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on January 18, 2023 (last modified on January 21, 2023) • 23 minute read
Are you stuck in a seemingly endless sales cycle?
You’re not alone in that.
Many businesses deal with that exact problem, and it’s not hard to see why. There are plenty of metrics to keep track of, and the sales cycle itself can be somewhat opaque unless you really drill down into the nitty-gritty details.
Finding the right prospects, qualifying leads, doing the right research, and then hooking in and presenting your solution to the customer can all be very time-consuming steps. And if one step is out of alignment, it can drag the whole process down.
Fortunately, if you’re willing to put in the work, you can optimize the performance and length of your B2B sales cycle, leading to more efficient sales teams and more deals closed.
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about optimizing your B2B sales cycle and share some expert-backed tips and tricks you can use to make your sales process better than ever.
While exact definitions vary between companies and industries, the basics remain the same. A sales cycle is a collection of steps taken to turn leads into customers. It is divided into discrete stages that can include everything from prospecting to closing the sale. Some businesses add post-sale stages like repeat sales and referrals.
Most commonly, there are six to seven steps in the sales cycle (although some companies have more).
Your own sales process will be influenced mainly by your product or service, your sales method, your customer base, and your goals. With some careful research, you’ll find what works best for your company.
The average sales cycle is the average time it takes you to close the deal with a single prospect after they’ve entered your sales pipeline. It starts when a new lead becomes aware of your services and ends with them becoming a customer. Alternatively, they may also send referrals your way.
This is one of the most important sales performance metrics. It acts as a leading indicator of revenue generation and understanding it helps you project revenue based on how many prospective customers are in your sales pipeline.
Here’s how you can calculate your average sales cycle:
Related: When Should Marketing Agencies Make Their First Full-Time Marketing and Sales Hire? 60+ Agency Owners Share Their Tips
The exact stages in a sales cycle vary from business to business, but there are some common touchstones.
Here’s a baseline B2B sales cycle you can tweak and modify to suit your needs:
First comes identifying potential customers. The goal is to develop a database of likely customers and then communicate with them in the hopes of converting them from potential customers to current customers.
There are two approaches you can take; active and passive prospecting.
Related: 32 Prospecting Tips to Help You Book More Sales Meetings
Since not every lead is interested in making a purchase, you need a way to score or “qualify” them. This will help you identify which leads are interested and save you the effort of pursuing leads that were never going to make a purchase.
This stage can involve researching about the leads and determining their exact needs so you can present them with your solution in the best possible way.
PRO TIP: Listen to our recent episode of Metrics & Chill to learn how Remotion – a LinkedIn Ads Agency for B2B – generates SQLs using LinkedIn Ads.
This is the direct contact stage. The sales rep will present a demo of the service or a product to the prospect. During presenting, they will clearly and effectively communicate the benefits and features of working with your business to the potential customer.
This is another opportunity to gather more information on the lead’s business needs and goals and address them in the next step.
The sales rep will likely receive feedback and questions about the product or service during the presentation. They will have to figure out what the prospect’s biggest reservations are and demonstrate solutions. Alternatively, they can discuss planned developments that will encourage a buy-in with an eye toward the future.
This can be a stage of its own or it can be merged with the presentation stage. The advantage of the former is that
This is the part where sales reps break out the champagne. Well, maybe not for every sale, but they’ve successfully closed a deal and converted a lead into a paying customer. That’s worth something, at least.
This isn’t as simple as it sounds, as it often takes some time for the deal to get approved by the management, or maybe there are some financial details to iron out.
Related: 29 Sales Tips for Improving Your Close Rate
Just because the sale has been closed, doesn’t mean the process is done. It’s important to follow up and check with the customer to ensure they’re satisfied and that you’ll keep their business.
Technically, this stage never really ends. You’ll want to offer customer and technical service to your clients to ensure a positive user experience and word-of-mouth.
If you provide them with educational resources that will help them make the most out of your product/service, you can expect them to be even more satisfied.
Finally, feedback and reviews from customers can help you tweak your product or service and make it even better.
When customers are happy, you can ask them for referrals, which, in turn, keeps feeding the sales cycle and increasing the customer lifetime value. In some cases, customers will recommend their product even without being asked to.
