I recently worked for a high-growth startup company with 16 paying customers just two years after being established.
They had a clear goal of closing the 2021 financial year with a revenue of $1M, leading them to secure a $5M seed funding.
By November, they were falling short of $180k.
They thought they had a clear shot at closing on $1M because a $200k opportunity had been in the pipeline since March 2021.
This opportunity was a sure deal since there was clear buying intent, and the sales cycle progressed slowly but steadily.
As the holiday season approached, the sales staff began to slack off, thinking the $200k opportunity would close the revenue goal.
December came and went, but the opportunity never closed. The startup could not achieve the annual revenue goal, leading to delayed funding for them.
The opportunity did close but in May 2022. So, you can imagine the agony of the founders and the sales team caused by this exhausting and prolonged sales cycle.
Prolonged sales cycles are a common challenge faced by most businesses around the globe. B2B sales are even more complex, adding more time to the sales cycle.
According to recent reports, only 25 to 33% of opportunities in a B2B environment will close at the expected close date.
But that does not mean all hope is lost. We talked to some sales industry experts to understand top techniques that can help speed up the sales cycle.
Based on this study, we list five winning strategies you can apply to your sales process to avoid prolonged sales cycles.
5 Winning Strategies to Shorten Your B2B Sales Cycle
Implement these five actionable strategies to your sales process and start seeing changes in your sales cycle.
Automate Followups and Redundant Tasks
McKinsey's recent report claims that more than 30% of sales-related activities can be automated!
How far behind do you fall if you compare this percentage to your sales organization? I am guessing a lot.
Automation is a lot easier said than done, and I understand why. It required a lot of time and effort to identify opportunities for automation and then actually plan and execute the automation strategy.
So does your sales team focus on selling or spend time implementing an automation strategy that may or may not help?
But this does not mean you back out of experimenting with one of the most effective ways to increase sales productivity, which ultimately leads to shorter sales cycles, right?
Here are a few simple tricks to leverage automation and speed up your sales cycle:
- Automate sales followups - Sales follow-up emails, calls, and reminders take up a lot of time for your sales staff. But it doesn't have to. You can use your CRM to create automated workflows with templatized emails to follow up with your prospects.
- Automate meeting scheduling - Scheduling meetings according to client schedules is another headache for your sales staff. Automate this task by sharing automated calendars with your teams and prospects to schedule sales meetings.
- Automate sales rep assignment - No more quarrels over what gets assigned to whom. Use automation workflows to design assigning prospects and leads to sales reps based on territories, industries, or whatever category you use in your sales organization.
- Automate quote generation - For complex products and services with multiple features and offers, sales staff spends a lot of time generating customized quotes. It adds confusion and frustration to both sales teams and the client. Use automation to automatically generate quotes based on specific client requirements to save the valuable time of your sales staff, and deliver a good customer experience.
- Automate Sales reports - Another redundant task that is just as important is to generate sales reports. Sales reports provide critical insights into sales performance and help forecast business revenue. Instead of manually developing weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual sales reports, use automation to build sales dashboards with better visualization to highlight essential sales metrics.
Automation can save your sales team time and effort, subsequently fastening your sales cycles. If your team does not have the resources to plan and implement and sales automation process, consult process experts like Processology to do the work for you. Expert advice and execution can help you leverage automation while your team focuses on closing sales deals.
Align Your Sales Process With Your Marketing Process
When sales and marketing teams are aligned, businesses achieve high-impact campaign performances, increased sales performance, increased revenue, and better customer experience.
In fact, reports suggest that Aligning sales and marketing also leads to 38% higher sales win rates.
But what does this have to do with speeding up your sales cycles?
Here it goes. When sales and marketing work hand-in-hand, critical customer/prospect/lead information flow becomes seamless.
Marketing passes on intelligent insights from marketing campaigns to sales teams, which they use to make better sales conversations.
