- Fed up chasing prospects, clients even?
- Frustrated that your people tell you “It’s in the pipeline” and then that pipeline gets longer and longer?
- Furious that deals slip from one period to the next?
- Annoyed by the number of proposals it needs to get one decent client?
- Worried that the longer it takes for the client to make a decision the more likely it is they won’t do business, and yet often there is too much invested to let go?
Why do we business people allow the sales cycle to take so long? It is, after all, usually our fault whenever these challenges arise.
If the client or prospect is taking too long to make a decision, then either they do not have the decision-making power we thought or they are holding us off to compare with alternatives (including doing nothing) or they were never really interested in the first place. If we allow that to happen then we must, at least, have the courtesy of helping them make a decision by offering to close their file.
If we are not in direct control of the timings but we are dependent on people that we have hired to make it happen and the timing gets longer and longer, then either they have not been in control of the sale or they are not being honest. That lack of honesty could be as much about fooling themselves as it is about wanting to duck the difficult truth that the deal was not a good enough match to start with when they first reported it to us.
Perhaps we encourage ourselves and our people to throw lots of quotes and proposals at the problem of long sales cycles. “Quote and hope” as we cynically call it. If we do enough presentations, somebody must surely sign up at some time, if only by accident. A formula, however, for huge amounts of wasted resources and time.
When a deal is taking longer and longer to close and the prospective client wants more and more detail and tweaks, (the deal stopped being good for us some time ago) we cannot afford to back out, so we have to keep going just to recoup our losses. Much better to have worked out very early that there was not a profitable enough match. But that means being open to leaving the potential deal at any stage. Hard to do, particularly when the numbers look nice. But experience tells us those numbers can look a whole lot different once the juice has been extracted by the potential client.
Some sales cycles, however, are just going to be long. So long as we know precisely where we are, what needs to happen next and then next, we have all the right decision makers all going the right way, we can weave our path through to a successful conclusion. For that, we need strategies, tools and techniques for complex selling or “enterprise selling”. At Sandler, we have 13 tools to guide through 6 stages of a complex sale. They make sure we stay on track and invest the right amount of resources and credence, keeping the sales cycle as short as it can possibly be.
So the sales cycle length is often largely down to us. Not the potential client. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.