How Can I Shorten the Sales Cycle?

20 replies
Our sales cycle runs about 2-3 weeks.

1. They call.
2. The sales rep goes and looks at the site.
3. Mockups are made, quotes sent.
4. Back and forth, back and forth
5. Finally we get a deposit and get the ball rolling.


Is there any way to shorten this process? We sell $15,000+ signs.

edit: I'm not the sales rep, but could pass along any suggestions.
#cycle #sales #shorten
  • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
    Originally Posted by Robscom View Post

    Our sales cycle runs about 2-3 weeks.

    1. They call.
    2. The sales rep goes and looks at the site.
    3. Mockups are made, quotes sent.
    4. Back and forth, back and forth
    5. Finally we get a deposit and get the ball rolling.


    Is there any way to shorten this process? We sell $15,000+ signs.

    edit: I'm not the sales rep, but could pass along any suggestions.

    Teach the rep how to quote on site. Teach the rep how to create a mock up (I'm assuming it can be done online.) Get the deposit in that first call.

    The reason it takes multiple calls is because you are insisting on making multiple calls.
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    • Profile picture of the author Robscom
      Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

      Teach the rep how to quote on site. Teach the rep how to create a mock up (I'm assuming it can be done online.) Get the deposit in that first call.

      The reason it takes multiple calls is because you are insisting on making multiple calls.
      I will pass this along. Thank you.
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  • Profile picture of the author helisell
    I'm sure your reps will totally disagree with Claude.

    Not that he's wrong....but reps are reps and therefore think they are brilliant and can't be taught anything.

    I can pretty much guarantee that they'll say.."but that doesn't work in this industry"

    What you need to do is take one of the less dogmatic ones to one side and brief him/her on a better way to sell your product. Trouble with that is.....who is going to teach him/her?

    You'll need a pro sales trainer/developer to make much headroom. The right person however [I'm kinda retired unfortunately] would have a huge impact.

    Remember what you'll be listening for...."that doesn't work in this industry."

    Good luck anyway.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ron Lafuddy
    It's hard to argue with a guy who has actually done it
    and taught others to do it as well.

    Experience tops opinion, every time.

    A guy who sold signs in one call, was Lloyd Allard.

    He wrote a book, "Selling".

    It may be of interest.

    Ron
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  • Profile picture of the author Robscom
    I very much appreciate all of the advice.

    I will see if I can make some headway.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
    OK bud, here's what you have to do:

    > encounter prospects who are at an emergency or tripwire or instigator moment, however you want to term it. Something has just happened in their world that means they need the solution you provide.

    If you have experience with a niche and a product/service, you can go back through your accounts and find the similarities. You could also go back and ask, but do this by phone or in person, not by email.

    What's happening for you now is your reps are finding prospects who haven't had that trigger event.

    In the web design field, trigger events could be:

    > change of ownership
    > change in marketing executive
    > change of branding
    > change of services/products/target market
    > departure of a key employee
    > decreased cashflow, leading to the realization that improved conversion methods are required
    > realization that the old website is badly dated
    > sales reps spending too much time explaining options to prospects that could have been demonstrated online

    The nice thing is you can build your marketing message around these events, once you confirm what they are for your niche. You'll stand out, too--everyone else is saying, "Hey, wanna buy a website?"

    Most of these are applicable to sign design. When I ran a metal fab shop back in Vancouver, I worked with a sign shop and a woodworking studio that could make custom booths, signs, motion picture sets and all kinds of other things.

    As others have said, it's taking this long because the prospect is being allowed to take that time. Your reps need to lead the process and say "This is how it is" at the start.

    That's your current problem: your reps are finding prospects that aren't really qualified, and then get into a bidding cycle. The "hot buttons" remove that step as the customer truly wants the problem solved ASAP. And here you are, saying this is exactly what you do and who you do it for.

    Trigger Event + Authority = Supreme Buyer Confidence.

