Shorten Your Sales Cycle, Step 3: The Big Picture

sales cycleHere’s the fourth and final post in our “shorten your sales cycle” series.  In the first article we provided a general intro to the problem of growing sales cycles and identified three things you can do to solve the problem.  Step one is to improve your lead quality.  Step two is to improve your sales execution.

Now we’ve reached step three.  You’ve done a great job of pre-qualifying your leads.  Sales and marketing are working together to execute an efficient sales process, guiding your prospects with the right information and materials at the right time.

The Big Picture – The High Level Approach to Shorten Your Sales Cycle

If your sales cycles are still growing, it’s time to take a step back and look at the big picture.  You might have a great campaign generating highly qualified leads for terrific sales reps, but if your product, value and price aren’t properly aligned, you’ll negotiate endlessly or lose deals to competitors.

Prospects rarely tell you the real reason they don’t buy.  They may say “we decided to go with another company” or “we’ve decided to wait until next fiscal year” or “we’ve tabled this issue for now.”  But there’s a deeper underlying reason they chose another company or decided not to move forward.

They don’t see enough value in what you’re offering.

  • They don’t feel your solution is the right one.  There may be a better solution out there, or maybe a competitor has just done a better job of illustrating and proving value.  Perhaps a competitor has built more trust or has gained commitment through a short-term offer, a trial, a demo, a short project, convincing case studies and testimonials, or another method.
  • They feel no urgency because the pain is minor.  Sure, your product or service may help, but perhaps your solution just isn’t important enough to warrant a commitment right now.
  • Your value proposition doesn’t resonate.  Perhaps your positioning, branding and messaging don’t focus on the key reasons the prospect buys.
  • You haven’t differentiated enough.  What is it that truly makes your solution better, unique, and necessary?  Do these messages ring loud and clear?  Because without this differentiation, you’re competing on price.
  • You know you’re competing on price and you’re not the low price leader.

How can you find the real reason prospects are taking so long or failing to convert?  Ask!

Have a neutral person call and talk with your prospects.  Or take a more formal approach with a robust survey.  Either way, you should get to the bottom of the issue so you can resolve it.  After all, if you’re having trouble closing deals, there are storm clouds over your entire business strategy.

Whether you use a trained interviewer, a research firm and/or a survey, consider approaching prospects who didn’t buy and those who did buy but after a prolonged period.  Here are some key questions to ask.

  • What did you decide to do – did you choose a competitor?  Table the issue?  Solve it in-house?
  • Ultimately what were the three most important factors in your decision?
  • What could we have done to gain your business?
  • How is your life any different now that you’ve made this decision?
  • Is there anything we could have done to help you make your decision more quickly than you did?  For example, is there anything we could have shown you?
  • If our product/service was priced higher than it is now, what difference would that have made?
  • If it was lower than it is now, would that have made a difference?  At what price point would you have bought from us?
  • If you were in our shoes, what would you do to win an account like yours?

Through this research, you’re addressing the real reasons that prospects don’t buy:  your value proposition, brand and pricing.  And these strategic issues drive your entire business forward or lead you to tough times.

The good news: By measuring the length of your sales cycle, you can identify and resolve these issues more quickly and effectively than you could otherwise.

Your sales process is something that all of your sales, marketing and management teams should care about and improve on a continual basis.  It’s an essential element in your strategic marketing process and a great example of how all of your strategies and tactics tie together to drive your success!

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