sales cycle

Cycle up

So they’ve upped your quotas again? They’ve told you the whole team has to sell 150% more than last quarter? And you’re thinking “How the hell are we going to do that?”
Well, my suggestion would be to not run around like a chicken with your head cut off, but instead to work on shortening your sales cycle. There are all kinds of things you can do to shorten the time from first contact to close, and they do not entail working harder, just smarter.

  • 3 strikes and you’re out- Do not call a prospect more than 3 times. If those 3 calls have not netted you a commitment, a meeting, or some other tangible evidence that they actually intend to buy; move on. Always leave the door open when you exit by saying something like, “You know Jane, it sounds like the time is just not right for us to work together right now. I’d like to give you a call in six months and see where you are.”
  • Never more than a quarter- I don’t care what industry you’re in; if you have to spend more than 90-days trying to close, it’s not going to happen. Do not fall into the ‘gambler’s mentality’ trap of thinking that since you’ve already invested all this time, you have to stick with it. That kind of thinking is a death sentence in sales. Something to consider if you’ve gone this long without closing the sale, yet there doesn’t seem to be any particular reason, is that there is a good chance the accounting department has something to do with it. They could have already blown that quarter’s budget and are trying to get the expense re-allocated to the following quarter….it is perfectly acceptable to ask if financing is the issue. Their answer may tell you to either pick it up again in a quarter or two, or to walk away completely.
  • Think small- There are numerous benefits to working with small to mid-sized business; there is a greater sense of urgency to get things done, which lends itself to a shorter sales cycle. You will also have more direct access to the higher level executives who are the ones making the decisions. In a larger company, you are more likely to be dealing with a lower level liaison that has no real juice to close the deal. Another huge benefit is that smaller businesses are more likely to refer you to other small businesses; the small business community is a tightly knit group, with lots of resource sharing…you want to become one of those resources.
  • Prime the pump- Focus on referrals. If you’ve been referred to a prospect by an existing customer, you’ve already been granted credibility and therefore only need to maintain it, not spend the time cultivating it. You’ve just shortened your sales cycle by leaps and bounds. Another tactic that really works to shorten your cycle time is to ask your existing clients if they would mind being contacted by prospects looking for references. In your first contact with a new prospect, give them the numbers to a couple clients that they can talk to about your product, your performance and your integrity. Let your clients sell them. The key here is matching the clients to the prospect in terms of size, industry, focus, image and needs so that when the prospect is talking to the client, all the shining examples they’re discussing are relevant and that prospect can envision you doing the same for them.