Reaching out to leads within an hour of them contacting you makes you seven times likelier to have meaningful conversations.
There’s a tenfold decrease in your odds of making contact with a lead if you wait more than five minutes to reach out after they submit a web form.
Studies show that up to 50 percent of sales go to the vendor who responded first.
With sales statistics like that, no wonder sales reps feel faster is better when it comes to their sales process. There are quotas and deadlines and timetables and everything must happen quickly!
As a sales manager, you’re likely familiar with feeling as though your sales team must move at something approaching lightspeed just to keep up.
Buying sales time
Here’s the thing: buyers don’t care about your need for speed.
They aren’t interested in your sales process and how long it takes to complete. Leads are selfish that way, and for good reason.
They only see the problem they’re trying to solve and their own budget and timelines for doing so. The sales rep is there to help them in this quest by supplying a possible solution and educating them on the details of it.
If the lead is experiencing a pain point, wouldn’t they want to hurry up and fix it already? Why go slow? As sales managers know, today’s sales process is not just about getting to the close.
Your reps arrive at that point by nurturing relationships, building trust, and guiding and educating leads toward solutions. You can’t speed your way to a deal and expect any of these things to fall magically into place.
Sales reps need to stay in lockstep with buyers, taking the time to go over the details, educating and moving along at the speed set by the buyer. The buyer is the trigger for the sales rep’s actions, not the other way around.
The case for going slow
Why go slow at certain points of the sales process?
A slower sales pace can cause the client to put a higher value on your product or service. It’s then positioned not as a cheap thrill or a flash in the pan, but as a solid long-term solution.
Slowing down keeps buyers from becoming overwhelmed and checking out of the sale. Sales reps need to be sensitive to the fact that the selling process may seem simple and straightforward from their side of the deal, but it’s undoubtedly more complex for your buyer. Sales reps do this kind of thing every day; the buyer probably doesn’t.
Spending time on providing great customer experience creates more loyal customers. This, in turn, improves customer retention and satisfaction rates, both good indicators for increased profit, referrals, and repeat buys.
When to slow the sales roll
Sales reps still need to be proactive, productive, and efficient, but none of these mean ‘go as fast as you humanly can.’ Knowing when and where to take a bit more time during the sales process is important.
Here are some of the crucial points where speed can get the better of an unaware sales rep.
When qualifying leads
It can be tempting to sweep leads through the top section of the funnel with abandon. These leads came to our website, tradeshow booth, or webinar, so they’re all good leads. Let’s start selling!
A hasty, blanket approach to qualifying leads may be great for accelerating the process at the top of the sales funnel. If a lot of less-than-ideal leads make the cut, however, it can cause backlogs at subsequent stages. The longer a poorly-fitting lead stays in the sales funnel, the more time sales reps are spending on them, time that could be better spent on leads that might actually convert.
Quickly identifying a lead as a non-starter or a dead-end and moving on is vital to your team’s overall sales productivity.
When creating the relationship
This can be one of the most tempting stages to rush, but it’s just too important to short-change. Here, the sales rep is laying the foundation for the deal by exploring the buyer’s wants, needs, challenges, and goals; all essential information for closing.
When establishing a hopefully long-term relationship, building trust between the customer and sales rep takes time. There aren’t really any shortcuts. And the bigger and more complex the deal, the more time that will be required.
Relationship-building requires lots of questions and active listening on the sales rep’s part. No talking over or adding new information, just reiterating back what the customer said to show acknowledgement and understanding.
Building trust and relationships isn’t confined to one particular part of the sales process. Taking time to check back in and make sure the buyer’s requirements or ideal outcomes haven’t changed allows the sales rep to respond as the deal progresses.
When going into a demo or other presentation
Basically—don’t rush the pitch.
Scheduling a demo or presentation right away might seem like a sales process timesaver. Instead, it’s likely a waste of time for the sales rep to go into these situations before they get the lay of the land.
