Josh Stailey discusses the classic sales cycle

Josh Stailey

Monday, February 14th, 2011

Hi, I'm Josh Stailey, a partner with the marketing consultancy called The Pursuit Group.

I want to today a little bit about the classic sales cycle. It goes something like this and they're all a little different but they all do at least these things. You get a lead, you convert it hopefully into a prospect, who hopefully becomes a buyer and then a customer, preferably a repeat customer.

Now this is a classic selling cycle that's been around since -- well since they started -- companies started putting feed on the street to sell their products. And it also could be called a funnel because leads come in and get down into suspects and then buyers. So you may have a thousand names come in as leads and come out with 20 customers at the end. And you also have people who say, "I'll buy it, that eventually don't buy it."

So there's even a little bit of a narrowing when somebody is committed to buy as well. The important thing I think that people don't understand right now is that it changes, and it has changed over the past years in particular because of the advent of digital technologies and communications.

Our company worked with a corporation in an industry where the buying cycle over a period of time had almost doubled in length, largely because they had gone from individual buyers to buying teams, which because it's more people always take longer. So the decision cycle went from three months to six months. Unfortunately, their selling cycle stayed at about three months and they gave up on any leads or prospects that didn't buy within three months.

Accordingly, they were throwing away a ton of expensive qualified prospects at a point when they should be talking to them about decisions. So we worked with them to link point of view.

In many cases today, however, in more cases actually, the prospect cycle or the prospect goes much shorter in the buying because of well the Internet. In the old days it might take weeks for a company to recognize a problem, figure out what kind of solutions are out there and begin to interview companies who could supply the solution for them. Today, a savvy web server can do that whole thing in an afternoon at a day or so in the most.

So you're dealing with cycles that are radically shorter and radically different from what they used to be. So for example if your organization insists that you're not going to release a lot of information until you're sales person is able to call on them, you're going to be disqualified often before you even know you are a candidate. Or if you simply wait too long to get information back. Sometimes when you get on a site and you request more information, it may take them weeks to respond, but your drop-dead date for most of that, as a standard out there for Internet communications and dialogue is 48 hours max. Beyond that, forget it. They've moved on.

So how do you fix a sales cycle that hasn't adapted to the times today? Well first of all, find out what the buying cycle is on the other side of the table. Go sit down with your best customers, the ones you're most comfortable talking to and find out from them how they buy today. Chances are good you're going to find out that their process doesn't match yours and you need to adapt. That will be your keys to going in and changing how you sell, when you sell, what you provide and when in order to maximize all of these leads and prospects in your selling cycle.

Your new sales cycle won't be perfect but it's likely to be far better than what you have today, and far more capable of sheparding more prospects than ever in to the fold.

I'm Josh Stailey, thanks for listening. If you have any questions or comments or want to see a different subject, please fill out the form just below and we'll talk to you again soon. Thank you.

Josh Stailey discusses the classic sales cycle

About Josh

Our friend and contributor Josh Stailey passed away unexpectedly on September 10, 2011. We have valued his expertise and willingness to share his insights with us. We discussed the appropriateness of sharing content he provided before his death with his business partners at The Pursuit Group and they agreed sharing his expertise was a fitting tribute to Josh.

Josh Stailey was a 40-year veteran of the marketing and sales wars, a journalism-trained professional who understood the role of information and technology in today’s business world. A consultant and writer, he was a founding partner of The Pursuit Group, which specializes in designing and implementing demand-generation systems for small- and medium-sized businesses. He has also consulted with Fortune 500 companies on customer experience management and content system design.

To be included in our video interviews or if you need video services for your company, please contact us.