Long sales cycles are a widely known problem among sales teams of all sizes.
Longer sales cycles will mean you have fewer leads engaged per unit time. Hence lesser time you use to engage high priority customers. It would result in slow and painful growth and increasing lead churn.
However, you can fix all of that – by shortening your sales cycle. A shorter sales cycle will help you close faster and close more.
So if you’re facing this issue, you might have a million dollar question: how do you optimize for a short sales cycle?
Don’t worry, you have come to the right place.
We’ve laid out the best steps below that will help you make individual stages of your sales cycle more efficient. Your leads will make it to the end quicker and as a result, close earlier and thereby speed up your sales cycle.
The effective ways to speed up your sales cycle
Here are the 13 tweaks and optimizations you can make to your current sales process to speed up your sales cycle in an effective way:
1) Generate more leads from best performing channels
Your leads are likely coming in from multiple channels you’ve set up. It could be your product landing page, CTAs on blogs, social media, marketing emails, etc. Find the channel generating leads that convert the quickest and scale it.
For example, label all your closed deals with the channel they originated from, and then sort by no. of days it took to close each lead.
Once you pick this channel and start generating more leads, prioritize these over other leads in your pipeline. Since these are probably the best-converting leads, prioritizing them will yield more closes in less time. It will effectively shorten the sales cycle.
It’s important to realize that the same channel might not keep giving you the quickest closing leads. Over time, good leads might start pouring in from other channels, so it’s essential to keep track of all your lead generation channels. This way, you won’t over-invest and grow reliant on any one channel.
2) Have a tightly defined sales process
Often, sales operations aren’t running with robust processes in place. It gives way to obstacles when faced with edge cases through stages of the sales cycle.
A tightly defined process takes these obstacles into consideration. This way, you can react quickly to save time and anxiety. The study of Cappco Partners, found that 92% of Salespeople who follow processes achieve their quotas.
Let’s assume your team just got connected to the decision maker (through a lead) who wouldn’t respond. What do you do in such cases? Who do you follow up with, in what order, in how many days?
Having your team know who to follow up, how much time to wait, how to communicate, etc., is essential. It will save lots of time and speed up your sales cycle. Once the entire Sales process is defined, it will help you scale your operations and forecast results.
We recommend you refer to SalesHandy’s blog on the Beginners Guide To Sales Cycle.
3) Benchmark your cycle times
Once you do have a reliable sales process in place, start measuring the average time it takes to get from prospecting to closing a lead. Keeping track of this metric will help you to draw a baseline on your performance. From here onwards, you can now keep improving on this baseline metric and set new benchmarks for your team to hit.
As Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”.
When you measure things, they tend to improve. It helps you stay conscious about your targets and helps you build processes around them.
You can go a bit further and measure the average time taken for each stage to complete. It will help you find the stages where your leads spend the most time. You can also optimize longer individual stages and reduce the average. This will impact the overall length of your sales cycle.
4) Stop feeding unqualified leads into your pipeline
You might be feeding unqualified, low intent leads to your sales pipeline.
A direct consequence of this is that you’ll realize they aren’t qualified later on. It would mean having lost time and other essential resources and opportunity. While this might not necessarily be a bad practice, it does slow your sales cycle down by having more leads dropping off in forthcoming stages.
To mitigate this, add more qualifying factors to your qualification process. Have stricter rules, which will help you avoid loosely qualified leads. Have your SDRs pre-qualify leads based on these rules, and only then pass them on to Account Executives.
Read this blog to Dive Deeper into Sales Qualification
5) Prioritize easy to close leads
If you have a lot of leads in your pipeline you’re engaging with simultaneously, prioritize the ones with the intent to close the earliest.
You can do this by asking leads while connecting, how soon they’re looking to close the deal. It is a common practice to ask similar timeline related questions and they also naturally lead to other questions regarding the lead’s requirements.
When you prioritize such leads, you’re likely to get more close per unit time. This in turn helps you shrink your sales cycle.
6) Decrease turnaround time for responses
When you’re connecting with leads that are in a different time zone, they might take their time and respond much later than you intended. Same will be true vice-versa, and this isn’t necessarily a terrible thing. Although what would help is setting Turnaround times to responses you’re supposed to send. It would mean responding to an engagement under a set amount of time, resulting in speedy and swift engagements.
Setting TATs on your sales engagement improves on your customer experience, lends trust and enables both parties to engage swiftly. It helps you further fasten the process and speed up the sales cycle.
7) Automate outreach and track responses
If you have a sales pipeline with hundreds of leads, it gets challenging to keep engaging with each of them manually. You’re likely to miss responding and following up which could be detrimental to your closing rate.
