Sep 11, 2023 • Podcast

How do I shorten the sales cycle?

Paul shares five ideas to accelerate your deals through the pipeline.

Show Notes

Do you know where your ultimate decision maker is? Verify that they will be involved in your meeting.

What departments will be affected by this decision? Make sure you are talking with the right people.

Clearly define to the customer the benefit of moving quickly on this deal. What will it cost them to wait?

Internal champions. Pressure points. Listen to find out how these will help you close that deal sooner.

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How do I shorten the sales cycle?

(Transcribed from podcast)

So earlier today I was on a quick, pre-event call with an entire sales team. And I’m going to be working with this group in just a couple of weeks. And one of the key challenges that came up in our conversation was the length of sales cycle—from the moment a prospect expresses interest and maybe even from when they give verbal commitment to actually closing the deal. In fact, this seller mentioned, she said, “You know, it’s frustrating when the customer says, ‘Yes, we are going to move forward,’ but then it takes another eight or nine months to actually get the commitment, to get the paperwork complete and all that.” And this is frustrating. I know salespeople everywhere experience this challenge. So, on today’s episode, I’m going to talk about how to accelerate your deals through your pipeline. How do you shorten that sales cycle?

Before we answer that question, though, just a reminder: pick up your copy of Value-Added Selling or Selling Through Tough Times. Again, both books are going to be extremely relevant in the next year. We’ve got rumors of a recession. I know many of my clients are starting to feel the pinch of a downturn, so now is the time to prepare. Value-Added Selling is going to help you protect margin. Selling Through Tough Times is going to equip you with the right skill to keep your deals moving forward. So these books are available wherever you get your books. Check out Amazon, Barnes & Noble, you name it, you can find it there.

So let’s get right into it. So the first step here is to just average out the typical sales cycle. Think about your past, I don’t know, 12, 15, maybe 20 deals that you have worked and go through and identify, okay, from the first meeting to the actual agreement being signed, the contract is inked, determine the length of the time. And granted, the larger the deal, the longer it’s going to take—the shorter the deal, the quicker, so on and so forth. So determine any other factors you need to, but you just want to get a baseline of what your average sales cycle will look like. That way, you know what you can expect.

So once you expect, okay, it’s going to take four to five months, you now have at least some idea, some sense of when you can close these deals from when you start. Once you identify the length of sales cycle, then you want focus on accelerating that deal through. You want to shorten that time cycle. You want to make sure that you are closing more deals faster and still maintaining your margin. I’m going to share five ideas to help you accelerate your deals through the pipeline.

So first things first—number one: make sure that you are meeting with the ultimate decision maker. I know this sounds obvious and straightforward, but salespeople get frustrated when the deals aren’t closing. Well, it’s because you’re not talking to all the right people. So early on in the sales process, you need to verify who that ultimate decision maker is, and you can do so without insulting the person that you’re meeting with. It’s a simple conversation. You ask the customer, “So in addition to yourself, who else will be involved in the process?” So you’re acknowledging that this individual is going to be involved, that they are pivotal throughout the process. But you need to figure out who else is going to be involved.

Now, another consideration, if you want to ask that same question a different way, ask your main contact, “Who else is going to be impacted by this decision,” and what that will tell you is, number one, if there are multiple departments involved, other facets of their business will be impacted. That means there’s going to be a higher level decision maker involved. So, you need to check that box. And if you’re not meeting with the ultimate decision maker, it’s going to take longer. So one of the easiest ways to shorten that cycle? Meet with the ultimate decision maker.

Now once you get to that point and you have met with the ultimate decision maker, you need to clearly define the impact of moving sooner rather than later on this deal. So if you’re meeting with a customer and they’ve expressed interest in moving forward, maybe they even gave you a verbal confirmation, yet they want to delay implementation or signing off on the deal, we need to be very clear as to what it’s costing them to wait on this. And so, I would pose this question if you’re getting pushback from your customer: “You know, Mr. Customer, we know that this is going to help your business in the long run. Have you considered what it’s costing to wait on this project?” And what you’re doing is you’re emphasizing what they stand to lose, what it’s costing them. And that pain, that cost, is oftentimes enough to propel them forward. So keep that in mind. Clearly define the benefits of moving sooner rather than later. You can often emphasize this by focusing on the cost of waiting. The cost of waiting is key.

Next tip. You’ve got to identify the pressure points. Whoever feels the most pressure in any customer/seller transaction is going to make the most concessions. Now, that typically relates to price, but it can also help establish urgency in the buyer’s process. And so, a pressure point could be, maybe they’re losing opportunities because they’re not implementing your solution. A pressure point working in your favor could be that they’re having several problems with their current supplier or provider. The more you can emphasize these pressure points, again, it’s going to establish urgency. Keep that in mind. In Value-Added Selling, we actually have an entire chapter dedicated to identifying pressure points. We call it customer-izing. So for those value-added sellers out there, pick up your book, go to that chapter in the book, it’s called Customer-izing, and we have a list, an extensive list of pressure points that you should look for. And when you are aware of those pressure points, remind the customer of them. That’s going to establish urgency.

Moving on. Next tip. Identify the internal champion. The internal champion is going to be an employee who works for your customer. This could be an engineer. It could be an operations manager. It could be just an operator. It’s any employee who is highly vested and interested in making this change. Maybe they’re the individual who reached out to you to begin with. But either way, this is a raving fan. This is going to be an internal champion who will help sell the solution inside the walls of their own organization. Consider the internal champion like your sales colleague, only they don’t work for your company, they work for the customer. These internal champions understand how decisions are made. They understand the political ramifications of decisions. They understand the bureaucracy within their organization, and they can feed you information. They can help you.

So, your goal is to identify these internal champions and make sure that you’re building a strong rapport and relationship with them. If you don’t have an internal champion, it’s going to take longer to close. Same as if you don’t identify pressure points—it’s going to take longer to close. If you don’t clearly define the benefits of moving sooner rather than later, it’s going to take longer to close. So make sure that we’re hitting all these boxes.

Now, this next technique, the final technique, is especially useful as you get closer and closer to getting that Yes—getting that verbal confirmation. If you’re struggling to get your customer to sign the deal, although they are ready to move forward, you need to have a barrier analysis. A barrier analysis is an open and honest conversation with your customer where you basically ask them, “Hey, what’s getting in the way of moving forward?”

Now, ideally, you want to have an internal champion that can help answer these questions because they can give you inside information—information that could make you aware of a barrier—then you can focus on removing that barrier. For example, let’s say you have a customer who says, “Yeah, we’re—. Man, we love the idea. We’re ready to move forward. We just need to wait for about six months.” Okay. And, they say, “Yeah, you know, the timing is just going to be better in six months.” So you’re not getting much information. Reach out to your internal champion and just ask them, “Hey, what’s getting in the way of making this happen right now? All I’m hearing is let’s wait six months on this.” That internal champion could shed some light on the root cause—what’s really happening. And maybe that means that the key decision maker is moving into a different department. Maybe that means that there’s budgetary constraints right now where it’s tough for them to make the financial commitment. Whatever it is, you now have a deep understanding of the true barrier in moving forward. And once you identify that barrier, your next focus can be removing it.

Well, that is how you shorten those sales cycles. Share this with a colleague who is struggling to get that deal through the finish line. And think of how you can incorporate ultimate decision makers earlier in the process. Think about how you clearly define the outcomes of moving forward sooner rather than later. Make sure you identify what those pressure points are. Again, in Value-Added Selling in the chapter on customer-izing, we have a clear list that you can use. And then finally, identify those internal champions and conduct a barrier analysis.

Make it a big day.

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