How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle and Close More Sales

Here is a question I recently received from a worried salesperson:

“Paul, I have a problem.  Four years ago, when I started in this position, my sales cycles were pretty short.  I was often able to get a customer to sign a contract within one to two months of our first meeting.  These days, it can take four to six months to finalize a contract!

As far as I can tell, I am not doing anything different.  Customers just seem more reluctant to commit these days.  They push off making a decision for a “few weeks” and before I know it, a quarter has passed.   What can I do to shorten my sales cycles?”

Despite the popular idea that salespeople are all pushy and ruthless, most salespeople are like this salesperson: courteous and accommodating. If a customer tells you to call her in two weeks, you do it, no questions asked. Unfortunately, that is the problem.

Before you agree to call back “in a few weeks,” you need to find out why the customer needs more time.  If the customer’s reasons are vague, ask more questions until you get a specific answer. Once the reasons are explicit, you can begin to create mutual accountability.

Accountability is important because it means that both parties are required to take action. For example, you might say the following to your customer:

“I can definitely call you in two weeks. So we can avoid playing phone tag, let’s get our calendars out and pencil in a date and time for our follow-up meeting.  In the meantime, you mentioned that you will be consulting with your boss to get his thoughts.   Where do you think he’s going to see the value?  How will you convince him if by chance he doesn’t see this as a priority as you do?

This type of dialogue allows you to get commitment from your customer as to when you will be meeting again (whether on the phone or in person), who else is involved, what resistance might come up and whether your contact is motivated to convince others on your solution.

If your customer has any doubts about doing business with you, now may be the time he or she will bring them up. For example, the customer might say, “During the next meeting we need to talk about budget. We only have $50,000 allocated for this project and what you are proposing is about 30% higher.” This gives you a chance to research less costly alternatives for the project and come to the next meeting prepared, instead of being blindsided by a customer’s demand that you lower your price after you have given your presentation. Getting this potential objection or concern out in the open beforehand is key. It is hard to overcome an objection that is brought up at the last minute. It is impossible to overcome an objection that is never verbalized at all.

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Paul Cherry

For over two decades, sales expert and author PAUL CHERRY has helped B2B sales professionals close more deals in all major industries. As a recognized thought leader in customer engagement strategies, Paul Cherry has been featured in more than 250 publications, including Investor’s Business Daily, Selling Power, Inc., Sales & Marketing Management, The Kiplinger Letter, and Salesforce.

Performance Based Results

Paul Cherry is the president of Performance Based Results. PBR delivers intense, customized sales team training programs and sales management coaching to companies throughout North America. Paul has worked with more than 1,200 organizations, including 175 of the Fortune 500, plus more than a thousand entrepreneurial, small to mid-sized, cutting-edge businesses looking to dominate their niche markets. Clients typically get 7 times their return-on-investment (ROI) or better.

Questions That Sell

Paul Cherry’s top-rated bestseller, Questions That Sell: The Powerful Process for Discovering What Your Customer Really Wants (AMACOM) has been listed on BookAuthority’s “100 Best Sales Books of All Time” and has been published in four languages. He is also the author of Questions That Get Results (Wiley) and The Ultimate Sales Pro (HarperCollins Leadership).