Shortening the sales cycle starts with getting into buyers’ minds

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By Barbara Bix - Last week, we discussed the importance of reducing the cost of sales—which I defined as the time it takes to prospect for new clients and close new business. This week, I’d like to discuss how to get started.

Step one is recognizing that for the most part, we can’t convince anyone to buy something from us that they don’t want. When it comes to shortening the sales cycle—as with other forms of behavior change, the thing to remember is that it’s all about attraction and motivation—rather than persuasion and pursuit.

Purchasers decide what they want to buy and equally important how they prefer to buy it. All we can do is make it easy for them to buy from us.

The key to success is anticipating prospective buyers’ needs and then making sure you give them exactly what they want, when they want it, how they want it—before they ask. When we neglect to first understand how our clients prefer to buy, we run the risk of failing to make the necessary connection and causing sales cycles to stretch out. Let’s look at a few examples.

Suppose prospective buyers need a written understanding of what you will deliver, and you don’t have it. Sales cycles will stretch out while you prepare the necessary documents. If they require certain payment terms, and you can’t provide them, the sale stalls until you obtain authorization to give them what they want—or worse, you may end up losing the deal. If they depend on their trusted advisors for recommendations and these advisors aren’t familiar with your business, you’ll need to wait while they perform due diligence, or more likely, miss out on the opportunity altogether.

The better you understand prospective clients’ buying behavior, the greater is your ability to anticipate obstacles, and then take action to shorten the sales cycle. In short, upfront marketing research pays.

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