Ah, the search for the perfect sales cycle. A seemingly impossible quest for business-to-business (B2B) organizations—like searching for the Fountain of Youth or finding the lost city of Atlantis.
Why is the dream of a perfect B2B sales cycle so out-of-reach? Because there are too many variables at play. Each sale can throw a wrench in the system, knocking down your house of cards and creating new, unforeseen bottlenecks. And there’s no one-size-fits all sales cycle for every B2B company, so what works for one organization may not be a good fit for yours.
Instead of focusing on perfection (and, inevitably, failing to meet such an unrealistic goal), think about how you can make it better. There are ways you can improve and speed up your B2B sales cycle to make it more efficient, create a more predictable process, and increase your bottom line.
Sales Cycle vs. Sales Funnel
Let’s back up for a moment.
You’ve likely heard the phrases “sales cycle” and “sales funnel”—and may have even used them interchangeably. But there is a difference between these two terms, and before we outline our recommendations for speeding up the B2B sales cycle, we want to make sure we’re all on the same page.
What Is the B2B Sales Cycle?
The sales cycle is a guided sequence of steps that detail the process of selling your product or service to a customer. Every B2B company is different, so the exact steps vary among organizations, but your sales cycle probably looks something like this:
- Finding and identifying prospects
- Nurturing and qualifying leads
- Contacting prospects to establish a relationship
- Pitching your products or services
- Negotiating the details
- Closing the deal
Everything that happens between the future customer first interacting with your company and signing the contract is part of the sales cycle. These steps guide your sales representatives through the cycle of converting potential buyers from leads to customers.
What Is the B2B Sales Funnel?
The sales funnel is a method of viewing all in-process sales cycles, broken down into stages that typically align with the steps of the sales cycle.
Sales funnels are based on the concept of a funnel. In other words, the idea that you start out with a lot of leads. As the leads flow through the stages of the sales funnel, more and more will be filtered out for various reasons until you’re left with a fraction of highly qualified prospects that are ready to make a purchase.
This bird’s eye view represents how many leads are moving from stage to stage as well as how fast they are moving through the funnel. By looking at the conversion rate of your sales funnel from one stage to the next, you can see what’s working well throughout your sales process, where the bottlenecks are, and how you can optimize each stage.
The Importance of Speeding Up the B2B Sales Cycle
The B2B sales cycle is notoriously slow. Thanks to the number of key decision-makers you have to involve before a purchase can be made, the process can take weeks or even months.
That’s a long time before your company starts to see any revenue from your sales efforts.
Speeding up the B2B sales cycle helps everyone make the best use of their time—your sales representatives and your prospects. It also minimizes your risk of running into cash-flow problems and gives you more time to focus on a larger number of prospects.
Your sales cycle length directly impacts the overall performance and growth potential of your company. If you want your B2B organization to grow and meet your revenue goals, you must consider how to refine your sales cycle.
10 Best Strategies to Speed Up the Sales Process
We’ve created a list of our top recommendations for how you can speed up your B2B sales cycle. Whether you’re starting from scratch or simply looking to improve your current sales processes, keep these tips in mind to accelerate your efforts.
1. Analyze and Optimize Your Sales Process
Start by auditing your current sales cycle to identify bottlenecks and find the weak spots.
- What is working?
- What’s not working?
- How long does it take, on average, for a prospect to move through the sales cycle and become a paying customer?
- Which stage takes the most time?
- What requires immediate attention?
The results of your sales cycle audit will help you determine how you can best optimize the sales process from start to finish.
2. Focus on Targeted Marketing
Not all leads and prospects provide the same value. You need to learn how to filter out leads that don’t have a high chance of converting—and the best way to do so is to identify your target market and concentrate on prospects that fit your ideal customer profile (ICP).
By targeting leads who match your ICP, you can concentrate your marketing and sales efforts on prospects that are more likely to make a sale. Then, you won’t be wasting your time on opportunities that are unlikely to lead to sales.
This targeted marketing approach leads to a faster, more efficient sales cycle with the highest possible return on investment (ROI).
3. Score Your Leads
To speed up the B2B sales cycle, your sales team needs to spend their time with the right leads. When unqualified prospects go through the sales process, it wastes time and resources as well as slows down the sales cycle. Evaluating leads as they enter the sales pipeline will help you accelerate this process.
Lead scoring is a technique where leads are ranked based on characteristics that align with your ICP.
Start with a list of attributes that prospects have or actions they take that would make them your ideal customer. Then, assign a score based on those characteristics or the steps they take. Prospects with higher scores are more likely to fit your ICP, and it’s time for your sales representatives to get in touch.
