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Ten Commandments for Shortening Your Sales Cycle, Pt. 1

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Written by John Doerr
President, RAIN Group

I spend a good percentage of my time selling. I also spend a lot of time coaching and training sales teams. One question that comes up time after time is, "How do I shorten the sales cycle?"

My quick response is usually, "Have more in each stage of your pipeline at all times, so the sales cycle just seems shorter."

Of course, that rarely makes anyone feel better. So based on RAIN Group’s research and experience, here are the first five of ten commandments that will help make your sales process move more quickly.

  1. Thou Shalt Present a Crisp, Clear Value Proposition

    In the course of my work with all manner of firms, I hear a common lament: "We are becoming a commodity. The prospects just seem to buy on price. How can I separate myself from the crowd?"

    If you don't know how you are distinct, how will the prospect know?

    Ask your clients, your colleagues, your network, “How do I provide value in what I do?” Once you get the answers, refine the message, practice it, and refine it again. Make certain your statement resonates (speaks to need), differentiates (why you), and substantiates (proof you can do it).

  2. Thou Shalt Talk to the Right Person

    Why do so many of us end up wasting our time (and stretching out the sales cycle) by talking to prospects who have neither the financial ability nor the authority to buy our services? Is it lack of confidence in our abilities to deliver, to sell, or both?

    Whatever the reason, the shortest distance to a faster sale is the one to the decision maker. Go into a prospective company at the highest level possible. If you can't start high, find out as quickly as possible who controls the purse strings and who makes the decisions.

  3. Thou Shalt Uncover the Prospect's Aspirations and Afflictions

    How directly are you connecting your products and services with the needs of the buyer and those of her company? Too often, we talk to the prospect rather than with the prospect. Ask questions that will allow you to find the most pressing and compelling needs that your offerings can address. You can then draw a direct line from their needs to your products and services. As the saying goes, "The shortest distance..."

    Don’t just look for the pain points (afflictions) that will drive a buyer to solve a problem; look for their dreams and goals (aspirations) that your services can address so you can drive the demand.

  4. Thou Shalt Engender Trust and Confidence in Your Company

    Unless you have the good fortune to have been introduced through a referral, your buyer has a long list of reasons not to buy. As you are selling, he is asking himself, "Can you do what you say you can?", "Do you really understand my company and what I am facing?", and "Will I get the return on my investment in your fees?"

    Provide stories, case studies, and demonstrable examples of how you have helped similar companies. Don't talk about how good you are, show it. By doing so, you help reduce the perceived risk of buying. The sooner you can lower the trust barrier, the faster you can move your prospect to make a decision.

  5. Thou Shalt Deal With Objections Early On

    Contrary to popular belief, objections are helpful to the buying process. In fact, I would go so far as to say that objections are buying signals. When a prospect tells you there is an obstacle to her buying your services, she is engaging in the buying/selling process. She is essentially telling you, “I am thinking about what it might be like to work with you, but I have a few things we need to address first.”

    The earlier objections come up, the earlier you have the opportunity to fully explore what is getting in the way, deal with it, and move on. The worst possible scenario is for the prospect to nod in agreement and then disappear once you are out of sight (no phone calls, no emails, and no answers) because you never had the opportunity to hear what was standing in the way of the sale.

That covers the first five commandments for shortening your sales cycle. As you work with prospects, ensure you are communicating a clear value proposition to the decision maker, drive the demand by uncovering aspirations and afflictions, provide testimonials and case studies to build trust and confidence, and address any objections.

I round out the list with additional ways to speed up your journey to the close in this article.

Topics: Sales Process