"Sales Cycle" refers to the specific actions salespeople follow to close a new customer. Sales cycles are often confused with sales methodologies. A sales methodology, such as the "inbound methodology," refers to the framework for implementing the sales cycle. The sales cycle is more tactical, and often includes stages such as "prospect," "connect," "research," "present," and "close."
To understand a sales cycle, you must understand the stages it's comprised of. Here's a breakdown of each one.
Stages of a Sales Cycle
Scour LinkedIn, check for relevant news stories, and dig up referrals. Prospecting isn't the most glamorous part of sales, but it might just be the most important. In this stage, you'll identify sales qualified leads (SQLs) and fill your pipeline with prospects who are a good fit for your product/service and your buyer persona, and who might be interested in hearing what you have to say. For more tips, check out our ultimate guide to sales prospecting.
Once you've identified prospects, it's time to make contact. Ask for a mutual acquaintance to introduce you, engage with your prospect on social media like LinkedIn or Twitter, and reach out over email and phone.
Introduce yourself, share the value of what you have to offer, and ask if they'd be interested in learning more.
For example, you might call a prospect and say, "Hello [Prospect name]. My name is [Your name], and I'm with [Company name]. Is [pain point] a problem for you? I help companies like yours [insert benefit you offer], and I think I can do the same for you. Is this something you'd like to learn more about?"
When your prospect is interested in learning more, it's time to set up a discovery or qualifying call. You'll learn more about their business, their needs, and your ability to meet those needs.
Some discovery calls will end with you realizing you're not a good fit. Others will give you the insight to make a strong case for their adoption of your product/service. Not sure where to start? Here's our ultimate list of discovery questions.
Now it's time for the presentation. This is usually built around a pitch template your sales team uses and customizes for each prospect's unique business needs.
Generally, you'll present to a team of decision makers at your prospect's company and field questions from key stakeholders. Want to freshen up your pitch? Check out these six types of presentation styles.
It's likely you'll have next steps to follow up on after the presentation. You might need to address a prospect objections or connect with legal or IT on logistical details. Once you've completed these steps, it's time to "ask for the close" -- sales jargon for asking whether the prospect is ready to buy.
If they say, "Yes," draw up the contract and send it over for final review and signing. If they say, "No," you might have to address further objections or walk away from their business for the moment. Here's a complete list of sales closing techniques to help you seal the deal.
Sales Cycle Management
Sales cycle management is how salespeople, managers, and leaders keep track of each stage of the sales process. They identify trends and determine which steps of the process are doing well or need to be improved.
If you're a salesperson or sales leader, sales cycle management allows you to evaluate the stages of the sales cycle to see where improvements or adjustments need to be made. Tools, like a CRM, aid in sales cycle management.
Sales cycles are a pivotal part of every salesperson's day. It's important to be familiar with the cycle your team abides by -- and use it as your compass to navigate the storm that selling can be.