Intelligent and data-driven sales conversations help you understand customer needs better, leading to a faster sales cycle by providing the correct information, documents, and proof.
Here are a few marketing programs and processes that sales can leverage with alignment to speed up their cycles:
- Lead Nurturing - Data from lead nurturing campaigns helps your sales team understand your prospect's challenges, interests, behavior, and preferences. This way, the sales team is better prepared for the sales calls, reducing the back and forth between prospects and your sales teams.
- Marketing collateral - Marketing content such as whitepapers, case studies, datasheets, podcasts, testimonials, and webinars are great education sources and information for your sales meetings. Sales teams should proactively share marketing content with prospects to accelerate the process of their sales pitch.
- Lead Scoring - Lead scoring activities handled by marketing are a great way to identify the intent of your prospects. They help you pinpoint the customer journey stage of your prospects, helping you prioritize your sales efforts and save critical time.
Be proactive with sales enablement
Sales enablement documents are an essential part of a sales process. They help amplify the impact of your sales pitch and conversation.
Although most organizations invest in sales enablement, it mostly comes down to the last moment based on prospect requirements.
The last moment hassle of finding the proper sales enablement documents, sourcing them from different teams, and then sharing them with prospects add up to a lot of critical time in your sales cycle.
High-growth sales teams need to become proactive with sales enablement. And this is possible when you establish a process to plan, create, and templatize important sales documents that are most commonly used in your sales cycle.
Here are a few examples of sales enablement documents you must plan and templatize, which can later be customized quickly as per prospect requirements:
- client success stories
- sales pitch decks
- technical architecture workflows
- project proposals
- competition comparison documents
- product or service catalogs
You can produce them internally or outsource them to experts, but the important part is to keep them ready when the need arises during the sales cycle.
Being proactive with your sales enablement process brings you a lot closer to shorter sales cycles.
Build data-driven conversation material
Every minute spent conversing with a prospect is valuable to your business growth. This is why it is crucial to plan the discussion points for a sales call ahead of time.
Your sales conversations should be backed by well-researched data about your prospect and market conditions.
When you make conversations backed by data and intelligent insights, you empower your prospects to make the right decision faster, thus reducing your sales cycle.
But how do you build data-driven conversational points? Here are a few data points from your existing sales and marketing data that you can leverage to develop your data-backed speaking points:
- prospect engagements and behavior on your website, social media, email, and other marketing channels
- prospect history in your database, such as unsubscriptions, past interactions with sales, etc
- current competitor research and analysis to understand their offer and pricing to establish your unique selling points
- common connections or networks to tap into for social proof of your brand/product/service success
- prospect competitor analysis to understand what their competitors are doing and pitching accordingly
There are just a few points on how you can research your prospects before interacting with them. There are many other data points you can identify and leverage to make data-driven conversations with your clients. Imagine the amount of time you will save in your sales cycle by cutting down on the back-and-forth of checking your facts and providing proof.
Build a Robust Sales Process, and stick to it
I cannot emphasize this point enough.
Yes, this isn't an innovative strategy. But it is just as important.
Your sales team is constantly working under pressure to achieve sales goals, following up with multiple leads, and updating reports to showcase progress.
Your sales team may lose track of the actual sales process and experiments in different ways amidst the chaotic sales activities and tasks.
But this way, you are prolonging your sales cycle by not using the most efficient way to sell.
Your sales process is a well-researched, analyzed, and planned process that has considered various aspects needed to make selling efficient. Your sales team needs to stick to your process despite the chaos.
Sure, it is good to optimize the process based on feedback and learnings, but that does not mean completely reinventing the wheel.
Audit your sales process from time to time and check for the hygiene of your process and process documentation to maintain the sanity of your sales staff. This way, you cut down on unnecessary tasks and shorten your sales cycle.
Effective and efficient sales processes are a no-brainer when it comes to selling faster. Use these strategies to supercharge the productivity of your sales team and shorten your sales cycles in 2022.