Is It Time to Say So Long to the Sales Cycle?

Learn how to optimize your social selling tactics to get your name in front of prospects earlier in the buying process.

December 23, 2014

social-selling-sales-cycle

If today’s sales cycle is different than years ago, it’s largely due to the amount of information available to the buyer. They can research, find options, and compare prices before speaking to a salesperson, if they choose to speak to someone at all.

This has created an environment where the sales person has to spend more time educating than planning how to execute a hard sale. The old-school sales cycle is no longer an effective method for working with today’s buyers. In order to remain relevant, sales reps need to understand how the buying process has changed so they can adapt to meet the needs of their buyers.

Here are 3 things to know about today’s buyer:

  1. Information Accessibility

Today’s B2B buyers are more informed. Content marketing has played a critical role in taking information from behind company walls and giving it to buyers through websites, blogs, and gated content. This allows them to conduct a substantial amount of research without the help of sales.

In a recent interview with Dan Swift, he stated that buyers today complete 57% of their buying process before reaching out to sales reps, only bringing the reps into the picture when they already know what they want.

  1. Buying Committees

According to CEB, B2B purchasing decisions today involve an average of 5.4 decision makers, many of whom do not work in the department that is doing the purchasing.

For example, in the IT industry, buying committees are made up of over 10 million members worldwide, 74% of which work outside of the IT department. For this reason, having only one contact for each of your accounts is not enough. Social sellers have had to adopt multi-threading as a key part of their sales strategy to ensure they are reaching multiple people within the organization.

  1. Well-defined Purchasing Process

Many organizations have processes they follow when making a purchase, specifically larger purchases which may impact multiple departments. Such a process may include guidelines on research, cost comparisons, testing, and decision-making.

Because the purchasing process may be complex, reps need to be informed as to what the process involves early on and adjust accordingly. Reps that push their sales agenda are sure to be discounted early. Rather, try creating multiple relationships within the buyer organization and consistently providing value at each stage of the process.

Reaching today’s buyer starts with understanding them, their internal dynamics, and adjusting accordingly. Does a sales cycle still exist? Yes. But today, it exists in a much more buyer-centric form to which sales reps need to adapt. Here are 3 ways you can better align with the buyer’s journey, in whatever form it may take.

Send the Right Signals

Credibility matters. Be sure to give buyers what they need in order to feel confident that you are the right person to help them accomplish their goal.

Get started by sharing relevant content on LinkedIn. Whether you are sharing content from a trusted source, adding in additional insights or authoring content, buyers are paying attention. In fact, 92% of buyers are willing to engage with reps that are known industry thought leaders.

Who is talking about the topics they care about? Who is genuinely interested in helping them solve problems? Be that person and rise to the top of their list.

Adjust to their Needs

Sales reps that are killing it, realize a fundamental truth that selling is all about the buyer.  Sounds simple, but harder to practice because it means forgetting for a moment what you want the sales cycle to be and the quotas you are trying to reach.
As you connect with buyers, tailor the information you provide to what they are telling you. If they are asking early buying cycle questions, answer them. Don’t jump ahead to closing techniques; it will only drive them away and into the pipeline of your competitor.

Be Responsive

Sometimes being in the right place at the right time is one of the most effective ways to capture a buyer’s attention.The Aberdeen Group found that sales reps that respond quickly to trigger events via social media saw a 9.5% increase in annual revenue. In addition, 50% of sales go to the first rep to contact buyers.

To increase your ability to respond quickly, allocate time daily to monitor key prospects and what they are sharing online.

Get started by doing these three things:

1. Monitor your connections’ status updates. Look at the content they are sharing, job changes, work anniversaries, and recent connections.

2. Research prospects whom you are not connected with. Use profile tags and save their profile as a Prospect/Contact. Then, when the time is right, reach out to this group of saved prospects with an InMail.

3. Be active in LinkedIn Groups. If you see your prospects asking questions, post a response and take the opportunity to connect with them and learn more about their business needs.

The sales cycle still exists, just in a different, more buyer-centric form. Taking the time to understand your buyer, how you can help them solve a problem, and providing information to help them move the project forward internally is essential to sales success.

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