And particularly in B2B sales, costly purchases will require multiple approvals before they can proceed, meaning you'll have more meetings and more decision makers to convince.
B2B sales cycles are generally longer than B2C sales of comparable cost. With B2B, just getting to the decision maker can be a challenge because you have to first identify the person and then work your way through one or more gatekeepers. Worse, there are frequently multiple decision makers you'll have to convince, each with their own set of objections.
All in all, the length of your sales cycle is not entirely within your control. If you are selling assembly line equipment to manufacturers, your sales cycle will be longer than if you are selling sheets and towels to walk-in consumers. But within those parameters, it is possible to affect your sales cycle's length.
Almost all salespeople are better off with as short a sales cycle as possible, since speeding up the sales process means you'll close your sales -- and get paid for them -- that much faster and will usually result in a greater total number of sales. It also means that you'll be saving the customer some time, which you can subtly point out to them.
- The first step in shortening any sales process is getting better at qualifying leads. For one thing, a prospect who is just barely qualified to buy will probably end up with your lowest-end product, which means you get a smaller reward for spending that time with them. And by qualifying intensively you'll get clues early on about what the customer's objections are likely to be, and you can accelerate the process of resolving those objections. Third, qualifying B2B customers as soon as possible helps you to confirm that you're dealing with the actual decision maker, so you'll spend less time pitching to people who can't actually authorize the purchase.
- Once you've fine-tuned your qualifying skills, the next step is to learn everything you can about your products and your company. The more you know about these basics, the less often you'll have to tell prospects "I'll get back to you with the answer." Plus, if you are clearly an expert on your own products, you'll generate confidence in your prospects. They'll be more willing to trust you and will be more open about their objections and less fearful about buying from you overall.
- Third, invite prospects to share their objections as early in the sales cycle as possible. Resolving objections early on gives you a better chance to uncover them all, even the ones that prospects like to keep to themselves. This can also help you to build trust, as you show your prospect that you take her objections seriously and are meeting those objections with solid resolutions, not just brushing them aside.
- Fourth, prepare your presentation thoroughly and do it long before the actual appointment. Do some research on the prospect and customize your presentation using the information you uncover. Make a list of solid responses to common objections. Learn as much as you can about the decision makers themselves, particularly their hobbies or other personal information, so that you can quickly begin building rapport.
- Closing a sale really comes down to developing a level of trust with the prospect. If you take a few precautions and treat the prospect with respect, you can hasten this trust-building process and reduce your sales cycle to its shortest possible length.