By Robert Kinch, Principle, Get More Sales Corporation
Have you ever sat in a sales forecast meeting and wondered why those 6 opportunities are still on the list? You have heard the sales rep say, “This one should close this month!” for the last 6 months. In the back of your mind, you are thinking, “Yeah right!” Well, I hate to tell you, if this is happening to you, there is something wrong with your sales process and it is impacting your sales cycle.
First, what do we mean by “Sales Cycle”. Our broad definition is: The process you use to move a prospective buyer from interest to revenue. This incorporates all your client facing activities from filling the funnel with marketing activities to engaging the prospect in a sales conversation. Understanding how to do this involves a combination of the art of conversation, and the science of selling.
The following are six steps to shorter sales cycles and cost effective revenue. These are based on our many years of working with sales challenged clients.
People don’t buy your product or service; they buy what it does for them. Many sales reps are still pitching their product and taking orders. Stop pitching! You should be listening to your prospects, understanding their needs and showing them how you help.
To do this, you need a clearly defined value statement that triggers prospects to give you buying signals. This value statement must reflect the true reason why you exist and it must be from your customer’s perspective, not yours. It must be simple and straight to the point. Some may call this the “elevator pitch”. I hate that phrase because it’s not a pitch. A better phrase would be: “Elevator Conversation”.
The most important characteristic of a great value statement – it will eliminate those that are not going to buy from you. It will eliminate those prospects that shouldn’t be in the forecast. This is one of the biggest time wasters for sales: Selling to someone that does not want to buy.
A properly defined value statement will trigger buying signals. They are signs that the prospect has interest in what you are offering and are crucial to an efficient sales process.
They must come from the person that can give you money. Many reps receive buying signals from people that may want their solution but don’t have the authority to write the cheque. The reps engage them anyway.
Buying signals come in many forms. Here are some examples: “We tried to do that, it didn’t work!” “Tell me more about that!”
If the prospect does not give you a buying signal, don’t continue the conversation. Your time and their time is valuable, so don’t waste either in trying to convince someone they need your solution if they are not interested. This is where we see most sales reps “pitching”. They think, “maybe if I give them enough information about our product, they will find something that fits them!” Our advice is to walk away and find someone else to talk to.
The number one reason your sales take longer than they should is URGENCY. Just because you want someone to buy from you, doesn’t mean they will. The reason “That Deal” is sitting in the forecast for 6 months longer than it should is because there is no URGENCY in their organization. There are three elements cause us to get confused on this point.
The buying signal from the prospect has established that they have a need. However, this is no where near enough for them to buy. Just because they need your solution, does not mean they will give you money for it. You must establish, understand, and develop the need, and then establish if there is URGENCY to solve for the need.
Urgency must be established in the sales conversation. It is a result of events that take place in their organization that change their timeline from “nice to have” to “must have it now”. These events take many forms, here are a few examples:
We are told to identify budget. We have found that budgets are the least important aspect of whether a sale will close. If the need is big enough, and it is urgent enough, and you are speaking to the person that writes the cheques, they will create the budget.
Another reason for a long sales cycle is lack of process. You must understand the next step that your company has defined. If the prospect is controlling the sales cycle, then you are at their mercy. If you control the sales cycle, then you increase your probability of closing the deal. Each company is different, but some examples of next steps are:
This is just as it sounds. Focus on the next step not the close. What is the next step the prospect needs to feel comfortable about buying your solution? This next step is always a recommendation from you the sales person. The old adage of “the customer is always right” is only true after the sale is made. During the sales cycle, the customer doesn’t know what is right. They don’t know what they don’t know, that is why you are the expert. So, lead the prospect to the next step.
Finally, Hope is not a sales stage. If you have a defined sales process based on key events that must take place, then the customer’s ultimate final step is to give you an order. Orders are a naturally progression of the sale cycle. If the prospect is not giving you an order, then you have missed something in your process. So, stop hoping the deal will close, and get factual.
About the Author:
Robert Kinch is a principle at Get More Sales Corporation; Top-Line focused Management Consultants that help entrepreneurs turn their vision into money! He has over 30 years of experience leading teams at companies like IBM and Microsoft, with proven results. He has built international channels, negotiated strategic partnerships with leading software companies, and led every team to over 100% quota achievement. He has packaged this knowledge into the ThePredictableGrowthEngineTM methodology that systematically transforms revenue challenged companies into predictable growth cultures. If you are growth challenged - Rob can help.