Are Shorter Sales Cycles a Wake-up Call for Marketers?


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Marketing Sherpa’s chart of the week shows the answer to this question.

Q. Please select the time period closest to the length of your organization’s entire sales cycle, from first lead inquiry to purchase.


In the commentary, Jen Doyle states that these results showing shorter sales cycles correlate to the lower deal prices Marketing Sherpa’s annual benchmark survey also discovered.

But I think there’s more at stake here than lower prices. Everyone has been talking about how much time buyers spend self-educating and researching prior to identifying themselves to vendors. Buyers have even said that they may not request contact with a vendor until they have selected their short lists. Some estimates gauge the time buyers spend outside of vendor-defined sales cycles to include up to or beyond half of the buying process for a B2B complex purchase.

So, could this chart actually be reflecting that the period of time that buyers spend with a vendor is shorter, but not truly reflect the length of the actual buy cycle? I think it’s very possible.

And, if so, then it validates the imperative for marketers to get their content found by the right audience, rather than waiting for them to enter their databases so they can nurture them formally. If your company’s ideas and expertise aren’t helping them decide how to solve the problem, then why would you think your company would make their short list when the time comes?

What do you think?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist and the CEO of her firm, Marketing Interactions, Inc. She helps B2B companies with complex sales create and use persona-driven content marketing strategies to turn prospects into buyers and convince customers to stay. Ardath is the author of Digital Relevance: Developing Marketing Content and Strategies that Drive Results and eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale. She's also an in-demand industry speaker.


  1. I can’t take credit for that insight–it came from one of my science professors in college. But it stuck with me, and it relates to sales cycles. I always ask, “compared to what?” The vendor’s own definition of a sales cycle sometimes changes so frequently, it’s hard to discover trends. That said, I emphatically agree with what you have recommended in your last paragraph.

    If the sales cycle is measured from ‘lead inquiry to purchase,’ it assumes those are events relatively static, or they are easy-to-determine milestones. But with outsourced lead generation, user communities, online forums, etc., what, exactly, constitutes ‘lead inquiry’? It can take so many forms today, that I’m not sure if the benchmarking considers or examines all the channels where ‘lead inquiry’ is performed–if it’s performed at all, in the traditional sense.

    To me, traditional lead inquiry occurs when the salesperson’s phone rings, or when he or she receives an email message from a buyer specifically asking for a follow-on step in the buying process. That happens, but it doesn’t happen that way all the time. And that doesn’t mean that inquiry isn’t occurring. It is, but there are so many channels for it, that measuring a milestone event for ‘inquiry’ today seems a tall order. So by inferring that sales cycles are getting shorter, we might be drawing conclusions that aren’t in fact accurate.

    The same for ‘purchase.’ While it seems somewhat easier to measure and control for that event, how do you account for opt-in/opt-out situations that occur in e-commerce and trial uses of software? (“Well, you didn’t say you were not going to buy our product!”), or transaction reporting inaccuracies if purchases were made predominantly through indirect or reseller channels?

    These situations create measurement vagaries that lead me to question the answers.

  2. I agree with you. I often find it interesting that surveys raise more questions than they answer. But your point about channels is a good one. And many companies have trouble attributing beyond simply using last touch prior to conversion which makes incorporating them that much more difficult.


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