The Slows: Four Factors that Extend Your Sales Cycle

Business-to-business sales go through a natural sales cycle (and buying cycle). There are some factors that can compress the time it takes to move an opportunity from target to close, and some factors that can extend that time. A salesperson with an effective process and who knows what his company and his dream client expect of him can control these factors.

Unnaturally Long Sales Cycles

  1. Failure to Develop Dissatisfaction

    Your dream client opportunity is built on dissatisfaction. The gap between their present performance and what they need provides both the rationale and the motivation to move forward with you and your solution. The more dissatisfaction and the higher the cost, the more your sales cycle can be compressed—even if the cost is hard to quantify, like the emotional cost of dealing with problems.

    The opposite is also true; low-grade dissatisfaction can dramatically extend your sales cycle, causing it to take far longer to close than it would were there real dissatisfaction.

    Your role as a salesperson is the put a price on apathy and to build the dissatisfaction until it is a motivating force. Many of your dream clients will have lived for so long with a level of dissatisfaction that you could easily improve, that they will be unaware of how dissatisfied they should be.

    Failing to develop this dissatisfaction into something motivating will extend your sales cycle and give your opportunity the slows.

  2. Failure to Obtain Commitments

    Moving an opportunity through your pipeline is accomplished by linking together one commitment to the next commitment to the next. As long as you can link together commitments, your opportunity will progress very naturally and within the norms of your sales process and your dream client’s buying process.

    Failing to ask for and to obtain these commitments will unnaturally extend the sales cycle beyond what is necessary or effective.

    If you are going to need to schedule another appointment, or if you are going to need to acquire additional information, schedule it while you are sitting face-to-face with your dream client. There is no reason to leave an appointment only to have to try to later reach your dream client to schedule an appointment.

    Postponing these commitments means you lack an effective process, or that you don’t feel that you created enough value to have earned another commitment, or you are simply uncomfortable asking for commitments (maybe, you don’t want to sound like a salesperson?).

    Failing to move from commitment to commitment will most assuredly give your dream client opportunity a case of the slows.

  3. Failure to Stay In the Deal

    Professional salespeople manage their opportunities. They control the process. And they never take themselves out of their own deal.

    If you send price quotes instead of scheduling pricing review meetings, or if you email information instead of meeting with your dream client to review it, you cut yourself off from the possibility of influencing events and of being there for your dream client; you are taking yourself out of the deal.

    If what you send in email is interesting enough for them to look at, it is interesting in to have a meeting to discuss. If what you email them isn’t interesting enough to meet to discuss, then it isn’t worth their time and is a waste of both your time and your dream client’s time.

    Removing yourself from the deal and from the possibility of creating value will not only give your opportunity a case of the slows, it will probably stall it completely—and maybe forever.

  4. Failure to Obtain Access

    The complex business-to-business sale is likely a committee decision. There are, more than likely, lots of decision-makers and decision-influencers that you will need to successfully move your opportunity from target to close.

    Failing to collect these decision-makers and decision-influencers can bring your opportunity to a crawl. By leaving them out of your meetings and discussions, you leave your power sponsor contacts with the obligation of trying to go around later and collect the commitments that you need to move your opportunity. If they need additional decision-makers on your opportunity, you need to bring them in as early in the sales process as possible.

    Leaving key decision-makers or stakeholders out because you have failed to gain access to them early enough means that your opportunity is going to have to go through each stage of the process multiple times, for multiple different parties or groups. Sometimes this happens, but it is your job as a salesperson to try to keep all the pieces you need aligned as you move through your sales process.

    Failing to obtain access to the decision-makers will give your opportunity a case of the self-perpetuating slows that can extend over many, many sales cycles.

Questions

  1. How do you keep your opportunities progressing through your sales cycle? What causes your sales cycle to be extended longer than what is normal or ideal? What can you to do to compress the time it takes to move from target to close, without losing the ability to perform well one you win the opportunity?

  2. How do you develop your dream client’s dissatisfaction in a way that helps compress your sales cycle?

  3. What are the key commitments at each stage of your sales process that allow you to keep your opportunity on course? What are you asking your clients to commit to, and why do you sometimes fail to ask for and obtain those commitments? Why do you sometimes leave an appointment without another appointment?

  4. It feels like you are giving your dream client what they need to make a decision when you give them what they request. Why do you take yourself out of the deal and limit your influence and your ability to create value by simply providing pricing and information? Is that really selling, or is that something someone with far lesser sales abilities and skills could easily do as well as you do?

  5. How much time does it take to backtrack through a your sales process when key decision-makers and some of the authorities you need have been left out? Whose job is it to ensure that you have all of the people you need to obtain the information and the votes you need to move forward with your solution?

For more on increasing your sales effectiveness, subscribe to the RSS Feed for The Sales Blog and my Email Newsletter. Follow me on Twitter, connect to me on LinkedIn, or friend me on Facebook. If I can help you or your sales organization, check out my coaching and consulting firm, B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, email me, or call me at (614) 212-4729.

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