You don’t create sales growth yourself. Rather, you work with your sales tools, and the tools create sales growth. Of all the tools in your sales toolbox, the sales cycle is of the utmost importance for growth.
You can have the best intentions, but you can’t build a house unless you have a hammer and drill. Similarly, you can’t build a scalable sales department without a cycle!
Unfortunately, most sales teams have a cycle that helps them do anything but close more deals in less time. Instead, it makes selling more challenging than it needs to be.
That said, I’m sharing how you can build a sales cycle for sales growth. More specifically, I’m sharing:
- What stages your cycle should include
- Factors most important for sales growth
- Keys to success for designing your cycle
If you’re not the kind of person who would try to build a house without any tools, then don’t try to build sales growth without the proper sales tools, namely a sales cycle designed to create growth.
What Is a Sales Cycle and Why Is it Important?
Also known as a sales process, a sales cycle outlines your sales team’s plan of action or workflow to convert leads into paying customers. It includes several different stages, with each stage bringing prospects closer to a purchasing decision.
Think of a selling cycle like a blueprint to help you achieve your sales goals: with a blueprint, you suddenly have a game plan to achieve your sales goals, including sales growth.
Sales Cycle = Greater Control Over Sales Growth
Having a defined B2B sales cycle gives you greater control over your sales operations. With greater control over your operations, sales growth, or any of your other sales goals, are within reach.
Having a defined cycle helps you have greater control over your operations because it is:
Think of it like this: Let’s say that you want to get fit but you don’t know where to start. Instead of sitting down and coming up with a plan, you decide to wing it. After one month of on and off exercise and yo-yo dieting, you haven’t lost any fat or gained any muscle. This is what it’s like to not have a selling cycle while trying to achieve sales growth!
On the flip side, imagine that you want to get fit so you devise a weekly diet and exercise plan. This way, you know exactly how many calories are going in versus going out. Because you took control right off the bat with a plan, you’re sure to get results if you execute according to those plans.
A sales cycle gives you control, and when you’re in control… YOU’RE the one in charge of your own destiny. Unless you take control by owning your cycle, sales growth is almost impossible.
What Are the 4 Stages of the Sales Cycles? - Sales Cycle Outline
Yes, I did say four.
Not seven steps or even six steps, I said four steps!
Contrary to popular belief, your cycle doesn’t need more than four steps. In fact, if you have more than four steps, your odds of closing deals sink, because longer sales cycles offer more opportunities for leads to ditch!
Not only that, but short and sweet cycles make your life significantly simpler so that you can focus on factors that are most important to sales growth.
If sales growth is your goal, here are the four and only four stages your sales cycle should include.
1. Lead Generation: Prospects Enter the Sales Pipeline
The first stage of the sales cycle is sales lead generation. This is the phase in which prospects enter the pipeline as your sales team makes cold calls, sends cold emails, and uses marketing content to entice leads into the pipeline.
Each prospect should fit within the constraints of your outlined ideal customer profile and ideal buyer persona. This way, you’re contacting leads who are most likely to convert into customers.
This first contact sets the stage for the entire rest of the cycle: unless you generate potential leads, then you’ll never gain any new customers!
Putting extra emphasis on lead generation is of the utmost importance. However, just because you need to put extra emphasis on lead gen doesn’t mean that you need to overcomplicate it. Rather, you need to keep things simple while putting in 100% effort.
2. Lead Qualification: Qualifying Leads and Their Pain Points
After you make contact with your potential leads, the next step of the selling process is lead qualification. During this stage, every lead generated gets put under the microscope to determine whether or not they’re truly a good fit for you and your sales team.
By a good fit, I mean that they definitely fit within the outlines of your ideal customer profile and ideal buyer persona.
Unless you thoroughly qualify each prospect, then you’ll likely get to the end of the sales cycle, make the final sales pitch, and then get hit with, “Thanks but no thanks” or, “Sorry, but we can’t afford it,” or “This isn’t really what we want.”
After thoroughly qualifying prospects, there is little to no reason why they shouldn’t convert into paying customers.
3. Analyze and Uncover the Ultimate Outcome
At this point, you’ve got a handful of qualified leads in your pipeline; this is when the real fun starts!
This next stage of the cycle is all about understanding the prospects on a deeper level. It’s about understanding the implications of solving their pain points and what that could mean for the potential customer going forward.
Think of it like this: When you go to a doctor for knee pain, your immediate pain point is knee pain, but getting it solved will enable you to get back to exercising, spend more quality time with your family, and move around faster. Moreover, the outcome of solving your pain point is a freer and healthier life.
