Are Sales Cycles A Thing of the Past?
I admit I have used a business to business sales cycle in every job and every consulting engagement for decades. But now I realize that I have been wrong! You see sales cycles are merely abbreviations for a series of sequential sales activities that a sales person uses to define where they are in their sales process. That's good, but doesn't that ignore the prospect?
What's more important is the definition of where the prospect is in their BUYING PROCESS. Think about it...both consumers and companies go through a series of related steps from needs discovery through contracting. Consumers usually hold this process at a subconscious level while companies dedicate substantial resources to ensure due diligence to their buying process.
A standard B2B sales cycle is usually some variation of the following;
- First Presentation
- Needs Analysis
- Formal Presentation/Proposal
- Needs Discovery
- Situation Analysis
- Desired Impact
- Potential Solutions Survey
- Identify Potential Providers
- Request for Prosposal
- Negotiation with Favored Provider
These "misreads" of sales pipelines are going to have negative impacts on sales forecasts, revenue projections, budgets and every other metric that sales leaders depend upon.
I am not suggesting that companies try to migrate their CRM sytems or training from sales cycles to buying processes but I am suggesting that field managers use their knowledge of a buying process to validate where the sales person tags their prospects.
If this makes sense to you as a sales leader I would recommend the following steps;
- In the next gathering of your top performers lead a session to define the buying process of your typical new customers. Try to keep the step descriptions simple and try to keep the number of steps under 10.
- When you meet with customers you know well ask them to help you validate the buying process.
- Begin to train your 1st level of field managers on the buying process and make them accountable to use it as a basis to validate whether prospects are accurately portrayed in your CRM system.