Basic Concepts: Sales Cycle Management
Identifying your business’ sales cycle and working on developing and managing it is not only important, it’s essential to ensure your company’s health and success. Your sales cycle will provide you with a clear overview of your entire sales operation, your deals, the stages of your process, and also a way of identifying the existence and location of any bottlenecks.
Before you can start working on your sales cycle, however, it’s important to grasp a few basic concepts, such as…
Sales cycle: What is it and why is it important for your business?
Starting from the beginning – pardon the wordplay – the concept of the sales cycle is closely related to your sales pipeline, a concept we already discussed here: What is a Sales Pipeline and Sales Pipeline Management.
A sales cycle is, therefore, a series of predictable events/phases you’ll have to go through in order to ultimately sell your company’s products/services. It’s the whole path between the first contact made with a customer to the transaction marking the completion of the sales. It passes through the identification of the customer’s needs and the product/service to be offered, the negotiation, and the acceptance of the proposal.
Your sales cycle can be used as a tool to measure your sales department’s efficiency (predictable events with the same expected outcome also allow for better planning and goal setting).
The existent sales cycles may vary a lot from one company to another, as well as within a company depending on the product/service being negotiated – no sales cycle will be identical to another, they each have their own details that make them unique.
It’s important, though, to identify the key phases/stages your sales staff goes through when making a sale in order to improve efficiency and increase your success rate. Having a well-defined cycle will also make it a lot easier when onboarding new sales associates, for having your process ready and defined will simplify explaining how things work.
How to identify my company’s sales cycle
As we’ve stated above, no sales cycle is identical to another. There are, however, a few common elements that’ll appear in most of them, and working with these may be a good starting point to define your own.
Keep in mind, however, you’re looking to identify your sales cycle, not your sales process – and now you ask me: but aren’t those the same thing?
Well, as Dracula just said it, no they aren’t! A sales process is all about methods, approaches, and steps with the goal of achieving higher productivity. The sales cycle refers to a specific set of steps within your sales process.
So, once again, you’ll be looking for the phases your sales team will go through from the identification of the customer to the fulfillment of the sale.
We’ve already further defined prospecting new customers, and finding yourself some good, adequate to your product/service prospects is essential to keep your sales pipeline moving. Start with defining your ideal prospect profiles and determining how your sales team will approach each different profile.
After defining your prospect’s profile and the way to approach them, is time to act! Different ways of approaching different customers will ensure you’re giving them the most effective initial approach: as no sales cycle is identical to another, the same goes for your customer’s profiles!
Don’t try using the same approach for all your customers, that’s bound to be a bust. However, some actions, like making yourself available for answering questions, supporting, and providing more information are key to successful sales.
Identify your customer’s needs
Determining your prospect’s needs is the only way to say whether your product/service is the answer to their problem/necessity. Your sales team must be rightfully equipped and trained to ask the right questions in order to properly identify your prospect’s needs.
Make your offer
Now you know what the customer needs, you’ll have to present your product/service as the solution to their problem/need. With all the information you’ve gathered so far, you’ll be able to personalize and tailor your proposal to best approach each individual.
Answer doubts and work around objections
Customers are human beings as everyone else and they’re bound to have objections to your offer. There’s no way of knowing upfront what will each customer object to but, what you can in fact do is equip your sales team to understand and handle those objections most likely to happen.
Having the knowledge and capacity to work around any objections is very important to overcome any bumps in the road and smooth your sales process.
Seal the deal
Give your sales team all the tools and techniques they’ll need to properly close sales – consider all possible concessions they may need to be able to make in order to seal the deal.
Follow up and repeat
The sale being closed must not be the end of your sales cycle – for, after all, it’s a cycle and doesn’t have an end, it goes back to the beginning over and over again. Always ensure you have a follow-up process in place to evaluate and ensure customer satisfaction – keeping the customer happy means he’ll be more likely to buy from you again and/or reference you to others.
You’ve read to this point and still don’t know how to define your company’s sales cycle? Start by looking at your sales associates with the best results – identify how they work and evaluate what aspects of the process they follow can be captured and replicated throughout the company.
Manage your sales cycle with Pipefy!
Choose an appropriate tool to help manage your company’s sales cycle with: using Pipefy, you’ll be able to define each phase of your sales cycle and customize it to your needs, giving thorough instruction about what needs to be completed in each phase before moving on to the next.
Pipefy also offers you the ability to set time limits for how long a deal can remain in each phase as well as your whole sales cycle, improving your efficiency and making sure you’ll spend your time in those deals more likely to succeed.