The average length of a B2B sales cycle varies significantly based on a number of factors. This includes the type of product or service being sold, the industry in which the company operates, pricing, and the complexity of the sale.
We have interviewed 65 business representatives, that are either B2B companies or agencies and consultants working for B2B companies.
For most of our respondents, it takes more than a month to close a deal, with the largest share of over 30% taking between one and three months.
Pat Ahern, a digital marketing expert, notes that B2B sales cycles tend to increase in length as the size of the deal increases. Ahern says that it’s helpful to approach all sales conversations valued at less than $200,000 with the expectation that the prospect will sign within 1–2 months of the first conversation.
“B2B sales cycles should increase in length as the size of the deal increases. A $1,000 purchase may only take a few weeks to close, whereas a $50,000 purchase might take 3 months.”
Digital marketing expert at Pat Ahern
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Toby Dao of Tigren emphasizes that there’s no way to answer this question in a way that will account for all variables. “One reason for this variability is that different sales cycles are necessary for different types of products or services. For example, a sales cycle for software products may be shorter than one for medical devices or pharmaceuticals.
Additionally, different sales reps may be more productive if they work on shorter cycles, while managers may prefer longer cycles to allow for more strategic planning and reflection.”
In the end, the length of a sales cycle mainly depends on the needs of the company and its sales reps. “It is important to understand your company’s selling process and tailor it accordingly to ensure that you are maximizing your chances of success,” Dao concludes.
Information from Databox’s Benchmarks matches our survey results. It usually takes more than two months to complete a sales cycle.
The median value of B2B sales cycle length is 2.1 months. This benchmark was calculated from anonymized data from 300+ companies. Are you a B2B company and want to benchmark your sales performance, including all deals, deals closed won, SQLs and more, against other companies like yours? Join the Benchmark Group for free.
This doesn’t mean you’re fine just because you fall somewhere around the two-month mark. There are companies that consistently push the limits and manage to have incredibly fast close times.
Monique Renna of NIC Inc. insists that a sales cycle should be completed in one month or less.
“The sales cycle shouldn’t be any longer than 30 days. Within that 30 days, you should be able to identify the decision-makers, gather information on their needs as a company and provide an offer to close the deal.”
As we said earlier, there are simply too many variables to give a one-size-fits-all answer.
For SaaS companies, the median B2B sales cycle length is a bit longer at 2.5 months. This benchmark was calculated from anonymized data from 200+ companies. Are you a SaaS and want to benchmark your sales performance against hundreds of other companies like yours? Join the Benchmark Group for free.
SaaS companies face some unique challenges, so it makes sense for their sales cycles to be somewhat longer. For one, they’re selling a non-tangible service that users have to learn to use. Unlike equipment, it can’t be resold to recoup some of the costs; this makes businesses hesitant as they need to be additionally diligent to justify the expense.
Rafal Moszkowcow-Chomsky of non.agency advises against having sales cycles longer than three months. “If we are to keep digging in for longer, then what we have established in month 2 might not be accurate in month 7 of negotiations. The world is moving way too fast to postpone action for that long.”
Of course, for projects that do require more time, Moszkowcow-Chomsky suggests dividing the project into smaller parts and working on MVP as quickly as possible.
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Analyzing your sales metrics is a great way to optimize your sales cycle and identify any issues you may need to deal with.
With Databox’s Sales Dashboards, you can make the whole process even faster and easier to understand. All the dashboards are fully customizable and support over 70 one-click integrations, allowing you to build a perfect dashboard that will match your needs.
Here’s our selection of some helpful sales dashboard templates for B2B companies:
This free sales overview dashboard is an excellent baseline that will give you important information about your sales process.
It provides a visual snapshot of monthly performance by the sales team, and it’ll help you determine what’s going well and what needs to be changed. With it, you’ll be able to understand the current sales pipeline, track sales rep performance, and compare team results to revenue goals.
This free Sales Team Drilldown dashboard for HubSpot CRM allows you to track and manage your leads as they’re moving through the different pipeline stages.
You’ll be able to track your sales rep’s productivity and performance side-by-side by tracking metrics like new deals created and calls logged by the sales rep. It will also help you measure performance by monitoring closed deals and close rates for each rep.
