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Cut to the Chase

Sales cycle dragging? These 6 tips will make it shorter--and sweeter.
May 1, 2007
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/177128

When you're going after a new account, it's imperative that you use your time wisely so you can shorten the sales cycle. Here are six ways to do just that.

1. Qualify, qualify, qualify. Whether you're calling to the top of an organization or going straight to the person responsible for making the decision, you should always check to see if others are involved and include them in your meetings and presentations. To qualify the decision-maker, simply ask, "Is there anyone besides yourself who is involved in this decision and who I should be speaking with?" If they say yes, ask, "What role does this person play?" Using the words "besides yourself" ensures you don't alienate the person you're speaking to.

2. Overdeliver on each step of the sales process. I often hear from customers that the one thing that helps them decide to go ahead with new business or continue with their current business is that the sales rep is a resource of information. So assist your prospects by providing valuable information that will help them make a better decision. They'll remember you later, and it will likely help shorten the sales cycle.

3. Know your customer. In sales, developing your skills and knowledge will differentiate you from the competition. When you go into a sales call with extensive knowledge of your customer's business and how it makes money, it allows you to sell with confidence and pick and choose what information you will share that's relevant to that prospect--moving the decision closer to a sale.

4. Have faith. When there's a great amount of difficulty involved in closing an account, you have to believe in the value of what you are selling and how it will benefit the client. Many times, several different buyers would pass on a product I was selling, but I'd finally find success with the third buyer, who was able to see the additional progress I had made since approaching that first buyer. One buyer's rejection can be used to redesign your product or improve your presentation for the next meeting.

5. Don't forget to close throughout the sales call. Doing this will help you see right away how to shorten the sales cycle. Even if you ask for the business too early and your prospect makes objections, those objections become opportunities to find out what's missing or what needs to be done to earn his or her business. If you've done everything else right, this should be the easiest part of the sale! For most of my sales career, I've used this amazing closing technique: "Why don't we go ahead with this." It should be a statement, not a question. When you've built rapport, asked the right questions, presented to the needs of the prospect and demonstrated how you can solve your prospect's problems, closing should be the simplest part of the sale. It's all about the relationship--and if you don't have that, then a clever, manipulative closing technique is worthless.

6. Leverage is key. People who know the value of your service make it a lot easier to close early. They'll call on you because they can't do without your type of product or service. Word-of-mouth and testimonials can help facilitate this, because you will have impressed people with the results you've accomplished in an industry or a specific marketplace. But don't forget to spread the word yourself. Let people know what you've done by promoting it.