    Imagine a long highway from City A to City B. You can drive the entire length if you like. You can get on at Onramp #2, which is closer to City B but still way out there. Or you can get on at Onramp #5, which is just a few miles from City B.

    Now imagine that City B is your prospect's buying decision.

    A lot of money has been made, in my experience especially in the software field (CRM, Accounting, Inventory Management) by Company J swooping in at the last minute and taking the order away...after Company E has spent a long time--maybe years--educating and coddling the prospect along.

    Fair? Maybe not. But it happens all the time.

    I gave you two concepts here for shortening sales cycles. There are more.
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  • Profile picture of the author Robscom
    Thank you, everyone. I am going to see what I can persuade the rep to implement.

    We have a LOT of calls coming in, and these are people who seem ready to buy - and they are - but it just takes 2-3 weeks to close the deal.

    Not sure if this is because they aren't as close to buying as we thought, or if the sales process is too cumbersome. (I am, obviously, leaning towards the latter.)
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    • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
      Originally Posted by Robscom View Post

      Thank you, everyone. I am going to see what I can persuade the rep to implement.

      We have a LOT of calls coming in, and these are people who seem ready to buy - and they are - but it just takes 2-3 weeks to close the deal.

      Not sure if this is because they aren't as close to buying as we thought, or if the sales process is too cumbersome. (I am, obviously, leaning towards the latter.)

      If the leads are inbound, then my suspicion is that the reps are not qualifying their prospects. They're not looking for those trigger events.

      Then they're putting the prospect into their typical funnel, which allows for the multi-week decision process.

      Are they even asking the prospects what they expected as far as a process goes?

      The world tends to take us at face value, and tends to give us what we'll accept.

      Inbound lead >> Qualify for Need >> Split into two types of leads...urgent and standard.

      Urgent leads have the trigger event and can be accelerated through the decision steps.

      Standard leads you can decide about:

      1 > allow them to remain as they are with the longer sales cycle

      2 > squeeze them for further qualification ("Why did you call us as opposed to another designer?" Answers could be quite revealing..."Well we just needed another quote" vs "We read about your successes in our industry")

      3 > dump them altogether--give them as referrals you get a fee for to a lower grade sign manufacturer. Less hassle.

      Depends on how badly you want to keep the router & paint teams working, right?

      IMO your salesforce needs to learn a lot more about qualifying prospects, and uncovering true reasons to buy. They seem to be running a "one size fits all" policy and process and that is hurting.
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      • Profile picture of the author Oziboomer
        Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

        If the leads are inbound, then my suspicion is that the reps are not qualifying their prospects. They're not looking for those trigger events.
        Here is a trigger event for my business.

        We just signed another 4 year option.

        I met with a similar business owner who just signed a 6 year lease with a major shopping centre.

        We both discussed signs yesterday and agreed that most signage had a 6 year lifespan.

        Set those birthdays into your system.

        On another note for the web design/ coding brigade the implementation of TSL1.2 is potentially a trigger to website owners who currently use Paypal but haven't yet tested their security settings to meet the upcoming implementation by Paypal on the 17th June.

        A free testing service could be a good lead in right now.

        There's a trigger.

        Best regards,

        Ozi
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  • Profile picture of the author Scott Stevens
    Originally Posted by Robscom View Post

    Our sales cycle runs about 2-3 weeks.

    1. They call.
    2. The sales rep goes and looks at the site.
    3. Mockups are made, quotes sent.
    4. Back and forth, back and forth
    5. Finally we get a deposit and get the ball rolling.


