Does your sale process inevitably suffer from delays? Are you looking to cut your sale process short? Is your win rate not as high as you’d like? If the answer to either or all of these questions is a resounding yes, then you may want to tweak your sales cycle to make it more efficient and yield better results.
The first step to a better, more productive sales process is to identify the area of weakness. You can’t prescribe a medicine without first diagnosing the ailment.
So you need to start by breaking down and examining each stage of your sale process.
Know Your Sales Metrics
We’re all familiar with the concept of the sales funnel by which we guide leads through stages of prospecting, qualification, actual purchase and finally – repeat sales.
It is necessary to measure the rate at which a lead is moving through each stage of the funnel and identify which stage a lead may be stuck at for a long period.
When you don’t track your sales pipeline effectively, it can lead to the following problems
Not knowing where to focus, or focusing on the wrong aspect of the process when the problem lies elsewhere
Not measuring metrics at each stage of the sales funnel and only focusing on the lead to final sale ratio.
Not being able to identify a sales rep’s weakness and need for additional training.
Do you have enough leads going into the funnel? Is there a problem qualifying raw leads? Do some of your sales reps have a problem closing the deal after putting forth a quote?
Are you spending too much time on certain big clients at the expense of new business development? These are some of the questions that sales funnel metrics will help you answer. So first and foremost, go and examine those numbers!
Methods to Shorten the Sale Process
For some businesses it may actually work to generate more raw leads to guide through your sales process. There are various ways to do this including expanding your social media presence or increasing the number of outbound calls or even increasing sales staff depending on what suits your needs and budget.
However, many businesses wrongly assume that if they merely increase the stockpile of raw leads, it’ll lead to increased sales. You have to remember that qualifying, tracking and converting existing leads may prove to be a more efficient way of increasing sales rather than investing in generating more and more leads.
Another thing to keep in mind is the quality of the raw leads, not just the quantity. If your marketing and promotional campaigns are targeted towards the right kind of market for your product then the qualification process becomes easier and you can avoid wasting time on people who aren’t likely to purchase.
Keeping a healthy balance between generating new leads and nurturing the existing ones is critical to an efficient sales pipeline. You want to ensure that at any point of time you have new leads to replace existing ones that are lost at some stage of the sale process.
Have a clear qualifying criteria
Once you have established clear criteria as to who can be classified as a likely ‘prospect’ you can more easily weed out those leads who are unlikely to do business with you.
This involves having a very definite customer profile, identifying your customer’s needs and establishing how your product fulfils those needs. Knowing your target audience is vital to filtering out the unwanted leads so that you can focus on actual prospects.
Once you zero in on prospects that match your criteria, you can guide them through the sales process more quickly and efficiently and avoid the problem of leads getting ‘stuck’ at one or another stage of the sales pipeline.
Measure conversion at each stage
A common error that many businesses make is only measuring the final conversion ratio from the total number of leads that they start with. While this may be a useful metric in its own right, it doesn’t give you a clear picture of what is happening during the sales pipeline stages that are in between.
Examine your rate of successes at each stage. How many of the initial leads agree to a personal meeting? How many of those request more information or a full fledged presentation? From there, what is the number of prospects that request a quote or proposal?
Looking at these numbers will help you to identify where in the entire sales process you are losing leads the most and take corrective action to ‘plug the leak’ in your sales funnel.
Tackling a lead throughout the various stages of a sales pipeline can also be more productive in the long run because you can come up with small promotions to usher them to each successive stage rather than quoting for the final sale at the outset.
Getting a lead to make a series of small investments leading up to the final sale can work for you if you deal in a high value product.
By knowing your conversion rate at each stage, your sales cycle can become a little more predictable and you can prepare accordingly by anticipating how many more leads you need in case you lose some potential clients along the way.
Identify training needs
Regular training for the sales team is advised to keep them apprised of the latest sales tactics. However, since not everyone has identical aptitudes and strengths, you would want to focus on a training program that addresses a sales rep’s particular weakness.
It is quite possible that some of your sales reps may be excellent at getting a prospect to put their foot in the door at the initial point of contact. But they may be not as effective when it comes to closing the sale.
Similarly, not all your sales reps will be able to use the same method of communication equally effectively. Some will be more adept at social media usage, while some may be great over the phone. So even training should be geared towards addressing specific shortcomings.
Frequent and relevant communication
It goes without saying that you need to communicate with your leads throughout the sale process. But what you need to focus on is the relevance of that communication. A short sale process is in the best interest of both the seller and the buyer.
No one wants to be bombarded with promotional material again and again. So make sure that the communication going out to a prospect depends on what stage he is in your sales cycle. Be responsive to customer inquiries and give them only the relevant information to help them make decisions.
Communication is also key to secure repeat sales. Don’t underestimate the importance of a satisfied customer who is likely to return to you. This is one of the most crucial elements of a successful sales strategy.
A happy customer can also be a source of leads by recommending your product to others.
Examine average deal size
Looking at the average size of potential deals in your sales pipeline can help you figure out whether you have too many small deals that are merely causing clutter and distracting attention away from the more lucrative prospects.
While small deals are not insignificant, one of the true indicators of a growing business is an increasing average revenue per sale. So, keep an eye on that using a sales tracking software!
While lead generation is undoubtedly a vital component of your sales strategy, it is also important to focus on how effective your sales pitches and techniques are in converting your leads.
It depends on the specific areas of weakness your sales process may suffer from, but achieving the right balance between managing new and existing leads is usually the way to go.
Firms aim at not only a speedy and efficient sales cycle, but also a productive one with a high win ratio. If you follow the steps mentioned above, you should be able to achieve both the goals resulting in a successful and short sale process.