A discussion was recently started in the SalesPractice.com sales training
forum titled, “How to shorten the sales cycle”. Here is a copy of the original post:
“For sake of discussion let’s say that… …the prospect trusts you, respects you and values the relationship. …you are working with a prospect who has the authority, budget, want and need for your product or service. …the prospect feels you have the most compelling value proposition. …both you and the prospect understand how your solution will help him/her reach his/her desired outcome. …the prospect has not voiced an objection. …the prospect has not yet decided to move forward with the sale. Given those assumptions what can you do that is in your control to shorten the sales cycle?”
One of the first participants to respond, Ace Coldiron, made the following observation:
“All of those things may be true. However, what is also apparent is that currently the prospect is working around all of that and will probably continue to do so until all the things behind the scene–not apparent to the seller– are in place or resolved TO THE POINT where a purchase can be made.
The salesperson cannot control those things. However it is possible to get through the door and lead them in management of the changes, decision making, and resolutions that have to take place in order to buy. This could be effective in shortening the buying cycle.
Unfortunately most salespeople would be predisposed to stay on the selling end thinking they could speed the process in that way. But the fact is they won’t speed the process.”
The original question asked what you could do that is in your control to shorten the Sales Cycle (Length of time from Initial Contact to Close). Since the Buying Cycle (The phases a person progresses through when making decisions aka Decision Process) directly affects the sales cycle the discussion had at least two avenues to travel… Buying Cycle and/or Sales Cycle.
Ace’s response delved into the deeper and often unfamiliar waters of the buying cycle namely Buying Facilitation™ (“…get through the door and lead them in management of the changes, decision making, and resolutions that have to take place in order to buy.”) which Sales (sales process) does not navigate. Many sales trainers use terms such as decision process, sales cycle, buying decision, etc. and mistakenly believe they are navigating the same waters that Ace mentioned but in reality they never left the waters of sales and you can’t get here (Buying Facilitation™) from there (Sales Process).
To be clear… the systematic application of effective sales processes is not being dismissed but instead being revealed as only part of the equation. Given the sales arena and selling situation, sales process and execution can only take you so far because at any given point in time only so many prospects are ready to buy. Of course, the more effective the process and execution the farther your reach outside of the immediate buyers zone however you are still confined to the inherent limitations of sales process which leaves a disturbing amount of potential business on the table.
Participation in this thread was fantastic and many suggestions were put forth but it became quickly apparent that there were two avenues to shortening the sales cycle being discussed in the thread.
1. How to shorten the sales cycle via sales process. 2. How to shorten the sales cycle via shortening the buying cycle.
How to shorten the sales cycle via sales process.
The majority of suggestions (ask for the sale, ask about the holdup, quantify the cost of inaction, sell the sizzle, associate prospects motivation with product/service, improve discovery and qualification, flush out the objection, confirming information, be more diligent, evaluate pain factor, credibility, re-establish timeline, get the prospect emotionally involved, etc.) in this thread fall into the category of sales process.
These suggestions ALL hold potential, when applicable, for affecting movement within the sales cycle ASSUMING that the prospective buyer has “recognized and managed all of their own internal systemic issues that need to take place before they’ll make a purchasing decision” (which is part and parcel of their “Buying Cycle”) yet are rendered ineffective in situations where the assumption is not true.
For whatever reasons and with few exceptions sales training, education and/or discussions operate from the premise that the prospective buyer has in fact recognized and managed those internal issues. That one (1) false assumption is responsible for an almost unbelievable volume of lost revenue and protracted sales cycles.
Sales people don’t typically see/look for it and sales process doesn’t manage it so what happens? Prospective buyers go away and try to figure it out on their own. At that juncture salespeople are advised to stay in contact with the prospective buyer until they figure it out or don’t and bail out.
How to shorten the sales cycle via shortening the buying cycle.
A shorter buying cycle results in a shorter sales cycle. As Ace pointed out, “…it is possible to get through the door and lead them in management of the changes, decision making, and resolutions that have to take place in order to buy. This could be effective in shortening the buying cycle.”
IMO, what’s often lacking yet required to understand this concept is an expanded perspective (can’t see the forest for the trees) which will be difficult to achieve unless you first empty your cup.
Learning how to facilitate the buying decision was not within the scope of the discussion although recognition/awareness of its impact is. Instruction/training in this new sales paradigm is available from Sharon Drew Morgen the foremost sales authority on the subject.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeff Blackwell is the Founder of SalesPractice.com and the Institute for Professional Selling
dedicated to providing sales professionals in all industries access to the latest in sales training and professional selling skills.