A planned road map for your sales process can be a sure-shot way to achieve your targets. It can bring some excellent and consistent results. One such roadmap is a sales cycle.

If you are running a sales team and sales operations, you would know you can improve your success rate if you follow some pre-defined stages. So, let’s explore what exactly is a sales cycle. Also, what are the various steps? Let’s discuss how to improve the sales process in this blog.

What is a sales cycle?

The sales cycle encompasses all the activities involved in the sales process. It can start with initializing customer inquiries and will conclude by closing the deal and follow-up. In other words, it is a potential prospect’s journey from recognizing their needs to finally closing the deal. A sales process may be just a  journey for the customers. But it is a well-organized and sensitive process for a sales representative.

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Why is the sales cycle important?

A sales rep can bring a great idea to improve sales engagement. However, having a defined vocabulary for every step in your sales cycle can impact your business success significantly. An unorganized and unplanned sales process would have no benefit to either the sales rep or the prospect because it lacks analysis and feedback and would be an unsustainable model.

Keeping a record of the complete sale cycle gives your organization insight into the effectiveness of your sales process. This will also help you compare your sales cycle with the industry’s benchmark, and you can continuously improve your sales cycle in an informed manner.

What are the different sales cycle stages?

A sales cycle consists of different stages where the whole process is divided into specific phases depending on the prospect’s journey and your engagement level. Never generalize the length of the sales cycle for different companies. Various factors influence the sales cycle length. Examples include industry type, cost of their product and services, and more.

However, every company goes through various stages of the sales cycle. Develop a better understanding of each stage in the sales life cycle to create a scope for improvement and optimization. These are the sales cycle stages:

  1. Prospecting : Find leads
  2. Initial engagement : Connect with the prospects
  3. Qualifying leads: Shorting potential leads
  4. Nurturing leads : Consistent follow-up
  5. Customizing offer : Present your services
  6. Overcoming obstacles : Handle objections
  7. Closing deals : Customer purchases your products or services

1. Prospecting

“Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.” – Albert Einstein

Your sales cycle begins when your reps initiate the prospecting process. Being right at this stage can save you considerable time and effort. Here you decide:

  • Appropriate target audience
  • Have a brief knowledge of your prospect
  • How you can approach your prospect

Further, the sales rep can gather information through the following channels:

  • Discovery calls
  • Various channels (webpages, emails, or social media advertisements) from where you have your prospects
  • Prospects who want demo requests or sign-up forms 
  • Source of your lead list and more.

After gathering this information, go for segmentation to find your ideal customer profile (ICP), which contains information about your potential prospect and your initial approach to them. This information includes their background and pain points. Define your leads and organize them based on their interest in your business. The terminology depends on your company.

How is this process different from lead generation?

In lead generation, you merely collect the contact information. However, when you are prospecting, you are reaching these leads. Also, you attempt to understand their interest in your company.

2. Initial engagement

Before you reach out to them, have a strategy for your approach. If your lead has given you their contact via eBook, they are at the nascent stage of your buying cycle. Rather than directly calling them, the next step would be to nurture them through sending emails and blogs.

Contact your prospect within 24 hrs. of their first inquiry with you. This would increase your chance by around 30-50 % of converting them into a lead. If you cannot contact them in your initial approach, do not let this act as a disincentive. It generally takes 8 to 12 attempts to reach a lead by phone. You have to be persistent and keep calling.

Initially, you do not know their schedule. So, the best way to find out the best time to contact them is :

  • While sending an email, ask for the best time to talk to them
  • Try to reach them at different times to find the best time they can connect with you.

3. Qualifying leads

Until now, you have a good idea of the pain point of your prospect, their priority, and whether or not you can cater to their needs. This is because you have already done basic segmentation at the earlier step of the sales cycle.

Here you are only refining your segmentation to be more precise, thus increasing your personalization.

Example : Your web form has an inquiry question about the size of your prospect’s company and their field of specialization. This will give you an idea about their budget. If you do not get that information, find it on LinkedIn and social media channels.

After analyzing their profile and comparing it with your ideal customer profile to see if they are a good fit, move ahead with the prospect.

If you lack clarity about a prospect being a good fit for your company, make more in-depth inquiries. Use different methodologies for analysis like BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Time) and SPIN (Situation, Problem, Implication, Need-Payoff ).

Your inquiry should be about

  • What is their budget?
  • Determine their authority
  • What are their pain point and priority
  • Impact of your solution on their company
  • How would delaying improvement impact their company?

All the above questions would let you make an informed decision on whether to pursue them and whether investing your efforts will reap good rewards or not.

4. Nurturing leads

Nobody likes sales calls from strangers that do not interest them. Never make your initial approach sound salesy or pitch your product and services directly. Build a report with your prospect in the initial stage of your engagement.

Nurture your client and create familiarity with them. Your approach should not be aggressive sales engagement. Instead, personalize your approach and send them content that would add value to them and address their pain point.

Start with creating awareness about your product and services, and educate via eBooks, blogs, and email. This will enhance your engagement with the prospect. At the same time, they can make an informed decision about choosing your product. In the end, the final decision maker is your prospect. Creating trust and providing value will make your future approach more effective in moving further ahead in the sales funnel.

5. Customize your offer

Offer your prospect deals suitable to their needs. That will make your offer hard to ignore and increase the probability they will accept.

Example : Say you have sent an email to your prospect with links to your web page, and they clicked on the link. This reflects that they want to know details about your product and services, like its pricing and offers. Hence your next should be about the services you provide and pricing.

