The B2B sales cycle can be a fickle mistress…
It’s happened to the best of us. You prospect, qualify, and pitch. And just when you think you have the deal closed, it goes back for “further evaluation.” Then two, three, four months pass with lots of back-and-forth, and finally, when the stars align, you get the contract back from your new client or customer.
Let’s face it, not all deals are as straightforward as we’d like them to be.
And how long the b2b sales cycle is depends on your product and industry. But with that said, there are some universal principles that absolutely apply to you and your company. And there are surefire ways to speed up the sales cycle exponentially. I’m going to unpack all of this today.
What is the B2B Sales Cycle
In a perfect world the sales cycle would look something like this:
Step 1: Prospect
Step 2: Cold call
Step 3: Qualify
Step 4: Educate/Pitch
Step 5: Overcome objections
Step 6: Close deal
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Unfortunately, the business landscape isn’t always cut and dry. We don’t live in a perfect world. So you should plan on some detours along the way.
What to ACTUALLY Expect with the B2B Sales Cycle
While it doesn’t have to be like this, expect the business to business sales cycle to be long and winding. There are simply too many variables (and sometimes stakeholders) for it to neatly go from point A to point B every time. If you sell high-ticket products or services — like software for instance — to enterprise clients, you can expect this all the more.
There may be emotions involved, time and budget constraints, and a slew of other unforeseen factors to deal with. So deal with it.
And how exactly should you deal with it?
First, remember that this is business, and sometimes business doesn’t go as planned. Second, optimize your b2b sales process so that while 10% of your deals are on a wild trajectory before closing, the other 90% are humming along at a predictable pace. And third, keep more irons in the fire than you ever thought possible.
Let’s unpack that now.
How to Shorten the B2B Sales Cycle
Sell to qualified prospects only
The truth is, not all sales appointments are created equal.
You can lose your shirt selling to so-called “prospects” who a) don’t have the budget, b) aren’t the decision maker, c) don’t have any need for your product, or d) are tied up with a million other projects so the timing is off.
It’s no exaggeration that every year companies waste billions of dollars chasing dead leads. Don’t let it be you.
I would take one qualified prospect over 10 unqualified prospects any day of the week. And you should do the same if you want to cut your sales cycle in half.
Don’t be mistaken, though, in thinking that all c-level executives are the golden geese or ready-made sales. They aren’t.
The title CEO, CMO, CTO, etc. is just one of the qualification points (authority!). But I’ve spent the last decade dialing-in other qualification parameters that you simply can’t ignore. Right People, Right Role, Right Now. Ring a bell? Long story short, it’s better to over-qualify than under-qualify.
Pick up the phone!
Whether you’re selling SaaS, management consulting services, financial services, or what have you, the fastest way to start building the relationship is by picking up the phone and dialing decision makers.
If you go the long and winding route of calling down the chain of command (anyone in middle management), you’ll get lost in a quagmire of “Yes, I’ll run it by so-and-so,” or “Yes, I’d love to meet up to see if there are synergies.” You simply can’t afford to make this mistake. If you want to dramatically shorten the b2b sales cycle, direct dial decision makers on a consistent basis.
Build trust with social proof
Another effective way to shorten the sales cycle is to build trust via social proof. This means creating and maintaining an online presence. Think social media, like Facebook and LinkedIn especially, and keeping a news and blog section on your website. You can also create a YouTube channel, podcast, membership site, or any number of things.
These are all social signals that let your buyer know that you are an active, legitimate company. The more positive social signals you put out, the more your audience will trust you and want to do business with you.
So, for instance, maybe you’re only halfway through the sales cycle but you’re always getting in front of your prospect digitally — that is, your prospect is seeing your content on a daily or weekly basis — they will be more likely to pull the trigger and buy your product or service.
Or, to put this negatively, people don’t want to move into ghost towns!
Keep irons in the fire / fill your pipeline
Finally, you should be sure to have multiple irons in the fire, with several prospects at all different stages in the B2B sales cycle. This diversification is not only good for your bottom line, it’s also good for the psyche.
When your pipeline is filled, it won’t sting nearly as bad when a deal falls through that was low in the funnel and ready to buy. (By the way, losing a deal at the very bottom of the funnel is bound to happen if you’re in business long enough.)
Thankfully, filling your pipeline is easily accomplished if your sales team is firing on all cylinders. And, of course, if it’s not firing on all cylinders, get in touch and we’ll get you back on track with on-demand sales appointments with your ideal buyer.
By now you should have a solid understanding of the business to business sales cycle, how it works, and what you can do to speed up the process. But remember, it’s the nature of the B2B beast that some deals will take many months before you can count them “Closed Won”.
In the meantime, do everything in your control to tweak the variables and stack the odds in your favor. Follow the principles I’ve highlighted above and you’ll be in good shape. And remember, when things don’t go as planned, be sure to take it in stride.
Until next time…