Believe it or not, sales cycles are supposed to be simple. If you believe that they’re supposed to be anything but simple and straightforward, then you’re only setting yourself up for failure.
Any cycle that isn’t simple inevitably complicates the entire selling process. Ultimately, it’s complication, not your potential customers, that consistently sabotages sales deals.
To streamline means to simplify your sales cycle. It’s about automating the cycle so that you don’t have to jump through hoops every time you’re ready to capture new customers.
That said, I’m sharing 8 tactics to help you streamline your sales cycle. Each tactic is intended to simplify your process, so that:
- The length of your sales cycle significantly shortens;
- Prospects rarely object; and
- No time, energy, or resources are wasted.
Moreover, simplifying your sales process makes your life easier, your potential customers happier, and, of course, helps you close deals in less time and with less resistance.
You have nothing to lose by streamlining!
What Are Sales Cycles?
Also known as sales processes, sales cycles are sales tools that outline all the steps sales teams take to close deals with new customers. While sales reps are going through their selling journey, leads are on the other side going through a buyer’s journey.
Moreover, cycles create a roadmap out of your selling process while aligning it with a potential customer’s buying process, so that everyone is on the same page at the same time!
Ultimately like all sales tools, the goal of using a sales cycle is to help you increase your conversion rate by closing more deals in less time and with less resistance.
Average Sales Cycle Timeline
How long is your average sales cycle? One week? One month? Two months? If so, then consider yourself one of the very lucky few, because the average cycle lasts for about three months!
Unless you’re a part of the sales minority, then you’re probably thinking to yourself, “If my sales cycle closes within three months, then I consider myself lucky!”
Although the average sales cycle timeline lasts for months, that doesn’t mean that it’s normal, okay, or good for selling. Rather, it means that most salespeople have terribly long cycles that probably do anything but help them close more deals in less time.
On the flip side, the minority of top sales professionals have very precise and defined sales cycles that on average last for a couple of weeks. If the B2B companies that they’re targeting are larger, then it’ll usually take a few weeks, whereas smaller companies take sometimes less than one week to close on.
Bottom line: Just because it takes every other sales team months on end to close out their cycle doesn’t mean that it’s okay and that you should follow their lead. If your timeline is more than a few weeks, then now’s the time to look to sales cycle management.
Why Sales Cycle Management Matters
Sales cycles are simply sales tools intended to make B2B selling a straightforward process.
However, many sales teams overcomplicate their cycle to the heavens! By that, I mean that they add more steps than necessary which makes them much longer than they need to be.
By doing so, they completely contradict what sales cycles are intended to do, which is to make selling simple!
As a result, they don’t get the sales results they want and then question why they’re performing so poorly.
This is where sales cycle management comes into play: Sales cycle management is simply the act of evaluating your sales cycle in order to improve it. It starts with taking a step back and assessing your cycle. Then, it’s about adjusting your sales cycle process to help it flow more easily.
With effective cycle management, the cycle will resume its purpose as a tool to help make selling a straightforward process! The more straightforward it is, the better sales rep you become.
What Does It Mean to Streamline a Cycle?
Streamlining is a strategy intended to help you manage your selling cycle. There are many different tactics that you can use to implement a streamlining strategy.
To streamline means to reduce the resistance of a process to improve its natural flow. There are three primary categories into which most streamlining tactics fall, including:
- Removing complex and unnecessary stages;
- Focusing on quality over quantity; and
- Delegating and managing effectively.
When you zoom out to look at the big picture, streamlining your cycles does a lot more than just reducing resistance and improving the overall flow of the selling cycle. From a big picture perspective, it helps to:
- Increase your perceived level of expertise;
- Form stronger relationships with potential and existing customers; and
- Free-up plenty of time and energy for you to focus on your most important tasks.
And, of course, all the benefits of streamlining circle back to helping you close more deals in less time with less resistance.
When it comes to streamlining, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The Key to Successfully Streamlining Your Sales Cycle
The key to successfully streamlining your sales cycle has nothing to do with techniques and tactics. Rather, it has to do with your mindset.
Consider this: The reason salespeople need to streamline in the first place is because they build up unnecessarily long and complex cycles. They do this because they overthink selling altogether. Rather than seeing it as the very basic process that it is, they see it as difficult and harsh.
That said, the key to successfully streamlining is to stop overthinking sales. Instead of approaching sales like it’s a debilitating task, look at it for what it is: the simple task of converting leads into paying customers.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “Not overthinking is easier said than done!”
While there is plenty of truth to that, I suggest doing this 3-step exercise every day to help put overthinking at bay:
- Create distance between you and your thoughts. Write down any overthinking thoughts you have regarding sales (for example, do you see cold calling as difficult and anxiety-inducing even though it’s a basic task of making phone calls?)
- Review how you’ve responded to your thoughts. Write down how you’ve responded to your thoughts in the past (for example, did you overthink cold calling and resultantly develop an exceedingly complex process to tackle it?)
