A slow sales cycle is kryptonite to good sales teams. It hinders accurate forecasting, hurts team morale, and slows growth.
That last point is especially important. In today’s highly competitive business environment, it’s the fastest-growing technology companies that end up dominating the market.
So, to be the best, you need to speed up your sales cycle.
Make the sales cycle dream work with teamwork
While star individual contributors will always make a huge impact, you have a sales team for a reason. Lean on them for insight, create a work environment they enjoy, and create channels through which they can help get deals progressing through the funnel.
1. Leverage team-based selling
Imagine you are working on a large, complex deal. To close it, you’ll have to not only prove your value but also get buy-in from the prospect’s social media, design, and account management departments.
No matter how good your rep is, that’s a lot to take on. Thankfully, your company likely has vast stores of knowledge just waiting to be unlocked, and tapping into those resources can turn a stalled deal into a happy customer.
2. Bring in the big guns
Some deals need an extra push from the C-suite to get the prospect to take that next step. Those executives best understand the nuances, trouble spots, potential hacks, and overall use cases of the product. Looping in a technical founder or VP-level exec can be especially useful for solving complex questions related to code implementation or APIs. This should be done sparingly, and only for bigger deals, but often there’s nothing that greases the wheels of a deal like a VP-level intervention.
3. Hire better sales reps
It might seem obvious that everyone wants to build the best team. But the importance of making good hires cannot be overstated. Bad hires can devastate a sales team. Employee churn costs you hundreds of thousand dollars when you factor in recruiting and training, it strains customer relationships, slowing down sales cycles in the process.
When hiring, look beyond whether or not the potential hire has a track record of hitting quota. A good product and a great team can often make a rep look better than they really are. Instead, focus on whether reps are coachable, composed, persistent, and self-motivated.
Above all focus on enthusiasm, passion, and culture-fit. While you want them to master your sales process, the successful reps are the ones who believe in your product, work well with their teammates, and are willing to run through a brick wall to keep the prospect happy.
Prevent a slow sales cycle before it starts
Bringing in better leads and quickly engaging with them increases your chances of a quick close. You’ll save time by focusing on the deal with the highest potential rather than chasing low-quality leads.
4. Qualify leads better
First off, you need to use modern lead scoring tools to determine which prospects and audience segments are the best fit for your business. This helps you determine where to spend your marketing dollars, helps you optimize retargeting opportunities, and reduces the chance that your reps waste precious time on a cold prospect.
And while it might be tempting to consider every inbound lead who filled out a form in the right way as a qualified prospect, that’s simply not the case. AE’s should still qualify inbound leads, and often it makes sense for them to re-ask questions the leads already answered on the form.
This might seem tedious and unnecessary, but it’s a small thing they can do at the start of a relationship to really make sure everyone is on the same page. If the lead really isn’t qualified, finding this out up front saves all parties so much time, and minimizes the opportunity cost of investing in a dead-end deal.
Finally, don’t be afraid to bring in different team members to help qualify, similar to how they can help you sell. For instance, someone on your tech team might be the best person to qualify prospects who are asking for complex software integrations.
5. Respond to leads faster
The average inbound lead reaches out to 3 to 5 organizations when they want to purchase a service, and 50% of buyers choose the vendor that responds to a request first. Despite that, a study of 433 companies showed that only 7% of companies respond to an inbound inquiry within five minutes. You can set yourself apart by touching base with inbound leads as fast as possible.
Interact strategically with prospects
While standardized sales processes are helpful, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to sales. Always aim to solve the prospect’s unique pain points, build relationships, and work within the customer’s buying framework.
6. Ask better questions
Ask questions early on in the discovery process that help you quickly drill into the customer’s needs. You might be surprised to find that the prospect is already familiar with your service and is ready to close faster than you thought.
Also, don’t shy away from talking about price during your first contact with a buyer, as most prospects want to talk about it on the first call.