If you want to track your most relevant and important sales performance metrics at a yearly, quarterly, and monthly level, this Yearly Sales Performance Dashboard is an excellent way to do it.
With it, you’ll get both high-level and granular views of your sales to determine what’s working, what’s not, and what can be done to improve performance.
This dashboard will allow you to:
This HubSpot CRM dashboard template integrates with HubSpot CRM and helps you gain insight into deals and sales pipelines.
You’ll get an instant snapshot of deal flow and progress toward sales goals, allowing you to grow your sales pipelines.
Even if you don’t use HubSpot CRM, you can pull data from over 70 one-click, native integrations or from spreadsheets, databases, and other APIs.
This free Salesforce leads dashboard template provides you with a granular overview of your leads in Salesforce, allowing you to track your new and converted leads.
With it, you can accurately track your sales progress and learn where your leads come from, what stage your leads are in, and who’s managing a particular lead. Thanks to Databox’s deep integration with Salesforce, you can pull additional metrics and customize this dashboard in any way you see fit.
The sales cycle is the very core of sales for any company. If it’s slow or inefficient, you’re not making the most out of your potential. The faster your sales cycle is, the more of them you can complete in a given period of time, meaning you’ll have higher revenue and more resources to invest in making your product or service even better.
According to our respondents, identifying the decision-makers quickly is the most important part of closing the deal faster in B2B. This is closely followed by mapping the sales process with the buyer’s journey and merging marketing and sales efforts.
Here are some expert-backed tips that will help you optimize your B2B sales cycle:
This lays the foundation for your entire sales cycle. Filling your pipeline with leads affects every next step. Low-quality leads will make researching them much harder and may even provide garbage data that will not be useful for actual high-quality ones.
Sales reps will spend way too much time sifting the wheat from the chaff, needlessly prolonging the sales cycle and costing you revenue.
If you qualify leads properly, every step after this stage will be more efficient. Not to mention that you’ll make the life of your sales reps much easier.
This is key for many B2B sales endeavors. Focusing on decision-makers instead of middle management or other people who will have to get in touch with actual decision-makers means that, at best, you’ll spend much longer on a sales cycle. At worst, it makes it less likely you’ll be able to complete the sale.
Khabeer Rockley of the 5% Institute thinks that business owners and sales professionals frequently make the mistake of having full-blown conversations and lengthy meetings with people who aren’t decision-makers.
“A big mistake many Business Owners and Sales Professionals make, is that they meet with people and have full blown conversations with people who aren’t decision makers. Meet with decision makers as soon as possible, and ensure they’re a part of your sales conversations up front.”
Director at The 5% Institute
When these conversations are done quickly, it’s much easier to properly assess the lead’s pain points and the approaches the sales team can take to ensure a closed sale.
Without good information, you won’t know how your sales funnel is performing. If you don’t know how it’s performing, you don’t know if there’s anything you could do to make it better.
In order to get that information, you need good data. By tracking the sales funnel with a CRM, you can monitor your conversion rate, check every lead that goes through the sales process, determine how long it takes for leads to move from step to step, your team’s close-win rate, and other useful information.
Turning to tools like Databox to collate and present information from multiple sources in a clear and easy-to-understand manner means that it’ll be much easier to analyze and act on it.
No matter how sharp your sales team is and how well-developed your sales processes are, you will encounter roadblocks. No process is perfect, and there are always bottlenecks to deal with.
Fortunately, you can use the data you’ve collected from your CRM and other sources to smooth it out.
By regularly examining your metrics, you can spot where you can improve the process. Perhaps your presentations aren’t having the effect you’re hoping for. If that’s the case, you can re-examine it or perhaps even poll your leads about what worked for them and what didn’t.
By mapping the sales process to the steps in the buyer’s journey, you can help sales teams better understand the needs and motivations of their buyers and tailor their sales approach accordingly.
For example, the prospecting step may occur during the awareness stage, while the presentation step may occur during the consideration stage. This should lead to improved effectiveness of each step in the sales cycle.
Prioritizing leads is essential as not every lead is equally likely to eventually convert, and some just aren’t worth much time. By assigning a score to each lead, the team can focus their attention on the most promising opportunities and maximize their chances of making a sale.
