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Shorten the sales cycle next year: Year end marketing planning

Dec 30th 2008
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By Barbara Bix -
What’s the financial impact of winning one more account per quarter? What would it take to do so? If you don’t know, now may be the time to find out so you can improve the top line next year.

Capitalize on success, avoid repeating mistakes

As the year ends, it can be helpful to take stock of what worked and what didn’t—so that you can capitalize on your successes and avoid repeating what turned out to be mistakes. Our clients find that one of the best ways to do this is to go straight to the horse’s mouth—the customers that bought and those that didn’t.

Make the most of your sales and marketing investments

Interestingly, despite the fact that many businesses invest a lot of time and money in getting new clients, relatively few have a structured process for going back to find out why they won when they won—and why they lost when they lost. Of those who do, many are surprised to find out that the reasons were not always what they suspected.

Forget your sales process, get into your buyer's mind

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, your prospects’ buying process often starts months before your sales cycle. So step one is mapping their buying process so that you can later identify points where you could intervene more effectively to elevate your organization above the competition. For example, if you can find out what circumstances caused prospects to search for a solution in the first place, you may be able to source more buyers, just by looking for others in those same circumstances.

Nevertheless, the circumstances themselves may not be obvious. Although you may think that a prospect engaged one of your competitors to handle a recent acquisition, you may be surprised to learn that the prospect actually began sourcing a solution provider a year earlier when their own competitor launched a product that their own product line lacked. If that’s the case, then it may not be fruitful to focus on companies that have announced their attentions to acquire another company. Instead you may want to pursue companies whose competitors have recently made major announcements.

What do prospective buyers' really care about?

When we perform win/loss analyses for our clients, we concentrate on buyers’ perceptions in four areas: the desirability of the solutions, the reputation of the vendor, the effectiveness of the communications, and the responsiveness of the individuals leading the sales or business development effort. In each case, our goal is to learn what factors were most important to the buyer and how our client’s company performed relative to the competition.

What really worked? What needs to change?

Rather than seeking to find out whether their performance was better or worse, we look for differences in our clients’, or the competition’s, performance that may have affected the outcome of the sale. Sometimes finding out why you won can be as, or more, useful than finding out why you lost. For example, the insights you gain may cause you to reinforce a particular marketing message. Or, they may drive you to reallocate your sales and marketing resources for greater impact.

Win or lose, relationships matter

So, as you’re closing the books on this year, ask yourselves whether you know for certain what to do differently next year. If not, it’s worth it to find out. Best case, next year will be more profitable. Worst case, the prospects in whom you’ve invested so much time will see how much you care about doing your best—and may be more likely to buy from you (again) next time!


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