Geoff Wilson / Digital Strategy / August 26th, 2013

Speeding Up Your Sales Cycle – Lessons from INBOUND 2013

Last week I had the tremendous opportunity to attend INBOUND 2013 in Boston, and I came away inspired, enlightened and excited to share a portion of the knowledge I gained at the conference. In particular, one session that really stood out for me was a discussion called “Speed Up Your Sales,” by Jill Konrath, author of SNAP Selling.

INBOUND2013

According to Jill, 60 percent of all sales are lost to no-decision, something that our client strategists come up against routinely. Too often in sales and marketing, your biggest enemy is your prospect not moving forward at all, not one of your competitors.

Said differently: your biggest sales enemy is the status quo – people who sit on a decision and are willing to stick with their current lackluster website or marketing efforts.

As any salesperson can tell you, conversion rates drop the longer a lead sits in the sales cycle. Once the sale starts to drag out, you’re dead; it’s no longer a good opportunity. And it’s your fault as the salesperson – salespeople who are savvy at avoiding the sales doldrums simply convert more.

Too often we don’t understand that our buyer is extremely busy – likely multitasking with a bunch of different projects, and this engagement is not a top priority. Jill laid out a series of mistakes that many salespeople fall into, but can fix to help a customer avoid the status quo.

Mistake No. 1 is over-educating the customer. More information – emails, phone calls, your website – just means more clutter for your customer. If you overload them,  they’ll just say, “I can’t handle this, I’m too busy” and retract to the status quo. Slow things down and only give a little information at a time.

Mistake No. 2 is failing to connect what you are selling to your customer’s business goals. As a salesperson, your entire conversation should be about their business goals and specifically how you can help them meet their goals. Anything other than their goals is irrelevant to a customer.

Mistake No. 3 is sending any email or communication that doesn’t have value. For instance, an email like, “I’m just checking in to see where you are at with your decision, you told me to check back with you around this time.” adds zero value, and your prospect will likely just delete it. Rather, tie your follow-up to their business goal with an email like: “Bob, we talked two weeks ago about increasing your business leads through a new website. Are you ready to have us start increasing your lead volume now? We are ready to get started and the sooner we do, the sooner you will get the leads you want.”

Mistake No. 4 is failing to realize that good salespeople are project managers. Good sales people actively manage their client and their sales process to get them to close. They are very much like project managers, managing the project of getting the sale to close.

Mistake No. 5 is giving your prospect options. Prospects come to us because they recognize expertise and want a specific recommendation. They don’t want choices, so don’t offer them. Multiple options or different levels of marketing packages are complications that can cause a prospect to retreat. Keep it tremendously simple; give them one strong recommendation on what they need to do.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/elpadawan/8505316460/
Simple isn’t always easy.

Mistake No. 6 is not getting your customer started with something small when they attempt to stall a big decision. The no. 1 thing you must do is get your customer started with an initial engagement, even if it is small. If they need to raise funds, sell them a small UX consultation to do a spec design now. If they need budget approval for a large marketing effort, offer a small marketing engagement. If they won’t bite on something small, then they aren’t really a serious prospect. Find a way to get them started with a very small engagement. Get them started with something so you can show results, and it’s more likely they’ll continue with a larger engagement.

Mistake No. 7 is not getting all your decision makers together. Selling your prospect is a start, but then it’s time to to identify the decision makers on the prospect’s end and get all of them together for one conversation. Tell your prospect that “Our experience shows that the others in your organization who are involved in this decision are going to look at the decision from slightly different angles and have slightly different goals… as such, it really makes sense to get everyone together so we make sure we can address everyone’s needs with our proposal.” Schedule the meeting and stick to it.

Again, think like a project manager – what would a project manager do to get feedback from several stakeholders on a design comp? He or she would insist that all of the stakeholders attend the sprint closeout and give their feedback together. As a salesperson you must do the exact same thing – be a project manager and tell your prospect how to do things: tell them they must get the decision makers together so you can move forward. You must lead, and they will listen.

Remember, prospects want things to be simple. If you manage the sales effort and keep things simple, most will actually appreciate it.  Never overwhelm them with information, and stay focused on getting your customer to move forward with something, even if it’s not a full engagement. Keep it as simple as possible for your customer, focus all communication on their business goals, and actively manage them to move forward.

  • http://invisume.com/ elwood smith

    Great post Geoff! I agree that the best way to attract and keep leads is to send emails of important value. Time is of the essence and no one wants it wasted reading garbage emails. It is said that around 40 percent of emails are not read because of poor content. Invest in the value you put into your email and see your business grow. Speaking of value, I found a great site that lets me measure my market value through prospecting. The whole process though is 100 percent private therefore there is no risk for me and my current job