As soon as you read the term ‘sales cycle’, you often picture a salesman following a specific process to attract new customers. While this term is quite easy to comprehend, it is much more tactical when it comes to applying it practically. This is because it consists of varied stages such as “prospect,” “connect,” “research,” “present,” and “close” (HubSpot, 2019). So, before actually converting a customer, sales executives have to go through this five-step methodology. To ensure you understand these stages better, here’s a quick breakdown of the sales process.
A prospect is an individual who is a good fit for your product/service and matches your buyer persona — someone who might be interested in hearing what you have to offer.
Once you have identified prospects, time to introduce yourself. Here, you have to share the value of what you have to offer, and question if they’d be interested in learning more.
Not every prospect will have similar needs. To ensure you understand what your prospect wants, set up a discovery or qualifying call. This will help you learn more about their business, their needs, and your ability to match those requirements.
The most-awaited time- the time to convince the prospect to opt for your product/ service. This is usually built around a pitch template, which can be customized for each prospect’s unique business needs.
Seal the deal
Once you’ve completed these steps, it’s time to “ask for the close” — sales jargon for asking whether the prospect is ready to buy your service.
A Traditional Sales Cycle
The five-step process mentioned above is how a conventional sales cycle looks like. This process has been used by top salesmen all these years. Without a doubt, this process has worked for several years, but is this the same even today?
Varied sources claim that traditional sales tactics don’t offer the same results for every organization. This is because companies are catching on to the efficiency of inbound marketing, and experimenting with the idea of inbound sales.
Are you wondering why so many businesses are making this switch and preferring the new sales methodology? Well, there are many reasons. For starters, the way people shop today has dramatically changed from what was ten years ago. Although consumer behaviour has evolved, many companies refuse to abandon their sales strategies that have been the same for over 50 years.
Owing to the new consumer dynamics, ‘cold calls or cheesy pitches‘ have become a big no for salesmen. These tactics not only consume time but might also shut the idea of converting a prospect forever.
The many shortcomings of this sales cycle have made it imperative for companies to come up with better ways to enhance and shorten their process.
If you want to know why you need a shorter sales cycle and how you can build one, we are here to help you out. Keep reading to find out.
Why a Shorter Sales Cycle has Become a Must
The benefits are pretty obvious: cutting down the unnecessary steps in the sales cycle can help grow revenue because your sales reps will be able to reach more prospects.
More revenue= better and bigger business.
Another advantage of a shorter sales cycle is the reduced chances of things going awry during the process.
So, how do you go about creating the secret formula for the perfect and predictable sales cycle? Indeed, you cannot foolproof any process, but you can always adopt specific ways to make it simpler and more effective.
Given below are a few ways for you to change your sales process for the better. Let’s get started.
Why invest your time in a task which a machine can do for you? A source mentioned on the HubSpot blog revealed that sales reps spend 21% of their time writing emails, and 17% of their time prospecting and researching leads. This means you are spending more than half of your time in menial tasks than actually converting prospects. To avoid this, it is time to automate. This can be as basic as automating your email process.
Identify the real target market
Before calling a long list of prospects, identify who your target audience really is? Prepare a buyer’s persona and find answers to the following questions:
- What are their pain points?
- What are their responsibilities?
- What motivates them to make a purchase?
- How do they go about the research process?
These answers will help your sales team to personalize their message and target prospects better. With this approach, you will have more qualified leads that will cut down the sales cycle.
Set Goals and Make a Plan
Once you start the call, set a goal for the phone call, and get mutual agreement from your prospect. Plus, you can share an action plan which consists of a step-by-step process that is co-created with prospective customers. This will include a specific goal that is based on the needs of the customer.
Don’t Beat Around the Bush with Pricing
The price of your product can make or break your deal. This is why you need to make sure you are very clear about the pricing module. Think about it: would you like a deal where the other person added last-minute service fees or any other additional charges? No, right? So, ensure you are transparent, which will help prospects to trust you and save you from unexpected objections moving ahead.
Ensure Signing the Contract Does Not Take Days
Earlier, companies would usually send a hard copy of the contract and wait for the customer to sign it and send it back. Is this feasible even today? It isn’t. Move to online agreements, which will help your customers sign the documents on the go. This will significantly cut down on back-and-forth with your prospects.
