How to Accelerate Sales Cycles
If you’re like most businesses, odds are you’re very interested in learning how to speed up your sales cycle. And this is a good thing, because the longer a lead spends in your sales pipeline without making a purchase, the more money you’re potentially spending nurturing that lead. If the lead stays in the pipeline for an extended period of time and doesn’t convert, you’re out that money.
It also involves everything you use to move leads through to your desired outcome – from content to product sheets, to answering questions, to product demos, and more.
At the end of the day, we need to know how long our sales cycle is on average. Once we know this, we can start looking for places where streamlining our approach could actually help prospects move through the process with greater velocity. That’s the ultimate goal.
Sales Cycle Stages
Typically, there are five basic stages to the sales cycle. You may run into people who combine stages, or who add extra stages, but generally speaking these are the five main steps of the cycle. Learn them so you can better understand how to transition your leads through each part of the process with greater efficiency.
This is the stage where we’re trying to draw in new leads. It’s an important step, because if you don’t bring in new prospects, it’s hard to sell stuff. Having buyers tends to be important.
The key thing here is to remember to listen to your potential prospects. They’ll often tell you (either directly or indirectly) what they need. Once you know that, you can start catering your offerings to help them solve their problems and move past their pain points.
During this stage, you’ll want to take your prospects and get them interested in your offer. If you listened to their concerns and issues in the previous step (or you listened well enough to glean what they’re struggling with), this is where that information will come in handy.
At this stage, you’re interested in moving them to the next step, which is…
At this juncture, you’ve done your prospecting and found a potential lead. You’ve listened to the lead explain their problems and have presented a way for them to connect with you. Now we want to make sure they actually have an intention of buying something. If they don’t, we move on.
At this point, you may need more information about the prospect’s specific pain points or issues – but this step is vitally important because this is either where you cut them loose (because they’re not ready to buy) or move them fully into your pipeline and start trying to close the deal.
As such, it’s important to really qualify prospects. You don’t want to spend time and resources on leads who aren’t going to buy.
If you’ve got a prospect that you’ve qualified and believe is genuinely interested in purchasing a product that can solve one of their specific problems, now’s the time to start showing them how your product is the solution they’ve been looking for.
Sometimes this gets labeled as “asking”, but closing sounds more positive and pro-active.
Once we’ve taken a prospect through the first four stages, it’s time to ask them to purchase our product.
This is it, the moment of truth. There are three potential outcomes here: They say no, they say maybe, or they say yes.
If you get the yes, congratulations! If you get the no, condolences.
But what most often happens is the maybe – which means you’re still in the game, but you’ve got more work to do.
To accelerate our sales cycle, we need to either eliminate the “maybe” response completely (replacing it with a “yes” hopefully) or we need to figure out the most efficient path forward to turning the maybe into a yes.
The great news here is that if you use sales enablement software with predictive and prescriptive analytics tools, turning the “maybe” in a “yes” becomes a lot easier. The Artificial Intelligence at work in these kinds of software can suggest exactly what to offer a potential lead to help move them through the sales cycle more quickly based on previous data.
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How to Accelerate Your Sales Cycle
Now that we know what a sales cycle is and how it breaks down into stages, it’s time to start figuring out ways you can turn your prospects into customers faster.
We’ve compiled this list of 11 tips that are guaranteed to help you and your team not only close more deals, but do it in a shorter timeframe with less cost and effort.
Whether you try all of these or just the ones that seem the most likely to bring you a quick return on your time investment, we think you’ll find that all of these can help you move the needle significantly when it comes to accelerating your sales cycle.
1 Sell Only to Leads You’ve Qualified
We touched on this one a bit in the last section, but it bears repeating here: Sell only to leads you’ve already qualified!
You’d be amazed at how many companies don’t bother qualifying their leads. The rationale behind this practice seems to be “I’ve got a superstars sales team – they could sell ice to eskimoes!”
Even assuming you do have a superstar sales team, trying to sell to every lead or prospect you get is an exercise in wasted time.