- Decipher whether or not your sales challenges exist because sales is complicated in itself or because you responded in a complicated manner
You see, most salespeople inflect sales problems on themselves because they overthink sales!
Hence, why the key to successfully streamlining is managing overthinking tendencies.
You Don’t Want to Over-Streamline
When it comes to streamlining, there is one major catch: You don’t want to over-streamline.
By over-streamline, I mean automating the entire selling process so much that your team members are essentially working on an assembly line all day.
Do you really think that your sales and marketing teams want to check boxes all day, or do they want to be treated as the sales professionals that they are?
Always leave room in your cycle for team members to take action according to what they think is best, and don’t just stick to script 100% of the time.
Ideally, you want to find a sweet spot between streamlining for flow purposes and leaving some breathing room for sales pros to take action according to what they think is best!
Here Are 7 Tactics to Streamline & Automate Your B2B Sales Cycle
If you’re tired of going all-in on your sales cycle only to end up empty-handed, then start streamlining with these tactics.
By implementing these tactics, your sales cycle will be so simple and straightforward that it’ll almost feel automatic.
As I said, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain with these streamlining tactics. You’ll close more deals in less time while feeling significantly better in the process.
1. Assess the Different Stages of Your Current Workflow
Before jumping in and making any changes to your current cycle, take a step back and assess your current sales situation.
Before you have a chance to overthink, write down what is and isn’t going well for your team.
For example, is your lead generation ROI extremely low and inducing tons of headaches? If so, write those immediate thoughts down before you can overthink them.
The idea is to create distance between you and your workflow so that you have an opportunity to get your internalized thoughts about the cycle out of your head and onto paper where you can fairly critique them.
Create a Pros vs Cons List
Once you have your thoughts about the different stages of the selling cycle down on paper, create pros and cons for each item.
For example, if your lead gen stage is a mess, what are the pros and cons of keeping things as is?
Ultimately, you should start to see that there is an overwhelming amount of cons to pros. By seeing this on paper, that internal pull to overthink starts to fade away.
2. Clean House on Your Sales Process
Next is the most important step of streamlining your selling cycle: cleaning house on your sales process!
By that, I mean it’s time to remove all the unnecessary steps of your selling cycle that only make selling an excruciatingly long and difficult process.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need an eight or seven-step sales cycle to be successful. Rather, you need a short cycle with a maximum of a few steps.
Believe it or not, having a short and sweet selling cycle isn’t just a plus, but a must! Because, the shorter the selling cycle, the simpler the cycle gets. The simpler the cycle gets, the better it is for you and your potential clients.
Reduce the Stages of the Sales Cycle to Only a Few
To begin with, your sales cycle should only include a few steps.
How do you know which steps to keep and which ones to ditch?
First off, use my basic 3-step selling process for guidance. From now on, start outlining your cycle according to this straightforward yet highly effective process.
Then, consider which steps of the selling cycle you wrote down in step one. If there is one step in the process that is particularly problem-inducing, then ask yourself whether or not you should totally ditch it or if it just needs some refining.
Align Your Selling Process With the Buyer’s Journey
As you’re cutting down the stages of your selling cycle, keep in mind that on the other side of the coin is your potential buyers going through their buyer’s journey, and that your selling process shapes their buying process.
That said, ask yourself if the cycle you’re designing will create an ideal buying process for potential customers.
For example, customers like straightforward buying processes that get directly to the point. So, ask yourself if your newly designed cycle creates the kind of process that addresses prospects’ needs in the most concise way possible.
Qualified Leads Only
Finally, cut down your selling cycle by redefining who your ideal potential leads are! In addition to removing unnecessary steps of the selling cycle, you also want to remove low-quality leads from that cycle.
Unfortunately, many sales reps completely botch sales prospecting and qualifying because they don’t strictly prospect leads who fit their ideal customer profile and ideal buyer persona.
As a result, they end up with tons of unqualified leads in their sales pipeline who are unlikely to make purchasing decisions.
When it comes to sales lead generation, focus on lead quality over quantity. It’s one of the most basic yet effective tactics to streamline your cycle.
3. Hold Weekly Sales Team Huddles
In order to keep your new and improved sales cycle flowing, hold weekly sales team huddles on Monday mornings. Kick off the week with a meeting that gets all team members aligned with the mission!
Most importantly, use these weekly huddles as opportunities to address challenges and objections.
Unfortunately, many sales cycles lack flow because sales leaders and team members don’t communicate well with one another. As a result, everyone is off in their own world instead of working together.
Rather than letting poor communication stand in your way, use weekly huddles as an opportunity to keep the selling cycle intact.
Have Everybody Say a Weekly Win
Start every weekly huddle with every team member saying a “win” that they had from the week before.
A win can be anything from making initial contact with an ideal lead after weeks of follow-up to gaining more traction on social media marketing.
The idea is to kick off the week on a high note by celebrating everybody’s wins, no matter how small they might be.
Address Sales Strategy Challenges
After everybody states their win, address any sales-related challenges that the team experienced the week before.
