Business Strategy

Sales cycles today are shorter than they have ever been?

Bob Fucci Sales and Revenue Growth, Strategy, Advisor, Speaker

January 30th, 2016

It's the "Education Cycle" that is longer and (almost always) poorly executed, that too often is confused as the "Sales Cycle". 

A senior executive at GE once said to me "Bob, you and your team are doing an excellent job of educating us.  This will work to your advantage because our actual buying process will be much shorter, and for Siebel, (my employer), less difficult".  I thought we had been selling all along.

For 2014, Gartner reported 67% of RFP's either led to no buying action or a purchase that went longer than 6 months after the intended award date.  RFI means "help educate us" and RFP means "before we request funding we need an air tight business case".  All too often, RFI's and RFP's are designed to gain information without having to deal with sales people.  The issue is that too many vendors treat RFI's and RFP's as qualified sales opportunities - big mistake.

This misperception has a dramatic impact on the cost of sales teams (salaries, benefits, training, support, etc.) that organizations invest in to "sell" their product.  

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Stephen Mitchell

January 30th, 2016

Brilliant understanding.

Max Rosenthal Strategic Sales Professional Harnessing Tactical Fortitude To Capture New Business

January 30th, 2016

I don't consider a sales cycle being associated with RFI/RFPs. Moreover, I don't consider the process of RFI/RFPs as really selling at all. Checking boxes, attaching insurance riders, a finite period of time to submit questions (only via email of course), all in an effort to win a deal with a razor thin margins. Finally after an extended decision date you finally get the news, the good news is that you won the deal, the bad news is you won the deal.

A sales cycle only exists in a negotiated sales opportunity. One of the initial stages is qualification, one of the objectives of qualification is to determine if the product/service will complement and facilitate the prospect achieving their stated goal. Another objective during this stage is determining if the prospect is ready to actually achieve the goal or if they are just fishing around for some information to educate themselves and don't want to pay for that education. If the seller cannot discern between the two or instead chooses 'happy ears' the sales cycle will by its very nature be extended and extended again while the probability of closing the deal plummets and usually ends in a slow no. I would argue that this was never actually a genuine sales cycle, it was simply unpaid consulting.

Anonymous

January 31st, 2016

I like Bob's point.  I recently wrote this post on why the B2B sales cycle is getting longer, and i put the blame on on the need to herd many cats with education.  I wrapped the education piece into the sales cycle. Maybe we should distinguish those phases separately. But either way, it's a need that's not going away.
You may appreciate the book "The Challenger Customer".  It does a great job explaining how Marketing needs to change if it's going to support Sales. I think we'll see "strategic AEs" keep the burden of educating, but for higher volume markets, the AEs need more from their partners in marketing.