How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle and Convert More Leads Tightening up and standardizing your sales process can overcome a lack of leads to ignite your turnaround.

By Kevin Wessels

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Are you a business owner frustrated by your inconsistent, declining, or non-existent lead flow? Or perhaps you're fed up with the increasingly low-quality and infrequent referrals you receive?

If you're vulnerable to sporadic month-to-month revenue swings, it's definitely unsettling, even if you're a more established entrepreneur and no longer in startup mode. Many of my clients come to me looking for more high-quality leads and more high-paying customers. On the other hand, some prospects and clients I work with have too many leads to handle, as they scramble to keep track of them all and aggressively work in a timely manner. Thus, their sales conversions suffer and the reliability and predictability of their cash flow declines too.

Whether your business is in launch or turnaround mode, here are some tips to improve your lead qualification and conversion process to increase your revenue.

Are you pursuing the right leads?

In today's marketplace, there are a plethora of entrepreneurs fixated on building complex, tech-intensive online sales funnels. Don't get me wrong, having that skill set can certainly be a valuable asset. However, relying too much on technology automation has resulted in many newer entrepreneurs getting lazy. As they hide behind their computer or social media, they've become too reactive when they should always instead be proactive in expanding their network and growing their sales pipeline. Though they're tech-savvy, these entrepreneurs struggle to quickly vet and qualify their prospects or recognize buying signals. They have very unproductive sales discovery and enrollment conversations with the wrong people at the wrong time, thereby missing out on massive revenue opportunities. Additionally, they're going after too broad of a market with very limited success, or they feel completely overwhelmed by the onslaught of leads coming their way.

So in your case, do you have a clearly defined target market?

Getting clear on who you serve will produce three positive results. First, you won't waste time interacting with the wrong audience. Secondly, you will attract more of your ideal target client as your specialization and experience in working with a certain micro-vertical or segment will demonstrate your expertise. Thirdly, your sales conversions will increase as you become more familiar with the trends and most common pain points prevalent in your niche market. So many business owners worry about the number of leads they have. In reality, they need to prioritize getting the right type of lead so they can increase their odds of converting the lead to a paying customer.

Formalize, yet simplify your sales process

Once you've firmly carved out your target market, it's essential to adhere to a rigorous, yet streamlined sales process to ensure you are spending your time with prospects who are interested and have the budget.

As you begin to engage with your leads, be sure that you go deep enough to uncover answers to the following discovery questions:

  1. What are the prospect's most pressing business challenges?
  2. How is the company addressing the issue or problem now? How long has that been happening? What's the game plan to resolve this and how soon do they want this fixed?
  3. What is the biggest pain point or complaint in the company regarding a lack of a solution today?
  4. What is the impact on the company if this business challenge doesn't get solved?
  5. What is the prospect's account buying history? Are they a satisfied client or even a dissatisfied client?
  6. If they are a brand new prospect, who is their current provider?
  7. What are the "must-have" requirements of the desired solution?

Using your own version of this script in a conversational style will allow you to gauge how serious your prospect is at considering and potentially investing in your offering.

Related: 10 Research-Backed Ways to Improve Sales Success

Solidify and align on the prospect's evaluation process

Assuming you have now qualified your prospect, established a fit, and aligned on their goals and expectations. You need to confirm the prospect is committed to you, your company, and your product or service. The below checklist can help you gauge this commitment:

  1. What alternatives is the prospect or client considering?
  2. Do you know your competitor's strengths and weaknesses?
  3. Is your proposed solution unique and delivers enough value to justify an investment or change? Does it conflict with, compliment, or replace an existing solution?
  4. Have you identified and are you speaking with the right decision-maker? This is a big one. Many people, including myself in the early stages of my career, have gotten burned here. Be sure to establish this up front. For instance, if a small business CEO or president assures you that he or she is the decision-maker, you still need to meet the owner and get them onboard.
  5. Are there any other partners, sponsors, or champions that can influence the outcome?
  6. Are you clear on the decision time frame and funding/approval process?

Incorporating these questions and controls into your sales framework will prevent you from wasting time, money, and effort chasing the wrong deals and speaking to non- or pseudo-decision makers.

Related: There Is No F in Sales!

Track your progress and quickly adapt to win more deals

Each lead interaction is a learning experience for you, whether or not they proceed to the next stage of your sales cycle or you eventually win or lose the pursuit. Along the way, it's imperative to document all of the sales objections you hear so you can successfully respond to the inquiry or revelation the next time it comes up. Once you do this, you'll begin to view objections as buying opportunity alerts rather than obstacles.

Additional key data to gather and analyze with the help of your CRM follows:

  1. Why do you win deals?
  2. Who do you lose deals to and why? Is it usually to certain competitors or to indecision?
  3. What is your best-selling product or service?
  4. What is your average sales cycle length?
  5. Which sales channel gets most of your sales?
  6. Who is your most profitable referral source?

Before you know it, you will have gathered some great intel to help you be more prepared for future sales opportunities and maximize your time.

Whether the majority of your leads come from online or offline efforts, you need a sound sales tracking, qualification, forecasting, and conversion process in place to shorten your sales cycle and attract and win clients that will stay, pay, and refer.

Related: How to Build a World-Class Sales Team

Wavy Line
Kevin Wessels

Founder of RevSherpas

Kevin Wessels is the founder of RevSherpas, a boutique management-consulting firm for small to mid-sized businesses. He has over 10 years of revenue-growth-acceleration consulting experience, scaling global companies and digital agencies using his proven and proprietary Client Connect!™ formula.

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