Will Rogers said, “You can be on the right track but still get run over if you aren’t moving fast enough in the right direction.”
The sales cycle is the time it takes to make a sale from the first meeting to the prospects commitment to buy. It’s different in every industry. It’s different with every product and service but every product and service has a sales cycle.Every salesperson would like the sales cycle to be as short as possible. The shorter the better so the sales person can go find another sale. When I sold books door to door, the sales cycle was about twenty minutes. When I sold a product to the largest banks in the world, the sales cycle was about six months, sometimes longer.Over the years I’ve learned several things which can help you control the sales cycle. First, never close a meeting or a phone call without the next meeting or phone call being scheduled.For years, when a prospect said, “Call me next Tuesday, I put it in my calendar and did just that. Then I spent the next week or more trying to chase him down. Sometimes they were avoiding me, sometimes they were just busy. In either case I wasted a lot of time and I slowed down the sales cycle.Now I’ve learned to do two things when the prospect says “Call me next Tuesday.” First, I set a specific time for me to call. “How does 9:00 AM work for you?” Once the time is set, I send an email to confirm it. If you use this, your call back ratio to contact will go up. It’s still not perfect, just better.The second thing I do is get the prospects cell phone number. When I give the prospect my card, I flip it over and write my cell on the back. Then I say, “Here’s my cell, can I get yours?” The law of psychological reciprocity will cause most prospects to give you their cell phone number. This works! By the way, my cell phone is printed on the front of my card. It’s about emphasizing giving yours so the prospect will give you theirs.Another aspect of the sales cycle that slows us down is getting all the decision makers and influencers the same information I’ve given the prospect in the initial meeting. When I close the first meeting, I ask “Would there be other influencers and decision makers involved in this decision?” When I get the answer, I ask for a meeting with this group.Every salesperson would rather tell their story to all the influencers and decision makers than to let someone else do it. Unless you know that process in the prospects business or family, you can’t accomplish this goal and as a result the sales cycle spins out of the sales persons control. If the prospect says he’d rather explain it, then you have another problem beyond the sales cycle. The prospect isn’t sold, but that’s for another column.So, now to continue controlling the sales cycle you set a meeting with these other influencers and decision makers. However, time kills all deals! So, the quicker the next meeting the better. If there is a time gap between meetings, you need a strategy.My strategy is to make contact with the prospect every two or three days. First, I call back after the first meeting the next day and often just leave a message. “Bill, I enjoyed our meeting. I was just checking to see if you had any questions about our meeting. If you do, call me back” and I leave my cell. Ninety percent of the time I don’t get a call back but I show the prospect I am interested and committed.Next, I send emails about every three days. These are not “sales” emails. They are success stories of customers that have used our product, new customers that have bought or even articles about their business that I look up on the internet. The point is I am staying in touch instead of just showing up for the next meeting.Controlling the sales cycle is work but having a plan in place based on your experience will put you ahead of the game. These ideas should help!