Thursday, March 17, 2011

 

Three best practices to shorten your sales cycle

Your prospects will always control how quickly they buy. You cannot artificially accelerate their path to conversion without creating undue friction or adding customers who aren’t committed and are more likely to churn at a high rate.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t accelerate the speed at which your prospects make a decision. You just need to focus on finding better prospects who know what they need and will make faster decisions. Here are three ways to do that.

Better qualify opportunities up front. Sales pipelines slow down not just because prospects aren’t ready, but also because the wrong prospects are being managed to begin with. If your prospect isn’t ready, or isn’t in your target group, move on. If they’re qualified but not ready to buy, put them on a nurture campaign and find the prospects who are actively in the market.

Salespeople who want to demonstrate large pipelines to their managers are notorious for working with prospects who are not qualified, not really interested, and aren’t going to buy. These prospects waste your time, keep you from spending more time with real opportunities, and artificially make your sales cycle metrics look bad.

Know what a truly qualified opportunity looks like. Create crisp definitions and enforce consistency across your sales team. Be disciplined about keeping good but not-ready-to-buy prospects out of the active opportunity pipeline.

Identify pain and create urgency early. Your prospect may have no idea what you’re selling and no idea why they need it. And if you pitch your product without context, I don’t blame them.

Before the demo, before the product summary, identify that there’s a clear and high-pain you’re able to address and solve. Your prospect may very well be able to articulate that pain clearly. They may alternatively have the pain, or be about to have that pain, and not realize it.

Your job, by asking a set of consultative and diagnostic questions, is to establish that pain. Establish, enumerate and/or create an urgency to fix a problem or address a situation that’s a high priority for the prospect. When you have this urgency established, you have a motivated buyer who 1) is ready to hear about the solution, and 2) is motivated to take action quickly.

Invest in the relationship before they’re active buyers. The vast majority of your prospective customers aren’t ready to buy. They may eventually, but not today. They have no place in your current opportunity pipeline, and they don't want to hear much from you right now anyway.

You want them to know what you do, know that you can provide value far before active selling begins, then stay in touch and build trust, credibility and preference until they are finally ready to buy.

Because when they eventually get that far, they won't be shopping. They won't be educating themselves from square one. They won't need as much time to build a relationship with you.

If you're already done much of that groundwork before the sales cycle begins, you're bound to not only increase your conversion rates but do it much, much faster than before.

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