6. Handling objections

Your offers may encounter various objections. Reduce the resistance of your prospect. Convincing your prospect and  convincing them that your product will bring value to them by letting them think about.

  • Consequences of not solving the problem.
  • Scenario if they solve their problem

Key factors that can move your client forward in the sales funnel are understanding the heart of their problem and providing solutions. Different ways you can offer a solution to them are:

  • Demo video
  • Ask for a quick call to solve address queries
  • Be consistent with the follow-up
  • Know their priority and budget and try to fix their product and service which will suit the current budget

7. Closing deals

The ultimate goal of sales engagement is to convert prospects into clients and close sales. After fixing the back-end work like paperwork and filling forms, your intention now should be to implement your strategy by asking the prospect for the purchase. This is a direct approach to closing a deal. A softer approach can be sending them customer reviews and sharing case studies. After you gain credibility, close the deal by asking for a purchase.

There is no correct answer for the right approach as it is subjective to the individual prospect. You would have some idea about your client’s temperament and trigger points when you engage with them during the b2b sales cycle.

Closing a deal is not the last step. Do not abruptly close the deal because it would reflect poorly on your client. Offer them support for their inquiries and any further assistance they need. This will help retain your prospect and increase their association with your company.

How to know if a company has a long or short sales life cycle?

The average sales cycle may differ from industry to industry. Keeping a check that your b2b sales cycle is in line with the industry average would determine the success of your sales process. If your company does not match the industry benchmark, optimizing your sales process is necessary for a smooth sales flow and to increase your profit.

To determine whether your company’s sales cycle is long or short, compare your sales cycle with the industry average. If the industry average length of the sales life cycle is less than a month, then it’s a short sale cycle. If it’s more than 12 months, then it’s a long sales cycle.

How to Improve Your Sales Cycle?

Japanese kaizen management style focuses on continuous improvement and change for the better. Similarly, your sales cycle process should also focus on the same, which is fine-tuning your sales cycle process. Here are ways in which you can improve your sales cycle :

1. Prioritize your work.

When you map the steps of sales engagement to determine areas of waste, you will observe that sales reps waste 37% of their time in administrative processes like data entry, scheduling, and even lead generation activities. This could affect both the sales cycle and the optimization of the sales process. Automation can help sales reps focus on the prospect and devote more time to strategize. Also, doing that will enable the administration to accelerate the sales cycle.

2. Keep the ball rolling.

Sales and marketing teams can be aligned to adopt a structured process where your team contributes and collaborates with their varied expertise for problem-solving. This will help you shorten your sales cycle. A good sync between the sales and marketing teams can help both. Sales reps are engaged with prospects on the ground, and their knowledge of prospect persona can help marketers with their email campaigns know the prospect trigger point. Also, an improved marketing strategy will bring more qualified leads for sales reps.

3. Consistent follow-up.

The biggest weakness of a sales rep is to give up. You will close a deal if you try just one more time. First contact with your prospect is a basic introduction to your relationship. Get them to a point where they are receptive to your proposal. For that, you must nurture them with consistent follow-ups. Many sales reps fail to keep track of the follow-up, personalize messages and reach their prospect over various touch points. Automation can help them to manage follow-up, and email templates with custom placeholders can personalize their message at scale.

4. Have your foot in the door.

Generally, it helps demonstrate to others that we trust and rely on them when we ask for favors. This strengthens relationships, especially when prospects eagerly reciprocate if the opportunity arises. What you want here is to gain a small commitment from them which is relatively easy to do presently. These small commitments can lead to closing a big deal.This technique is called incremental commitment. Incremental commitment is getting your prospects to agree to do something with you at present with the ultimate goal of progressively scaling up.

5. Schedule a meeting with a click.

Make your commitment precise and effective, and you get to reduce your sales cycle. If sales reps need to communicate back and forth to schedule meetings, this wastes time and effort for your prospect and sales reps. You can move quickly through your prospect list in no time and make calls in a single click by integrating your CRM book meeting directly with sales engagement software. You need to reduce friction and eliminate wastage to make the process efficient. Automation can help you optimize your sales cycle.

6. Interesting Narrative.

Word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools to help your product and services gain credibility and trust among your prospect. Another great tool in every sales rep basket is case studies. When your sales pitch is skillfully concealed in a relatable narrative, it will be more engaging as people will relate to it rather than a statistical number.

7. Train your team.

In the above points, we have discussed various ways to improve your sales and shorten your sales cycle. But all these factors revolve around your sales rep. The efficiency of your sales rep to sell can make all the difference. So, train your sales team and provide them with resources and time to implement them. Here comes the good part of automation of your sales engagement process. The easy-to-use software interface can help sales reps to optimize their sales flow and reduce the length of their sales cycle.

Sales Cycle Length and Its Importance

According to the nature of their business, every company’s sales cycle can differ as different companies may have other ways to approach and engage with their prospects. However, the length of the sale cycle can be defined. So, the big questions to be asked are How to measure the sales circle, and what is its appropriate length?

Almost 30% of companies go within 4 to 6 months of the sales cycle. If we generalize the average sales cycle length, it would be around this period. Various factors could affect it.

  1. Kind of industry your company belongs to
  2. Your ideal customer profile
  3. Cost of your product and services
  4. Effectiveness of your sales process

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Wrapping things up

So, this is how the sales cycle works and helps organizations improve their sales flow. Another way in which you can shorten the sales cycle is by not repeating the past mistake. Features like sales reporting help to make the sales process more effective and efficient. An efficient and effective sales cycle will not only help companies increase their revenue, but it will also allow the sales team to close effortlessly.