In this article, you will find everything you need to know about sales cycles. If you’re got questions, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you can expect to learn about sales cycles.
- What are the stages of a sales cycle?
- What is the average length of a sales cycle?
- What is different about B2B sales cycles?
- How to build an effective sales cycle
- How to calculate the length of your sales cycle
- How to shorten your sales cycle
- How to use sales technology to speed up your sales cycle
But before we deep dive into everything there is to know about sales cycles, let’s get started with the basics... what is a sales cycle?
A sales cycle is the process of selling a product or service to a customer and it runs in parallel to a buyer’s journey. During a sales cycle, sales professional must move through a series of steps or stages in order to close a deal and win a customer. It is important to know that sales cycles can vary between industries, different customers, or the readiness of a lead.
What are the stages of a sales cycle?
So what are the stages of a basic sales cycle? The basic sales cycle follows the following steps: Sales Prospecting, Initial Outreach, Qualification, Lead Nurturing, Offer, Objection Handling, and Closing the Sale. Let’s take a closer look at each individual stage of a sales cycle.
1. Sales Prospecting
What is prospecting? Sales prospecting is the process of researching potential customers and relevant companies that a sales rep could sell to.
Whether this is done by searching through CrunchBase, Google, or pulling data from pitch decks, you need to discover which companies your product would be directly applicable to. Here are some things to look for when prospecting companies:
Products. What are they selling? Are they within the industry of your target market? Is your product relevant to their business?
Company size. Are they on-boarding new employees, how many locations do they have, how many products have they released, etc. (This shows which stage the company is at and their buying potential).
Company history. How long has the company been around? If they’re another startup, when did they start and how many funding rounds have they acquired? - If the company is new and has not experienced substantial growth or financing, it may not be a strong customer prospect.
Check out our downloadable Prospecting Toolkit for everything you need to succeed in the prospecting stage of your sales cycle. The toolkit comes with the following:
- Buyer Profile Template
- Daily Prospecting Schedule
- Prospecting Call Talk Track
- Prospecting Frameworks
- Voicemail Scripts
2. Initial Outreach
Once a prospect has been discovered and has the potential to qualify, now begins the actual outreach. The two main methods of initial outreach are cold calling and cold emailing (at least with outbound selling). In both cases, it is best to reach out to the most relevant contact instead of simply anyone within the company.
Now finding the contact information for a specific person within a company is not always easy. Often times their contact information is not listed.
Our best advice is to simply get creative and think outside the box! If the person you are searching for is not listed on the company profile (or provides no contact info), try a search engine with the company name, the person, and the position you are looking for. Or use LinkedIn, which shows the profiles of those who work for the company and their positions in the company. Easy enough, try sending a quick short message to your targeted contact. Provide a brief introduction and the reason you are contacting them.
When you have acquired the necessary contact information, it’s time to make contact whether by a call or email. Read this article for more insights into How to Spark an Initial Connection with a Prospect.
Regardless of the method, your next step is to determine if your contact qualifies for your product. The goal of the qualification stage of a sales cycle is to decide if a lead is a good fit for your product and a legitimate opportunity to pursue.
The qualification stage acts like the gatekeeper stage determining which leads are legitimate prospects and therefore worth pursuing and nurturing…after all time is money, don’t spend it chasing dead-end leads.
First, collect the necessary information to determine if your product is directly applicable to the company.
Next, what is their ability to buy? How much are they willing to spend? Are there other prior agreements that could stop the transaction?
Find out sooner rather than later what their purchasing capacity is so you don’t waste further time on a lead that might be a dead end. When all the necessary info to determine if the lead qualifies is collected, it’s time for the next step.
To get an in-depth masterclass on How to Have the Perfect Qualification Call download our free guide.
Download How to Have the Perfect Qualification Call.
4. Lead Nurturing
Lead nurturing as part of your sales cycle is about building a relationship and connection between your product and your prospect, but also between yourself and your prospect.
Nurturing activities include demo calls to bring a prospect closer to a product, free trial opportunities, or customer catch-ups to gain feedback and overcome objections or concerns that leads may have come during the lead nurturing stage.
Once you think you have provided a lead enough information and product insights for them to make an informed buying decision, it is time to offer your prospect a buying contract. Here you have to think about price, contract length, potential discounts, and prepare to negotiate with your prospect.
6. Objection Handling (More than just one stage)
One of the most crucial parts of any sales cycle is the objection handling stage. But, the word “stage” is misleading when it comes to objection handling because this is something that you need to do throughout your sales cycle. It involves overcoming customer concerns and understanding what specific value your product can offer your sales reps.
Now, objections can vary in topic. The most common objections topics are Cost, Time, Market Competitors, Product, Features, Contracts/Commitments, Complacency.
We understand that objections can be wellformed and hard to overcome. That’s why at Ciara, we have created a guide that discusses the most common objections and helpful examples to respond to these challenges. Check it out!
