And Improve Deal Velocity & Win Rates Along the Way…
Sales cycles are already longer than we want. That’s a reality most of us have been operating in for a number of years now. But what happens when the opportunities stretch out even further? Lately it seems as though more variables keep adding to the delay. Customers’ buying processes have slowed. Deal complexity has grown. Stakeholder groups that have the ultimate say in the decision have become larger, with a broader range of expectations and requirements. What can you do as a seller to create greater urgency in sales?
All of these sales cycle setbacks impact forecasting accuracy, which can lead to more pressure from sales managers, but pressure alone doesn’t change the realities that have dragged out the process. That doesn’t mean salespeople have to be victims of circumstance. There are a number of things we can actively do to accelerate the buying process, shorten the sales cycle and close more deals.
Many of what appear to be slow decisions are actually a case of buyers sticking with the status quo — the decision is… no decision at all. Is it indecisiveness? Or did you get lost in the shuffle of other priorities, fail to connect frequently enough (or in enough ways), or convey lukewarm value propositions that haven’t been enough to spur them to action?
Let’s look at some specific ways you can get to the root of the issues, make faster headway in this complex sales environment and create greater urgency in sales (without sacrificing relationships or value creation).
View the situation through your customer’s point of view.
Your timeline and needs are irrelevant to the customer’s timeline and needs. Knowing your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) isn’t enough. What is their issue? Their hesitance? Their fear? Right now. The only way you can find answers to these questions is to ask high-impact questions — and then really listen.
Your customer’s objections or indecision may give you entirely new insights. Maybe you haven’t understood their needs completely or didn’t demonstrate how your product or service will fill those needs. Maybe there are underlying concerns about internal politics or other hidden issues creating hesitation. Ask questions to identify new target customer parameters that may be impacting the customer’s urgency of needs. You can’t help your customer until you truly understand what they’re dealing with.
Sharpen your prospecting focus to increase win rates.
Especially as the year progresses, it’s always a good practice to get more strategic and narrow rather than expand your prospect pool and prioritize your time and efforts accordingly.
While you may be tempted to cram in more leads at the top of the funnel, that will only become a distraction, especially since new leads aren’t going to impact your pipeline or closed-won rates very quickly in complex sales situations. It’s far more efficient to focus on later-stage opportunities, including those that have stalled. Narrow who you’re selling to based on real-time needs and focus on later stage opportunities that are stuck.
Pick up the phone!
Stop hiding behind just email. Yes, email is an important component to the sales mix, but too often it becomes a crutch by salespeople who see it as an easy way to check the box on follow-up activity.
“The customer hasn’t called me back…” And?…. When you fear rejection, sending emails (even if they’re ignored) is easier to swallow than being told “no thanks” by phone, but it doesn’t have to be a high-stakes conversation for it to be productive. In fact, a more casual conversation might yield deeper insights. Ask for 15 minutes just to see how your customer is doing. Catch up without pressure. You’re bound to get people to open up more and find more sales opportunities through actual human dialogue. It’s also more likely to generate referrals — easily a salesperson’s best source of brand new opportunities.
Provide meaningful (to the customer) value with every touch point.
Not only do salespeople tend to fall back on email as a crutch, they often use it ineffectively, making it more likely for someone to tune them out. No one needs more spam filling their inbox, and re-forwarding a previous email they didn’t respond to (which just reminds them that they have been ignoring you) isn’t going to magically create a sense of urgency.
Consider whether you’re being relevant to the here and now. There’s a saying that “time kills sales.” If you have long sales cycles, things that were top of mind and challenges six to nine months ago might have changed or faded. Time of year also definitely matters when it comes to your buyers’ priorities.
Again, look through the customer’s lens and think through what could help them right now and what might make them think differently about the gap between where they are today and where they want to be. You should also be looking for other ways to regularly engage with your customer, such as commenting on their LinkedIn activity — but make it meaningful and value-added, not just “great point, I agree!”
Know the difference between urgency and value, and communicate accordingly.
Good salespeople solve the immediate (urgency) and sell the longer term benefits (value). And part of conveying value is keeping in mind how your product or service will impact your customer’s customer.
Show you’re concerned about more than the transaction and be genuinely inquisitive. Ask insightful questions that demonstrate you have some understanding of the issues that are important to their business and their customers.
Expand relationships within the accounts.
Account-based selling requires engaging with all the various stakeholders and influencers involved. Did that lead stop calling you back? One of the risks of deals stalling is your “lead” or champion leaves or moves on to a new role. It’s on you as a salesperson to get these opportunities unstuck. Take action to develop other internal champions. Move with purpose, and show urgency to get urgency.
Get creative when the decision is no decision.
In many cases today, your biggest competition today is the status quo. For the customer, it can feel a lot easier and safer to do nothing. Recognize what you’re up against so you can address it. For example, people of certain Behavior Styles can be more resistant to change. Understanding what causes that resistance is the first step in strategizing how to counter it.
Create lasting visuals in their minds of what can be — and risks of inaction. Tell stories to help them envision the future state. Stories are 22 times more memorable than facts or bullet points. And stories tap into emotional elements that pull people in and create lasting connections. If they can relate to what you’re talking about, they’re far more likely to trust you. Make the ROI case for change. Why now?
Go beyond sharing cookie-cutter case studies which, let’s be honest, are essentially just a check-the-box exercise that shows the buyer they’re not your first customer and you’ve helped other companies like them. Share real testimonials (video, quotes) that personalize what your solutions did and how it made the person feel.
Offer incentives to speed decision-making, but don’t default to discounting.
Urgency in sales is important, but when you give customers a significant discount, it causes them to value your company’s products or services less. In other words, your urgency (panic, desperation…) drives discounting and erodes value.
When discussing price, allow buyers the space to process the information without pressure. Appeal to the emotional aspects of buying and sales — peace of mind, risk mitigation, cost avoidance/savings, revenue enhancement, looking good in front of their peers/boss, etc. This will lead to more authentic interactions and help the customer get a clearer sense of value. Value protects price.
You can also try offering incentives to help accelerate the decision. These might be additional services or something else of added value (based on what you’ve learned about what matters most to them) and can be time-based, e.g., by Dec. 31.
Set the Stage for Improved Deal Velocity.
As mentioned earlier, if you’re the sales manager, simply pressuring the salesperson to get the deal closed or ticking off a list of activities for them to do isn’t likely to move the needle. Instead, focus on the things that will drive positive change.
Coach your salespeople see themselves as a value creator. Encourage them to fire up their curiosity and learn as much as they can about their customers’ motivations and the thought processes they might be going through as they’re faced with a decision. Bolster your salespeople with the belief that they can ask value-add questions of their customers.
It’s also critical that your sales enablement tools and messaging are lined up with this value creation approach. They should always address needs and impact over features and benefits.
Most importantly, coach your salespeople to engage in ways that are authentic, emphasizing a mutual exchange of value and using words that help convey that they’re trying to help the customer make a buying decision that’s in their best interests. Sometimes the best way to create greater urgency in sales is to more clearly show your commitment to the relationship, meeting their objectives and simply doing right by the customer.
Trying to force urgency in the sales process can backfire, leading buyers to do the exact opposite and stop responding — because remember, your priorities are not theirs. The key to accelerating the sales cycle is to help the customer see the value and how it lines up with their need and desired future state. When a salesperson does that effectively, the customer will be the one creating urgency in the sales cycle.
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