Stage 1: Prospecting
Are you not pushing leads through the sales pipeline as quickly as you’d like to? While having a sales pipeline in itself is crucial for business growth, many companies struggle with effectively moving prospects down the sales funnel, which in and of itself is one of the most important parts. What good is a sales pipeline if it doesn’t yield your business with long-term, predictable results?
Throughout this blog, we’ll cover the following topics:
What Is a Sales Cycle?
A sales cycle is the process sales teams take to convert cold leads into closed business. Understanding the sales cycle is vital for long-term business growth because it can help you better understand your customers and build a lead generation strategy that gets results.
Learning your sales cycle also empowers your sales and marketing team to hit your revenue growth goals. For example, if you current sales cyle is around nine months, that means you know what new opportunities are going to come in in the future. This enables you to generate predictable sales forecasting.
Additionally, understanding your sales cycle can help you pinpoint where your sales process may be insufficient and keep you from generating more high-quality business opportunities. To improve your sales cycle, you must explore where some areas may be lacking, so you don’t have to build a new B2B sales strategy from the ground up.
Difference Between a B2C and B2B Sales Cycle
As you think about your sales cycle, you must consider what kind of buyers you want to target. For example, the sales cycle of a B2C company is different from a business that targets B2B businesses because the B2C sales cycle is much shorter than B2B. This is because when it comes to B2C consumers, the only person they need approval from to make a buying decision is themselves.
However, when it comes to the B2B sales cycle, other financial influencers are often involved in the decision-making process. While the core decision-maker may be responsible for your company’s particular product or service, they may not be the one signing on the dotted line. More often than not, a B2B buying decision requires insight from other departments, such as accounting or even the business owner, making the sales cycle longer than in B2C businesses. However, there are ways you can reduce the sales cycle of B2B buyers in your target market (we’ll jump into that later).
What Are the Six Sales Cycle Stages?
As the name suggests, a sales cycle involves various stages that sales teams must follow to move prospective businesses down the sales pipeline effectively. Here are the six stages of the sales cycle you should be aware of:
Stage 1: Prospecting
Strategic prospecting is the first stage of the sales cycle. Without a prospecting method in place, you have no way of integrating potential buyers into your sales pipeline. Every sales and marketing team has its own approach to getting prospects for their outbound sales development efforts, but it all depends on your budget and what you’re comfortable with.
Many companies prospects by:
- Buying third-party prospect lists
- Asking for referrals from clients
- Using LinkedIn Sales Navigator
Once you gather your list of prospects, it’s time to start contacting them and building relationships.
Stage 2: Making Contact With the Decision-Maker
This stage of the sales cycle is when your sales development representatives (SDRs) reach out to the contacts generated in the prospecting stage. While there are many ways sales reps can connect with prospective businesses, most SDR teams aim to initiate contact with decision-makers by making cold calls and sending sales emails.
However you and your sales managers make contact with prospects, it’s crucial that your SDRs connect with individuals who have buying authority over your company’s product or service. If you don’t have a specific name or direct line to a decision-maker, they must learn who the best point of contact is. They can do this by calling and speaking with a gatekeeper who would know this information. If your SDRs are struggling to get more information from gatekeepers, they can use sales prospecting tools like ZoomInfo or D&B Hoovers to gather more information, such as a direct name, job title, and phone number.
Stage 3: Lead Qualification
Once an SDR gets information about a prospective business, it’s time to qualify the lead. Lead qualification is an essential component of the sales process because it ensures that each lead being chased by SDRs has the opportunity to close business.
Lead qualification includes two types of criteria: sales and marketing qualification. Sales qualification has to do with the objective criteria of the prospect, such as the number of full-time employees they have, the amount of revenue they generate on an annual basis, etc. On the other hand, marketing qualification involves the amount of interest a prospect has in your company’s product or service offering and their authority to make a purchasing decision. When it comes down to it, sales and marketing qualifiers look different for every business, so it’s crucial to establish what your ideal customer profile (ICP) looks like before starting your lead generation program.
A qualified lead should meet both your sales and marketing qualifiers. When practicing outbound lead generation, prospects are often identified as qualified sales leads before they’re qualified marketing leads. This is because while they may meet your ICP, they may not be ready to take the next step in the sales cycle. If a sales qualified lead isn’t ready to schedule a meeting with an account or sales executive, it’s vital that you continue nurturing the lead until they’re at the end of their buying cycle.
Stage 4: Lead Nurturing
Most prospects in the sales pipeline stay in the lead nurturing stage for the majority of their time in the sales funnel. This is because while they may be sales qualified, they may not be in a place to make financial decisions or have any interest in the products or services you have to offer. With a lead nurturing strategy, you have the opportunity to continuously build relationships with qualified prospects over time and give them a reason to trust your business.
Lead nurturing can look a little different for every sales and marketing team, depending on how you approach your lead generation efforts. To continuously nurture leads in the sales pipeline, it’s vital that you implement lead nurturing email marketing materials into your business growth strategy. These sales emails should be delivered consistently, but not too often where you’re overwhelming their inbox. Each email should have a purpose and aim to drive them further down the sales funnel.
When a qualified prospect is closer to the end of their sales cycle, making warm calls is a great way to reintroduce the conversation and strive to schedule a sales appointment between them and an account executive. If you’ve had lead nurturing emails sent periodically, the prospect should remember your business, making the warm phone call more effective. These warm calls should highlight the prospect’s pain points and put them at the center of the conversation. To make the conversation more engaging, the SDR should share a case study of a client you have that’s experienced similar pain points. This encourages them to picture themselves in the shoes of your client.
