Factors That Shorten The Long Sales Cycle

Long sales cycles affect your business in exactly the same way as excess inventory and uncollected receivables. So… when you look at your sales people and your sales situation, think about what you can do to shorten the sales cycle. Repeat to yourself, the biggest time waster of all, is when your salespeople spend time with unqualified prospects.

Putting aside the area of direct sales let’s touch on other factors that can help you shorten the sales cycle.

Products should be custom fitted (or appear to be) for the target customer. Proper product positioning means that you are consciously offending certain buyers in order to attract the right buyers.

Time. Have you ever noticed that people who have no money and no need for your product seem to have all the time in the world to talk?

Product knowledge. Knowing your product and understanding your target customers are the keys to finding qualified prospects. If your most startling benefit, your product’s unique selling proposition, leaves your prospect cold, you are probably in the wrong place. More to the point, just because your prospect has money, a need to buy, and a schedule to purchase does not mean he is qualified to buy what you are selling.

Advertising. Save your money unless you really understand the differences between awareness and direct response advertising and the different criteria for retail and industrial advertising.

More on advertising. Avoid indirect, awareness advertising that says, “When you are in the market for what we sell, give us a call.”  This sounds OK until you ask yourself, “Is this going to shorten my sales cycle?”

Remember, a great way to get orders faster is to start the sales cycle earlier. Make your advertising stimulate the prospect into action; i.e., start the sales cycle. A better message would be “Send for our free study on how to make money with our product.”

Sales Leads. In business-to-business marketing, every lead must be called. This follow-up costs time and money. Remember, unqualified leads are worse than no leads at all. Use low-cost telemarketers to pre-qualify the prospect before wasting your expensive sales representative’s time.

Expensive brochures. Not that these aren’t nice to have, but I am reminded of a copywriter friend of mine who once said, “Everybody wants a nice brochure, it’s their way of avoiding going out and talking to prospects.” Now, that’s a bit harsh, but there are effective, cheaper alternatives; e.g., documented testimonials from credible customers. Not only do they work better, but also cost a lot less than a fancy brochure.

The Internet. Without using the Internet, you are waging a war with bows and arrows. You cannot afford to do business today without utilizing computers, the web and CRM software to keep track of your customers and prospects.

Sales Messages. Don’t waste time talking about lots of issues, features and benefits. Know what your customers really want since people buy for very personal reasons, based upon one or two issues, and many buy for the person they imagine themselves to be.

More on sales messages. Make sure everyone in your company (and industry) knows the one or two most compelling reasons customers should want to do business with you. If that doesn’t turn on a prospect, try it on somebody else. Spend your time with the most qualified prospects first.

Demonstrations. Invest in samples or demonstration units. Put your product into the hands of the prospect. If your product is as good as you claim, the prospect won’t want to give it up.

Low Prices. Anybody can sell low (at least for a while). The business with the lowest costs has the ultimate advantage.

Alternate sales channels. Mail costs less than a $1. Telephone costs less than $10. Email is basically free. Face-to-face sales calls cost hundreds. Use telemarketers, catalogs, etc. to do the cold calling, follow up, and after market sales.

You get the idea.

Focus on making the sale quickly and efficiently. Shorten your sales cycle. Don’t mess around with people who aren’t qualified to buy. Forget about products that don’t have concise sales messages for clearly defined target buyers. Avoid spending money on frills when you could be focusing your sales and marketing investments into producing more sales faster.

Make shortening your sales cycle your first priority. Concentrate on turning your cash into more cash. Quickly. The faster you do it the more you will make!