When does it make sense to slow down your sales cycle?
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When does it make sense to slow down your sales cycle?

Conventional wisdom says that it’s the salesperson’s job to accelerate the sales cycle. The sooner you get the sale, the sooner everyone gets their money, and the more time you have for other sales.

All of that is true – to a point.

Big sales take time to develop. If you get in too much of a hurry, you’ll be tempted to take the money and run – instead of sticking around to discover all the value that’s there.

How do you strike the balance? Here are four questions that can help you be sure you’re not getting ahead of yourself:

1. Have I learned all I can – or just enough to close?

The biggest mistake salespeople make today – the one that causes more lost sales and lower win rates – occurs when they pitch their solution too quickly.

When you offer your solutions too soon, you’re addressing only the needs the customer has expressed. Unbeknownst to you – and possibly your buyer – there may be much more at stake.

Just because customers are moving fast, that doesn’t mean that you should too. If you slow down – if you take the time to understand all of their needs – you’ll also be able to make your solution resonate with them. And you’ll be able to differentiate yourself not just on features and benefits, but also on specific needs that competitors may not even be aware of.

2. Do I truly understand the customer’s buying process?

If you don’t know how your buyer is making the buying decision, you’re surrendering any opportunity to influence that decision. You might as well send a catalog.

Even if the customer is close to making a decision when you enter the picture, you can still have an impact.

After all, how many times have you seen a buyer about to make a big buying mistake, even at the last minute? And how much value can you add by waving the buyer away from such mistakes?

Sometimes you might need to help buyers back up and reexamine an earlier stage in their buying process. Yes, that could delay the sale. But it will result in a better sale.

Slow things down, and seek to understand what factors they’ve considered and what they may have overlooked. That way you can help improve the way they are making their decision.

Ask questions such as, “Why did you start looking at this issue in the first place? What problems were you dealing with that you are trying to solve?”

If you think the buyer is overlooking something important, mention it: “Other customers have told us that this particular problem also creates issues with XYZ. Have you experienced the same thing?” You will be adding much more value to the sales conversation.

3. Is the buyer desperate enough yet?

It sounds terrible, but the best time to ask for the order is when the buyer simply can’t postpone the decision any longer.

The point isn’t to take advantage of a customer. It’s that a little bit of urgency gets buyers’ full attention.

When you go for the close too quickly, buyers’ thinking is likely to be less focused. They’re still mulling things over. Maybe the problem will solve
itself. Or maybe the perfect solution will come riding over the hill on a white horse.

When it’s crunch time, a buyer will be better able to see the value that you bring to the table. You’re selling in the context of the here-and-now, not competing with a fuzzy future fantasy.

Ask your buyer, “When do you really need to make this decision?”

If it’s still a ways off, any effort on your part to manufacture urgency will likely backfire. Instead, slow down and use the time to get customers talking more about what they’re looking for and why. You might help them uncover new needs and priorities. Equally important, you explore the impact and ripple effects of their problems.

Ask about the history of the problem and what they’ve tried in the past, and get them to broaden their horizons:

“How does that impact ____?” “Why do you think ____ is happening?”

As buyers talk, they may see that their needs are more urgent than they thought – not because you tried to rush them into a decision, but because you slowed down.

4. Is my solution right – or just sort of right?

A hasty solution is likely to be a poor fit. Take time to think about customers’ history and problems, and build a solution that’s perfectly tailored to fit their needs.

Do so whether you’re the first salesperson through the door or if they’ve done their own research (or perhaps already looked at your competitors’ solutions).

Remember, the buyer is more likely to choose the solution that fits best, not the one that arrives soonest.

Slow sells
In an era where everyone’s in a hurry, a salesperson who slows down really stands out. Take time to learn more about your customers’ needs – and help them do the same.

Source: Based on an article by Kevin Davis. Learn more at www.toplineleadership.com

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