How to speed up your sales process
How to speed up your sales process
A sales process is a little like a fingerprint. As much as you hunt, you’ll never find another company with an identical one.
Whether short, long or somewhere in between, there are always areas you can focus on to reduce the time prospects spend in the buying process.
We’ll get to those tactics shortly, but first, let’s examine some definitions and differences in the world of sales.
What is a sale process?
The sales process is the steps a sales agent takes to move a prospect from initial awareness through to becoming a customer. The sales cycle is essentially the same thing but focused on the average time taken to move each potential client through those steps.
From the customer’s perspective, the sales process is their journey with the brand. From a salesperson’s perspective, it is a roadmap: a repeatable series of actions that are optimised to achieve the best results.
Table of contents
- Sales pipeline, sales funnel, sales velocity…
- Short sales cycle vs long sales cycle
- What’s slowing down your sales cycle?
- How to speed up your sales cycle?
Sales pipeline, sales funnel, sales velocity…
While we’ve got the sales encyclopedia out, there are some other related terms that it might help to clarify.
Sales pipeline: a representation of the internal stages a prospect goes through to become a customer.
Sales funnel: a representation of the number of prospects who make it through the marketing and sales stages, diminishing at each stage.
Sales velocity: how quickly a prospect makes it through the sales pipeline.
Short sales cycle vs long sales cycle
Businesses with expensive, high-risk and high-impact solutions will typically experience a long sales cycle.
Their solutions represent a larger investment that will be considered by more stakeholders as they review potential ROI across many departments and processes.
Those with a shorter sales cycle, however, do not necessarily have it easy.
Deals can be lost in an instant if your eye comes off the ball, and the compressed timeframes make it harder to truly understand the pain points your potential customer needs solving.
Let’s define both the long sales process and the short sales process and consider their advantages and disadvantages
What is a long sales cycle?
A long sales cycle is a client acquisition process that takes an extensive amount of time to complete. The amount of time can easily extend to over a year but is affected by a number of factors.
- The complexity of your solution
- The price of your solution
- The number of decision-makers involved in the sale
- How well known your brand and solution is
- The quality of content about your solution available
The advantages and disadvantages of long sales processes
Long sales cycles will typically:
- Have a high payoff as they involve expensive items and big deals with larger companies
- Lead to long-term partnerships (rather than a one-time sale)
- Allow for a better understanding of the customer to emerge as the sale progresses
- Enable greater personalisation and tailoring of the solution
On the other hand, they will also usually:
- Require a heavy investment in time and resources to make the sale
- Involve more competition for each sale and more lengthy review process
- Be hard to map to selling stages as they move back and forth with each decision-maker
What is a short sales cycle?
The stages in the short sales cycle are much easier to plot – and there are usually significantly fewer of them.
Typically spanning between a month and three months, most will involve customers who understand what they want and are already familiar with your brand and solution.
The buyer’s research required for these sales can be easily digested online with minimal input required from a salesperson.
The advantages and disadvantages of short sales processes
- Short sales cycles allow you achieve a higher volume of sales
- Most salespeople find the continual stream of wins easier and more motivating
- Customers may prefer a shorter cycle as it can be seen to deliver results in a shorter time
- Being able to close deals quickly can minimise the risk of losing sales
However, it’s not all warm and fluffy:
- With a large volume of customers, it is hard to identify the warmest opportunities quickly enough
- Customers can feel rushed during a short sales cycle
- It is far too easy to misunderstand the precise pain points of customers with limited time to build a relationship
- This lack of relationship also pushes the onus to develop loyalty to after-sales contact
What’s slowing down your sales cycle?
The best way to answer this is to analyse each stage of your sales cycle and pinpoint the issues one by one. But to give you a place to start, we’ve identified the usual suspects below.
Taking your time
Time can sap the strength from your ability to close deals and create holes in your bottom line.
The longer it takes to seal a deal, the more time your competitors have to step in and the more opportunities you have to mess up.
From the moment an email is opened, sales reps should be “all stations go” to get the deal moving along the pipeline.
Longer sales cycles inevitably require more investment while delaying the realisation of revenue.
Overly complex processes
An overly formalised sales process can see your deals slow to a crawl rather than gliding quickly towards the finish line.
Review if there are places where you can introduce a more relaxed tender process to speed things up. For instance, would email and video chat help you shave time rather than face-to-face?
Sellers not focusing on selling
Are your sales team expected to additional tasks that prevent them from bringing in the business?
Develop a sales enablement strategy to help reduce the peripheral tasks. At Sopro, we know from first hand experience that giving prospecting to the experts allows our sales team to focus on what they do best: selling.
Research suggests that less than a quarter of a sales executive’s time is actually spent on selling. The rest is being diverted to activities such as:
- Unproductive prospecting to cold leads
- Creating or tracking down content
- Administrative tasks
A poorly defined sales process could be stifling achievement.
Problems here range from:
- Poorly defined roles in the sales cycle
- Poorly organised, or unnecessary, steps throughout the stages of the cycle
- Burdensome admin
- Limited insight
- Lack of timely insight
- Poor alignment with marketing
How to speed up your sales cycle?
How can you fix things?
Don’t worry, here’s the plan to speed up that sales cycle.
Locate the blockers
We’ve highlighted the usual suspects above but there are many factors that can elongate your cycle. You’ll need to start playing Sherlock to track down each one. The gut instinct of your sales team is usually a great place to start.
According to research carried out by the Aberdeen Group one defining feature of best-in-class companies is that they continually work together to align sales and marketing teams to redefine lead qualification as part of their strategy for accelerating the sales cycle.
Follow up with prospects
Top salespeople follow up with prospects at the right time, increasing the number of contacts entering the sales process.
Start lead scoring
Scoring leads is a great way to evaluate prospects and accelerate your sales process. The pipeline should be filled with prospects that align to yoru buyer personas – and clear of leads who are not ready to buy.
You don’t need to disregard the people who aren’t ready to buy – they may turn into customers one day. So create a separate list and let the marketing team get nurturing leads.
This speeds up the process by allowing the sales team to focus on well-qualified leads that are ready to buy now.
Review your sales pipeline
Regularly review contacts in the pipeline to identify prospects who have stopped at a stage for longer than you would expect. Then start investigating – they will likely need to be helped along or reclassified as a prospect for the future.
Monitor sales cycle metrics
Monitor the key sales metrics in order to optimise them:
- Number of qualified leads
- MQL to SQL conversion rate
- Average sales cycle length
- Customer acquisition costs
- Deal close rate
Appreciate prospect timescales
When talking to a prospect, it’s important to get a proper fix on their timescale. This allows you to create short, medium and long-term pipeline channels, meaning you can adapt processes and expectations for each one.
Your normal, active sales pipeline should only contain prospects who are likely to close within your normal sales cycle.
Automation of processes is one of the most effective way to speed up that cycle.
Start with your CRM.
- Are there repetitive tasks that can still be handled by your CRM but are handled manually at the moment?
- Is information easily accessible to teach and staff by being stored in the cloud?
Your CRM enables you to outline your sales process, reduce data entry, store and share sales information, manage contacts and connect to marketing automation software to track and communicate with leads.
Create a standardised sales process
Differnet approaches work for different sales reps. And every sale, every lead, is again different. But don’t make the mistake of thinking each rep should just do whatever they want.
You know that your target customers have needs and issues in common. So a framework designed around that – while allowing flexibility will help your sales team perform at their best.
Sopro is an award-winning prospecting service that starts sales conversations with your ideal customers. Get in touch today to see what we can do for your sales pipeline.