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Cut Your Sales Cycle Stages in Half (+ 8 Tips)

Cut Your Sales Cycle Stages in Half (+ 8 Tips)

There are two ways you can boost your team’s win rate. First, by implementing a standardized sales cycle.

Why? 

By defining your sales cycle, you can essentially formalize the best practices of your top-performing sales reps, and hand them to your entire team. This will level up your bottom performers, and keep your high performers on track.

The second way you can do it is by making your sales cycle as short as possible. 

So, once you’ve clearly defined your sales cycle stages, you can then minimize the length of your sales cycle with our 8 expert tips. 

In this article, we’re going to answer: 

  • What are the common sales cycle stages? 
  • How long is a sales cycle? 
  • What factors increase the length of a sales cycle? 

Then, we’re going to hit you with 8 intelligent tips that work for every sales cycle and will cut your time from to lead close in half.

The 8 tips we will be discussing are: 

  1. Target the right audience 
  2. Update your ideal profile 
  3. Standardize your sales cycle stages 
  4. Replace manual processes with automated ones 
  5. Identify your KPIs 
  6. Invest more in your best-performing channels 
  7. Be transparent about your prices 
  8. Utilize chatbots and live chat

What are the common sales cycle stages?

A sales cycle is essentially all of the activities that happen from the moment you engage with a prospect, to the moment they buy your product or service. Think of this as a journey you take your buyer on, which can be broken down into stages, all leading up to the moment you win the sale.

You can find a more detailed summary of the sales cycle stages here

Each company’s sales cycle will differ, but let’s briefly run through 8 common stages you might want to include in yours:

 

Prospecting

The company will collect and/or identify candidates who fit their target audience.

Qualifying

Prospects are scored in relation to how likely and/or ready they are to buy. Those who are not likely to buy at all are dropped at this stage. The rest become leads.

Approaching

High scoring leads are engaged with by sales reps.

Nurturing

Low scoring leads require more time and nurturing before they are ready to buy. Marketing materials may be used to nudge leads towards making a purchase decision.

Pitching

Sales reps deliver a high quality pitch to leads who seem ready to buy.

Overcoming objections

Sales reps overcome any worries and concerns that leads may have.

Follow-up

Many leads won’t be ready to immediately buy following a sales pitch, so it’s crucial to check in with them at least 5 times afterwards.

Closing

When the time is right, sales reps will close the sale.

The sales cycle you follow may differ from another company, but the main principles remain the same. If you’re ready to define and formalize the sales cycle stages that work for you, make sure you avoid these 7 crucial mistakes.

How long is a sales cycle?

The length of a sales cycle is essentially the time it takes for the customer to buy, starting from the point they are first engaged by a sales rep.

You can calculate your average sales cycle length using the following formula:

Every sales cycle will differ in length because not every customer is going to buy at the same time. Furthermore, some companies are better at selling than others, and those who sell quicker will have a shorter average sales cycle.

What factors increase the length of a sales cycle?

If you want to shorten your sales cycle, a good place to start is identifying the flaws or shortcomings of your current system. We’ve listed some of the common factors that affect sales cycle length below:

Targeting the wrong prospects

In the first sales cycle stage, you will be reaching out to prospective buyers, to see if you can engage them in an initial conversation. 

You’re going to be contacting a high volume of people at this stage, so you really need to make sure you’re not wasting your time on the wrong prospects, as this can equate to a big waste of money.

Spend a lot of time thinking about your product and who will need it, as this will help you figure out who your target audience is. Then you can start reaching out to the right kind of people

Unqualified leads present

When qualifying leads, you will need to outline an ‘ideal customer profile’, which is the criteria your prospects must meet in order to be worth your time nurturing and pitching to. The criteria will be something like:

  • They have a need for your product (they are facing challenges that your product will solve) 
  • They haven’t recently invested in a similar product 
  • They can afford your product 
  • They are a key decision-maker
Unqualified leads are the ones that don’t fit into your ‘ideal customer profile’. In other words, it’s very unlikely that they will want to buy your product. And did you know, At least 50% of your prospects are not a good fit for what you’re selling? Having them present in your sales cycle is just a waste of time and money, so you need to weed these out in the earliest stages.
 
As we always say, a quick “no” is as good as a “yes”, so gauge their interest early on and cease contact if you know they’re not a good fit.

