Full disclosure: that title is deceptive. Intentionally so. It implies that I am going to show you some surefire ways to shorten your sales cycles and get to the win faster. Well, I am going to show you those surefire ways, but they won’t lead to a win. Shortening the sales cycle never does.
First, we need to understand what the sales cycle is, and what it isn’t. Here’s what it isn’t – yours. Here’s what it is – your reaction to the customer’s buying cycle.
That means your sales exists at the customer’s whim. It starts when he wants it, it ends when he’s ready, it changes as his situation does. The customer makes the rules and you need to obey them.
Maybe bend them a little when you see it’s to your advantage, but don’t break them. Your success depends on fully understanding those rules and playing them better than your competition.
Neal Rackham did the groundbreaking work on the buying cycle back in the ’80’s. His research identified three phases to a customer’s purchase: recognition of a need, evaluation of solutions, and negotiation of value. The sales cycle must have three corresponding phases for you to stay abreast of the customer. These are: Probing to understand the need and the purchasing environment; Proving to win the evaluation; and, Closing to negotiate a favorable outcome.
There you have it – the Sales Cycle. So, how do you shorten it?
There are three ways.
1. Get in late. The buying cycle starts when the customer recognizes the need and starts examining it. The sales cycle starts when you realize the customer is buying. The easiest way to shorten a sales cycle is to get involved when much of the buying cycle has already passed. This actually makes your sales process much easier because you usually have only one weapon that is useful when playing catch-up – deep discounting. Try it and see how much your manager likes that technique.
2. The proverbial offer that can’t be refused. Give the customer something of huge value and put a deadline on it. This one will piss off your customer (no one likes being manipulated) and your manager. And if you lose, there will be no commission and your spouse will be pissed as well. A hat trick.
3. Quit. Walk away. There are circumstances where this is your best bet, but that’s for a different article and it is not a strategy designed to achieve success.
So there you have it, three surefire techniques for shortening the sales cycle. Use them at your own risk.