Today's post is by Dave Kurlan, founder and CEO of Objective Management Group Inc. and Kurlan & Associates, and author of Mindless Selling and Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball. Download his latest eBook, 63 Tips for a Huge Increase in Sales.
Most sales teams want to know how to speed up the sales cycle so they can close deals faster. A quick Google search on “speed up sales process” reveals 8,010 results! If you remove the quotation marks, the search balloons to 240,000,000 results. (For the purposes of this blog post, I’ll use “sales process” and “sales cycle” interchangeably – with the understanding that “sales process” includes all the stages and steps in your sales cycle.)
Can Technology Speed Up Your Sales Process?
The results on the first page are dominated by the likes of Salesforce, Hubspot, OnDeck, WordStream, PandaDoc, Vainu, OptinMonster, and AutoKlose.
And therein lies the first problem with shortening or speeding up your sales process: These posts are all from marketing technology companies, not sales experts. The truth is, most sales technology tools don’t actively shorten sales cycles or speed up the sales process.
Yes, some sales tech tools might help with some of the heavy lifting at the top of the funnel, during the process, and at the end of the process. But the sales process is about hitting strategic milestones by having the right conversations with the right prospects at the right time. Sales technology tools can support salespeople in the quest to close deals faster, but the tools don’t do the job all by themselves.
How Do Customer Relationships Impact the Sales Cycle?
Here’s another thing that won’t speed up your sales process: customer relationships.
I can’t tell you how many companies I’ve worked with over the past 30 years where I was told that the key to bringing in, maintaining, and growing accounts is relationships (and the companies don’t want that to change). It’s not that good customer relationships don’t matter in sales. They’ll help you maintain and grow accounts, yes, but donuts, coffee, and free tickets to games or shows don’t really add value anymore.
And to wait for a customer relationship to flourish as a requirement for bringing in new business has the opposite effect of speeding up the sales process. It slows the sales cycle to a crawl – and, even then, all you might have is a relationship.
Can Demos Speed Up the Sales Cycle?
We’ve also been told demos are supposed to speed up the sales cycle. A significant part of the U.S. market is made up of SaaS companies selling cloud applications. They tend to generate interest by pushing willing prospects to take a demo.
Demos create engagement but, in most cases, that equates to “this product would be nice to have” as opposed to the more important “must have.”
In addition, these demos are usually given to people who don’t have the authority to make decisions – and, when the application is only perceived as “nice to have,” they lack a compelling reason to either get the decision maker engaged or get the money approved.
Increasing the metric to deliver more demos does not shorten the sales cycle or speed up the sales process.
Three Things That Really Will Speed Up Your Sales Cycle
Three things that will shorten your sales cycle:
- A formal, structured, staged, milestone-centric, and optimized sales process. Many salespeople lose their way during the sales process. The top 5 percent of salespeople are 850 percent stronger at sales process than weak salespeople. It’s a real differentiator.
- Reaching decision makers. What’s the biggest reason salespeople don’t close sales? They fail to prioritize talking to decision makers. My data shows opportunities are 90 percent more likely to move to the closable stage when the salesperson is meeting and/or talking with the decision maker.
- Slowing down. What’s the second biggest obstacle to closing more sales? It’s counter-intuitive but, if you slow down, listen, and ask more and better questions – and uncover the prospects’ compelling reasons to buy – you will create the urgency required to speed up the sales process.
If you want to cycle faster through the sales process, your best bet is to actually slow down. Slowing down allows you to focus on having conversations that help you define value for the customer. Along the way, you’ll uncover opportunities where you can deliver that value. That will help you close your deals more quickly.