Does length matter, or is it more a question of how you do it?
Get your mind out of the gutter for a second, and thing length of sales cycle.
I was recently approached to write a piece examining how to reduce the length of the sales cycle, or as some like to say increase the velocity of a sale, something I have written about in the past. But I am convinced that this is a red herring, a false premise or trap many in sales fall into.
Right off the top I will tell you that shorter cycles are not better, the goal is to understand your “optimal” cycle, and then focus your efforts on efficiently executing it. If your optimal cycle is three months, you really are going to gain little by trying to shave a couple of weeks off that.
When you ask people why they want a shorter cycles, the answers are usually more subjective than objective, and usually reflect their bias, or often fears of the person looking for a shorter cycle. Some will tell you that they believe it will drive more revenue, not true, because if you shorten a cycle for the sake of shortening, you will take shortcuts that will either cost you sales, or more often, you’ll have to go back and do things you should have done in the first place, leaving no gain or worse. Other reasons include ability to scale, greater focus, increased market share, but usually these things are more an element of execution than things impacted by the length of the cycle.
When it comes to executing sales fundamentals, it is better to focus on quality of execution, not speed. People tell me they can shorten their cycle by targeting the right prospect, duh! Or solve buyers’ problems rather than sell them product, double duh. Let’s not confuse optimization with acceleration.
What I have found and most don’t like, is the real question here is one of prospecting. If you have the right if you know you conversion rates between stages of the sale, and your close ratio, you will worry less about how fast you are closing deals. It is much more about metrics and accountability than speed. If you know how many prospects you need to close one deal, then it is much better to ensure that you maintain that level prospects, rather how fast you chew through them.
Once I know my quota or goal, I can use my metrics to chart a path to that number. If close one of every five prospects I engage, and I successfully engage one prospect each day of the working week, each is a cycle, and I do this consistently every week, it really does not matter who long my cycle is. But people would much rather spend time and effort shaving minutes off their cycle than prospect consistently. Once you have that down, it takes the pressure off closing faster, and allows you to fully sell the right prospects, and better yet, the permissions and means by which to disqualify less than optimal prospects.
What is ironic is that often it is the same voices who tell you that sales is not a numbers game, are the very ones who advocate for shorter cycles. But when you look at it, focusing on shortening the cycle, leads to much more selling by numbers, than the discipline of consistent and efficient execution of your sale, using metrics, data.