Yes, you read that right. As a sales rep, you might have called over a hundred prospects and shared the same storyline. After a point, your conversation might start feeling more like a script and less like a one-on-one discussion. So, make sure you are treating each prospect with the same enthusiasm and give them suggestions on the way. This will make your conversation feel less monotonous and more personal and engaging.
Clean your CRM
Next, keep your contact list up-to-date with contacts who are interested in your content and products. This will make your sales process more efficient because you will communicate with only those people who want to hear your message.
Plus, removing uninterested contacts from your list will improve your email deliverability; as it ensures your message gets to the right people at the right time.
AI to Your Rescue
The ways mentioned above will help your team without a doubt. But, if you are looking for something more savvy, innovative, and fast, it is time to adopt AI in your sales process. Many organizations have found that implementing AI in process automation, sales guidance, conversation guidance has a remarkable effect on their sales cycle. In fact, the latest report by Salesforce states that high-performing teams are 4.9X more likely to be using AI than underperforming ones. That being said- AI is not replacing salesmen, but just making their work easier.
Let’s look at how you can use Artificial Intelligence to revolutionize your sales process.
Use AI Algorithms to get detailed customer insights
Who are your customers? What do they like? How old are they? How do they go about their shopping process? What drives them to close a deal? You can use AI algorithms to find answers to such questions and create detailed buyer personas. Plus, these algorithms can make an extensive number of calculations of the data to find patterns, which eventually help improve the number and the quality of these leads.
Reduce call time
With the help of AI, your team can identify the needs of the call and align solutions before they make the talk to the customer, so they have less exploring to do during the conversation. According to the McKinsey study, this can help drop call time by 60 % to 70 %.
Use AI Tools to Prioritize
Salespeople tend to waste a lot of time on contacts who aren’t ready to close yet. With the help of AI-enhanced sales tools, your team will be able to prioritize leads based on where prospects are in their journey. Basically, you can use AI to tell you what part of the day is the best time to get in touch with every prospect and which channel will find them the fastest.
Along with this, reps can invest a lot of time pitching the wrong product or service. This would not be the same anymore with AI. You can use algorithms to identify which product is most likely to work for each account.
Guide your Actual Sales Conversation with AI
Yes, you can do that too. The call is that point when everything either comes together or falls apart. To make sure it is the former, you can use conversation analytics. With this, you will learn how to fine-tune your conversation in the ways mentioned below:
- How much to talk and how much to listen
- When you should discuss product features and price
- Word choice
After regular calls, AI will be able to examine the outcomes for every rep and find out what works the best. These results will also be useful when it comes time for coaching and training sessions.
Move Beyond the Deal
Closing a sale is not enough. To increase your customers’ lifetime value and boost your revenue, you need customer retention. Are you wondering why you should focus on a customer who has already chosen your product over someone who hasn’t? Well, a survey published on the Harvard Business Review website states that gaining a new customer is anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one.
So, to retain your customers, you can use AI in myriad ways. For instance, use AI-generated emails or text messages to get in touch with customers after the deal is closed. This will help you ensure that they’re enjoying the product, ask if they have any questions, and further strengthen the relationship.
Next, 90% of consumers still believe brand recommendations from other people. By adopting conversational AI, you can motivate your existing clientele to leave reviews, share their experience on social media websites, and more.
Shorten your sales cycle with these AI tools
Now that you have a brief idea about how AI and sales work together, you might want to know how you can start adopting these ways. Various companies across the globe specialize in offering AI tools to shorten your sales cycle. Let’s look at a few of them.
- Einstein by Salesforce- This AI tool automatically prioritizes leads for your sales reps. It evaluates the likelihood of deals to close.
- Conversica– An AI sales assistant by this company engages your leads in conversation and further qualifies them before they talk to your sales rep.
- Node– This is an AI startup that relies on machine learning and natural language processing to recommend new customers to sales teams. The primary aim of this startup is to put an end to cold-calling.
There you have it- everything you need to know about the evolution of a traditional sales process and how AI is playing a significant role in enhancing it. We hope this blog has helped you learn about the unconventional ways to shorten your sales cycle. Remember, when it comes to adopting AI for your sales team, you aren’t encouraging them to have less human interaction; but increasing their impact by improving little things in the process.
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