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5 Actions You Can Take to Shorten Your Sales Cycle at Every Lockdown Level

Even though a lot has changed over the past 18 months since the first lockdown, many trends in B2B sales simply continue on the trajectory they already were on a few years prior.

Back in 2018 during a product launch I had a speech about the sales cycle getting longer because of three reasons. As you can see these reasons only became more prominent over the past 18 months:

  1. More people get involved even in the smallest purchasing decision. Some believe this is a result of increasing micromovement in companies of all sizes. Today, it might also be a reflection of uncertainty and a reflection of limited resources.
  2. Senior Management changes so often that they don’t get a chance to finish what they started. Did you know that from our extensive research of 92% of NZ companies with 50+ staff, prior to 2020, C-level positions were changing at a rate of 32-37.5%? Since 2020 the rate of change is over 40%.
    This means Senior Execs simply don’t get a chance to finish what they start.
  3. It’s increasingly hard to reach people to follow up and offer an extra touch point or get a chance to share more information to speed up a decision-making process. We are now at the point when companies change a landline to an undisclosed cell phone. Even knowing this cell phone means nothing because people are less likely to pick up the phone from an unknown caller.

The biggest challenges today’s salespeople face:

  • Establishing urgency (42%)
  • Getting in touch with prospects (37%)
  • Overcoming price objections (35%)

Budget is the most common reason stronger sales opportunities fall apart.

On top of this, the traditional B2B sales approach, which relies on travel and face to face meetings and demonstrations, has suffered greatly because of lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Anyone who thought that 2021 is all back to normal, now knows that there is no turning back and special adjustments need to be made because of the unpredictability of the world we live in.

In the face of these challenges, many B2B business owners are trying to figure out how to continue to make sales to at least stay afloat and hopefully grow.

The good news: here are 5 actions which are supported by reputable research of what any B2B company large or small can do in a situation of massive uncertainty and shifting market needs.

Action 1. Be in the Know

As a company you have to develop an appetite for better knowledge of your fundamentals, starting from:

  • Customers
  • Sales
  • In-depth product and service knowledge

    This knowledge is often spread across individuals in the company and not properly captured at all.

Here are the top ways to create a positive sales experience, according to buyers:

  • Listen to their needs (69%)
  • Don’t be pushy (61%)
  • Provide relevant information (61%)
  • Respond in a timely manner (51%)

While we’re in lockdown and travel is limited, it’s a good time to get on top of this information. A good first step is to get a single list of all your customers and prospect base to understand them better. In addition you need better, modern tools to be more efficient and productive. Finally collating product and service in knowledge in files which are accessible and easy to navigate is a vital step in ensuring everyone on the team can be just as knowledgeable.

In 2021 and beyond, the ability of your sales professionals to embrace and commit to learning will be an underlying success factor for the longevity of your business.

Click here if you’d like to have a chat about this.

Action 2. Start Helping Your Prospects at an Early Stage

Everyone knows that being involved at an early stage of the project gives an undeniable advantage.

Countless hours are invested and wasted by companies trying to get in the front row of a project to be better noticed. While some approaches worked well in the past, today most buyers prefer to do their own research.

How?

By using the content available online.

Regardless of the size of your company and how good your sales used to be. Today’s prospective customers are researching online to learn more about you and what you offer. If they can’t find you, or you have limited information online, then you will start feeling the heat of lost sales very soon because this trend will only grow. Examples of insufficient content include:

  • Websites created in 2010 or older that aren’t mobile friendly
  • Just a couple of sentences about your products and services
  • No faces on the website – people still buy from people
  • Poor or non-existent LinkedIn profile
  • No articles, blogs, or any content that can help them learn about their problem and your solution

The list can easily go on … do you get the picture?

Action 3. Follow Up with Increased Passion

Most successful sales professionals love to boast about their ability to follow up.

I’m no longer impressed with their ability to do so for the following two reasons:

  • If it takes 18 touches to close a sale, I question if they ever really do that much follow up.
  • And in the rare cases that they do, I question where they get the time to open new opportunities (typically the answer is they have no time for anything new because they have to chase existing non responding prospects)

Is there a solution?
Yes there is, you have to use tools.

Do you recall computers were invented to save us time and effort? We must use computers and specialised tools to follow up smarter and not waste our time and headspace.

