So you made it to the final round. It’s been six months of your team building relationships, proving your solutions, overcoming objections, and negotiating terms. If the deal falls through during this meeting with the CEO now, then that’s 180 days of wasted energy, time, and resources. You’re confident in your offer but one single word could kill the deal and that is a dreadful feeling. Sound familiar?
There’s no doubt about it, B2B sales cycles are painfully long. With the average cycle ranging from 3 to 9 months or longer, and a 20% close rate on sales qualified leads, it’s understandable that reducing the length of your B2B sales cycle and the time it takes to go from cold to sold is at the top priority.
If you are experiencing an above-average time frame in your sales cycle, then it’s easy to assume that your team is slacking leaving you with subpar results despite your efforts. But the problems may be deeper than the sales tactics alone.
So let’s go over the top 5 reasons your B2B sales cycle is too long and what you can do to fix it.
The problem: At first, a flood of leads can seem like hitting the jackpot. But if you look closer you realize that half those coins spilling out are really just chocolate coins disguised with pretty foil and hold no real value. Suddenly, sifting through the leads becomes a challenging and time-consuming task. And to top it all off you find that it’s nearly impossible for your team to follow up in the coveted 5-minute timeframe that will result in a higher conversion rate.
The solutions: Determine what you do and don’t want in a prospective customer by building an ideal client profile, then use those parameters in all your marketing and qualifying efforts. Anything from ads to lead magnet to website landing pages, surveys and everything in between speak specifically to your ideal clients while pushing away the ones that aren’t right for you.
It takes more time and is more expensive in the beginning, especially in paid advertising, but you can be creative with it. Figure out where your ideal customers are hanging out online, partner with influencers, and use helpful targeting tools such as custom and lookalike audiences to reduce cost and increase conversions.
The problem: Have you noticed that your prospects are expressing that they: 1) are confused about your offer, 2) not authorized to make a purchase decision, or 3) don’t have the necessary funds to move forward?
Out of the 61% of leads that are pushed through to the sales team, only 27% are actually sales qualified which results in up to 50% of a salesperson’s time being wasted each day.
The solution: Have your sales and marketing team work together to define clear qualifying factors that will signal a move from market qualified lead to sales qualified lead. Some criteria to consider would be:
It might seem like keeping your market qualified leads from moving forward would hurt conversion rates, but in reality, it is actually maximizing the time your sales team spends with those prospects that will more likely to become customers. This gives each salesperson more opportunities to exceed expectations, provide value, and alleviate fears. By providing a better buying experience for sales qualified leads you will notice quicker buying decisions along with a higher conversion rate and an increase in customer retention.
The problem: The all too familiar, “Let me get back to you.” Or how about, “Maybe after the end of the quarter.”Wishy-washy phrases like these used to avoid saying “no” are sales cycle killers. These responses give newbies false hope and salespeople and seasoned veterans an excuse to keep pushing the prospect. The result is a lot of wasted time chasing the wrong prospect.
The solutions: Though it’s painful to let a hard-earned lead go, it's important to move past those that aren’t your ideal client as fast as possible. The easiest way to do this is to give the prospect permission to say no upfront.
Try something like, “I want to talk about how we could solve (prospect’s problem) and determine if this would be a good fit for your company.” You could even be more direct and say something like, “We are going to go over (potential solution), but if at any time you realize this isn’t a good fit, I am okay with, “no.” Does that work for you? ”
Either approach takes away the awkwardness of rejection. Both parties understand that “no” is acceptable and pressure sales will not be necessary. The time of your sales team and the prospect is protected, and if it is a “no” it just opens the opportunity to go out and find the next client faster.
The problem: How often do you share your process plan with your prospects? People are naturally drawn to clarity and repelled by confusion. If your prospects are unsure about how long the discovery call will take, what the next steps will be, and the time it takes to implement the solutions, then the confusion alone will most likely send them running to your competitors.
The solution: Be transparent. Clarify the process and set expectations, but keep it simple. Ideally, you should have a three to five-step process plan to guide the prospect through the buying journey. You don’t have to lay out every single detail. Just let the prospect know the goal of each step, what you might need from them, and what they can expect to get at the end.
By outline the process plan you prove that you have a strategy already in place to help them succeed. The prospect no longer has to look anywhere else because you are the man or woman with a plan.
The problem: Where do your prospects seem to spend the majority of their time in your funnel? Are they stuck at the top trying to understand the root of their problem? Do they hang out in the middle weighing their options? Or do they hover at the bottom during the strategy sessions? A roadblock in the way of your prospect’s progression can add days, weeks, or even months to your sales cycle.
The solution: This might take a bit of research if you don’t closely monitor your sales cycle, but it is well worth the effort. Track and determine the average time each prospect spends in each part of the funnel. Start with the longest time frame, and set a goal for how much you want to shave off the average in that particular phase. Then you can analyze the process each salesperson uses and see what you can implement that will push prospects to the next phase to meet the desired goal.
It might be as simple as getting to “no” faster like we discussed above, or it might be a more advanced strategy requiring automation, like integrating a more sophisticated and segmented email drip campaign based on the prospect’s actions.
And then rinse and repeat because all know that it’s never one and done in the sales. Improving your sales cycle should not fall solely on your shoulders though. It’s a strategy that requires cooperation from all departments and team members involved.
We recommend scheduling a time every month or quarter for the marketing and sales team to go over the target audience, disqualification steps, relationship building, the process plan, and potential roadblocks in the way of progress for your prospects. You’ll be amazed at how many ideas can be generated in just one hour of collaboration.
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