- November 25, 2013
- Posted by: Dave Kurlan
- Category: Understanding the Sales Force
The goal of this study was very cool indeed, but the study, despite being developed by two business professors from Georgetown and UCLA, was poorly designed. For example, how would the results have differed if:
- The students were actually going to choose, instead of answering questions,
- The students were going to spend their own money,
- The students were choosing between only 3 ice cream shops,
- The study participants weren’t students,
- If we knew in advance which features were most important to the students and presented only those features, regardless of quantity, as one of the options.
In the end, we are all in search of a shorter, more effective sales cycle and any help we can get is always appreciated. This video, posted last week at Sales2.0Circle, has a nuance that will help shorten your sales cycle.
One thing to keep in mind about sales cycles is that everything is relative. For example, if you are standing on the road and a car goes by at 60 miles per hour, that vehicle appears to be flying by! On the other hand, if you are in traffic, driving 60 miles per hour and a car passes you at 65 miles per hour, that car appears to be barely moving. So, a sales cycle length, on its own, is meaningless until compared with the cycles of your competitors, or a new, customized, staged and optimized version of your own sales cycle. A newly designed sales cycle must have the power and nuance to significantly shorten your current sales cycle. In my experience, most companies that reach out for help have been able to shorten their sales cycles from 1/3 to 1/2 its original length. However, I have also witnessed companies that attempt the sales cycle redesign on their own and end up with a cycle designed by committee. This version is usually long on steps, short on the proper staging and milestones, terribly out of sequence and no more effective than what they began with.
An effective sales cycle not only will be shorter, but opportunities will convert from stage to stage with higher frequency. While there is an advantage to closing the same percentage of opportunities in less time, the greater benefit is closing a larger percentage of opportunities in less time. Sales cycle redesign is a good start, but the salespeople must be able to execute on the new sales process as well. Many sales processes die upon introduction as sales managers are unable to hold salespeople accountable for following the process and aren’t able to coach to the new process either.
Integration is key. You can’t pick one of the following from a menu. They must be implemented together to assure success:
- Evaluate your sales force,
- Customize and optimize your sales process if necessary,
- Introduce the new sales process to sales managers in a memorable, meaningful way,
- Train your sales managers on the new process and hold them accountable for owning it,
- Train your sales managers to coach to the process (the key to any training initiative),
- Introduce the new process to salespeople in a memorable, meaningful way,
- Train salespeople to execute the new process,
- Train your sales managers to hold salespeople accountable to the new process.
What I described above could, and should, take the better part of a year! No, not the sales process customization – that takes 30 days – tops. The introduction? That’s a day. The training – prepare for a year. Why so long? You won’t be changing simply the stages, steps and sequence of the sales process. You’ll really be changing the way your salespeople sell and change like that takes time, especially as they learn to sell in a more consultative way – the only way for them to truly differentiate in the market place.