Leads who haven’t been qualified are more likely to bow out of the buying process – or take way more effort and resources to convert.
So, how can you better qualify your leads? Look at your metrics.
Prospects who come to you through direct search, who look at your products and pricing and content marketing offerings are definitely ones worth pursuing.
There are only so many hours in the day – don’t spend it chasing customers who may just be window shopping.
2 Be Upfront with Your Pricing
The next tip to accelerate your sales process is by being upfront with your pricing.
If you sell an expensive, high end product, there’s a tendency to want to keep the price shrouded in secrecy until your prospect is further along in the pipeline. This is a mistake.
Part of determining if a lead is high quality is determining that they’re willing and able to afford the price of your product.
Sticker shock is real – and the last thing you want to do is spend weeks wooing a potential customer only to finally reach that stage where you review the price and have them decide it’s way out of their price range.
Head this problem off in advance by sharing the price of your offering early on – that will help weed out the people who don’t have the budget for what you’re selling, allowing you to spend more time focusing on the prospects who do.
3 Provide Social Proof
This practice has become fairly ubiquitous over the past few years, but if you’re not sharing social proof on your websites and in your marketing and sales materials, you’re missing out.
By this point, we’ve all been to a website where about halfway down the page we find a bunch of testimonials and a section with all the companies that have used whatever this product you’re looking at is.
Honestly, it feels almost cliché at this point – but it works.
Show your prospects that you’re legit – let them see what other customers are saying. Let them know what companies trust your products.
Social proof can spur a client on the fence or stuck in the pipeline into taking action.
4 Tackle Objections Early
Another thing to consider if you’re looking to facilitate a short sales cycle is to start tackling prospect objections early in the process.
This doesn’t mean to go to your prospect and ask them what their objections are (they’re usually pretty vocal about sharing them with you anyway…), but instead to do some internal research and find out what objections customers have had in the past.
Sales enablement software can make this process really easy – with transcription tools, the software can track everything said in phone conversations, online meetings, or email. Then you can simply search for key terms and see what customers objected to during the sales process.
The key here is that once you know what the common objections are, you can get out in front of them. Head them off and offer solutions before you prospect brings them up – this will save you time and energy and accelerate your sales.
5 Automate Everything Possible
The beauty of living in the 21st century is that its now entirely possible to automate huge chunks of your business. This is particularly true when it comes to sales.
A good sales enablement software solution can help you qualify your leads, track your team’s interactions with them, grade your opportunities, offer up suggestions on how best to proceed at each step of the way, and more.
Automation doesn’t just eliminate the dreary, repetitive administrative work of sales and marketing – it can help you reach out to prospects with AI-composed emails and chatbots and streamline your entire sales pipeline.
In short, if you’re not using automation in your sales process, you’re probably not operating at maximum efficiency.
6 FOMO is real
Not familiar with FOMO? It’s an acronym for Fear of Missing Out – and it’s a very real thing and has been a part of successful selling for as long as anyone can remember.
If you’re looking to create a short sales cycle, time-sensitive offers are a great way to spur prospects into action.
Telling a prospect that a price is only good for X amount of days or that a product only comes with certain bonus add-ons for a certain amount of time is a great way to get prospects on the fence to move.
No one wants to miss out, especially not on a deal. If you’re not using time-sensitive offers in your sales playbook, add a few in and see what happens. We’d guess it will speed up the buying process significantly.
7 Beef Up Your Product Descriptions
Ever had a prospect show up and immediately ask very surface level questions about your product? This usually happens because your product descriptions are descriptive enough.
No one has time to read pages and pages of product details, but make sure your descriptions are covering all of the major bases. This sales copy is important – list the features and benefits, but make sure you’re explaining the value of your offering as well.
Every second you spend answering an obvious question that should have been covered in a product description is another second you’re not selling. You can dramatically accelerate your sales process by ensuring your product descriptions actually do a good job describing your products.
