A planned road map for your sales process can be a sure short way to achieve success in your sales process and can bring great and consistent results. One such roadmap is a sales cycle.

If you are running a sales team and sales operations, you would know that having pre-defined stages. So, let’s explore what exactly is a sales cycle and what are its various stages of it. Let’s also discuss how to improve your sales process in this blog.

What is a sales cycle?

Sales cycle encompasses all the activities involved in the sales process from initializing customer inquiry to closing the deal and follow-up. In other words it’s a potential prospect’s journey from recognizing their needs to closing deals with prospects. A sales process may be a journey with respect to a prospect but it is a tactfully and carefully curated process for a sales representative.

Why is the sales cycle important?

A sales rep could come up with a great idea to improve his sales engagement. However, having a defined vocabulary for every step in your sales cycle can have a huge impact on your business success. Unorganized and unplanned sales process will lead to no good for both the sales rep as well as the prospect as it lacks analysis, feedback, and would be an unsustainable model.

Keeping a record of the full sale cycle gives your organization an insight on 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.

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What are the different stages of the sales cycle?

A sales cycle consists of different stages where the whole process is divided into specific phases depending on prospect journey and your engagement level. We cannot generalize the length of sales cycle for different companies as there are different factors that influence the length of sales cycle like industry type, cost of their product and services and more.

However, every company goes through different stages of the sales cycle and having a better understanding of each stage of the sales cycle will create a scope for improvement and optimization of the sales cycle. These stages of sales cycle are:

  1. Prospecting : Finding leads
  2. Initial engagement: Connecting with prospect
  3. Qualifying leads : Shorting potential leads
  4. Nurturing leads : Consistent follow-up
  5. Customizing offer: Present your services
  6. Overcoming obstacles : Handling objections
  7. Closing deals: Purchasing of your services

1. Prospecting

“Intellectual 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 a lot of your time and effort. Here you decide:

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

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

  • Discovery calls
  • Various channel from where you have your prospect like web page, email, social media advertisement
  • Prospect who want demo request or sign up forms 
  • Source of your lead list and more.

After gathering this information, segment your prospect to find your ideal customer profile (ICP). Ideal customer profile contains information about your potential prospect and your initial approach with them. This information includes the person’s background and their pain points. Define your leads and organize them on the basis of their interest in your business, the nomenclature should depend on your individual company.

How is this process different from lead generation?

In lead generation you merely collect the contact information, whereas in prospecting you’re actually reaching these leads and establishing whether they’re interested in your company or not.

2. Initial engagement

Before you reach out to them, have a strategy for your approach. Say your lead has given you their contact via eBook so they are at the nascent stage of your buying cycle. Therefore, nurturing them and sending them email about your services and sharing blogs would be a next step rather than directly calling them.

Contact your prospect within 24 hrs. of their first enquiry with you, as this would increase your chance around 30-50 % of converting them into a lead. If you were not able to contact your lead in your initial approach don’t let this act as a disincentive. It generally takes around 8 to 12 attempts to reach a lead via call so be persistent and keep calling.

Initially having the knowledge of your prospects schedule is not possible. So, the best way to find out the best time to contact them is:

  • While sending an email, ask for the best time to contact them
  • Try contacting them at different times to figure out the time that they can connect with you.

3. Qualifying leads

Until now you have a good idea of the prospect’s pain point, their priority and whether you can cater their needs or not. As basic segmentation has already been done by you at the earlier step of sale cycle.

Here you are just refining your segmentation to be more precise which will increase your personalization. 

Example: Your web form has an inquiry question about the size of the prospect’s company and the field of specialization of their company. This will give you an idea about their company’s budget. In case you don’t get that information then you find it yourself via LinkedIn and social media channels.

After analyzing your prospect profile and comparing it with your ideal customer profile if they seem to be a good fit for your company then move ahead with the prospect.

If you lack clarity about a prospect being a good fit for your company, inquire a bit in- depth. Use different methodology to analyze your prospect like BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Time), SPIN (Situation question, Problem question, Implication question, Need pay off question).

Your enquire 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 investing your efforts will reap good rewards or not. 

4. Nurturing leads

Nobody likes sales calls from strangers that do not interest them. Don’t 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 rather personalize your approach and avail them with content that would add value to them and address their pain point.

Start with creating  awareness about your product and services, educate via eBook, 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. At the end the final decision maker is your prospect. Creating trust and providing  value will make your further approach more effective moving your prospect further in the sales funnel.