For example, address the fact that the team didn’t hit their sales cycle metrics, and then discuss ways to address the challenge.
The goal is to address challenges, particularly those related to the selling cycle, immediately before they have the chance to grow larger and get harder to fix.
Delegate Tasks Immediately!
Lastly and most importantly, delegate selling cycle tasks immediately so that every team member knows exactly what role they play in keeping the cycle moving.
Believe it or not, many sales leaders totally botch this task! Instead of delegating, they leave everyone out on their own. As a result, their team members are left wandering around like chickens with their heads cut off.
To keep your cycle moving swiftly, make sure that every team member knows what they need to do and when they need to do it.
4. Pick Your Sales Tools Wisely
You might have the most streamlined selling cycle on paper but then totally overcomplicate things by choosing the wrong sales tools. More specifically, by choosing sales tools, particularly CRMs, that are exceedingly complicated.
Letting complex software undercut the impact of your streamlined selling cycle is silly. So, be mindful of the software you chose to keep your cycle organized!
Choose a No-Nonsense CRM
First off, choose a no-nonsense CRM that helps organize the selling cycle.
Don’t allow yourself to be wowed by little bells and whistles just because they look impressive! Rather, choose a CRM that simply does what it’s supposed to do: help you stay organized!
Regularly Clean House on Your CRM
Second, clean up your CRM system once per week, perhaps on a Friday or Sunday after all your sales team members close out their work.
Far too often, sales teams get tripped up by their own disorganization which undercuts the effectiveness of their streamlined cycle.
That said, don’t let disorganization throw you for a loop!
5. Get Strict With Your Time
How often does this happen to you: You wake up in the morning knowing exactly what you need to do to have a productive day. However, the moment you open your laptop, you’re suddenly slammed with countless messages from team members and customers begging for your help. Then at the end of the day, you realize that instead of getting actual work done, all you did all day was put out fires.
If you find yourself in this constant state of crisis management, then it’s only inevitable that your selling cycle will fall apart. Instead of focusing on keeping the cycle flowing, you’re being pulled in countless other directions and not focusing on the most important tasks at hand.
That said, if you want to keep your cycle flowing, then you need to get strict with your time. No more letting yourself be pushed around by distractions!
To get strict with your time so that you can focus on keeping your selling cycle moving along, start time blocking your days out.
Time blocking is a time management technique in which you section off very specific hours of the day to focus on selected tasks.
For example, from 9:00 am to 10:00 am, strictly focus on answering emails. Then immediately at 10:01, you strictly focus on drafting final sales pitches.
How do you expect to keep your selling cycle moving along without constant interruptions if you can’t even focus on a single task for 10 minutes without losing focus?
Don’t Let Handling Objections Consume Your Life
You’re ALWAYS going to get hit with objections from customers and problems from team members.
That being the case, YOU have to take charge of your time, because nobody else is going to do it for you. And unfortunately, when you don’t take charge of your time, it creates a trickle-down effect.
Suddenly, you won’t be keeping up with your own sales cycle tasks, which makes it that much more difficult for your team members to manage their tasks. Over time, the selling cycle will just get longer and more complex.
Bottom line: There’s no point in streamlining your cycle if you’re going to let objections and problems consume your time.
6. Get Feedback From a CEO Coach
As much as everyone hates to admit it, we all tend to be biased toward our own opinions. And as much as we try to remain neutral, it’s nearly impossible to do it 100% of the time.
To help keep bias at bay while getting the inputs you need, get honest feedback on your streamlined cycle from a CEO coach.
As somebody has achieved sales success themself, a CEO coach can give you feedback based on direct experience from streamlining their cycles in the past.
If you want to streamline your cycle, then you need to put your ego aside. Let an experienced CEO coach come in and give you the feedback you need to keep your cycle flowing.
7. Optimize as You Go
Finally, you’ll never perfectly streamline your cycle, nor should you want to. You can follow each of these tactics perfectly, but still, you’ll never be able to streamline your selling cycle to absolute perfection!
That said, instead of demanding impossible perfection, optimize your cycle as you go. Figure out what works for you and then make changes as you move throughout the cycle!
What works for every sales team will be slightly different, so learn to make adjustments according to what works best for you and your team!
Remember, you’ll never reach perfection, nor should you want to. Instead of striving for perfection, strive for progress.
Final Thoughts on Tactics to Streamline Your Sales Cycle
Most salespeople are conditioned to believe that sales cycles, and sales in general, are supposed to be complicated. As a result, they complicate the heck out of sales and then wonder why they’re not gaining any momentum.
Thinking that sales cycles have to be complicated to be effective is like saying that, instead of driving on straight, flat roads, you need to drive on a bumpy, curvy, and rocky pathway to get to your desired destination. Why go the complicated route when you could get there faster by going the simple way?
The fact of the matter is, you’re not doing yourself, your team members, or your customers any good by keeping your cycle complicated. Start gaining sales momentum TODAY by applying these tactics to streamline, and therefore simplify your sales cycle.
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