The 3 Conditions That Are Destroying Your Sales Cycle

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Oct 21, 2014 8:00:00 AM

B2B Sales Changes AheadThere’s a fascinating Slideshare that highlights How Google Works from Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman at Google. The presentation starts with Schmidt’s favorite question, “What’s different now?”

Here are some of the highlights from their answer:

  • Technology is transforming virtually every business sector:
    • All the world’s information and media is online.
    • Mobile devices mean anyone can reach anyone, anywhere, anytime.
    • Cloud computing puts a supercomputer in your pocket.
  • Every incumbent business is vulnerable to competition and disruption.
  • The transformation is happening at an unprecedented pace, and it’s accelerating.
  • Power has shifted from companies to consumers, and expectations have never been higher.

The last observation struck me. Not because it’s a new observation, but because it’s become an increasingly common observation being made by many market observers and business executives. As a matter of fact, it’s become so common that I don’t ever see people even debate the topic any longer.

B2B sales and marketing executives are not spending enough time contemplating what this fact means to their business. I see this everyday and on virtually every website.

Shortening your sales cycle requires that you align your approach with the realities of the market. Growth executives are paying lip service to this trend, but they continue to fail to address the basic way they approach the revenue side of their business to align with the power their customers have.

I see this in three important areas:

Your sales process still puts the salesperson in the position of the hero

Think of your sales process as a story. Now, consider who’s playing the role of “hero?” I bet it’s the salesperson.

The vast majority of sales approaches still treat the salesperson as the smartest player in the process. If you’re practicing anything that can be called solutions or consultative selling, I know this is the case.

Too many sales approaches act as if the salesperson is among the first impulses the customer reaches out to when trying to learn new things about the market or products and services.

The reality today is that the salesperson is among the last players in the process. Today, the customer is the hero of their own buying journey. As a sales organization, you need to transform your salespeople from the purveyors of information and knowledge to the curators of it.

Your sales system must be built with the Zero Moment of Truth built into it. Your sales team must develop the business acumen necessary to have resonating business conversations. They must be able to put the goal of making a sale behind the ability to serve, help and create value for the customer.

You’re still relying on salespeople to make sales

In a world where the customer is conducting 65% – 90% of the buying process on their own, before they’re open to discussing anything with a salesperson, you had better have other means to drive the sale than just having a sales team.

Today, marketing is the most important salesperson on your team. Yet, from the research I’ve seen, matched with my own experience, I’d estimate that only about 3 – 5% of small and mid-sized businesses are built to win in this type of world.

Just last week I talked with a prospect who was telling me that while he “certainly understood the importance of marketing in today’s world, we just feel like inbound marketing is more than we need right now.” Guess what, if you’re not building a dynamic marketing process to attract prospects and customers then you’re going to be asking your sales team to hit their quotas being exposed to about 1/5th of the total market, all of whom will have been influenced by competitors before the first touch with one of your salespeople.

You still think marketing is only about promotion and communication

In case I haven’t made it clear, today marketing is more responsible for revenue generation than any other function in your business. An effective approach to marketing is the foundation of your sales efforts. Without effective marketing you cannot scale growth.

Today marketing is responsible for generating, managing and cultivating leads to get them ready for your sales team. If you’re not building an effective lead generation and management system, or if you’re still relying on salespeople to prospect, your prospects for sales growth dim.

We live in a new world today. It’s not enough to merely acknowledge the transformation that’s happening. As the saying goes, “If the rate of change outside your organization is faster than the rate inside, your organization is in trouble.”

Embrace the change or your sales cycle will suffer.

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