10 ways to Shorten your Sales Cycle

Let’s face it. No one likes a long sales cycle. The longer your sales cycle, the longer it will take you to earn your commission.

I’ve had sales cycles that have lasted anywhere from one week to two years. Sure, sometimes a high-priced item will take longer to sell. That’s a given. But don’t let your prospect treat you like a wimp. Sometimes you need to use a little tough love to ensure that you are not wasting your time. You’re a professional. Act like one.

So, how can you shorten your sales cycle?

1). Decision Maker – make sure you are speaking to the right person at the beginning of your sales cycle. Yes, some prospects will lie and tell you that they are the decision maker. OK. Play along. But start doing some research on LinkedIn or the company’s website to make sure that you are talking to a heavy hitter and not a summer intern.

herding prospects in salesOne good way of avoiding the “decision maker lie trap” is to ask about the decision-making process. Note, I said process, not who is the decision maker. By asking about the process, hopefully your prospect will not lie to you and string you along. Instead, he will explain how his company makes purchasing decisions.  More companies than ever have more than one decision maker, especially if you are dealing with a mid-to-large company. Just like herding cattle, you have to be patient and rope in all the decision makers.

2). Time Line – it doesn’t hurt to ask upfront what your prospect’s timeline is for making a purchasing decision. If they tell you within the few months, hold them to it. If they tell you in 6 months or longer, maybe you should circle back when they have a budget and interest in making a purchasing decision.

3). Pain Points – why now? Is there any urgency in them buying your product or service? What type of problems are they having that you feel you can solve for them? But just don’t ask about pain points – make sure you have a solution that will help them. Clients don’t buy products or services – they buy solutions. Make sure you have one that they can use.

4). Budget – do they have budget to make a purchasing decision? If not, maybe you should check back when they are ready. Sure, you may do a short demo or presentation of what you are selling to gauge their interest, but don’t devote too much time until they are in a better financial situation.

5). Competition – don’t be shy. Ask upfront if they are considering other vendors. Sometimes prospects will surprise you and honestly tell you that they have already considered others, but now they are considering you. That’s great. Ask why they didn’t consider the other vendors to ensure your service or product will meet their expectations. This will put you in a better position to offer real value to your client.

6). Limit Trials – depending on what you are selling, some prospects will want to do more than one trial. That’s OK, but don’t let them string you along.

Salesperson making a phone call, closing7). Firm Scheduled Call-backs – try to set hard scheduled call-backs or follow-up calls. The more specific the day and time of your next appointment, the better chance your prospect is really interested in what you have to offer. Send a calendar invite. Send a short email the day before reminding them of the appointment. Try to hold them to it. If a prospect isn’t willing to schedule firm appointments, maybe he’s not serious. The last thing you want to do is make endless phone calls, or leave countless voicemails and a stream of emails.

8). Ask pre-close questions – along the way, try to measure the client’s interest and determine if there are any objections. The sooner you overcome objections, the  better chance you have to close quickly.

9). Call High – stop wasting time calling low or mid-level managers who don’t like making decisions or who may not be the right people to speak to. Call the CEO or the president. You will be surprised that sometimes he will recommend the best person to speak to in his company. So when you call the real decision maker, you can drop the CEO’s name, and hopefully move the sales process a lot faster.

10). Use various cold calling techniques – making phone calls isn’t enough anymore. Use a combination of email, voicemail and social media (e.g., Twitter, LinkedIn) to move your sales process along.

To learn more about shortening your sales cycle, please read Lean Selling: Slash Your Sales Cycle and Drive Profitable, Predictable Revenue Growth by Giving Buyers What They Really Want, by Robert J. Pryor. 

Mr. Pryor’s main argument is that selling is a process, and to be more successful, you need to adopt his best practices and advice to achieve your goals. But he cautions that you can’t do it alone – your entire sales department – indeed your company, must adopt his program.

CRMs, 3 common mistakes, Part 2

In part 1, I gave a brief background about CRMs (Customer Relationship Management). In this post, I will discuss the three common mistakes that you need to avoid when using a CRM.  These include taking no or little notes, falling behind on your call backs and not maintaining good contact information.

1). Failing to take good notes: If you are dealing with a lot of customers and prospects, it’s difficult to remember each person, every conversation, and every order that you have entered. While you may think that taking good notes is a waste of time, believe me, in the long run it will save you a lot of time. Also, if you are absent one day, and one of your co-workers receives a call from your customer, you want him to have accurate information to draw from to help your client. Nothing sounds more unprofessional than a sales person fumbling around trying to figure out what your customer needs.

Many sales departments have developed a “hit by the bus” philosophy when it comes to note taking. What if you get hit by the bus tomorrow, will someone be able to understand the needs of your customer when he inherits your accounts.

Sometimes sales people just don’t get the message. I heard of a sales rep who worked at one of my old employers who actually was fired for not entering notes into the database. He was warned repeatedly, but refused to listen.

taking notes while on a sales callI generally take good notes. I’m not just entering basic information, like which order did the client place, or what products he may be interested in purchasing later. I try to take more personalized notes about the client’s family, favorite hobbies, recent or upcoming vacations, etc. I will also take note of the customer’s tone during my conversations with him. Is he angry, anxious or happy? You are not a telemarketer. You are salesperson. Your goal is to develop a long-term relationship with your customers. The best way to do that is to have personalized conversations based on good note taking.

2). Falling behind on your call backs: The second biggest mistake sales people make is falling behind on their sales call backs. I know of situations where sales people would have weeks – if not months – of call backs entered in their calendar, because they don’t follow through on making their call backs or have unrealistic expectations of their time. Don’t do this. Keep up. Depending on the CRM you are using, you may want to rank your call-backs from the highest to the lowest priority. Your highest priority call-backs are clients who are about ready to place an order, or finalize a contract, or trialing your service, as well as qualified inbound leads. Your lowest priority calls should be courtesy calls to see how your clients are doing, or prospects that are on the fence about your product.

3). Not entering good contact information: And finally, the third biggest mistake people make is not providing or updating good contact information. It may sound like common sense, but many don’t include the full names, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, titles and other critical information that makes your job a lot easier.

A CRM is a tool. It is only has good as you use it. Use CRMs wisely, could save you money and time down the road.

In part 3 of this post, I will discuss the problems of CRM conversions.