By automating outreach with mail merge email campaign tools, you can make sure to follow up with leads that are yet to respond. It will help you keep the conversation going and prevent the lead from being unattended while guiding them further into the sales cycle.
With email tracking, you can keep track of your email opens with timestamps to make sure you’re notified when leads open your emails. It will help you be more proactive, plan the next steps of the engagement and complete the cycle quicker.
You might come across prospects that might get stuck in a particular stage of a sales cycle. Similarly, you’ll have leads on your website who’re hesitating to sign up. It can happen when leads are not sure about your product bringing in results.
Here, social proof can help you establish legitimacy and authority to remove such doubts for your leads.
Social proof is presented in the form of case studies and testimonials from renowned brands who’ve benefited from your product. Seeing a well-known brand, having used your product becomes a good indicator of the product being valid. It will build trust among your customers and help you move them through your cycle quicker.
9) Clear common objections early on
A lead can drop out of the pipeline later into the sales cycle after you’ve encountered an objection midway. These objections are often uncalled for in later stages. So it’s a good idea to have them cleared early on.
You can do this by asking questions related to common objections you’ve faced, earlier in the cycle.
For some context, these could be questions like:
- “Are you positively looking for a solution to purchase.”
- “Implementation and set up is an extra payable component, is that okay with you.”
- “Are you okay with signing an exclusivity clause?”
- “Are the upfront payment terms okay with you?”
- “Is it okay to publicize the deal close?”
- “We would need X hours of help from your engineering team”
The key here is to find potentially deal-breaking terms for your leads and help negotiate them earlier. As a result, leads who’re not willing to comply with specific deal terms might drop off earlier. Others might get through the deal quicker not having to spend as much time in diligence.
Both ways, you end up saving time and speeding up your sales cycle.
10) Involve marketing team in nurturing leads
Similar to automating your outreach and tracking, having your marketing team help you with sales engagement will ensure your leads are nurturing well. Marketing teams mostly get involved while setting up inbound funnels and lead generation channels for your sales operations.
On the engagement side, your marketing team can help you with visibility through content marketing and web ads on platforms outside email. Visibility plays a vital role; as per Forrester, 74% of buyers conduct their research online.
Marketing teams can also help in sourcing and creating social proof for your product in various forms. This social proof helps with engaging leads mid-cycle. It enables you to focus more on building engagement with your prospects. You can then spend more time to understand their business, removing the scope for uncertainties and getting to close quicker.
11) Get introduced to the decision maker earlier
One of the reasons behind a deal taking long to close could be that you weren’t introduced to the decision-maker earlier.
Sometimes, you might misunderstand that your lead is the decision-maker when they might not be one. Decision-makers are individuals within your target organization that hold the budget to make a purchase.
Decision-makers often might not directly engage with you for the lack of time, but it’s in your best interests to have them involved earlier. It ensures you’re in touch with the deal’s status within the target organization. This ensures you don’t drag the cycle any longer than it should be. It effectively helps your lead go faster through your cycle and close quicker.
12) Have a multi-stage closing process
When you’ve come to a stage where you’re sure about the deal’s closure, get the prospect to make smaller commitments over time till closing. It would mean having prospects slowly invest in your deal, in terms of time, energy and other resources before the actual deal closure.
Carrying out this process will ensure your prospects get to progress through the deal slow and steady. Plus, getting them invested to the point where it’s better off to get the deal through.
Things like getting introduced to Decision Makers (as mentioned in the last point) is one such step in that process. It compels your prospect to invest in the deal by introducing you to authorities within their organization.
Several such stages will significantly impact the likelihood of closure, helping you close more deals and effectively cutting the sales cycle short.
13) Clean cold contacts
Once you have a robust sales process in place, make sure to plan a part for leads who turn cold. Understandably, the leads might be hard to come by, but cold leads often drop off the cycle at some point.
Nurturing these leads won’t yield into much. Apart from robbing your team of the time, it will also leave you with a long sales cycle.
An excellent way to take care of this would be to clean out cold leads.
De-prioritizing cold leads and moving on with other high-priority leads will help you focus more on closing. For example, mark leads as cold after 12 days of no response in the connected stage, after multiple follow ups. This will speed up sales cycle in the process.
Shortening your sales cycle can have a significant impact on sales operations efficiency, sales yield, team morale and revenues. It should be among the sales teams top priorities when it comes to scaling revenues, apart from expanding your top funnel.
What will be the first method you’re going to implement out of the 13 listed here?