10 Easy Ways to Lengthen Your Sales Cycle, Right Now! (Part II)


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In this second part (Part I is here), we look at the last 5 ways organizations effectively lengthen their sales cycles. I’ve adapted this from the book Predictable Revenue which discusses 9 ways to lengthen your sales cycle (and how to overcome it). I’ve interjected and mixed my ideas in with the authors in order to have a little fun.

Many reps are too afraid to have conversations with the appropriate level executive (say, an economic buyer); so they will tend to gravitate to (and waste time with) people at levels that are willing to have conversations with them. This comes from a fear of being asked tough questions that could derail a potential deal. What they don’t understand is that the deal is already derailed because they are talking to the wrong person. Some tactical ways to circumvent this problem would include:

  • Find out how much energy your reps are putting into mapping out the decision-making process in a prospect.
  • If they are not able to access the economic buyer, have they determined how they can assist a champion in selling this internally?
  • Use outbound selling and start a few levels above your targeted decision-maker (this book is all about the outbound selling process, BTW)
  • Allow your reps to role play with executives in your company.
  • Find ways to position your product that resonates at higher levels in the company. In other words, understand the jobs those levels are trying to get done and stop focusing on your features.

If you’re selling CRM technology, for example, selling into the IT department may be more comfortable. Selling into the sales department may also be more comfortable. But, they are all serving a higher purpose, so you’d better figure out what that is and find the right message and get it up the food chain. Hopefully, you can also fulfill your promises.

7 – Do Not Concern Yourself with the Buyers Process

This is a tricky one. Once a prospect has moved into your closing cycle after being fully qualified, you certainly need to understand the buying process; especially in larger, more complex organizations. However, if you’re organization is dialed into the awareness cycle you may find your initial point of entry is much higher, and earlier, than your competition (if they ever get an entry invitation at all). Having the economic buyer sold before you go through their corporate process can go a long way to greasing the skids. Regardless, respecting their process and not getting overly aggressive at the wrong time is key.

Of course, this is one of the biggest weaknesses in any marketing organization; I’m sorry to say.

Are you focused on your own metrics, or the outcomes your customer is seeking? I can guarantee you that the outcome they are seeking is not your product. They are not going to count how many units of your product they purchased and report that to their shareholders as a success in the face of more relevant negative metrics. Does your culture and system really care about the outcomes of your customers, or is it just lip-service? If your answer yes, I challenge you to locate at which point you determine these desired outcomes, how you position them, and whether you return to measure the inevitable success, or failure for your client. Do you hold yourself accountable? Probably not. Does your customer hold you accountable? Probably yes.

9 – Tell Them About Your Product, Don’t Show Them how to Achieve their Desired Outcomes

While the book’s premise is more about freemium offerings – letting people discover the value to them before purchase – that seems to be at odds with the outcomes focused point above. Products don’t solve problems, so whether you can offer a freemium service or not, be prepared to actually show them how you’ve solved similar problems for other companies, or show them how their unique situation and capabilities will be enabled by your offering; specifically.

10 – Never Disqualify Prospects – Focus on Funnel Volume over Quality

One thing I learned during my foray into the Sandler Selling system years ago is that sales people tend to have issues with rejection. They don’t like to hear no and they don’t like to stand firm on premium pricing. As a result, they take that step down the slippery slope of finding a “yes,” and it often comes in the form of a discount. It can also mean they’ve completely abandoned any hope of aligning their offering to a business outcome. If you don’t talk about outcomes and the associated value, your customer will focus on activities required, and cost.

Everyone in your organization should understand the various ideal customer profiles aligned to your offerings. One size does not fit all, and wasting time trying to make it fit is simply that, a waste of time (and money). Before you ever hand a prospect over to your closers, they should be fully vetted. What’s good for the salesperson, for instance, may not be good for the service organization. Here’s yet another argument for aligning measurement across the system and not within a silo. If you’re business model requires bundling of products and services to be profitable, make sure your customers will seek your services once the product is in place (and vice versa).

Make it easy to disqualify a prospect. Don’t leave it up to the variability of subjective decision making: you simply can’t manage that. It should be clear to all interested parties which criteria you will use to make the decision. Get the clutter out of your pipeline and maintain optimal flow of high quality, convertible opportunities that you can deliver on.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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