First off, this post is directed to PRE product/market fit companies struggling to build repeatable sales processes in order to scale.
You're definitely beyond the prototype phase, and likely have a least a handful of paying (and happy) customers committed to using the product long term. The goal now is to get the flywheel going, but the deals are taking forever to close and you're feeling stuck; whether you're an early stage founder, or a startup Account Executive tasked with closing, it's difficult dealing with long sales cycles and periods of minimal growth. Unfortunately, this often results in to "pipeline meetings" or team wide "brainstorming sessions" to find new and innovative ways to shorten the sales cycle. Here's what that meeting typically looks like from the salespersons perspective:
Okay so you've now come up with a list of possible things for everyone else to do, but you've actually failed to address the one thing that's absolutely impacting the sales cycle: YOU. So let's start by looking in the mirror...
Now here's what you can do to reduce your sales cycle overnight:
1. Set Expectations and Follow Up
This isn't just about following up with a telephone call every couple of days asking where things are at with the deal. You're not helping your prospect and this is annoying. It's about setting the right expectations that gives you the right to call and follow up. Let's say you're just finishing up a demo and your prospect's now asked for a proposal, don't just say yes and end the call. Clarify what the prospect would like to see: is it some budgetary pricing, or are they looking for a formal proposal? Once you agree to the information, ask them when you can call them back to review the proposal and get their feedback. Before ending a call, set the right expectations on an appropriate next step that is focussed on helping your prospect. It could be calling them to go over Q&A, getting connected with someone else on their team, or perhaps scheduling another demo; whatever it is, avoid putting yourself in deal purgatory and set the right expectations up front.
2. Be Prepared For Every Scenario
Don't ever wing it, just don't. Go on go in with a game plan for every call. Think of every sales call as hamburger paragraph, and prepare each step accordingly with an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Here's how:
3. Don't Make Promises You Can't Keep
I hate seeing salespeople make promises they can't keep. If you know you already have two other proposals to get done and its already 4:30 pm, don't tell a third prospect you'll have a proposal in their inbox by tomorrow morning (unless you're truly committed to making it happen). It's important to establish the concept of under promising and over delivering at every step of the buyer's journey. This not only looks good on you as a salesperson and the company you represent, but it helps to create a mutual relationship of meeting deadlines with your prospect. If you're always on time or early, there's a greater likelihood that your prospect will feel compelled to do the same.
Buyers will buy when they feel they are ready to buy. All you can do as a salesperson, is to help (not push) the buyer get to that decision faster. Is it possible to educate and build a sense of urgency to help the buyer come to this decision faster? Absolutely, that's what smart companies do. However, the deal will only close when the buyer sees sufficient value in your product and is ready to part with her budget. Before giving your team a list of things to do that will only just maybe help you long term, take a look in the mirror first. Take control of the one variable you can impact: work on being a better seller yourself, and you just might shorten your sales cycles overnight.
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