What to do when the Sales Cycle is Lengthening

by Shannon F.


Recent research  shows that the B2B sales cycle is lengthening, causing more and more companies to miss sales goals, fail to achieve growth, and ultimately lose millions. Why is today’s average sales cycle longer than it was five years ago? For one, the buyer’s mindset has changed; even as the marketplace bounces back, the economic downturn did its damage, making business decision-makers cautious, skeptical, and less willing to part with money. Don’t expect this mindset to go away in a hurry; just as our Depression-era grandparents still tip on the wrong side of 10% and buy these cookies, today’s buyers are once burned, twice shy. They also have less decision-making autonomy and may be increasingly required to get approval on proposed purchases from higher management. This results in delays when it comes to finalizing decisions and closing the deal. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep your sales pipeline filled, overcome buyer hang-ups, and make sure a longer sales cycle doesn’t negatively impact your bottom line.

1. Focus on trigger events. A trigger event with a timeline (such as an office move) gives the buyer a compelling reason to make decisions quickly. A trigger event allows you to accurately predict when a deal will close. For example, if a company must be up and running in the new office by September 1st, they are going to have to decide on a new phone system at least 30 days prior, or major delays will occur. Understanding and working in accordance with the buyer’s deadlines will allow you to take control of the sales cycle.

2. Keep your pipeline filled. You’ve heard this time and again, but keeping a steady flow of short-term, mid-term, and long-term leads is the best way to keep from getting stalled on stubborn deals that just won’t close.

3. Invest in new lead sources. 60 percent of B2B marketers say that their biggest challenge is generating more leads. The more leads you have, the less it matters when you are dealing with a slow decision-maker. You can simply divert your attention to other opportunities.

4. Engage your decision-makers online. Today’s buyers do extensive research online; essentially, they start the sales cycle without you. Make sure you are a key player in digital advertising, social media, and SEO. This could be as simple as revisiting your company’s website to make sure it provides the information decision-makers are looking for, targeting key words and emphasizing your brand identity.

5. Prove to your buyer that timing is critical. For example, deciding on a moving company now as opposed to a month from now may save buyers money, since they won’t have to pay extra to expedite the construction of custom crates. Help your prospect to understand the value and benefits of committing to your product or service NOW.

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