It’s a good idea to do this during the prospecting phase. Look for commonalities between your high-value customers and create a scoring system. What’s their company size? How long have they been operating? What do they specialize in?You can create guidelines for your sales team on how to best approach each category of client.
At BPM-PR Firm, the expected sales cycle length varies depending on the price. “Anything under 5K should not take more than 2 weeks to close. Generally at our PR firm retainers are over 10K per month and take about one month to 45 days to close. After that, it is safe to assume the prospect is not serious and place them on a drip marketing campaign touching base with them when news happens for your company, or something comes across your desk that is relevant to their brand,” says Monique Tatum, President and CEO.
This approach allows sales teams to better plan their efforts and time investment, leading to a more efficient sales cycle.
How long do you wait before following up? If it’s more than one day, you should rethink that approach.
You need to be diligent with your follow-ups. If you’re not, you’ll needlessly stretch out your lead generation process and won’t have much chance in getting responses from leads.
After your initial outreach attempt, don’t wait for more than 24 hours before reaching out again. Then, if you still don’t hear back from the client, try again after 12 hours.
In general, you need to follow up until they respond. This keeps the prospect interested and ensures you’re at the top of their mind. It also shows them that you’re serious about helping them.
Related: 36 Practical Tips for Writing A Great Sales Follow Up Email
While it’s certainly possible to go through the entire sales cycle manually, it’s hardly the optimal approach. There are plenty of tools you can use to automate pretty much every part of the sales cycle.
Automated email sequences can save a lot of time, and you can even use a predictive dialer to call leads.All of it makes sales reps and the entire sales cycle more efficient, saving both time and resources.
Related: The Easy Way to Set Up HubSpot Pipelines: 101 Guide
Better aligning marketing and sales efforts allows businesses to provide a more seamless and cohesive experience to their customers. It also improves the efficiency as it reduces duplication of effort and ensures consistent messaging.
Additionally, it leads to improved lead generation and qualification, by sharing data and pooling resources, marketing and sales teams can achieve a better understanding of their customers and allow for better targeting and stronger follow-ups.
Related: 14 Reasons Sales And Marketing Alignment Is Crucial for Skyrocketing Company Growth
Paradoxically, sometimes you simply have to let the customers take their time and ensure your product is right for them.
Omer Usanamaz of Qooper Mentoring Software put it simply: “It’s not how long your sales cycle is; it’s how many of those cycles you can close.”
This is especially pertinent for learning and development B2B sales. “In L&D B2B, you are selling a solution to a problem, not a product (e.g. your solution may include a set of software and in-house training, etc.),” Usanamaz continues.
If the problem is big enough to warrant a longer sales cycle, there’s no point in rushing to close the deal before the customer is ready to commit. So Usanamaz advises taking your time, “The customer may not be ready to commit to a single vendor, so you may want to encourage the customer to test your solution with a pilot. The purpose of a pilot is to prove to them that your solution will work for them. A pilot may take more time than a typical sales cycle, and a customer who has been convinced to do a pilot may take longer to make a purchase decision.”
In order to get better, you need to know how you’re doing. In order to know how you’re doing, you need to know how you were doing in the previous period.
That’s why you need to be meticulous about tracking your average B2B sales cycle metrics.
However, that’s not really enough, is it?
You also need to know how your competition is doing; is your sales cycle too slow, or are you keeping up?
Databox can help you do just that.
With Benchmark Groups, you can learn how your company is doing compared to other companies with similar profiles. It’s simple, and it’s free.
It’s fully anonymous, quick, and accessible. You can instantly benchmark your performance against a wide group of similar businesses using data from over 50 popular software tools. You just need to join groups of companies that match your parameters (size, industry, revenue, etc.), connect your data source, and you’re set. The whole process takes only a few clicks.
It comes free with any Databox plan, and if you’re an existing Databox user, you don’t need to reconnect your data sources to get started.
Even if you don’t already have a Databox account, sign up for Databox Benchmarks, and you’ll get access to a free Databox plan.
You’ll be able to start tracking over 7,000 metrics and explore relevant benchmarks to measure your performance and streamline your processes.
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