Shorten Your Sales Cycle, Step 2: Improve Your Sales Execution

Here’s the third post of four in this “Shorten Your Sales Cycle” series.

In my last post I talked about the first step in shortening your sales cycle:  Improve your lead qualification.  Today I’ll focus on the second area of improvement:  Executing your sales process.

(New to the concept of “sales process?”  These posts address why you should document your sales process and how to document a sales process.)

When you’re doing a great job of qualifying your prospects but your sales cycle keeps growing, your company can probably improve the way you execute your sales process.  You’ll notice one or more of these things happening:

  • Prospects are getting stuck at a specific stage
  • Prospects are moving through your pipeline at a very slow pace
  • Prospects have moved through the process but aren’t closing

To solve this problem, there are two key areas to evaluate:

  1. Your sales process itself: You’re probably not delivering the right information at the right time.  The sales process is a series of mini-sales.  If you deliver information too quickly, too slowly or at the wrong time, you won’t effectively overcome objections.  As a result, your prospects will move slowly, lose interest or get stuck in your pipeline.
  2. Selling skills: Your reps may need training to ask questions, overcome objections, build value and ask for the order.

How to Improve Your Sales Execution

Here are tips for addressing both areas.

Four ways to improve your sales process

  1. Match your sales process to the prospect’s needs.  The ideal process is a series of mini-sales.  There are natural questions and objections the prospect faces at each step.  Your mission is to efficiently guide prospects through these steps.  If you jump too fast and skip steps, the prospect won’t be ready to buy.  And if you have too many steps, you’re directly slowing the process.
  2. Make sure your literature, sales tools and website tie into and support each step.  Each piece should help reps to overcome the objections a prospect raises at that point in time.  Don’t overwhelm your prospects with everything at once – they need to scan, absorb and quickly evaluate.
  3. Take a hard look at your website and sales tools.  Do they truly address the key pains your prospects feel?  Do they deliver your key benefits in a powerful way?  Could you create more content that speaks specifically to different segments of your market?  Brainstorm about new ways to help your prospects experience the benefits you provide – it could be a demo, video, free trial, stronger testimonials, better case studies or more measurable proof that your solution is the one they should choose.
  4. Make sure your sales and marketing teams work closely together to deliver the strongest materials at the right time.  Marketers complain that sales reps don’t use their materials, so train the reps to make sure they understand the value.  Sales reps often think the marketing materials don’t convey the right messages, so make sure marketers understand the sales process and what objections your company needs to overcome.

Four ways to improve your selling skills

  1. Listen to your top reps.  Good reps can tell you exactly why sales cycles are growing and what you can do to fix it.   If they don’t know, then they aren’t asking enough questions to identify and overcome objections.  Time for sales training!
  2. Pay attention to the length of the sales cycle by rep.  If there’s a wide swing between reps, train the struggling reps. Have them sit with top reps and make sure they know how to ask for the order.
  3. Have your prospects commit to your sales process stages and timeframes upfront.  Like any good relationship, both parties should be working together.  This reinforces commitment throughout the process, and prospects know that if/when they reach the end, they’ll become a customer.
  4. Make sure your reps ask good questions, overcome objections, build value and gain buyin from your prospects along the way.  When the prospect says “yes, this is what I need,” it’s time to move to the next step.

By improving this “sales execution,” most companies will see meaningful improvement in their sales cycles.  But if you’re doing a great job with lead qualification and sales execution but still face lengthening sales cycles, you probably have a strategic problem – pricing, your product, your positioning or your brand.  I’ll write about that topic in my fourth & last article in this series.

Here are the first two posts in this series:

  1. How to shorten your sales cycle
  2. Step 1 – Improve your lead quality

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