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The Alternative Board Blog

When Your Sales Process Is Way Too Long (and How To Fix It)

Jun. 14, 2023 | Posted by The Alternative Board
A slow sales process can demoralize your team.

A drawn-out sales process can be the downfall of an otherwise healthy business - or at the very least, a huge drain on efficiency and profitability.

Slow sales cycles are more expensive than their streamlined counterparts and profoundly impact the cash flow and financial stability of the company due to the delayed influx of sales dollars. Eager customers who find themselves trapped in a slow sales process often lose interest and perhaps look to even higher-priced or lower-quality competitors to fulfill their needs. Even if a drawn-out deal does eventually close, the longer that sales cycle lasted, the less likely it is that those customers will return.

A slow sales process is a momentum killer that can leave sales teams feeling demoralized. High-level producers will simply go somewhere else, thus leaving the company with both a sluggish process and an anemic sales team. Hardly a recipe for success.

Four Common Culprits Negatively Impacting Your Sales Process

The efficiency of your sales process is dependent on many factors, both internal and external. As most businesses certainly have recently grown to learn, market conditions and economic turmoil can grind sales down to a standstill. Those outside influences are mostly out of your control. But notwithstanding a global crisis, there are some usual suspects when it comes to a company’s sluggish sales process.

1. Poor Lead Qualification.

Sales funnels often get logjammed with unqualified or underqualified leads who lack the criteria for a successful sale. Among other things, that may mean they don’t have the budget or purchasing power necessary to sign on the dotted line. Unqualified prospects can sink the sales process.

The solution: Understand who your ideal customer is and create a customer avatar or buyer persona. Use this to implement a strong lead qualification strategy that includes adequate sales training and the proper use of whatever CRM system is being used. Identifying high-quality leads early on and entering them into the pipe should be foundational to everything else you do throughout your sales process.

Read “3 Advices to Get to Know Better Your Target Audience.”

2. Dirty or Missing Customer Data.

Even the best CRM can fail due to inaccurate or missing information, which can dramatically affect the length of your sales process. Would-be good leads can fall off the radar or become difficult to identify. Sales reps are forced to spend more time filling in the information gaps and less time closing deals. Dirty and missing data are almost always due to poor user adoption and practices.

The solution: If you are fortunate enough to have implemented a good CRM, be sure to also invest in proper user training. Conduct regular workshops and testing to ensure that your sales team and customer service reps appreciate the importance of clean data and how to maintain it. There are online courses for virtually every CRM out there that can reinforce proper user adoption. Make clean data a central theme in your sales program.

3. Messy Sales Approval Process.

Everyone knows the story of the car salesman who must get his sales manager to okay the great deal he is offering the buyer. And the wasted time as that buyer sits there waiting for the elusive stamp of approval. While this example might sound cliché, it does play out time and again in many organizations whose sales approval process is time-consuming, overly complex, and involve too many people or departments.

The solution: Internal sales reviews are often vital, but they can also substantially hold up closing a deal. To streamline the sales approval process, it is important to embrace accountability throughout your sales team. Do your people need better training to understand how to approve and close a deal? Are you as the business owner thwarting the efficiency of your sales process due to an inability to delegate and loosen the reins? By educating your team and setting parameters on price and other offerings, you embolden them to close deals better and faster.

4. Lackluster Sales Strategy.

Whether you have intentionally developed one or not, most business rely on a specific sales strategy and tactics. If your sales strategy relies too heavily on time bandits like cold calling and chasing dead leads, then your sales timeline is probably taking a hit. A strategy that focuses more on the transactional aspects of sales and less on relationship-building opportunities may seem efficient, but can substantially lengthen the sales process as you clamor for new leads rather than better penetration with current customers.

The solution: Improve your sales strategy to include efficiency in your sales process. Assess your current sales cycle for roadblocks and time wasters. Make sales training and development key pillars of your sales strategy. Design a customer-first sales strategy that focuses heavily on relationship management.

Read “4 Tips on Creating a Great Customer Experience Strategy.”

Keep in mind that while you may want a streamlined sales process, sometimes longer sales cycles are innately to the organization or industry. This is often the case with complex or high-value products and services. So it is important to determine whether the length of your sales cycle is appropriate for your unique business.

Click here to watch our free, on-demand webinar "Removing Bottlenecks in Your Sales Process."

Read our 19 Reasons You Need a Business Owner Advisory Board


Written by The Alternative Board

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