During a prospecting call the other week we came across the question on HOW we help our clients shorten the sales cycle. It’s something that is an integral part of our Consultative Sales Certification Training Program – helping our clients to shorten the cycle by up to 25%. A valid question, right? So I decided I would share our response with the sales community.
Many sales people are under the impression that the surest ways to shorten the sales cycle is to either increase activity and/or to follow-up more aggressively.
Strategically shortening your sales cycle has nothing to do with making more phone calls but everything to do with understanding your audiences and their situation.
In a nutshell, here is the response that we offered our prospect:
Understand Your Audiences
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First things first! You need to understand who your contacts are and their roles in the decision making process. There are the financial (=economic) buyers, users, technical influencers, coach influencers, etc. And you need to understand the logic they use in making decisions and the motivation of each.
For example, a CFO might look for cost savings and want the bottom-line improvements while a user of a service or a product will want to hear about what’s in it for them – how your solution will help them in their daily job. Some influencers can act as your coach, helping you understand the structure of the organization and the buying process and the preferences of other buyers. All of these people will have different roles and responsibilities and also different personalities. Understanding who you are dealing with and catering to those people’s needs is essential in shortening the sales cycle. Very often sales people focus only on a limited number of “influencers”, they move the sale along to only find out that there is no budget for what they are offering.
Gain Commitments Along The Way
Managing expectations and strategically gaining commitments at every step of the way is another essential factor in shortening the sales cycle. If you ask your prospects at every step of the process if what you are offering is in line with their expectations, you will stay on course and there will be no big surprises in the end. Too often sales people are looking for an easy “yes” rather than being honest with themselves and asking the tough questions. This can surely lead to frustration and confusion. Sometimes it’s best to realize that your offering might not be best suited for a particular prospect and that it’s time to move on. On the positive side this means that you then have more time to focus on the prospects that actually are a good fit. It also means that your clients will be more profitable and they will certainly be happier as well.
Speak Your Customer’s Language
Not everybody speaks the same language. Yes, in the business world we mostly speak English but that doesn’t mean that we process information the same way. Some people like to hear things while others want to read material. Some of us prefer in-person meetings, others would rather be on the phone, or prefer to mostly use email. Email is a good communications tool, for some the best, but not everybody is comfortable communicating that way. Understanding what communication style your prospect prefers and how they best digest information is essential when it comes to shortening your sales cycle.
Be of Value to Your Prospect/Customer
Remember, it’s not about you or your service/product – it’s all about them. People respond to offerings that are relevant to them and can realistically help them move their business forward. If you don’t have something of value to say or offer, don’t even engage. That doesn’t mean that you should never call or reach out to your prospect or existing client, but it does mean that you should be prepared and have something of interest to say. Maybe you came across an industry article that you could share, or you have a special promotion. But don’t just engage for the sake of activity. It not only bogs you down, it is without value to your prospect or customer and it actually a waste of their time.
In closing, what is really important in shortening the sales cycle is moving from an activity driven model to a strategic approach where you plan and execute each step in your customer’s best interest.