Cognism
Login
Request demo

Connect

Talk to more prospects,
close more deals

Sales talk: shortening the B2B sales cycle

December 7, 2020

How do you shorten your sales cycle?

Adding fewer steps…?

Nope.

Decreasing the time between steps…?

Wrong again.

A shorter sales cycle is the holy grail of B2B sales. Almost impossible to find - but doing so could grant your business an eternal life cycle (or something pretty close.)

We spoke to Justin Stephenson, the Indiana Jones of discovering shorter B2B sales cycles (Last Crusade reference). Justin is a sales expert and Partner at the global sales management leadership organisation, Sandler Training.

Sandler work with their clients to help them efficiently and effectively improve their overall sales performance. Through this conversation, Justin shared some of his game-changing insights with us.

Scroll down to hear them! 👇

The B2B sales cycle

In basic terms, a broken down B2B sales cycle is a set of steps that leads a salesperson through a sale. This sales strategy should be repeatable, optimisable and easy to keep track of.

The purpose of breaking down your B2B sales cycle is to make things easier and more efficient. If it’s making things too complicated, redesign it.

Why you should break down the B2B sales cycle

Justin spends a lot of time helping businesses understand their current sales cycle. It’s often the case that companies have a natural way of handling sales, without really knowing what it is.

Have a robust sales system

“When you’re dealing with a smaller business, it’s often the case that they have no solid sales system in place. This astounds me. Quite often they’ll have some sort of system in place, but it’s too loose and won’t ensure repeatability or reliability. It needs to be nailed down.”

This will make it much easier for the salesperson to dictate the flow of a sale. The salesperson needs to keep control.

Control the sales journey

“We recommend trying to build a sales methodology that helps the salesperson to control and manage the sale. If they’re unable to do this they’ll default to ‘the buyer system’, where the buyer dictates the process. This can be less helpful for both parties, and is particularly common when cold calling.”

When a sales process is in place, the salesperson is less likely to miss important steps. This means they are more likely to attain all of the key information they need.

Qualify leads thoroughly

“Certain information needs to be gathered so the sales person and prospect can decide if there is a good reason to buy the product (or service for SaaS sales). A lot of SMEs will be so keen to get in front of a buyer, they’ll hang in for as long as possible without finding a reason not to work with them. This can result in a late breakdown and wasted time.”

Developing a better understanding of the sales cycle will make it easier to identify strengths and weaknesses. Fixing these is the key to shortening the entire process.

Shorten the sales cycle

“A sales process should be stuck to firmly. Breaking it down into manageable chunks makes it easier for companies to gather data on each step, see where sales are getting stuck, and fix it. This process of measuring and refining will ultimately lead to a much shorter sales cycle.”

Why is it important to break the B2B sales process down?

Justin recognised three key reasons for breaking down the sales process.

  1. Scaling - If you always know where you are in the sales process, you’ll know how to manage it and become more effective and efficient. This helps a company to scale.”
  2. Predictable forecasting - If you’re adhering to a tight process, you should have a better idea of the direction a relationship is moving in, and the likely outcome. This means you can forecast more accurately.”
  3. Common language - It’s crucial for a team to have an identity. You don’t want mini-systems within a team. Having everyone following the same process makes it easier for sales leaders to measure, track and review performance - and implement any necessary changes.”

How can you break the B2B sales cycle down effectively?

Technology.

Technology.

Technology.

And a little bit of elbow grease.

“I recommend using a tool like Gong or Refract. These are going to help you analyse your team’s conversations. They also make it easier to share wins and improvement points with sales leaders and team members.”

One of the key reasons for breaking down the sales process is because you can increase the focus on certain steps. So use them as the pillars for your strategy. Here are 5 of the main steps Justin includes:

  1. Pain point identification - this is a must when making a sale. If you can’t get to the root of their pain, they’ll stay in a rational state. This makes a sale much harder. Work on building a highly tuned questioning strategy. It’s a case of seeing what works well, and doubling down on it. If you’ve got reliable B2B data you should be able to predict the pain points of your audience.”
  2. Willing and able - you need to find out if the prospect is capable of buying your product or service. If you wait until the end to discuss the cost - you could end up losing valuable time. This causes long sales cycles which might not convert. The best proposal is one which the prospect doesn’t have to look at. They already know what they’re signing up for.”
  3. Understand their process - knowledge is power! You need to understand who is involved on their side, why are they deciding to buy, what are their logistical requirements. Ask these questions, and try to help the prospect close the deal. At this stage, you’re working with them.”
  4. Fulfilment - affirm everything that has been agreed upon. I prefer calling this fulfillment rather than closing, because if you’ve managed the previous stages effectively, the deal should already be closed. It’s just a case of sorting out the paperwork.”
  5. Post-sell - help to manage buyers remorse. Some buyers will have problems when signing. They might have to cut off a relationship with a previous provider, or have a difficult internal conversation. Until the money is in the bank, this responsibility sits with the salesperson.”

Closing comments

Justin had some wise words for us at the end of the interview.

“Sales is nothing more than effective communication. Whether you’re in a hard negotiation or early stages, it’s all about building trust and rapport. If you can’t do this, you’ll struggle. So many business owners have incredible technical knowledge of their product and they are fantastic advocates of it - which does help. You still need to understand the nuances of effective communication in the sales process. That’s what sales is all about.”

There’s more where this came from!

Many thanks to Justin Stephenson for sharing his expertise with us. If you’d like some more advice from him, then get in touch! You can reach him on LinkedIn, or via email at justin.stephenson@sandler.com

If you’re after more articles just like this, look no further!

Follow Cognism on LinkedIn for more insightful sales content 👇

Cognism LinkedIn