Your job during this stage of the cycle is to understand the implications of solving the prospect’s pain point. What would it really mean for them to solve their problems in the grand scheme of things? I also like to call this their ultimate end destination.
Understanding the ultimate outcome that the lead is trying to reach is absolutely CRUCIAL. I suggest spending one to two formal meetings uncovering the broader implications of solving those pain points.
4. Final Sales Pitch: Close Deals By Proposing Pathways Forward
The final stage of the sales cycle is making the final sales pitch. This last stage should take no more than one meeting AND you should lay the deal down on the table immediately after making the pitch.
Moreover, you must show up to the final pitch totally prepared to sign the deal then and there. If you leave any opportunity for the cycle to drag on, then your odds of closing the deal sink.
To ensure that you close out the cycle at this point, you must propose a solution for your prospect to overcome their pain point so that they reach that ultimate desired outcome that they are chasing.
To do that, frame your pitch around the pathway that’ll take the prospect from where they are now to where they want to be in the future. It’s almost like you’re creating a roadmap that shows them the road to where they want to be once their pain is solved.
Rather than diving into the tech specs of your product or service (which honestly the prospect doesn’t care about), show how your product or service will solve the pain point so that they have the opportunity to reach their ultimate end destination.
What Is Most Important for Sales Growth?
When it comes to sales growth, you should focus on optimizing your sales cycle to increase control over your outcomes. However, your cycle isn’t the only sales-growth factor you should consider…
In addition to optimizing your cycle, I suggest honing in on these 5 other factors. Each of them have strengths on their own and can help increase the potency of your cycle.
That said, having a defined sales cycle is of the utmost importance to growth. In addition to a defined cycle, there are a few other factors to consider.
To begin with, you can’t achieve success in almost any arena without consistency, and sales growth is no exception.
For example, you can make one effective cold call, but unless you consistently follow up until you get a response, you’ll never achieve any level of success.
That said, hard work without consistency is meaningless.
Getting Started Before You’re Ready
How often do you delay getting started doing something because you tell yourself that you’re not ready and that you need things to be perfect before you get moving?
If you’re like most salespeople, then you make this excuse on the regular.
However, I’m here to tell you that you’re never going to feel 100% ready because things are never going to be 100% perfect, and sales cycles are no exception.
Therefore, always start jumping into the sales growth process before you’re ready! It’s okay to not feel ready, but what’s not okay is to let not feeling ready prevent you from taking action.
Having the Confidence of a Surgeon
To close more deals in less time with new customers, you must have the confidence of a surgeon. Moreover, you need to start thinking of yourself as a surgeon who is so sure in their techniques that they don’t ever question their ability to deliver!
When you’re confident in yourself, you’ll inevitably portray yourself as an expert. Ultimately, prospects will see you as an expert who they can’t afford to live without, just like a surgeon.
Understanding Your Potential Clients
Understanding your potential clients is about putting yourself in their shoes so that you see life from their perspective. When you see life from their perspective, you recognize their challenges on a deeper level.
Many sales reps stay totally on the surface with their potential clients. As a result of not digging beneath the surface, potential clients don’t feel understood. When they don’t feel understood, they can’t trust you to help solve their pain point and get them to a better place.
Rather than immediately thinking that you know your prospects inside and out, put yourself in their shoes to understand them on a deeper level. That way, they’ll trust you and your ability to deliver.
Knowing the Value You Bring to the Table
If I was to ask you what about your business makes you different from all of your competitors, could you answer the question right now?
Believe it or not, most sales reps don’t know how to interpret the unique value they bring to the table. Because they don’t know how to interpret it, their potential customers don’t see them as any different from all the other options in the field. Since they don’t see them as any different, they have no good reason to make a purchase!
Therefore, you must know the unique value that you and your sales team bring to the table. If you don’t know what’s unique about you and can’t interpret it, then why would prospects give you the time of day?
Tips for Designing a Sales Cycle for Sales Growth
Here’s how you should design your sales cycle for sales growth.
Remember, your cycle is a tool, and optimizing your tools is what helps ignite and sustain growth!
Cut Down the Length of Your Sales Cycle
When designing your cycle, the most important thing is to cut it down to the four stages I’ve outlined above.
With fewer stages, the length of your sales cycle inevitably gets shorter. The shorter and sweeter the cycle is, the easier it is to use it as a tool to control selling.
Moreover, unless you cut down the length of your cycle, you completely negate the purpose of having a cycle in the first place - to have more control!