4. Nurture Leads
Sales representatives focus on qualified leads that are ready to buy, but unqualified leads won’t necessarily stay like that forever. You can nurture those leads to build a relationship and (potentially) encourage them to make a purchase.
Don’t clog up your sales pipeline with unqualified leads. Instead, create a lead nurturing campaign to nurture those leads. Then, if those clients warm up and are interested in making a purchasing decision, you can send them off to your sales reps.
Lead nurturing campaigns help speed up the sales cycle because they allow your sales team to focus on high-quality leads instead of spending their time trying to sell to unqualified leads.
5. Leverage Sales Enablement
Sales enablement is a method of supporting your sales teams. This support comes in many forms:
- Regular internal training opportunities
- A variety of high-quality content
- An array of tools and technological solutions that can help enhance sales enablement
- A functional sales strategy that takes the company brand, voice, and goals into account
- Aligned metrics across customer-facing teams
Leverage sales enablement to ensure your B2B sales representatives have everything they need to succeed.
6. Invest in CRM Software for Better Tracking
Customer relationship management (CRM) software can manage and optimize your sales cycle. These software tools have a variety of applications:
- Identifying qualified leads
- Filtering out unqualified leads
- Creating custom sales reports
- Scoring leads and accounts
- Automating sales and marketing campaigns
CRM tools like Hubspot take over the responsibility of finding the right customer, freeing up your time to focus on other stages of the sales cycle and significantly shortening its overall length.
7. Automate Repetitive Tasks
Your sales representatives are spending too much time on burdensome, time-consuming tasks when they should be dedicating their energy to what they do best: selling.
Automation tools can remove manual, redundant tasks from their plates (or at least make them easier to complete) and speed up the sales cycle, freeing up your sales reps to build relationships with target customers, talk to key decision-makers, and close deals.
Mechanical tasks like data entry and company research can be easily automated with the right software. Then, you can turn toward more complex options like automating your email messaging or customer onboarding process.
Automate everything that can be automated, and then spend the time and resources you save on revenue-generating operations.
8. Personalize, Personalize, Personalize
Today’s B2B buyers aren’t interested in generic, unspecific sales and marketing messaging. If you want to build trust with prospects and shorten the sales cycle, you need to personalize your sales pitches and proposals.
Prospects are more likely to buy from brands that offer a personalized experience. Why? Because personalization makes buyers feel listened to and understood. If they think your B2B company understands their pain points and offers a custom solution to their problems, they’re more likely to trust that your product or service is right for them.
From email messaging to follow-up calls personalization will create a better customer experience from start to finish, reducing back-and-forth and encouraging decision-making.
9. Align Sales & Marketing Teams
Many companies have marketing and sales departments that work in silos—in other words, they work as independent teams without communicating, sharing data, or having common goals.
This misalignment can have negative consequences that significantly slow down your sales pipeline. For example, if sales isn’t sharing their insights on seasonal trends with marketing, the marketing department could miss out on valuable opportunities. Alternatively, if marketing and sales don’t agree on what makes a good lead, marketing may bring in the wrong leads, wasting the time of your sales reps.
There’s a better way.
Align your marketing and sales teams. When these departments share processes, goals, and a centralized database, they can work together to reach revenue goals and accelerate the sales cycle.
10. Use Conversation Intelligence Tools
What if there was a way to have a sales coach on-deck for your sales calls? How much could your sales representatives improve their practices with personalized recommendations and hands-on assistance?
Conversation intelligence tools use artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and natural language processing (NLP) to record and transcribe sales calls, gather insights, analyze customer responses, and provide recommendations for improvement. This technology is a built-in coach that identifies patterns and offers your sales reps constructive feedback.
By using conversation intelligence software, you can identify and reduce bad sales practices while supporting and improving good ones—optimizing a critical stage of your B2B sales cycle.
Optimize Your B2B Sales Cycle at OneIMS
There are many different strategies you can implement to speed up your B2B sales cycle. By taking intentional, reliable steps toward a more efficient sales process, your B2B organization can shorten the time it takes to connect with prospects, make a deal, and increase your ROI.
If you’re looking for a partner to help automate, optimize, and personalize your sales cycle, look no further. At OneIMS, our sales operations experts help B2B companies like yours streamline the sales process, work more efficiently, and generate more revenue. We have the strategies, solutions, and experience you need to launch a B2B sales strategy that will transform your business into an ideal choice for your target market.
We have a long history of working with companies in a variety of industries to develop innovative and data-driven marketing and solutions. We pride ourselves on producing measurable and sustainable results.
Are you ready to take the next step and speed up your B2B sales cycle? Schedule a consultation with us today to get started.