offers a good article this week on a timely topic – How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle.  The author cuts to the quick on an issue we encounter frequently:

To begin with, many sales people just don’t know how long their sales cycle is, we ask and we hear things like “depends” (sometime it fits), “it changes” (it always seems longer during Daylight Savings Time), and the all time favorite, “well you know it’s different in our business”. Well it’s not really.

Underlying this is the fact that many reps and organizations do not know what their sale looks like, they have not deconstructing their sale, identified the basic building blocks to identify and truly understand what it should look like and when efficiencies can be had. One facet of this process is covered in “Working Backwards From Your Goals”

True.  We see this often when we start with a new customer by profiling their sale.  It is amazing how few salespeople can define their sales cycle.  Clearly it varies to some degree, but I always tell them their guess is better than mine.  So how do you fix it?  Simple:

While there are a number of ways to affect the length of the sales cycle, by far the easiest to implement with the highest rate of return, no technology required, is to always secure a next step with your prospects.

This approach really is simple – it just takes a slight bit more effort to accomplish.  Many salespeople end a call or meeting with some form of “I’ll call you next week.”  That’s it.  No clear next step, no future commitment, no clarity.  The better approach is to ask this way, “I’ll call you next week.  One thing, what topics should I be prepared to discuss?”  That short question will do more to qualify an early-stage prospect than any other a salesperson could ask at that point.  Yet, most do not use it.

The author sums up this approach nicely:

In most instances, a next step does not always have to be quantum leaps, just remember that even a small movement forward gets you that much closer to close. But if you don’t secure a next step, have you advanced at all?

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