Stage 5: Showcasing Your Offer
After a qualified prospect is ready to take the next steps in the sales cycle, it’s time for your account executives to showcase what your company has to offer. During the sales appointment set by the SDRs, account executives should present the opportunity with a sales presentation that highlights a prospect’s pain points and showcases how your business can relieve these pain points for them. This pitch deck should be customized based on the potential buyer’s needs and provide them with in-depth insight into how your company can help them achieve their short- and long-term goals.
Stage 6: Closing Business
We’re at the final stage of the sales cycle—closing business. Once your account executives have presented sales opportunities with a pitch deck customized to their needs, it’s time to wait for them to make their decision. While this stage can be a waiting game, your account executives must follow up after the sales meeting to learn when they’ll come to a conclusion. During the sales meeting follow-up, your account executives should ask when they’ll make a financial decision on whether or not to invest in your company’s product or service. Once they give them a date, they must follow up at that time to ensure all your sales and marketing team’s hard work doesn’t fall through the cracks.
Best B2B Sales Techniques to Shorten the Sales Cycle
While the sales cycle for B2B companies is often much longer than for B2C, there are some techniques your SDR and marketing teams can follow to expedite the process. Some of the best B2B sales techniques your lead generation experts can follow to shorten the sales cycle are:
Optimizing Your Lead Nurturing Process
As mentioned previously, lead nurturing is an essential stage of the sales cycle because it helps keep prospects engaged and eager to learn more about your company. While many SDR and marketing teams select one lead nurturing strategy over another, you can shorten a prospect’s time in the sales cycle by implementing various B2B sales techniques.
If you want to accelerate a lead’s time in the sales cycle, it’s important that you:
- Distribute lead nurturing emails: Lead nurturing emails should continuously provide the qualified prospect with value and guide them closer to the end of the sales cycle. Before pressing “send,” you must consider the prospect’s stage of the sales cycle and what they may be interested in learning more about. For example, it may be worth directing them to a relevant blog post or your social media profiles if they’re in the awareness stage. However, if they’re toward the end of their buying cycle, you should have call-to-actions (CTAs) encouraging them to schedule a meeting with your company.
- Make warm phone calls: Warm calls are best had when a potential buyer is in the consideration stage of the buyer’s journey. If a prospect says they don’t reevaluate their contracts for another nine months, making a warm call three months later wouldn’t do your SDRs or the prospect any good. This is what makes lead nurturing emails so effective because you can continuously provide top-of-mind awareness while also being considerate of their timeline.
- Send relevant content to leads on LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a great social media platform to engage with prospects in the sales pipeline because it’s a professional platform designed to network with like-minded people in your field of work. Through LinkedIn, sales reps can share relevant content marketing materials to help progress their journey down the sales funnel.
Creating Segmented Buyer Personas
While your target audience may stay consistent throughout your business, the buyer personas of prospects in the sales pipeline may vary from person to person. Since there are various buyer personas to be aware of in your market, your sales and marketing teams must segment them so they can continuously send them the right content to pique their interest and engage with them through platforms they’d engage with most.
For example, let’s say that you’re an MSP looking to generate new IT business opportunities. When practicing lead generation for IT, your decision-maker could be a wide range of people within the company, meaning you may need to approach them based on their buyer personas. Depending on the size of the prospective business, a decision-maker could range from the business owner to a full-time IT manager.
Let’s say the decision-maker for the prospective business is the company’s owner. In that case, they probably know very little about the IT industry itself. Therefore, it’s important to highlight what benefits your IT company can bring to their business, such as the cost benefits of outsourcing IT services and the importance of having solid network security.
However, if a prospective business’s decision-maker is an IT manager, your SDR and marketing teams would need to approach the conversation a little differently. Since they’re knowledgeable about the IT industry, it’s essential that they highlight how pairing with your MSP can help them effectively scale up their business as they continue to grow. This would also be an excellent opportunity to expand on the importance of pairing with an MSP for project work so they can focus on everyday IT operations.
Understanding your target market’s buyer personas can help your SDRs determine what kind of pitch they want to give specific prospects, which can help guide them closer to the end of the sales cycle. Additionally, segmenting buyer personas can help you contact decision-makers more quickly because it allows you to see who will interact with what outreach method. Referring to the previous example, a business owner is probably more likely to talk with SDRs on the phone versus responding to an email because it’s quicker, and their inbox is probably full of emails anyways. However, an IT manager is perhaps more likely to respond to an email because their buyer personas prefer not to speak on the phone.
Quickly Reacting to Inbound Leads Generated
Many B2B sales and marketing teams struggle with getting results from inbound lead generation because they don’t respond to inbound leads promptly. When an interested user converts themself into an inbound lead, your SDRs must react quickly so they don’t find another product or service provider in the meantime. The quicker your business growth teams respond to potential sales opportunities, the more likely they will convert them into closed business because they’re actively looking for a solution to their pain points.
Reducing the sales cycle is no easy task, but it can be done as long as you’re willing to put the work and dedication into it. Sales cycle lengths look different for every company depending on their target market, the industry they serve, and the lead generation strategy they have in place.
At Abstrakt Marketing Group, our SDR and marketing teams are experts in helping B2B clients reduce their sales cycle lengths and close more deals, yielding long-term, predictable growth. When you’re ready to implement a business growth solution that presents growth, contact the lead generation experts at Abstrakt!
Get In Touch