    Is there any way to shorten this process? We sell $15,000+ signs.

    edit: I'm not the sales rep, but could pass along any suggestions.
    A couple of questions:

    1) What's the average sale dollar value?
    2) What's the conversion breakdown between each prospect stage X prospects => X meetings => X proposals => X sales?
    3) Who designed the sales process?
    4) What's your reason for wanting to shorten the sales cycle?
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    Skochy - The Musical Salesman

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    • Profile picture of the author Robscom
      Originally Posted by Scott Stevens View Post

      A couple of questions:

      1) What's the average sale dollar value?
      2) What's the conversion breakdown between each prospect stage X prospects => X meetings => X proposals => X sales?
      3) Who designed the sales process?
      4) What's your reason for wanting to shorten the sales cycle?
      1. It varies widely. For this sales division, sales run anywhere from $5,000 up to six figures. Most of the sales start having a slowdown in the $10,000+ range. (Under that, the conversion/sales process is usually shorter.)

      2. From what I can tell, conversion rate seems good. She eventually closes about 75% of the calls coming in. It just takes a while.

      3. There isn't one. It's haphazard. It drives me crazy.

      4. I'd like to help even out the cash flow, and a shorter sales cycle would help with that. Not as much time in between bigger jobs.
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      • Profile picture of the author Scott Stevens
        Originally Posted by Robscom View Post

        1. It varies widely. For this sales division, sales run anywhere from $5,000 up to six figures. Most of the sales start having a slowdown in the $10,000+ range. (Under that, the conversion/sales process is usually shorter.)

        2. From what I can tell, conversion rate seems good. She eventually closes about 75% of the calls coming in. It just takes a while.

        3. There isn't one. It's haphazard. It drives me crazy.

        4. I'd like to help even out the cash flow, and a shorter sales cycle would help with that. Not as much time in between bigger jobs.
        Okay thanks. Not sure if youre still looking for help with this. Sorry if Im late to the party.

        My take: So it's quite a high ticket sale. In my experience, higher ticket sales require a longer sales process. And the reason I asked about the average sale price and closing ratio, is I even thought there may have been a case for EXTENDING the sales cycle. But it looks like its fine as it is. At 75% closing ratio, if thats right, is awesome

        And although some have suggested your reps wont be told there is a better way, maybe your sales reps know what theyre doing and are not just fobbing you off when they say the sales process perfectly suits the product/industry.

        IMO, shortening the cycle wont increase closing ratio. But if you want to shorten the cycle for other reasons other than turnover (cashflow/time/efficiency), then maybe there is a case there. And if you wanted to increase profits, then obviously the shorter sales cycle, and the reduced ratio because of it, would obviously have to translate into more sales long term.
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        Yours in prosperity,
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        • Profile picture of the author Jason Kanigan
          Originally Posted by Scott Stevens View Post

          Okay thanks. Not sure if youre still looking for help with this. Sorry if Im late to the party.

          My take: So it's quite a high ticket sale. In my experience, higher ticket sales require a longer sales process. And the reason I asked about the average sale price and closing ratio, is I even thought there may have been a case for EXTENDING the sales cycle. But it looks like its fine as it is. At 75% closing ratio, if thats right, is awesome

          And although some have suggested your reps wont be told there is a better way, maybe your sales reps know what theyre doing and are not just fobbing you off when they say the sales process perfectly suits the product/industry.

          IMO, shortening the cycle wont increase closing ratio. But if you want to shorten the cycle for other reasons other than turnover (cashflow/time/efficiency), then maybe there is a case there. And if you wanted to increase profits, then obviously the shorter sales cycle, and the reduced ratio because of it, would obviously have to translate into more sales long term.
          You got me thinking some more about this...

          The product is the sign...the organization's identity.

          How many people are involved in the design & selection of that?? Fingers in the pie of what size the bordering circle should be, the particular shade of blue that represents them, and so on?

          And yet how many people from the organization actually approach the seller?

          Probably one, the poor sot delegated with the task.

          But that sot also brings back the info for the hidden group to look over and hum and haw about.

          And THAT is likely where the time sink is.

          What if you could get the whole group into the room at once? ASAP? That would significantly decrease decision time, wouldn't it. Quick little process step addition, and problem solved.
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          • Profile picture of the author Oziboomer
            Originally Posted by Jason Kanigan View Post

            You got me thinking some more about this...

