Estimating Your Sale Cycles


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As most know, I think a few of the mapping methods used in the process fields are somewhat ludicrous when applied to sales and marketing. One of my favorites, of course, is Value Stream Mapping. It is, one of the applications that I see people try and try again to use thinking it can be used in improving sales cycles days and even try to figure out ways to shorten the overall time period.

Related Blog Post: Value Stream Mapping should be left on the Shop Floor

The most common thought is looking at sales cycle time, and determining that we can shorten it by our manipulation. I accept the idea that we certainly can improve any effort by concentrating on it. However, those end of quarter offers or inducements to accelerate the prospects behaviors seem to be “gaming” the system or as Dr. Deming might call, “Tampering”.  We may venture to improve our own internal processes. Improve our quoting system,  for example, and provide quicker turnarounds for the prospect. However, does that really speed up the prospect’s decision?

I can contend that even assigning days to sales cycles is completely ludicrous. And if we are going to back off and just look at averages, how good do we really think that will help us? I would think the more proper way to evaluate and monitor sales cycles is to use the agile methods of estimation and user stories.

In Agile, we use a thing called user stories which are short descriptions of features customers would like to see in their software. I like to use a similar concept and create stories when engaging a prospect. If we want to think of it as a certain stage of the marketing cycle (not that I agree), we can. A stage would have several user stories developed that we think will or in the past work for other prospects. The user story would briefly describe the interaction of a prospect within this stage of the cycle. In Lean Terms, I would call it defining the “Gap” and how we can successfully engage with the customer.

Related blog Post: Kill the Sales and Marketing Funnel

When we look at a new prospect, we review our previous or our proposed user stories and estimate which story matches this prospect. These previous stories have criteria linked or attached to it that allows us to know what sales and marketing assets are needed and the best way to deliver the assets. Of course, this process could include a range of time, but I prefer not.  I prefer that we simply have a way to evaluate and monitor progress so that a successful or unsuccessful outcome could be determined. This could be something like in the weekly meeting we determine the most likely scenario or what next user card the prospect should be assigned.

Related Blog Post: Digging Deeper with User Stories

How defined the process depends on how well defined the user story is. I equate this to the approach where we use to have A-B-C clients for salespeople. The salespeople would be meeting with the As quite frequently, the Bs a little less and the Cs very infrequently. But this process, offer a better definition of the customer’s needs and a very granular approach to having the correct assets available. Instead of first thinking about our process and how we need to steer the customer down our path,  we now think about the customer and their situation. I think it also allows us to be much more predictive and challenges us to move through the process with customers.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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