Qualified Leads Only!
In addition to cutting down the length of your cycle by sticking to only four stages, double down on keeping your cycle short and sweet by focusing solely on qualified leads.
Rather than wasting your time on unqualified leads who will only eat up time, focus on those who are most likely to convert into paying customers. This way, your cycle will stay short and you’ll have a higher prospect to customer conversion rate.
Up Your Follow-Up Game
Better yet, triple down on cutting down the length of your cycle by being absolutely ruthless with follow-up.
By that, I mean after making your first cold phone call to a lead, follow up with another call within 24 hours and send an email letting the prospect know you’re trying to contact them. If you still don’t hear back after the initial follow-up, make another call within 12 hours.
Keep following up every 12 hours until you get a response. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself!
Remove Friction From Your Lead’s Buyer’s Journey
How often do you get to the end of your sales cycle only to get hit with countless objections from prospects? For example, common objections like, “But why should we choose you?” or “Is this really necessary to solve our problems?”
If you’re like most salespeople, then you’re probably constantly bombarded with objections. This slows down the cycle and creates tension between you and prospects.
Instead of getting hit with tons of objections right at the bitter end, remove friction from your lead’s buyer’s journey so that they feel completely confident in your ability to deliver at the end of the cycle.
By removing friction, I mean removing any doubt that might prevent the prospect from making a purchasing decision.
Ask More Questions and Listen Instead of Talk
The key to removing any doubt from a prospect’s mind is asking more in-depth questions and actively listening instead of talking.
Listening instead of talking has a double impact:
- It makes prospects feel understood
- It makes prospects feel like you genuinely care about their success
When prospects feel understood and cared about, they’re less likely to reach the end of the sales cycle ready to throw rotten tomato-like objections at you.
Create Opportunities to Hype-Up Emotions
As much as we all don’t like to admit it, buying is a matter of emotions. We all make buying decisions on emotions, not logic.
Because buying is a matter of emotions, it only makes sense that your sales cycle should be used as a tool to hype up prospects’ emotions.
Unfortunately, many salespeople do the opposite of appealing to emotions by appealing to logic. As a result, they have what looks like a full-proof sales cycle that doesn’t manifest the kinds of results they want.
From now on, use your cycle as a tool to harness and hype up the prospect’s emotions. Unless you use their emotions to help push the sale forward, the prospect’s emotions will work against you.
When it comes to harnessing and hyping up emotions, hone in on selling the pathway forward during the third stage of the cycle.
Leave No Room for Negotiation
Contrary to popular belief, there is NO room for negotiation in sales. Your (fair) price is your price, and selling yourself for anything short of that is a no-no.
Thankfully, you can use your cycle to prevent negotiations altogether. This way, you can get prospects to sign on the dotted line the second the final pitch ends.
In fact, getting prospects to sign their name on the dotted line right at the end of the pitch is the key to avoiding negotiations. If they sign immediately, they’re less likely to walk away to ‘think about their decision’ and come back wanting to bargain.
Connect With Decision-Makers at the Start of the Sales Process
Perhaps the best way to prevent negotiation altogether is by connecting with the decision-makers at your target B2B companies at the very start of the sales cycle. After making that first touchpoint of contact, center your entire cycle around that top decision-maker.
This way, you have the decision-maker present at the final pitch and they can make a conclusive purchasing decision at that very moment. The sooner they sign their name on the dotted line, the less likely they are to counter with a negotiation!
Automate and Delegate to Team Members
Finally, make the most out of your cycle by delegating its different stages to your sales and marketing team members.
For example, if one team member is particularly keen on making cold calls, let them manage lead generation. Meanwhile, delegate the fourth and final stage of the cycle to the team member who is best at closing.
Unfortunately, many sales leads design an excellent sales cycle only to not delegate any of its stages to their team. This ends up overwhelming the sales leader with work they cannot handle, and the cycle inevitably falls apart.
Instead of letting your cycle fall to pieces, delegate different stages to individual team members. Let them dominate that stage while you, the leader, focus on upgrading the cycle and concentrating on the other important factors of sales growth.
Final Thoughts on Designing a Sales Cycle for Sales Growth
Like I said, you can have the best intentions, but you can’t build something without the right tools. Moreover, you can’t build long-term, sustainable sales growth without the right tools, particularly a solid sales cycle.
Start here to design a sales cycle that’ll help you close more deals in less time AND with less resistance. How much longer will you rely on a cycle that only sets you back?
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