4 Ways to Shorten Your Sales Cycle

Your sales cycle is longer than you'd like; you wait weeks and months for customers to make that crucial decision to buy. Meanwhile, your company's sales team is skillfully executing their work, making great presentations, getting to know prospects and their particular problems, negotiating customized solutions and moving toward that all-important close. So what can your middle market company do as the weeks and months roll by and customers don't buy?

Two businesspeople in suits shake hands.

Here are four suggestions for shortening your sales cycle:

1. Use CRM Technology

To keep your sales force on the same page, have them share vital customer information through a good customer relationship management (CRM) system. CRM software will help standardize your sales cycle, and it's a prerequisite for efficient selling. It provides everyone on your sales team with easily accessible and complete information, thus eliminating redundancy in customer communication. Using CRM, your salespeople can fully prepare for every customer interaction and help move the sales process through every step until closing.

2. Standardize Sales Technology

You should also make sure all your salespeople mean the same thing when they talk about the sales process. Clarity in internal terminology and processes is essential; it allows for the sales team to act as one. If, for example, two sales managers define "qualified lead" differently, then they'll confuse the entire team and their customers — and confusion is a sales-cycle extender and a deal killer. Work from one sales playbook and one terminology set. Middle market companies have an advantage here over larger rivals, who are sometimes too bulky to have effective internal communication.

3. Focus on Good Leads and Eliminate Time-Wasting Prospects

As anyone in sales knows, not all leads are created equal. Have a strict process to eliminate bad leads so you can focus on good ones. Instead of expending energy on qualifying opportunities that may go nowhere, focus more time and energy on likely buyers.

On a related note, consider starting higher up in the prospect's decision-making process when having your leads make a buying decision. If you go to relevant executives first, two positive things could happen. First, the decision-maker will then know about the buying opportunity and can give it higher priority, even if that person kicks it downstairs to managers for negotiation. Second, he or she could say no quickly, citing a lack of need. This saves you valuable time that you can use to focus on better leads.

4. Find and Solve Prospects' Problems

You have to make the prospect's decision to buy an easy one. This means you have a consulting job to do: Find a real problem the prospect has, explain the cost of maintaining the status quo with that problem, offer a viable solution and explain the added value your solution offers. In other words, you must prepackage the whole sale and not assume that the buyer will do this for you. The prospect's inertia may be the top reason the sales cycle is so slow, and you must overcome it by doing the legwork for them. Making it easy for buyers to say yes may be the single best way to shorten your middle market company's sales cycles.

Addressing pain points is a basic sales tactic, but it also requires a lot of footwork. How does your company discover prospects' troubles? Do you have any top research tips? Tell us by commenting below.

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is an NCMM contributor and a freelance reporter who contributes regularly to The Boston Globe and Harvard Gazette. He also trains Fortune 500 executives in business-communication skills as an instructor for EF Education. Circle him on Google+ and visit his website.


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