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If You Don’t Shorten Your Sales Cycle, Your Competition Will

If You Don’t Shorten Your Sales Cycle, Your Competition Will
Everyone — from sales managers to sales reps — wants to shorten their sales cycle, although not everyone agrees on the best way to do it. Where there is no debate is about the fact that shortening the sales cycle is the best way for your team to improve performance, hit revenue goals, and keep the competition at bay.

What’s qualifies as a short sales cycle to one sales professional may be long and tortuous to another. Every industry, every product, every service, and every customer has a different buying journey.

How quickly you decide to buy a pair of sneakers is entirely different from how long you take to decide to buy a house. But, some general approaches hold true across all selling that can help your team shorten the sales cycle and close more deals faster.

1. Dive into your dashboard

If you want to change your team’s sales cycle, you first need to understand what’s happening at every stage of the funnel. Are there common stages where the buying process seems to stall? Maybe the customer lingers too long without taking action, or perhaps it’s the fault of your internal sales process or individual rep’s performance.

Looking at the data on your sales dashboard can help you identify patterns and, in turn, solutions. Does your team need more content at an early stage to help move the customer along? Is the qualification stage too long? Or maybe it’s too short, so they’re selling to someone who’s not ready to buy.

2. Communicate a clear and unique value proposition

If your sales team can’t clearly communicate why a customer should choose your company over the competition, customers are going to have a hard time making a decision, thus adding time to the sales cycle.

You need a well-articulated, easily understood, and simple message about how your product or service is the best—the only—solution to their business challenge.

You need to strike a balance between providing enough information to help the customer make a decision and overwhelming them. The more information they have to sift through to understand your solution and how it will benefit them, the longer it will take to get a yes, and the higher the risk that they can be distracted by the competition.

3. Disqualify sales leads sooner

At this stage of your career, you don’t need a lecture on the importance of qualifying leads. But what about disqualifying leads? It’s one thing to recognize that this lead is a good fit and worth pursuing, but what about knowing when it’s time to let a lead go?

The sooner your sale reps identify a lead is unlikely to buy in the immediate future, the sooner they can move on to one that’s hot and ready to get down to business.

It may be the customer doesn’t have the budget, they have no sense of urgency to make a decision, they have a happy and established relationship with the competition, or they simply don’t need what you’re selling.

Asking the right questions—thorough questions—and actively listening to the answers at the beginning of the sales cycle can save your reps time and disappointment in the long run.

Sales isn’t about jamming a square peg in a round hole. You need the perfect fit.

4. Offer deadline-driven incentives

One way to get customers to make a decision and agree to a deal sooner is to offer them a special incentive or bonus.

Maybe it’s an added feature that doesn’t come with their plan, customized training for their staff, or a shorter billing cycle; something that adds value for the customer without taking away from your profit margin.

The key, however, is to link it to a timeline.

I talked to my sales director, and I can get you on quarterly pricing, but I would need you to sign up to the plan by Thursday at 5 pm EST. After that, I can only offer you annual billing.”

“The regular deal is this, but I’ll throw in X, Y, and Z for the same price if you decide by [date/time].”

Give your salespeople tools they can use as incentives to close a deal, but make sure they pair it with a time constraint to make that deal happen faster.

5. Deal with the decision maker

If you want to shorten the sales cycle, then your sales team shouldn’t waste their time pitching to people who don’t have the authority to say yes.

You can meet with someone else from the prospect’s company who might be coordinating aspects of the buying process, but sooner than later, you need to sit down with the person who holds the buying power. That way you can confirm that your offer fits their need, that you can deliver results, and that they are open to making a deal.

It doesn’t matter how enthusiastic your immediate contact is about doing business with your company; if the real decision maker has no interest or urgency, this deal could linger in funnel purgatory for a long time.

6. Make it easy to say YES

Have you ever researched something you really wanted online - let’s say a blender to make fancy cocktails - and finally decided to buy it, but the ecommerce checkout process was so convoluted that you ended up abandoning the shopping cart instead of completing the purchase?

It’s not that you didn’t want the fancy blender (think of all those frothy drinks!), but it wasn’t worth the hassle of the process. You could probably find it somewhere else, and you likely did.

The same thing holds true for proposals. By the time your prospective client decides to say yes, make sure it’s dead simple for them to make the final approval. Any gaps of time or frustration in the approval process are opportunities for someone in the chain of command to change their mind, or for your competition to edge their way in.

First, make sure you have a strong and clear call-to-action (CTA) on your proposal so that your buyer knows what to do next. Proposals are much more effective—and likely to close—when there’s a clear CTA at the end showing them how to say yes.

Next, make the sign-off process easy. Salespeople used to have to email the proposal to the customer, then the customer had to print out the contract, get all the necessary signatures on that page, and then either scan the signed document and email it back, fax it in, or worse, they may decide to put it in the mail (gasp!). Every delay provides another opportunity for this deal to go cold.

The fastest process is for your client to be able to open your proposal, review it online, then sign-off right then and there using an electronic signature tool. It’s fast, it’s easy, and it’s legally binding. Based on our analysis of more than 20,000 proposals here at Proposify, online signatures help close deals 60% faster.

7. Use online proposal software

A huge culprit to a long sales cycle is often an inefficient proposal process. It takes too long for your sales reps to create a proposal, get it to their lead, and get it signed.

Online proposal software is designed to streamline your whole proposal process. From writing to design to sending and tracking, online proposal software unites all your separate tools and steps under one efficient roof. No more juggling Word docs, Google docs, InDesign files, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint slides.

Online proposal software offers ready-go-templates, a content library that organizes everything in one place, online views so your customers can view the proposal anytime, anywhere,  esignatures, and proposal metrics, so you know the status of the deal, and when to follow up.

The faster your sales team can get proposal to their leads, the faster they’ll close. It’s that simple.

One last tip: Book the next call at the end of each call

Dead time. If there’s one thing dragging on your sales cycle, it’s likely dead time. It’s that void when the sales rep and the prospect are waiting to set up the next call. The clock is ticking, but nothing is happening to move this deal forward.

By scheduling the next call before you finish the call you’re on, you’ll maintain momentum in the sales process, and get to that closing finish line faster. You can still allow time for your prospective customer to review materials, discuss your offer internally, and make a final decision, but setting up milestones for the next action to happen will keep everyone on track and avoid any derailments in the deal.

Remember, the longer your sales cycle, the more time for your competition to swoop in and steal your deal.

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