7. Create urgency
Your prospects should always feel like they needed your solution yesterday. One way to create urgency is to ask probing questions about their current problems and the shortcomings of their current solution. Don’t be afraid to agitate, as long as you have a solution at the ready.
8. Offer strategic discounts
Reps, especially the less experienced ones, often want to offer a discount anytime a customer is on the fence. They think that if they sweeten the deal just a little bit they will be able to close.
Unfortunately, offering discounts in that way can become a crutch. Reps start cutting the price instead of deepening relationships, creating urgency, and solving pain points. This has the long term effect of creating lazier reps and hurting your margins.
On the other hand, we don’t live in a perfect world, and it’s better to close a deal with a sensible discount than to lose it altogether. That’s where strategic discounts come in. These are discounts that are offered based on specific, rigid criteria.
If you offer discounts strategically, you can ease the fears of those particularly price-sensitive prospects and close deals faster.
9. Get out of your communication comfort zone
Email is the dominant form of communication for sales teams, so it can be easy to fall into the habit of using email almost exclusively. But if a deal is stalling, there are plenty of other ways to connect with the buyer.
10. Provide a proof of concept
Some people dread offering paid trials, but they could be the only way to get the official yes. Don’t shy away from paid trials; instead, treat them as the ultimate proof that your product brings value.
Work smarter, not harder
Leverage modern tools, automations, and data analytics to keep your sales pipeline moving.
11. Slow down to speed up
Set aside time each week to analyze your sales data. It’s possible you’ll find that while you are collecting a lot of wonderful data, you don’t have a system in place to parse it and make it actionable. If you are swimming in data, consider taking the time to develop a team-wide, data-focused sales process.
This starts by identifying the KPI’s that are most important for your business and monitoring them religiously. Maybe you find that deals where there was a phone call before a demo close 50% faster than deals that go straight from an email to a demo. In that case, you’ll want to keep a close eye on how many phone calls your team is making, and you can create processes that support a higher volume of calls.
Ultimately, leadership needs to implement a data-driven culture, invest in quality data-collection technologies, and give your reps coaching on how to leverage data.
12. Automate your sales process
Many parts of the sales process can be automated, from prospect interactions to document management to reporting.
- Make sure to use a CRM that can automatically ping you when a deal needs attention and allows for the easy creation of templated emails.
- Use chatbots to qualify leads in a way that is low-lift for your team.
- Use a scheduling tool like Calendly to let people automatically put time on your calendar.
- Use a service like ChiliPiper to automatically assign inbound leads to the rep that has the highest chance of closing the deal.
The time you save by automating sales processes frees up your reps to find creative solutions that win tricky deals, thus speeding up the sales cycle.
Make your final steps as seamless as possible
We’ve all been there — a hot deal suddenly runs out of steam after you think the hard part of getting to the proposal stage is over. If that happens, it could be because your process for sending proposals and contracts is clunky and outdated. It’s time to do better.
13. Send better proposals (and send them faster)
The longer it takes to compile and send a compelling proposal, the longer your sales cycle. Speed things up by using proposal software that provides prebuilt proposal templates, can automatically pull in data from your CRM, and makes it simple to implement relevant content from your marketing team.
If you use a proposal software that incorporates quoting software with editable pricing templates, even better. That way you reduce the time wasted on negotiations.
14. Send better contracts
An antiquated process for sending and negotiating contracts can grind deals to a halt at the worst possible stage of the sales cycle. Use a service that can send contracts that allow for eSignatures, automatic notifications, and tracking via a dashboard.
Let the close happen naturally
Some reps get so eager to close deals that they try to jump ahead with a still-skeptical prospect. Alternatively, there are reps who refuse to let an exciting prospect skip steps in the sales process. This risks dampening their enthusiasm. Both approaches leave the door open for uncertainty on the part of the prospect.
But if you are methodical about how you approach the entire sales process, the close will happen quickly and naturally. Accumulate mini wins throughout the customer relationship, show value, loop in your teammates, work within the customer’s normal buying process and make it simple to sign the deal. Doing so will make the close more of a formality and less of a stand-alone event.