According to a study by Harvard University, it takes around 7 months to close a B2B deal. Another study revealed that the length of an average B2B sales cycle has increased by 22% in the last 5 years. It certainly makes sense, especially with the increasing number of decision makers involved in the process, and your average B2B buyer becoming more independent in their research and buying decisions. However, it can still be a setback.
The longer your average sales cycle is, the more you are at risk of your prospects having second thoughts, changing their mind and ultimately putting all sales talks to a halt. So, you can’t really afford to wait for your prospects to make a move.
What should you do then? Should you be more assertive and pressing with your unique value proposition? But how does it work with modern lead nurturing standards?
Well, let’s take a look at the ways to shorten your B2B sales cycle without disturbing your prospects’ peace.
1. Establish your benchmark
Do you know how much time it takes for your sales reps to close a deal? In general, the length of a sales cycle varies from company to company since it covers a lot of specific factors such as location, product type, areas and industries covered by the company’s product, etc. Due to this, it makes no sense to compare yourself with your competitors — the length of their cycle has nothing to do with you.
You need to figure out the average length of your sales cycle. Not only will it give you a greater understanding of your sales processes, but it also lets you know how to get started with your sales acceleration.
Tracking the length of your B2B sales cycle is easy when you operate via a CRM system that documents all the incoming leads that pass through every stage of your sales pipeline and later convert into buying customers. So, make sure that your CRM of choice is fully compatible with your company’s workflow.
2. Identify the weak spots
In addition to your prospects needing more time before they proceed to the next stage, there have to be other constraints that prolong your sales cycle. Your task here is to find these constraints and address them immediately.
As you know, an average B2B sales cycle consists of several stages:
Prospecting. You outline your ICP, research and qualify the leads that perfectly match your requirements.
Outreach. At this stage, you send cold emails that introduce your company and invite your recipients to a conversation.
Qualification. Even if your research shows amazing results, you’ll never know the end result until you start a dialogue, establish your prospects’ pain points and make sure that your services can solve them.
Making an offer. You pitch your unique value proposition to your prospects. We suggest tailoring your sales offer each time you reach out to a new prospect to ensure it appeals to their business needs.
Negotiations. It’s an optional stage where you have to hear your prospects out, listen to their objections concerning your product or pricing. For experienced sales reps, it’s an opportunity to build a trusting relationship and establish a connection. As you talk to your potential buyers and walk them through every question they might have, you build up credibility and ultimately close a deal.
Closing a deal. The final stage and the pinnacle of your sales skills. You wrap up the deal and convert your prospect into a customer. Our suggestion is to give your customers attention even after the deal is closed. A couple of follow-ups and a useful consultation are a nice touch, not to mention a good way to expand your loyal customer base.
Go through every stage carefully.
Find out how many days it takes your prospects to progress further to the next stage. Which stage is the most time-consuming? Once you find the key culprit, you should examine the pace of the sales conversation, the prospects’ behavior and see what kind of tactics your sales reps use.
Let’s say, you find out that the qualification stage is the longest one in your sales pipeline. What should be your next move?
Find out who struggles in the conversation. Maybe your sales reps have difficulties with outlining your company’s services to businesses in certain industries. Sometimes, additional coaching is in order. If it’s your prospects who make long pauses between responses and seem to converse with reluctance, try adjusting your templates and cadence until their style and pace look more appealing to your recipients.
Set deadlines. The absence of deadlines might be the reason why your prospects take their time with responses. Let your sales reps know that they absolutely can and must motivate your prospects to choose a date for the next call/F2F meeting and stick to it. When your conversation is planned and scheduled in the calendar, your prospects grow more disposed towards the talking shop.
Make sure you assign tasks correctly. All experts in your team have strong points. You only need to know how and where to apply them. For example, it makes sense to assign a sales representative who speaks French fluently to work with prospects in Germany and Italy.
Improve your targeting. If your sales pipeline starts leaking at the qualification stage, you may be drawing in prospects who are relevant to your interests but aren’t the decision-makers you need. See what titles struggle the most in a conversation - maybe it would be better to omit them from your search?
After you do your research and take the necessary measures, watch and compare the results with your benchmark.
Key performance indicators to keep in mind:
Response time — How much time does it take for your leads to respond? How much time passes before your sales reps write them back?
Source — Where do your prospects come from? Which source leads to the shortest sales cycle?
Activity — How many emails per prospect do your sales reps send?
Booking — How many meetings are booked as the result of the activities undertaken by your sales representatives?
3. Find your strongest points
Once you are aware of your low-performing stages, it’s time to examine your most powerful channels. Sometimes, inbound sales drive the largest number of customers. Sometimes, the best conversions are delivered by outbound activities (cold emails, etc). However, it would be unwise to rely on these channels to keep your business afloat until the end of time. Markets change and mature. You cannot expect one high-performing medium to be your lifeline over and over again.
Use your best sales channels to discover new approaches to generating leads and sometimes even powering your weaker channels. For example, if your inbound B2B marketing is well-developed but your outbound marketing is not driving good results, you can start posting your content on various outbound platforms that are relevant to your industry.
In case there are channels that drive zero results, you should remove them immediately. It’s nothing but a waste of time and resources.
4. Facilitate your workflow and refine your data
If your sales reps have to do a lot of repetitive tasks every day, you should start thinking about automation. Data entry, sending emails, and other activities can take up to 3 hours of your employees’ working time, therefore leaving fewer opportunities for actual nurturing. Switching your current CRM to a more multi-purpose one and using its automation features will give your sales reps a much-needed boost and let them dedicate their time to better engagement with your prospects.
In addition to polishing your sales campaigns with automation, don’t forget about organizing your prospects and accounts by priority. Without organization, you can expect to lose at least 67% of potential deals. Whether you use a scoring system to pinpoint your A-tier leads or any other method of identifying lead value, it’s a necessary step towards accelerating your sales process.
Accelerating your sales B2B cycle doesn’t rely on trial and error. It requires a deep look into your current sales processes, figuring out the weak links, and then fixing or removing them. Since the case is highly individual for each company, there is no universal formula that would let you close more at a shorter time.
Also, due to a large amount of nuance, we cannot say how soon you would be able to reap the results. For some businesses and companies, it takes months for changes to settle in and drive revenue. In other cases, a slight tweak in targeting and team assignment livens the things up.
Once you understand the components of your sales pipeline and know what makes each of them tick, you are able to map the path for shortening your sales cycle and navigate yourself across a variety of options.
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