Now is the time to explore what works for your business and apply your learning.

60% of customers say no four times before saying yes whereas 48% of salespeople never even make a single follow up attempt.

80% of sales require 5 follow-up calls whereas 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up call.

35-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first.

75% of online buyers want to receive between 2-4 phone calls before a company gives up; 12% would like a company to try as many times as it takes to get a hold of them.

70% of salespeople stop at one email. Yet if you send more emails, you’ve got a 25% chance to hear back.

42% of people would be encouraged to make a purchase if the sales rep called back at an agreed-upon, specified time.

Action 4. Recognise the Value of Tools

What would you say if your accountant would use an abacus to do your tax, and charge their usual hourly rate?

Hard to imagine?

I agree.

Then why do so many businesses tolerate sales professionals who don’t use a CRM or any other productivity tools?

 

In my 16 years in business, I’ve heard so many times:

“Yeah, we invested  … (up to 2 million was the largest amount I’ve heard in this sentence), but we don’t really use it”

And I can barely recall a few times when people said, “Yep, we have a CRM and are using it”. Even in these rare cases their actual actions indicate they’re not quite using it.

Did you know that there are smart, handy, and easy to use products released literally every day?
Did you know there are inexpensive or even free CRM solutions?

These days there are plenty of options to arm your sales team with productivity tools and yet … very few are making use of them.

60% of customers say no four times before saying yes whereas 48% of salespeople never even make a single follow up attempt.

80% of sales require 5 follow-up calls whereas 44% of salespeople give up after one follow-up call.

35-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first.

75% of online buyers want to receive between 2-4 phone calls before a company gives up; 12% would like a company to try as many times as it takes to get a hold of them.

70% of salespeople stop at one email. Yet if you send more emails, you’ve got a 25% chance to hear back.

42% of people would be encouraged to make a purchase if the sales rep called back at an agreed-upon, specified time.

By the way, a CRM is just one of the examples, there are also email marketing automation tools, autoresponders, access to better data, social selling tools, and many more wonderful tools. All of these are designed to allow you and your team to go home sooner, save time on tedious searching of the internet, and reduce manual data entry.

Action 5. Sharpen Your Pitch

I’m not sure if this action deserves the last spot. I only left it last out of respect to many sales professionals who have already mastered their sales pitch over the years.

And even if you have, the message here is you have to revisit it to ensure:

  • Your facts and figures are up to date
  • Your competitor’s analysis or assessment of the market is up-to-date (what was unique 20 years ago, might no longer be revolutionary)
  • Your presentation, because you need both an online and print version. You also need a web version and a short email version, and possibly even a video presentation.

When do you plan to get all of these?

Hurry, because tomorrow there will be some other format of communication and you will need to keep up too.

Because if there is one universal lesson we all had to learn in the past 18 months, it’s that change is not only here to stay, but that change is constant, on-going, and fast paced.

Nearly six in 10 salespeople say that when they figure out what works for them, they don’t change it.

Only 7% of top performers report pitching, while 19% of non-top performers pitch their offering.

Salespeople spend just one-third of their day actually talking to prospects. They spend 21% of their day writing emails, 17% entering data, another 17% prospecting and researching leads, 12% going to internal meetings, and 12% scheduling calls.

There are already people who managed to learn how to use Zoom and can’t do anything else. Sadly, this is not quite an option and you might have to learn and use something else too.

Life is full of choices and it’s absolutely everyone’s choice whether to keep up with the current changes in B2B sales and marketing or not.

But if you are sick and tired from waiting for prospects to say Yes; if you are frustrated with the amount of effort it takes for prospect to say Yes; if you want to have more and better results sooner, you are welcome to discover what can be done now.

 

Assia Salikhova

Managing Director

 

P.S. Who am I and why you should listen to me?

I graduated with a PhD in Physics and worked on the Human Genome Project. I wrote my first line of code in 1977 and was in a leadership position working for IBM in their largest software development lab here in NZ. I developed a fashion brand and with my team we changed the colours associated with two industries here in New Zealand.

Today my customers refer to my writing as “the best they ever seen” and experience deep and meaningful conversations about the course of their business. Now it’s your turn to experience the difference and discover how one hour of your life can have a long-lasting impact on your business. Book a Smarketing Blueprint consult here while it’s still free, because that won’t last long.

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