For cash-starved companies dealing with the lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, new deals can’t be closed fast enough. This has given rise to the temptation for sales professionals to resort to pressure, gimmickry, discounting, and just plain hounding in an effort to get fresh greenbacks into the corporate coffers.
There are two observations we can make with this school of thought: First, if the buyer is not ready to make a deal, there’s no force of will that will make it happen any quicker. That’s true in any sales landscape. But secondly, and more germane to today’s market forces – deals are, indeed, taking longer to materialize than in the days leading up to the pandemic.
According to research gathered by sales enablement software company Chorus.AI, deals are indeed still closing – but are requiring 10 percent more meetings to get to the finish line. That same study points to a 31 percent increase in the timing between the first and last calls predating a sale.
Taken together, it affirms what many sales professionals are experiencing in the marketplace: An overall increase in the length of sales cycles. Additional insights by Topo Research foretell an even grimmer tale – 90 percent of businesses that have $1 billion or less in annual revenue indicated that they will actively postpone projects during 2021.
That said, all is not completely lost: Topo also noted that if you are able to demonstrate alignment between your product and the buyers’ most critical needs, and your solution can impact their business quickly, you can accelerate the deal into the foreground. Just ask, for example, a logistics company if they could use a few million of your shipping containers right now!
So, for the rest of us, what are some ways we can potentially curtail the elasticity of these lengthening sales cycles?
Understand the decision matrix: As we shared in a previous blog, the decision-making deal matrix has changed. More CFOs and cross-functional executives are appearing in deal meetings, and the buying process, as we have indicated, has likely changed from traditional norms. This puts the onus on sales pros to understand the factors impacting the buying process, and to build relationships beyond the regular contacts in your Salesforce database.
Tighten that value proposition: We’ve been advising sales leaders for months of the importance of driving home your value to buyers, beyond what’s in your sales slick or 10-slide PowerPoint deck. Now is the time to tighten and connect your value messaging to that of your specific buyer, aligning messaging with the key issues that your buyer is facing. One thought on discussing deals with the C-suite – their patience is limited. Now is not the time to trot out your 60-minute discovery session script. You’ll be dealing with people who are used to making decisions with limited data – so DO ask good questions, but DON’T ask too many.
The right deal, right NOW: One final bit of shocking insight from Topo – many companies, in making B2B purchases, are expecting measurable ROI in 60 to 120 days. That is not terribly unusual, but this fact is: Those buyers want tangible confirmation that your solution puts them on the right value path in seven days. One week. This puts even greater pressure on your sales team to not just understand the value proposition but to truly understand how the deployment of your product or service will create measurable change for your buyer.
Finally, remember that your goal at this moment in 2020 is to be looking not at demand creation, but demand “identification.” Be discovering people with pain who need what you have, not trying to make them move forward on a secondary or even inexperienced need.
What are you doing to deal with lengthening sales cycles in your marketplace? If you need a quick realignment of your sales priorities or honing how your team discovers and communicates value to your prospects to sell into today’s environment, please reach out. At The Brooks Group, we have spent more than 40 years working in lockstep with sales organizations to upskill teams and prepare for the unexpected.