What You Can Learn from Long Sales Cycles

I was at a London Tech week event recently and one of the panelists was referring to having been through 3 years sales cycles into banks.  There was some discussion as to what to do in these circs.  Strangely no-one mentioned the obvious conclusion “get a new job!” 🙂 I mean if you are selling a fleet of Airbus or some such you expect the process to take some time – but there is a very big-ticket at the end of it. But just selling something into a bank?!

get a life

But what if it is not quite that bad? What do you need to learn short of moving to Airbus where you would at least land a whale not a fish after 3yrs?

So a quick health check.

How good are you at converting leads to conversations? Conversations to sales processes? Sales processes to closed deals?

I always have the image in my mind of a marketing funnel delivering water into a chain of pipes and reservoirs – at each stage you will lose some water – and of course the thing that matters is not how much leaks out but how much gets to the end,  If I magic you 10 leads today how many deals will you typically get? If it’s less than 1 you need a new product/marketing dept/sales force!

So this is kinda BizDev 101. It should be obvious where the big leak is. However I never cease to be amazed at the folks who don’t track the metrics on this process.  If you don’t do that how do you know which bit of the plumbing you should be improving right now?

BizDev – er – 102? 201? – is what happens if you convert quite a lot of the rainwater that lands in your funnel into pure drinking water at the other end. But it just takes too long?

Well back to banks one of the main problems is size.  Same with the government – I know someone succesful selling into the government but it takes so long he has lost interest in the whole process.  I assume it’s the same trying to sell into the NHS or the Chinese Army.  Whenever an organisation gets vast it becomes a bureaucracy and has no incentive to move fast.  I guess if you have these kinda clients you want to be thinking of the advice in the graphic above.

However if this isn’t the problem then a great strategy here is to “move your collection funnel” 😉

Let’s say you make great pergolas. And let’s say you are great at marketing them. And let’s say you are great at selling them.  And then you meet me and hey I can see they are cool and would make the garden look nice. And you are great guys and explain things really well, and let’s follow-up … and … and … and.  Time goes by. Why? No fault of yours – it’s just my life is going along perfectly well with out a pergola.

On the other hand if I was busy redesigning my garden, getting landscape gardeners in and the cement was being laid next week.  Well that would be the time to speak to me and you would get fast sales.

It’s always easy to have a short sales process when someone’s hair is on fire and you are selling a way of putting the fire out.

BizDev theory really does tend to under-emphasise the need to understand the life-cycle over time of clients events and processes  – unless you are selling Xmas cards perhaps.  Now everything is not seasonal as such but most things are periodic or at least event-driven.  If you are a dating agency you wont do well selling to newly weds. But you might do well targeting folks a year or two after their divorce 😀

What is the impact of these thoughts on you?

Do you just need to get a job with a shorter cycle or less bureaucratic clients?  Or is your funnel in the wrong place and you are picking up leads who do not have a burning need for what you are selling?

What’s your takeaway?  Let me know!



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