They might pitch to people who aren’t the decision-makers, highlight the wrong features or value-adds, or spend time and effort presenting to a company that is only ‘kicking tires’ and won’t become a customer.
When a sales rep has done their homework, a demo or other pitch can be a custom sales tool. The sales rep should know exactly who will be on the receiving end of the presentation, their role in the sales decision, and that the customer is a good fit overall.
The presenting sales rep can then tailor the demo to the buyer. For example, they can call out the buyer’s own identified challenges and show case studies where other customers have solved similar ones.
When the client has objections
Too expensive. We can do it cheaper in-house or with a competitor. No budget. I’m not authorized to make that decision. We’re too busy to make a change right now. I don’t see the ROI.
Sales reps have probably heard them all, in some form or another. When a buyer states an objection, though, what they are really saying is, “I’m concerned about this.” It’s the sales rep’s job to acknowledge the objection as valid, ask good questions, and hear them out.
Investigate where objections are stemming from and nip any misconceptions or assumptions in the bud.
Circle back to the value proposition when the buyer has a money-based or ROI objection. Figure out exactly who is able to sign off on a deal and loop them in. Explore whether it’s a blow-off or if they really are too busy to implement something new right now. When would be a better time to reconnect?
Tamp down any knee-jerk reactions, especially when a competing company is brought up. Reiterating the value and features of the product or service can swing the conversation back from a negative track.
No one likes to hear ‘no’ or ‘not right now’, but bouncing back constructively from rejection plays a huge role in sales reps’ success.
When setting and managing expectations
Setting expectations for the sales process is key. Sales reps need to know what a successful deal will look like in order to work toward it.
Key questions sales reps need to know the answers to include:
What are the ideal outcomes?
What actions can help secure these outcomes?
What does the timeline look like?
Does the buyer need a solution in place by a certain time?
What happens if a deal is not completed by then?
The sales rep then knows whether to speed up or maintain their pace based on the buyer’s requirements and timing.
Manage expectations for follow-up and response time. Sales reps should confirm with their leads the best way to communicate with them and when. They should also establish the usual turnaround time for a response, from both them and the buyer.
This helps ensure the process will fit within the timelines and keep the sales rep from becoming a nuisance. For example, the rep won’t need to follow up multiple times a day if they know ahead of time that it generally takes two full days for the lead to respond.
When the process veers toward ‘hard-sale mode’
Sales reps who feel a pull toward being pushy and aggressive are wise to quit it before it turns potential customers off.
Don’t create a sense of urgency just for urgency’s sake. Think about the old-school tactics used for as-seen-on-TV offers: Special offer! Only 100 units available! Act now, operators are standing by!
People can see through this type of coercion and, in a one-to-one sales environment, the carefully-built trusting relationship takes a hit.
That doesn’t mean timelines and deadlines aren’t important. Sales reps can still use these to their advantage in the sales process. Setting deadlines with buyers shows respect for the timelines involved and and that the rep doesn’t want to waste anyone’s time on a deal that’s continually postponed.
When the client is moving really fast
“Hey, can you just send me a proposal?”
When they hear that reply from leads, sales reps know how to pull a proposal together (and quickly, especially if they use proposal software like Proposify) and could probably fire off some information as requested.
However, if the rep hasn’t had a chance to learn more about the prospective customer, the proposal is not likely to make a huge impact and their valuable selling time is squandered.
Although a fast-moving client might seem like a stroke of luck, there can be downsides. For example, the client makes a snap decision without thinking about how they will implement the product or service they’re purchasing.
Maybe they then cut corners internally on training or other onboarding activities. They don’t end up using their purchase or don’t use it to its full potential, become frustrated with or indifferent to it, and eventually cancel or return it.
Getting the customer to slow down helps them to better understand the process and all the details upfront, making for an improved customer experience the whole way through.
Your sales process should be consistent and concise, but also flexible enough to allow sales reps to take the time they need to give their clients a great customer experience.
Finding a balance between speedy sales productivity and slowed-down sales nurturing means more deals won and more happy customers, and puts your sales team on the fast-track to more success.