5. Customize your offer

Offer your prospect deals that would suit their needs which will make your offer hard to ignore and increase your probability of your offer being accepted. Example: If you have sent an email to your prospect with links to your web page and the prospect clicked on the link. This reflects that they would want to know details about your product and services  like its pricing and offers. Hence your next should be about 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:

  • Let your prospect think about the consequences of not solving the problem.
  • Let them know the scenario if they solve their problem

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

  • Demo video
  • Ask for quick call to solve address queries
  • Be consistent with the follow-up
  • Know their priority, budget and try to fix them 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 the sales. After fixing the back end work like paper work, filling form your intention now should be of implementing your strategy to ask the prospect for the purchase. This is a direct approach to close a deal. A more softer approach can be sending them customer reviews, sharing case studies and after gaining credibility closing the deal by asking for purchase.

There is no one right answer for the right approach as it is subjective to the individual prospect. While engaging with prospects you would have an idea about the temperament and trigger points of your client.

Closing a deal is not the last step i.e. don’t abruptly close the deal as it would reflect badly on your client. Offer them support for their enquiries and any further assistance needed by them for your prospect. This will help you in prospect retention and increase their lifetime with your company. 

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 different ways to approach and engage with their prospects but the length of the sale cycle can be defined. So, the big question here is how to measure your sales cycle and what is the appropriate length of your sales cycle.

Almost 30% of companies go within 4 to 6 months of the sales cycle. Therefore if we generalize the average length of sales cycle it would be around this period. There are various factor that could affect the length of your sales cycle like:

  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

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

The average sales cycle may differ from industry to industry. Keeping a check that your company’s sales cycle is in line with the  industry average would determine the success of your sales process. If your company does not match to the industry benchmark then working to optimize your sales process is important to increase your profit.

Long/Short sales cycle: To determine that your company’s sales cycle is long or short, compare your sales cycle with the industry average you will know if it’s long or short. If the industry average length of sales cycle is less than a month then its short sale cycle and if it’s more than 12 months then it’s a long sales cycle. 

How to Improve Your Sales Cycle?

In the Japanese kaizen management style which focuses on continuous improvement and changing for the better. Similarly your sales cycle process should also focus on the same (i.e.) fine tuning your sales cycle process. 

Here are ways in which you can improve your sales cycle:

1. Priorities 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 as well as optimization of the sales process. Automatizing these activities can help sales reps focus on the prospect and devote more time in strategizing. Using automation for administrative processes can accelerate the sales cycle.

2. Keep the ball rolling 

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

3. Consistent follow-up

A sales rep’s greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to closing a deal is always trying just one more time. First contact with your prospect and your relationship is a basic introduction. To really get your prospect to a point where they are receptive to your proposal you need to nurture your prospect with consistent follow-ups.

Many sales reps fail to keep a track of the follow-up, personalize messages and reach their prospect over various touch points. Now here’s a catch: automation can help reps to manage follow-up, email templates with custom placeholders can personalize their message at scale.

4. Have your foot in the door 

Generally asking for favors helps demonstrate to others that we trust and rely on them. This strengthens relationships especially when prospects eagerly reciprocate if the opportunity arises. What you want here is to gain a small commitment from your prospect, something that’s relatively easy to do in the present moment.

These small commitments can lead to closing a big deal. This technique is called Incremental commitment. 

Incremental commitment is the process of getting your prospects to agree to do something with you in the present moment with the ultimate goal to progressively scale upon the size of their commitment.

5. Schedule meeting in a click

To shorten your sales cycle one important factor is making your commitment precise and effective. Now if sales reps need to communicate back and forth just to schedule meetings this would lead to wastage of time and efforts of your prospect and sales reps as well.

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. To Make any process efficient you need to reduce friction and eliminate wastage. Automation can help you optimize your sales cycle.

6. Interesting narrative

Word of mouth is one of the best marketing tools that will help your product and services gain credibility and trust among your prospect. Another amazing tool in every sales rep basket is case studies. Pitching your sales pitch enveloped in a narrative that your prospect can relate to will make your sales pitch more engaging as people relate more to a good narrative rather than statistical number.

7. Train your team

In the above points we have discussed different ways you can improve your sales and shorten your sales cycle but all these factors revolve around key elements i.e. your sales rep. The efficiency of your sales rep to sell can make all the difference. So, train your sales and provide them with resources and time to implement them. Now, here comes the good part with automation of your sales engagement process. The easy to use interface of software can help sales reps to optimize their sales process and reduce the length of their sales cycle.

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Wrapping things up

So, this is how the sales cycle works and helps organizations improve their sales process. A efficient and effective sales cycle will not only help companies increase their revenue, it will also allow the sales team to close easily.