What is the right sales cycle for your business?

A sales cycle is simply the process a company undergoes when selling its products or services to a customer. Finding a clear-cut definition of a sales cycle that applies across all industries is tricky. One company’s process may differ from another depending on how each one defines it. For one, it may be the time from finding prospects to close of deal; for another, it’s the time required to bring a qualified prospect to close.

Your definition of a sales cycle depends on your industry, who you serve, and how long it takes to get the prospect’s signature on the dotted line. No matter what process you use, a well-managed sales cycle is critical to the success of your business.

Types of Sales Cycles

Most business’ sales cycles follow roughly the same pattern, with slight differences based on the type of customer they deal with: consumers (B2C) or other businesses (B2B). Both types require excellent customer service and a customer-centric sales process, as well as a reliance on customer loyalty. But, there are some important differences:

  • A B2B market is niche-focused while a B2C one is broader and larger.
  • B2B sales have multiple decision makers while B2C have one: the consumer.
  • The B2B decision-making process has more stages and requires a longer engagement period.

B2B Sales Cycle Challenges

B2B salespeople often lament the long sales cycles that comes with the territory. It takes time to build relationships and establish trust. Overly long sales cycles also become a problem when they delay your return on investment and increase uncertainty of whether a sale will go through or not.

The majority of B2B organizations still treat their marketing and sales teams as separate entities, but in an era of innovation in business models, that’s changing. The sales process is no longer a linear process; businesses are starting to adapt a strategy that, by aligning sales and marketing, leads to a shorter sales cycle and improved bottom line.

So, while it’s true that closing B2C sales is a shorter and simpler process, it is possible to shorten the B2B sales cycle using these methods:

  • Understand each prospect’s needs and timelines. Far too often, sales teams waste effort on unqualified leads, engaging them in sales conversations that lead to dead ends. It’s time to stop trying to sell prospects something that doesn’t offer them the solution they need. You can reduce sales cycles by concentrating on providing relevant solutions to urgent needs. Buyer personas created by your marketing team helps sales narrow down the top-level decision makers. This, in turn, helps the sales cycle move smoothly.
  • Predefine timelines. Set predetermined targets for how long any deal will stay at a sales cycle stage. Have guidelines in place that move skeptical or hesitant buyers forward by offering information that helps them build a case to sell to their organization’s decision makers.
  • Use a B2B outsourcing partner. It may be conventional wisdom that B2B sales cycles are by necessity longer, but an inability to shorten them often comes from a lack of internal resources. It isn’t easy to bring in a consistent flow of leads, prioritize them, and move them quickly down the funnel. An outside partner that specializes in identifying and qualifying likely prospects brings a depth of knowledge to sales and marketing your internal teams may be lacking.