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Shortening the Sales Cycle

5 Tips to Reduce the Time From Lead to Sale

This is week fifteen of a series where I'll be sharing a chapter from my book (Stop Selling Start Helping) each week. If you missed the previous weeks, click here to view all chapters. To learn more about Stop Selling Start Helping, click here.

CH 15 Shortening the Sales Cycle: 5 Tips to Reduce the Time From Lead to Sale

Are you frustrated with the typically long selling cycle in the your industry? Would you like to stop wasting your time with unqualified prospects? Would you like to improve your overall close rate?

I’m guessing the answer to all those questions is a resounding YES!

People don’t like to be sold.

Before we get into the five tips, I want to make sure we’re clear on one core belief: people do not like to be sold. Can we agree on that?

Consumers are bombarded with marketing (and sales) messages thousands of times every day. We are overwhelmed with ads on Facebook, commercials on TV, billboards as we drive, advertising on the radio...everywhere we go, we’re “sold” on something.

In order to stand out from the sea of sameness – to rise above the marketing smack-down that most other businesses follow – you have to act differently.

You have to help instead of sell.

What people want is to be helped. They want to have their questions answered, their problems solved, their concerns dealt with.

And this is where these five helpful marketing tips come into play.

1. Talk about money.

People care about money. It is almost always on the top of their mind – even if budget isn’t the number one concern, your customer will still need to know how much the project is going to cost.

So, why wait to talk about it? Why not address it early on in the conversation?

Most of us were brought up to believe it’s not polite to talk about money, and we’ve carried that belief with us into adulthood. But, money is a big part of what you do; and whether you’re the most expensive guy in your market or you’re priced pretty competitively, money is going to come up.

2. Use online quoting tools.

Along with talking about money, as recommended in the first tip, this second suggestion is closely related. I realize for most this is a very scary topic, and putting pricing online is often considered a no-no. But, stick with me a minute...

I’m not asking you to quote a full project online without ever talking to a prospect. What I’m suggesting is that you provide more opportunities for your prospects to “self-qualify” prior to you having to spend time with them.

This can be as basic as a spreadsheet that shares average investment levels for your products and/or services, including ranges for good, better, best. Or it can be as detailed as a fully automated calculator the prospect fills out in order to calculate a range based on her specific needs and wants.

The point here is to make it easy for your prospect to understand what’s involved when it comes to your price. There’s nothing more frustrating – either for you or your prospect – than to go through the entire quote/proposal process and find you’re not even close when it comes to budget.

3. Pre-Appointment Content

I’d highly recommend if you’re going to start with implementing just one of these five tips, this one should be your first.

Before your first appointment with the prospect, you have the perfect opportunity to set the stage – to define your process, to share your expectations, to define outcomes, etc. You are the expert, and this is where you have the biggest chance to stand out.

As I mentioned before, we call this pre-appointment content “homework” and it can make all the difference in the world. You likely have a list of questions you hope to address in your initial sales call or appointment. What if you knew those answers BEFORE you went into that first call?

I suggest sending a set of questions to your prospect before your first meeting, and requiring the prospect to provide answers before you meet. Let’s pretend you’re a remodeler; your homework form might ask questions like the following:

  • What made you decide to consider renovating your kitchen/bath/basement?
  • How long have you been thinking about this project?
  • What’s your budget?
  • When would you like to have the project completed?
  • Do you already have a design in mind?
  • What’s your biggest concern going into this project?
  • Who else, besides yourself, will be involved in making decisions?

Armed with this information, you will be able to make a few decisions prior to the call – 1) is this a good fit for your company, 2) should you reach out to the prospect to address any concerns, or 3) is it in your, and the prospect’s, best interest if you cancel the meeting?

How does canceling a meeting help speed up the sales cycle? Well, if you don’t have to waste time on what would have been a bad meeting anyway, isn’t that getting you to a decision faster? And, for those you do meet with, there’s less room for miscommunication and misunderstanding from the get-go, ensuring less time between consideration and decision.

Want to see an example of real homework form in action? Shoot me at request here.

4. Promote Familiarity

I recently heard about a doctor who calls all his new patients the weekend before their initial visit. True story. The doctor will take a list home of the first-time patients who are on the schedule for the following week. He’ll take a few minutes on Saturday or Sunday to make a quick call to introduce himself, tell them he’s looking forward to meeting them, and ask if they have any questions before their visit.

Can you imagine getting that call? Talk about standing out from the crowd!

If you’re like many businesses, you are likely one of a few companies your prospect is meeting with. How might you build familiarity with the prospect to show her you’re different than the others?

  • Place a call a day or two prior to the appointment.
  • Send a link to a website page with your salesperson’s (or your) photo and quick story of what he loves best about working at your company.
  • Send an email with a link to a video of the salesperson (or yourself), making a brief introduction and sharing a little about himself.

Create a connection before that first meeting by familiarizing the prospect with you and/or your team. It’ll go a long way.

5. Resolve concerns before & after the first appointment

If I had to guess, I’d say you could give me a list of common questions/concerns that come up almost every time you meet with someone new. How much will it cost? How long does it take? What’s your process? What makes your widget different?

As with the money question in tip #1, why not address these questions/concerns before they even come up?

Come up with – or have your sales team come up with – the top ten questions you hear regularly during the sales process. Then, write a blog article or create a short video addressing each one and publish them on your website. Once these are created, you can use them throughout the sales process – send prior to a meeting as part of the homework or send as a follow up based on something that came up in the conversation.

When you answer her questions/concerns, you build trust with your prospect. Others may be able to answer on the fly, but when you can point to an existing piece of content, it shows your prospect she’s not alone...you’ve dealt with her concern before.

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