8 Focus on Your Content Marketing
If you’re not taking advantage of content marketing, you’re not only missing out on an easy way to accelerate yours sales process, you’re also missing out on opportunities to connect with qualified leads.
The problem with content marketing in the last few years is that everyone is doing it, but most places are doing it poorly.
Good content can be a lead magnet for your product or service, but too often, content teams crank out generic articles aimed at filling an SEO niche rather than actually targeting a specific prospect.
Because of this, you end up with clicks, but not leads. And the leads you do get aren’t often the leads you want. If you’re content is generic, your results will be too.
The key here is to focus on the content before you start creating it. Who’s the target audience? Don’t be afraid to go really narrow – sometimes, narrowing down your target audience might not give you the huge number of clicks you’d like, but if all of those clicks are quality leads, then the results are worth it.
Don’t let your content marketing be an afterthought or something you do simply out of obligation because everyone else is. Focus your content and you’ll get leads who are ready to buy.
This is another area where sales enablement software can be a huge help.
The days of generic marketing and sales materials are over – buyers today want to know how a product or service will benefit them specifically. As such, if you’re not personalizing your sales and marketing materials, people tune out.
It can be slightly more challenging to personalize at the top of the funnel, but as you get into qualifying your prospect you’ll have a better understanding of their pain points and problems. It’s at this point that you can really start to personalize.
The good news is sales enablement software can not only break down your leads and prospects, it can compare them to others you’ve worked with in the past and make suggestions for what content or sales materials might appeal to them.
10 Focus on Best Performing Channels
Too often, we give in to the siren song of trying to reach everyone, everywhere. This is a recipe for disaster and slower sales velocity.
One way to really accelerate your sales cycle is to simply focus on the channels that bring the best return on investment. If you’re using software, it’s pretty easy to breakdown everything in your pipeline by its point of origin.
The point is, if your emails are converting better than your Pinterest page, it makes sense to prioritize the emails. Look at your metrics, find where the best performance is happening, and focus there.
Many times, boosting your sales cycle is simply a matter of prioritizing instead of trying to focus on everything.
11 Close Incrementally
We tend to think of sales as an all or nothing proposition – either we close the deal and get the sale or we don’t.
And while the sale is the ultimate goal, every successful deal has a lot of other small wins along the way. We call this “closing incrementally”.
Think about it this way – every interaction with a prospect is an opportunity to gain ground and move the process along.
Many prospects and potential customers are used to saying no. Get them used to saying yes by sprinkling in some things along the way.
For example, after an email or chat interaction, request their phone contact number. If they say yes, that’s an incremental win.
If you have a phone conversation, pitch setting up a demo. If they say yes, you’ve got another incremental win.
As the demo nears, ask for them to bring along someone further up the decision making chain. If they say yes, that’s another incremental win.
Those incremental wins quickly pile up – and before you know, it your prospect is used to saying yes – which means it’s easier when you get to the big questions to get a positive answer.
No matter how successful your sales team is, every company wants to accelerate their sales cycle. Faster sales mean more opportunities to make more sales, which equals more money. Everyone wins.
The good news is that accelerating your sales cycle doesn’t necessarily require some massive overhaul of your current pipeline or funnel. Mostly it just takes time – time to evaluate how your cycle currently works and to root out the places where things are bogging down.
One you find those pinch points, it’s really just a matter of devising ways to be more efficient. Sales enablement software can really help in this regard – it will break down your pipeline, your leads, and help you formulate next steps with the highest potential for success.
But even if you’re not using sales enablement software, you can implement these 11 tips to help you shorten your sales cycle and increase your sales velocity.
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Accent Technologies is the first and only SaaS company to bring together Sales AI and Content Management in a true Revenue Enablement Platform. We provide both sales and marketing with better visibility into the performance of their teams. This drives revenue through intelligent recommendations for complex sales scenarios and provides the data for rich analytics that power better coaching, forecasting, and long-term customer support. Learn more about our solutions or request a Live Demo to see it in action.