By Randy Meriwether
CEO’s are constantly pushing their team to not only get more deals but to close them faster. They try motivating, incenting, even “fire and hire,” but the quantity and velocity of deals seem to be stuck in an endless, frustrating loop which leads to, at best, mediocre results.
The way out of this loop is to accelerate the sales cycle. Certainly organizations can increase leads, grow the pipeline, get better conversion and conduct a number of other deal flow enhancers, but when immediate results are needed, the best path is to accelerate today’s opportunity base.
Here are five proven ways to consistently accelerate deal closure by at least 25 percent.
Eliminate “Average” From the Sales Cycle
Don’t average the sales cycle of all deals. Why would anyone want to include below par deals as part of the average? Is that how Olympic sprinters improve? Do they just work on their overall average time, or do they work on improving their best time? A defined sales cycle should consist of an average of the top ten deals in the past year, not every deal.
By quickly redefining the appropriate target, the enhanced expectation will result in a fresh look at close dates within the existing pipeline. Or, put more simply, provide a little more “encouragement” to accelerate the deal to what has occurred during the last, top ten deals.
If a new sales person is told the average sales cycle is 12 months, guess how long it will take them to close a deal? Exactly. Why not provide an average of excellence rather than an average of, well, average?
Slowing down doesn’t seem to sync up with acceleration, but slowing down early in the sales cycle to gather necessary deal information will accelerate opportunities more than any single activity. Why is that?
Simple. Sales people should identify the decision makers, understand the budget process, determine how the decision will be made, clarify the timeline for a decision, and agree on metrics for success early in the sales process, but most organizations have it sprung on them late in the deal cycle when they have limited capability of adapting to this information.
This information WILL be dealt with at some point in the sales cycle, so discover it early enough so it can be leveraged to speed up the deal. Who hasn’t been in a sales meeting where opportunities are listed at 80 percent probability and the salesperson doesn’t know the first thing about the decision making matrix, the budgetary process or anything regarding the myriad of critical decision points before a deal closes.
These deals never close. Ever.
Don’t Lose Momentum
Losing momentum is one of THE biggest deal killers and it is rarely understood. If there has not been two-way communication with the decision maker during an active opportunity in over two weeks, welcome to the “yellow zone.” It’s possible to recover, but be quick.
If two-way communication has not been achieved in a month or more, welcome to the “red zone” . . . the deal is probably dead unless there are drastic measures to revive it.
If a sales person says, “They are waiting to hear back from the customer,” a red beacon light ought to go off in the building warning of an impending momentum loss.
Don’t Perceive Activity as Progress
Go into a standard sales meeting where the pipeline is being reviewed and hear about all of the “activity” the sales people are up to in their individual accounts. They are meeting with the VP of something important sounding; they have a call scheduled with XYZ Corporation’s CDI (Chief Decision Impersonator); there’s an eighth meeting with some low level flunky who is promoting the solution to a never named person high in the organization; they submitted a proposal 23 weeks ago but they got word from their contact that, “We should hear something back this week.”
Everybody seems super busy, but very little advances or closes.
This is superfluous, very addictive nonsense. To accelerate the sales cycle, the only thing anyone should be discussing is what kind of identifiable, specific movement has occurred to advance the opportunity or will advance the opportunity. Not advancement in a general sense, but how will the deal advance from one stage to the next within the predefined stages of the sales process?
If the focus of the meeting is advancement rather than activity, this will not only accelerate the current pipeline, it will positively impact all future deals as well.
Acceleration Is Good for Our Customer
Organizations have come to view the fact that the only group who benefits from a faster close is the selling organization. This is simply not true.
When accelerating a decision that is good for the customer, they reap the benefits earlier, the sponsor of the project gets the accolades earlier (potentially advancing their career), they left fewer savings or gains on the tables due to a speedier project, and EVERYONE wins.
When developing the mindset of truly helping the customer realize their benefits faster, it will help salespeople in their own internal game when they are pursuing opportunities.
These are just a few tactics to accelerate the sales cycle . . . don’t let another day go by without implementing at least a one or two. Deals will simply close faster, guaranteed.
Randy Meriwether is President of Texas-based Applied Acceleration. Meriwether is the author of several sales and marketing strategy books, including the soon to be released, “Don’t Be the Fat Guy in the Speedo: Profiting from the New Sales Transparency. How to See YOU Like Your Customers See You.” http://randymeriwether.com/
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