Sales and marketing unaligned

Your sales and marketing teams should have a very close relationship. If they don’t, make it a priority to align them right away. 

Traditionally, the marketing department would be responsible for the top of the sales funnel (prospecting and nurturing), and once the leads were qualified, they would then be handed over to the sales team who would take care of the bottom of the sales funnel (approaching, pitching and closing). 

Nowadays, the customer journey is far less linear. They’re engaging with brands long before they purchase and long after the sale closes, meaning marketing and sales alignment is crucial in today’s market. You need both teams singing from the same hymn sheet.

Missed follow-up opportunities

One of the greatest mistakes made by sales and marketing reps is to pin all their hopes on one great pitch, or one great piece of content, and then sit back and do nothing. 

Your first impression with a lead is very important, but it’s not the only chance you’ll get to win a sale. Following up is crucial, and interestingly, 80% of sales require an average of five follow-ups in order to close the deal. So, don’t just follow-up once, you need to be following up with leads at least five times.

If you want to learn how to master the art of following-up, and win more sales, read our best practice guide here.

No tools or automation software

If your team is wasting time on manual processes that could be carried out by digital software tools, then this needs to stop right away. 

The cost of tools and automation software is always worth it when you’re buying back your sales team’s valuable time and energy, which can then be focused on more important tasks. Think about it this way: reps who have to manually craft individual follow-up emails could be spending their time putting together excellent pitches that actually close deals.

Poor salesmanship

It’s important to remember that sales reps aren’t just selling a product or service, they also need to sell themselves. If a lead doesn’t like you, they likely won’t want to buy from you, simple. 

Good salespeople are positive, upbeat, friendly, and most importantly, they’re good listeners. Any conversation between a rep and lead needs to be a two-way street, whereas too often salespeople find themselves talking over their customers, telling them why they need to buy instead of explaining the benefits of doing so.

 

8 Tips for shortening your sales cycle

1. Target the right audience

Build a detailed buyer persona or ‘ideal profile’ that really captures your perfect customer, so that your lead generation process is accurate, and your qualification process is effective. 

Spend ample time getting to know who the key stakeholders and decision-makers are, and form close relationships with them.

2. Update your ideal profile

As the business grows, your target audience will change. Keep updating your buyer personas to reflect this. Otherwise in time, your lead generation for example isn’t going to be accurate.

3. Standardize your sales cycle stages

Laying out a formalized version of your sales cycle that can be continually tweaked and improved is an effective way to speed up your sales reps. It keeps everyone on track and on the same page, and makes sure your reps always know what action to take next. 

There are plenty of other benefits of having a standardized sales cycle, which you can read about here.

4. Replace manual processes with automated ones

Without the help of digital tools, the sales cycle is a lengthy process. For example, when reps have to perform manual data entry for every lead, write lengthy proposals or quotes, and assign qualifying scores to each lead individually. 

All of this, and more, can be performed a lot quicker by automation software.

5. Identify your KPIs

Nothing stunts productivity more than the absence of defined goals. To keep your salespeople on track and aiming in the right direction, define key performance indicators (KPIs) and measure them frequently. This data can be used to set goals for your sales team and ramp up their motivation.

6. Invest more on your best-performing channels

Analyze the performance of your channels and figure out which ones are bringing you the most leads. This will tell you where you need to be spending more money, and where you need to be spending less. 

For example, some companies use every social media channel at their disposal, but let’s face it, a mortgage company isn’t going to produce great TikTok content. They should focus their efforts on other channels. Only invest time and money on channels that work for your niche.

7. Be transparent about your prices

A big mistake is to dance around your prices up until the end of the sales funnel. Be open about them from the beginning to avoid catching your prospects off guard. This helps with lead qualification too, by filtering out prospects who can’t afford your product.

8. Utilize chatbots and live chat

If your leads have to wait too long to receive an answer to their question, or they can’t find the information they need, they might take their business elsewhere. To avoid this, provide 24/7 customer service with chatbots, and make sure someone is always on-hand to chat within working hours by setting up live chat on your website.

We hope you’ve found this article helpful, and that our expert tips will help you to cut the time from lead to close in half. 

 

If you’d like to formalize your sales cycle stages, then you’re in the right place. With Stack, you can identify your best sales cycle stages, codify them explicitly and hand these guidelines to your entire team, generating clarity and reducing founder fatigue. 

Interested? Schedule a no-obligation free demo…

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