“How do I shorten my sales cycle?” is one of those timeless questions that have kept business owners and sales managers from many a good nights’ sleep. And since this is one question that cannot be ignored, we started to look for answer (after all, some of those sleep-deprived business owners and sales managers are our sincere friends and customers).
Before we delve into the tips and tricks for achieving shorter sales cycle, let us understand why it is crucial for the success of your business.
The primary goal of any business is to make profit and increase the numbers steadily. Sell more and sell often is the mantra to follow here. And the shorter you sales cycle the more often you sell and the more sales you close. How?
In short, you need to do everything possible to make your sales cycles as short as possible. While B2C sales generally have a short sales cycle (or no cycle at all, in case of impulsive sales), shortening the time between first contact and sales closed often become a prominent factor for B2B business profitability.
So, here’s how you can shorten your sales cycles without losing sleep!
How many time have you lost a sale, despite investing a LOT of time following-up on the lead? My guess is, quite a few times more than you would have liked. The fact is, no one can guarantee a sale till time the deal is closed and the transaction is done. But, what you can do, is to invest your time and resources in chasing leads that are more likely to convert into sales. Here comes Lead Scoring!
Evaluating leads based on criteria such as interest level, need for your product/service, authority of the contact person etc. help you accelerate your sales pipeline. Here are some questions you need to ask for understanding whether a lead is good for sale.
Answering these questions truthfully will tell you where to place the lead; in your sales pipeline or on a separate list for further nurturing. While you can do this analysis manually for each lead you get, a more logical (and of course, more efficient) solution is to use your CRM for Lead Scoring. Using your CRM Lead Scoring functionality will give you added value, as the score will be updated based on each interaction with the lead in question.
Imagine, you are selling air conditioners for commercial usages and you get an inquiry from a newly established firm. During the initial inquiry you get to know that the contact person is the Managing Director of the firm and they are ready to start operation within a month. In this case, you have a lead where the need for your product is genuine and immediate. Moreover, the contact person has the authority of making a purchase decision quickly. Also, as the firm is setting up their office space, they are likely to have budget allotment for something as crucial as air conditioning. So, this is one lead that has a great Lead Score and you need to chase it with all your might. By offering a good deal, you may just close the sale in less than 3 weeks.
On the other hand, if you get a lead where an Admin Assistant is enquiring about the latest air conditioning products for replacing the old (but working) ones in their premises, you may think twice before putting it in your sales pipeline. Why? This lead simply have low Lead Score. To begin with, their need is not immediate. They still have a working air conditioning system in their office. Their reasons for contacting you may range from issues with the existing system to an upcoming renovation. Moreover the contact person have very little authority when it comes to making significant purchases. You may still get a sale out of it; but it’ll definitely need some nurturing before that. To start with you have to convince the Admin Assistant that your products are superior to those they have. Then you have to arrange a meeting with the Admin Assistant and convince her for arranging a meeting with her superior. Once you get to the meeting with her superior, you would probably have to offer a product demo and establish you credibility all over again. And, there’s no telling whether this superior is the decision maker or not. In case she is not, you may have to repeat this entire process for another time or two. This will invariably take more than a month or two to conclude the sale.
By Lead Scoring from the earliest stage you would be able to prioritize your efforts and resources, which in turn will speed up your sales cycle.
Save Time by Automating Repetitive Tasks
Time is money when it comes to sale. If your sales reps are busy doing data entry and sending same e-mails to 100 different prospects, then they have less time innovation, prospecting and selling. Not a likable scenario, is it? But, a lot of business owners and sales managers think automation as a costly and complex process. And hence, they (and their team) miss out on opportunities, follow-ups, and eventually sales.
So, let’s see how to automate your repetitive tasks and save tons of hours that can be (productively) utilized to speed up your sales cycle.
Step 1: Identify the most mundane and repetitive tasks that you and your team perform. Do you manually enter leads into your CRM? Do you send out the same welcome, follow-up and notification e-mails to your prospects and clients every day? If yes, then how much time is devoted to these tasks? You can save this time and boost your team’s efficiency by automating these tasks.
Step 2: Here comes the difficult question, how to automate these tasks? The great thing about modern technology is that you have tools to automate these tasks. Tools that are super easy to use and does not break the bank. For example, you can integrate your web forms (used for lead capturing) with your CRM for automated lead capturing. You can use a CRM for sending automated emails to your prospects and customers. You can employ an email marketing tool for creating email campaigns with required workflows. You can do away with manual Lead Scoring with a simple cloud CRM. The options are quite lucrative today.