7. Closing the Sale
Once you have made a successful sales call (meaning the customer signed up/bought your product/service), it is important to always follow up. Do not leave the customer on the edge of a cliff once they acquire and start using a brand new system or product. Obviously, large companies have entire teams that focus primarily on customer success and following up with pre-existing customers.
However, within a startup, you (as in the inside sales reps) oftentimes need to wear both hats, meaning you acquire the customers, and then you need to make sure they are successful in signing up/acquiring your product or program.
What is the average length of a sales cycle?
The average length of a sales cycle varies depending on the complexity of a product and from industry to industry. Selling SaaS involves a longer sales cycle given the complexity of tech and compliance of software vs. selling paper or office supplies.
According to geckoboard the average length of a B2B sales cycle is 102 days. While Marketingcharts.com states that three-quarters (74.6%) of B2B sales to new customers take at least 4 months to close, with almost half (46.4%) taking 7 months or more.
How to build an effective sales cycle.
So how exactly can you build an effective sales cycle for your team and ensure that your reps are aligned throughout your sales cycle? Take a look at the graphic below for the basics of aligning your sales team along a sales cycle.
Here are our 5 steps to align your sales team along your sales cycle and build an effective process:
- Define your cycle
- Ensure consistent messaging and customer experience
- Emphasize qualification
- Schedule touchpoints and updates
- Prioritize seamless buyer’s journey
To get more information on building an effective sales cycle check out this blog post or get insights into building a digital sales process here.
How to calculate the length of your sales cycle.
The calculation for working out the average length of your sales cycle is really simple. Just add up the total number of days it took to close each deal and then divide it by the total number of deals you have closed.
How to shorten your sales cycle.
There are a few simple things you can do to speed up your sales cycle and close deals faster, including qualifying your leads effectively, focusing on a buyer’s journey, and work on preparation for your sales calls.
An effective qualification call helps optimize the buyer’s time and therefore speeds up your sales cycle. A qualification call can help the buyers define their problem and whether your product or solution is a good fit. It can also help the buyer secure executive buy-in for funding given that their understanding of their problem and what your solution can do for them will become clearer during the qualification call.
When it comes to you as a sales professional the qualification call is also critical to optimize your time and the amount of time you spend pursuing prospects that will lead to deals and weeding out leads that simply are not the right fit. After all, working towards quality prospects over a large number of leads will help you close more deals in the longer term and result in shorter more focused sales cycles.
To make the most out of your qualification, and any other customer conversation it is important to prepare for your calls beforehand, only then will you be able to improve your customer conversations and in turn shorten your sales cycles.
If you go into a customer call with an in-depth understanding of what your customer needs, or the questions they need to answer to get there, then you’ll be able to move more quickly through the different stage of a sales cycle providing the necessary insights and next steps to move a prospect along a sales pipeline.
Ensuring a seamless buyers experience.
Throughout your sales cycle, you should be thinking about how to improve your buyer’s experience. Think about the purpose and goal of each customer interaction. Whether that is email or phone calls, what value is this bringing to the buyer, and is it helping you to implement an effective sales cycle.
Keep in mind things like follow-up time (how quickly do you follow up with a prospect), do you provide them with accurate information, and next steps for both sides. Or do you just move around in circles failing to provide any new information or decision-making steps to move a deal forward?
How can sales acceleration software speed up your sales cycle?
The clue is in the name...sales acceleration software like Ciara is designed to speed up your sales cycles and help you close more deals. With deal mapping, call coaching, and real-time deal insights sales acceleration software has the power to speed up your sales cycles.
Deal mapping and real-time decision making.
Software like Ciara provides deal maps and in-call guidance. This helps you map out your deal from beginning to end and allows you to take the key information and topics required for each stage of your sales cycle into your sales calls.
The result? You always know where your deal stands, are able to pinpoint missing actions in seconds, and provide important details and answers for your prospects in real-time. That means you can move your deal forward quickly, with no wasted time.
Instant insight and handovers to instill trust.
During each call sales acceleration software records, transcribes, and summaries the key points of every conversation. That means sales reps are able to get instant insights into their sales conversations and pinpoint what might be restricting a deal from moving forward. Instant call and prospect insights also provide SDRs and AEs the potential for seamless handovers and an improved buyer’s journey that simultaneously speeds up your sales cycle.
Call coaching and faster ramp time.
Conversation insights and deal guidance provided by Ciara means that sales reps get consistent call coaching with the option to request feedback from peers or leaders on specific calls. That means improved selling approaches for experienced reps and faster onboarding times for newbies. This has the power to speed up both your sales cycles and the time it takes to bring new hires up to experienced sellers’ level.
Learn more about sales acceleration software here or try Ciara for free and feel the power of accelerated sales conversations.