How can we shorten the sales cycle?
I’ve been hearing some version of that question for the 30 years I’ve been in technology sales and marketing.
And the short answer is …
... you can shorten it by not making it longer.
(Also, it’s not a sales cycle – that’s your point of view. Instead, it’s a buyer’s journey – your customers’ point of view.)
The Original Sales Cycle
Let’s begin at the beginning. Early in the first wave of technology adoption by companies, you shortened the sales cycle by showing what the technology could do. Every salesperson wanted to do a demo, and every buyer wanted to see one. It was new, and you needed to see the magic to believe it. Demos took a long time – to set up the meeting, to do the demo, to explain the features – but it was shorter than the alternative, which was letting the customer “play” with the technology and figure it out themselves.
After a while, we got used to the PC and the network it connected to. We had a frame of reference, and as salespeople, we could shorten the cycle by telling our customers what it could do, referencing what they already knew. The customer had an anchor reference we could compare to, and if we did that well, we could shorten their buying time. As a sales rep, you often still did a demo, but if you did it well, you only showed the new stuff or the stuff that really mattered.
Losing Control of the Sales Cycle When Buyers Got Smarter
Then our buyers got smarter. They came to understand the magic that allows technology to get smaller, smarter, and less expensive all at the same time. They accepted that computers get old and tired and must be replaced. They understood that software will always have bugs. And they were overwhelmed with products that all seem to do the same thing.
So, to speed the sales cycle, we gave our prospects information. Lots of information, published online, and the buyers shared information with each other in forums and reviews. Two things happened. One – the power in the sales cycle shifted to the buyer. They didn’t need the sales rep anymore. And two – in many cases the sales cycle seemed to get LONGER because of the paradox of choice.
Trying to Regain Control of the Sales Cycle
Today, to regain control of the sales cycle and attempt to shorten that buyer’s journey, we put up paywalls (forms) and ask our prospects to jump through lots of steps to buy. In one example, we saw a company that makes a prospect:
- fill out a form
- download the information
- fill out another form with more qualifying information
- talk to a call center rep
- talk to a sales rep
- meet with the sales rep in person
… all before they can purchase.
Control the Sales Cycle or Sell More?
This isn’t shortening the sales cycle, it’s regaining control of it. But that wasn’t the problem they were trying to solve. The question we asked was simply: “Do you want to control the sales cycle or do you want to sell more?”
So, Ms. VP of Sales and Mr. VP of Marketing – do you want to get control or sell more? If the answer is ‘sell more,’ get rid of the steps. Collapse the process. We’re not suggesting you get rid of forms and paywalls for your truly valuable assets, we’re suggesting you find more streamlined ways to engage.
It doesn’t have to be a form-email-call center-sales rep interaction. There’s chat. There’s Facebook messenger. There’s text messaging. You can be smarter about understanding your customer’s actual buying journey and giving them the right information at the right time instead of everything all the time, which overwhelms them.
If you’d like someone to bounce ideas around with or get some help from, reach out to us. You don’t have to fill out a form – a simple email or call will do. Or, if you prefer Facebook messenger, you can find me at facebook.com/DFKraus.