Step 3: When you have finally automated all that can be automated, use the extra time in prospecting and selling.
A lot in sales depend on pricing. And this is why, many a time, sales reps try to soften the blow by vailing the price in the early stages of prospecting. But this is one strategy that is most likely to back-fire. After all, how would you like to have some hidden fees and costs added to the price once you have selected the product that you want to purchase? Not much, right? By hiding the real cost of the product/service, you would only add to the prospects’ mistrust in the final stage of the sales funnel. At this point, you would either have to invest extra effort and time in convincing the prospect or will lose the deal altogether.
Hence, there should be no strategically doling out the extra charges! There should be no hiding the real cost!
If you want to speed-up your sales cycle, then it is crucial that you disclose the pricing (in full) in the earliest stage possible. This will serve two purposes. On one hand, the prospect knows what he is purchasing and how much he is purchasing it for. On the other hand, you will get to know any budget constraint that the prospect may have and choose a suitable course of action to deal with the situation.
Being transparent about pricing from early on will maintain the trust factor and speed-up your sales cycle by avoiding delays in the last stage.
No matter how great your product is, most buyers will probably have an objection or two. The objections may be grounded on some shortcomings of your product or the pricing or some inherent idea and belief on part of the buyer. But, ignoring them will definitely not make them go away. While some buyers would be forthcoming about their objections, some tend to wait till the last stage to ask questions. This in turn complicates the process in the last stage and significantly slowdown the sales cycle.
So, it falls on you to identify and address the questions as early as possible. And you can hit multiple targets too with this strategy.
Remember, not all prospects will voice their objections in the early stage of the sales cycle. But, if you can identify and boldly address these issues before moving further, you can not only build a stronger bond with the prospect but also speed up the sales cycle significantly.
My guess is, you employ multiple channels for lead capturing. But not all channels work equally. And that’s completely fine, as long as you can track which channels are working for your business. Here, considering the number of leads gathered from each channel is not enough. You’ll have to take lead quality and conversion rate into account too.
Imagine, you are capturing leads from your website contact form, live chat application, PPC campaign and social media campaigns. Now, on a particular month, you have got 10 leads from website contact form among which 3 converted into sales, you have got 5 leads from live chat among which 4 converted into sales, 11 leads from PPC campaign among which 2 converted into sales and 20 leads from social media campaign among which only 1 converted into a sale. Now, which is the channel that is working best for your business? Live chat, of course! Even though you have got only 5 leads from here, 4 of them converted into sales. This means, the leads you are capturing through your live chat application is of way better quality. On the other hand, your social media campaign may grab more eye-balls and generate more leads, but when it comes to conversion, the rate is very low.
In this scenario, focusing on the channels that are working for your business (in terms of lead capturing and conversion) and withdrawing effort from the least performing ones will not only save you a lot a money and effort but also will get you quality leads.
When lead quality improves, sales cycle speeds up quite automatically.
And the great thing is, you can track lead sources and conversion rates very quickly with your CRM system.
Long sales cycles are born when there is time lost between interactions. And when you are swapping four emails to schedule a meeting, time IS lost! Avoid this pit-fall by making it ridiculously easy to book a meeting. There are a number of meeting scheduler tools available today that you can use.
Putting a meeting scheduler link on your website can be of great use here. Your prospect doesn’t even have to write a mail to you, she can directly schedule a meeting and you can discuss her requirements in the said meeting in details. This approach speeds up the sales cycle a lot.
And when it comes to placing a meeting scheduler tool, don’t just limit yourself to the website, place it on your landing pages, email campaigns and even on social media. When it’s super easy to book a meeting, you’ll get to have more meetings and less email interactions; which in actually a great booster for your sales cycle.
Well, if a customer is going buy, she is going to buy! Absolutely right! But, if she is travelling across continents or is on a vacation, she cannot sign the contract and close the sale until she gets back. UNLESS, you make it super simple for her to sign the contract, from anywhere and everywhere. And this is just a simple task in this digital age.
Just think, what are the devices your prospect is likely to carry all the time? A tablet, a mobile phone or a laptop maybe! Make your contract documents accessible across all devices and ensure that you can take customers on-board with digital signatures.
This way, you customers can sign the contract from anywhere and everywhere; which in turn will speed up your sales cycle and unclog the sales funnel.