11 Ideas to Make Your Sales Cycle More like Usain Bolt

Discover 11 ideas that can help you close more sales this year by shortening your sales cycle.

January 8, 2014

The sales cycle clock starts ticking when a lead is identified and stops when you have a signed contract in hand. The longer a potential sale sits in the pipeline, oftentimes, the less likely it is to close.  Time can be the enemy of your deal and open the door for a competitor to sneak in and win the race.

Added time not only kills momentum, it also necessitates additional resources and reduces profit margins.

Here are 11 ideas to help you speed up your sales cycle and position you for a well-deserved victory lap.

1. Plan the Process

Plan your work and work your plan. Once you’ve established a rapport and developed an understanding of your prospect’s needs, get next steps documented and meetings on the calendar with a clear “why” for each meeting.

Create a fleshed out agenda in advance to ensure all stakeholders know why it’s important to attend and also know the expected outcome. Missed meetings can be hard to reschedule and getting off track can derail your efforts. Make sure all your next steps are firm, not fuzzy.

2. Develop a Blocking Scheme

Your competition no doubt has a strategy to make their offering look better than yours. Expect your prospect to evaluate other options and expect those options to tell your prospect certain things to spin the odds in their favor.

By knowing what your competition is likely to say, you can arm your prospect with facts before they are likely to be swayed.

For example, you could tell your prospect, “When evaluating your options, you’re going to hear that X pricing model is going to save you money. What they don’t account for in the model is Y, and I’m happy to provide you with a comprehensive cost comparison tool that will help you ask the right questions to ensure you’re getting a true, apples-to-apples cost comparison.”

3. Get Your Trust Factors in Place

A company’s reputation is literally worth its weight in gold – especially in the information age. Do your prospects have confidence in your company? The sooner you can overcome the trust barrier, the faster you can speed up the sales cycle.

If you don’t have assets available to promote trust and confidence from the outset, then this is definitely an initiative you’ll want to prioritize with your marketing department. There are a variety of ways to establish trust, including fact-filled case studies, thought leadership content, testimonials, industry certifications, etc.

As a sales professional, you can also enhance your LinkedIn profile to help promote personal trust from your prospects.

4. Find Different Buyers

After insanely long sales cycles of up to two years frustrated Telegraph Hill, makers and suppliers of bathrobes for luxury hotels and spas, the company turned its sights from already established players in the market to hotels still under construction.

Instead of going to one major, established brand, Telegraph Hill decided to take business to smaller, multiple clients. With only the interior designer as the key decision maker, the sales cycle was drastically reduced to three months or less. Last year, a large chunk of their revenue came from 24 new business deals. Repeat business from interior designers working for other hotels was a nice added bonus.

5. Make Thy Enemy Thy Friend

This advice may seem strange, but it was rewarding for Benecon Group, who shook hands with their direct competitors at a 50-50 commission and fees sharing model. The Pennsylvania based insurance broker offered its expertise and resources as well as a wider range of insurance products to 24 independent brokers in return for the latter's leads and contacts.

Engaging these "freelancers" in consulting roles contributed to a quarter of the company’s revenue last year and generated more new business. Can you think of any scenarios where you might better meet customer needs through a strategic alliance with a competitor (perceived or real)?

6. Match Products with Sales Skills

Make sure your sales team knows the product and is passionate about it. If a product or service does not map to abilities, even a star sales pro can run out of steam. When salespeople are passionate, they tend to be more knowledgeable and can educate the consumer in a way that is more likely to advance the sales cycle.

7. Welcome Early Objections

Objections are a good thing. It means your prospect is at least somewhat interested. Early objections are the perfect opportunity to better understand your prospect and diffuse any concerns at the outset of the sales process, which is much better than at the end.

You probably know the most common objections, but do you always handle them correctly? By welcoming objections, you can better prepare yourself to capitalize on the opportunity they present.

8. Hone in on Upselling

Your existing clients already know how who you are (saving time in the rapport-building and discovery process) and have some familiarity with at least some of your products. Why not consider the benefits of a relay and identify ways for existing clients to pass referrals to you? Make sure you factor in the benefit to your existing customers for doing so.

9. Screen Your Leads

Accounting software system vendor Acumen reduced its sales cycle from nine to three months by developing an eight-step process for evaluating prospective clients. The new process helped the company to close quality deals quicker and also decreased time spent on deals that were highly unlikely to close.

What factors contribute to higher closing rates at your company? What factors contribute to lower closing rates? How can you use this data to ensure your sales efforts are efficient?

10. Be persistent

Don’t give up. Most sales – and especially the larger ones – require five or more meetings and a heap of back-and-forth communication. There are bound to be a few highs and lows, but keep your nose to the grindstone and stay focused on how you can deliver both short-term and long-term value to your prospect.

11. Multi-threading

Use tools like Lead Builder and TeamLink to find multiple, relevant contacts at the organization. When new team members from your prospect’s company are introduced, do your best to get input from their perspective just as you did with your original prospect.

As long as it makes sense, include all contacts on your correspondence to help the broader team feel involved, especially when discussing next steps. Think of multi-threading as sales insurance you can use if your main point of contact is proving difficult to reach.

Looking for more ways to close sales faster? LinkedIn Sales Solutions can also help speed your sales process by providing you with warm leads that meet your exact specifications.