It usually takes a long time to find a shorter way. - Anonymous
In my last article about shortening your sales cycle, I revealed the first five tips for getting to the close faster. I covered:
Thou Shalt Present a Crisp, Clear Value Proposition
- Thou Shalt Talk to the Right Person
- Thou Shalt Uncover the Prospect’s Aspirations and Afflictions
Thou Shalt Engender Trust and Confidence in Your Company
Thou Shalt Deal With Objections Early On
In this article, I’ll finish the list of commandments with the next five ways to shorten your sales cycle.
- Thou Shalt Plan Each Conversation
What do you want to have happen during (and after) the first conversation? The second? The third? The sales cycle gets stalled more often than not because the service provider (or seller) doesn't have a plan. Prepare for each conversation by asking yourself:
- What is my goal for this prospect?
- What is my goal for this conversation?
- What are my strengths going in?
- What are my vulnerabilities?
- Based on the answers, what can you expect and what is your planned next step?
Improv may be fine for comedy, but nothing will derail the sales express faster that trying to figure it out as you go.
- Thou Shalt Advance the Sale (and Avoid Continuances)
An outcome of good planning will be your ability to advance the sale to a next step. How often do you or your colleagues call to follow up with a client and say those uninspiring words, "I was just checking to see how things were going"? "Fine," the prospect replies. Pause. "Thanks for calling." Really long pause. End of conversation.
Supply answers to questions, new information, or a reason to have a new discussion about how you can and will meet their needs. How can you help the prospect see the value you will provide? Go into every new conversation with a clear idea of the steps needed to move the buying process along.
- Thou Shalt Make It Easy for the Prospect to Buy
Even after you have refined your value proposition, engendered trust, uncovered needs, planned, etc., the prospect still might have a hard time buying that $300,000 assignment as a first engagement. How can she try out your services to feel comfortable with a larger project?
The best way is to have an entry-level service that shows what you can do in a more manageable fashion. This can take the form of a pilot program, an upfront assessment, or a day of strategy development.
- Thou Shalt Provide Value In Your Marketing
When you sit down at the table with a prospective client for the first time, you might encounter one of two possibilities:
- Possibility #1: "I've never heard of you. I don't know what you offer. I don't know why you're here. Now what did you want to sell me?"
- Possibility #2: "I've read two of your white papers, saw you speak, and regularly read your newsletter. I love your website and your methodology. I've been looking forward to speaking with you for months now.
Of course, possibility #2 is what you want to hear. You can accomplish this through your marketing if you create and leverage value-based offers and experiences. If you do, the sales cycle will have already started before you even have that first exchange.
- Thou Shalt Be Persistent
The average complex sale takes five, six, seven, or more conversations to close. How often do you drop out of the running because you lose interest and quit the cycle halfway through? In the end, quick and steady wins the sale.
By now, you may be wondering if all this effort is going to be worth it. Where's the shorter path in this sales cycle? I can assure you the effort is well worth it. But take heed of our friend Anonymous' admonition: there really are no shortcuts. Sales success takes a consistent and value-based approach that works over time.
And maybe, just maybe, the quick response was the right (and short) one.