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How To Make Your Sales Cycle More Efficient

By Linda Richardson

Last week in a webinar with a group of high-performing salespeople and technical specialists, a salesperson asked:

Salesperson: "My company's number one goal is to shorten the sales cycle. How can I do that?"

His question was timely and challenging. It seems as if your customers' number one goal is to lengthen it! The economy and an environment of heightened skepticism have doubled or even tripled the length of the sales cycle in many industries.
So what can you do that is in your control to accelerate the close?

• Early on, qualify more diligently. Position every qualifying question from the perspective of meeting the customer's need. Find out:

- Budget - Has it been allocated? How much? Who controls it?

- Time Frame - What are the timelines to develop and implement? (In today's world, the two schedules can be very different.)

- Compelling Event - "Must do" dates are a blessing and the absence of one can signal a long decision cycle.

- Decision-making Process - Who will be involved in the decision - economic, technical, users, and other influencers? Clarify the buying process and steps.

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• Understand the BUSINESS need that your solution will address. How will your solution help your customer achieve his/her business objectives.

• Develop a compelling Value Proposition to show ROI (ideally year one or soon).

• Identify milestones of the sales process so you can measure progress against them.

• Set a call objective that is measurable for every meeting - face-to-face or virtual. And debrief each meeting against the objective.

• Continue to check for change.

• If things slow down, ask the hard qualifying questions again, but start with the driving need - is it still a priority? Tactfully ask questions to multiple customers.

• Develop a coach! Almost nothing will help you win the deal and know where things really stand than a well-placed coach.

• Position your benefits and ask for the business.

• Know when to put a deal on the back burner or no burner and when to try to resuscitate it.


About the Author:
Linda Richardson: President and CEO of Richardson, training consultants to corporations, banks, and investment banks globally. Richardson has 110 professionals, 15 regional offices in the United States, and presence in London, Australia, Singapore, Latin America, and Asia. Clients of Richardson include KPMG, Federal Express, General Mills, Tiffany & Co., Dell Computer, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Citibank, Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, and Kinko's. Visit
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