            The product is the sign...the organization's identity.

            How many people are involved in the design & selection of that?? Fingers in the pie of what size the bordering circle should be, the particular shade of blue that represents them, and so on?

            And yet how many people from the organization actually approach the seller?
            As I have design people on team the time issue is usually more related to finance than to design.

            Now that might be just me but design generally is pretty fluid and the morphing usually happens quite quickly but often the quoting...finance....final decision takes longer.

            It might be due to external factors, threats, opportunities, etc that have higher priority.

            In another niche one of my clients has an average conversion time of around eight months.

            There is a lot of nurturing over that period.

            When you look at their "average" it is skewed somewhat because there is a high number of prospects who convert but they are desperate They need a medical problem fixed now and already have referrals from other medical professionals,

            They imminently require a solution.

            They have insurance in place.

            They have funds or access to funds immediately or relatively quickly.

            Opposite to this are the people who need to get or qualify for insurance and have to find or save the funds. In addition to the fact they need the solution because they are going to die otherwise...or have a serious degradation to their lives.

            An old sign might be detrimental to the image of a business but is it life threatening?

            In some circumstances an old sign might subconsciously send a different message than what might be received by a sign writer

            Best regards,

            Ozi
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  • Profile picture of the author mojo1
    All this talk about signs has definitely put this topic square on my radar.

    So much so yesterday while leaving my apartment complex, I noticed a guy from Signorama taking a photo of what I thought was new signage and indeed it was for a new Senior Retirement Living community that's adjacent to our residence.

    I slowed down enough to ask him if his company put up the sign as my thoughts were that he might have been doing a little intel for another company. Not sure how much that particular sign is worth but it's probably an expensive one because it's the main signage for the yet unfinished Senior Retirement Living community. This particular Retirement community has quite a few nationwide location build-outs scheduled so anyone with something to offer this niche should definitely pursue it now before they break ground.

    I reached out to who I thought might have completed the sign a few moments ago and the owner said it wasn't their franchise who did it but would have like to know who did in her backyard lol. They are absolutely slammed with work and have more work projects in our neck of the woods than they can handle almost so it seems your industry is really thriving.
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  • Profile picture of the author SalesGod
    I skimmed through your post and didn't read any of the replies I'm sure you got the answer your looking for but my answer is simple. Turn the lead into an appointment, have the sales rep go to the appointment, and he doesn't leave until the deal is closed. Do everything on the spot. Pretty simple.
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  • Profile picture of the author thezhiff
    Possibly before your appointment a well thought study of the client site can make your job easier.
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  • Profile picture of the author Robscom
    Thank you for the advice! Will post a longer reply when I get more time. (Busy day today!)
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  • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
    Possibly the mistake is asking how to shorten the sales cycle for all the sales. Some sales could be closed on the first meeting. I don't know how many, but let's say half of the 75%. The other half need a longer cycle, because more people are involved, or the buyer just isn't excited enough to move right away.

    My suggestion is to make it easier to buy on the first call. And also make follow up calls if necessary. You may increase your first call sales, and that would slightly increase your over all sales (by preventing some loss due to lag time)


    But the law of diminishing returns sets in. You may not be able to go much higher than 75%. In my very best year, with the most qualified prospects..I could never get above 80%. And these were people who said they were already interested.
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  • Profile picture of the author Robscom
    Thank you for all the replies. Honestly, this was even more than I had hoped for.

    The design and finances seem to be a sticking point. Finances would be cleared up with better qualifying, I think. The design process seems to get bogged down if the client isn't really clear on what he/she wants. He/She has something in their head, but can't quite articulate it well enough to get the concept right until it's had multiple back-and-forth.

    edited to add: the high-dollar clients seem to spend much more time getting the sign "just right." I don't think that can be shortened, to be honest. :/
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