A well-developed, well-managed sales cycle is critical to the health of any business. It gives you clear visibility of what deals you have at each stage of the process – and where the holdups are.
A sales cycle can vary greatly among organisations, products and services, and no one sale will be exactly the same. Identifying key steps and stages, however, improves sales efficiency, helps salespeople sell more and speeds up the process of on-boarding new sales hires.
Variations considered, most sales cycles will have the following common elements: prospecting, contact initiation, need identification, the offering, managing objections, closing the sale, repeat sales – and collect referrals.
The shorter the process the better the company is financially because less cash is tied up in working capital to fund operations. The longer the sales time frame the more cash is needed to pay the bills.
According to Andy Bailey, CEO and head coach with business coaching firm Petra Coach, poor cash flow is the leading cause of failure for small- and medium-sized businesses. In a recent piece for BOSS Magazine, Bailey listed five tips to help salespeople close more clients faster.
Build a “dream list” of clients whose needs best match your product or service. Examine your current client list and identify common reasons as to why they chose you and not your competitors. Compare those attributes to the prospects you’re working. Sales reps will close faster when they have a clear profile of their dream client – and prospects will buy faster when their needs best match the seller’s profile.
Create a written plan for your sales cycle. There are two things you need to know when you’re planning any journey: where you are now and where you want to go. If you don’t have a written sales process, do it now. It will help your sales team stay on task as they work with prospects. While every sale is unique the process should be repeatable and scalable. In addition, writing down the process will help your sales team recognise and remove roadblocks that cause the cycle to lengthen, such as too many requests for modifications to the contract, product or scope of service.
Know the decision makers. It is virtually a given that more than one person at a company will be involved in the decision to purchase your product or service. Sales reps must understand the roles and motivations of all key individuals involved, anticipate their needs and provide meaningful information that will facilitate the prospect’s purchase.
Agree to a purchase timeline early in sales discussions. Every written sales cycle should outline timelines and milestones, including deadlines for product/service delivery and, where applicable, installation, implementation and client onboarding. Your reps should work closely with prospect decision-makers to build a timeline that all parties can agree to – and then stick to it as closely as possible.
Automate repetitive tasks. A top sales rep may spend several hours every week sending e-mails to prospects, following up on previous discussions, inputting data into a CRM, writing proposals or preparing presentations. That’s precious time they could spend establishing and strengthening relationships with prospects and closing on new clients. List all the key tasks your team does repeatedly and look for ways to automate those activities.
Streamlining your sales cycle will not only improve cash flow for the business, it will positively impact the overall financial health of your business. It’s never too late (or early) in the year to hit the pause button and look for ways to improve your team’s productivity.