4 Steps to Shorten Your Sales Cycle Back in May 2010, the Aberdeen Group released an important report on how to shrink the sales cycle and focus closers on sealing more deals. “We don’t convert enough leads to sales,” said 59% of respondents in the report. 27% claimed they had insufficient knowledge of prospects already in their sales funnel, and 26% indicated they lost efficiency when they recreated proposals or contracts.
While converting leads into sales is a skill that I could write a book about, I would like to take this opportunity to focus on taking 4 specific steps to shorten your sales cycle. You still have to convince your clients to close on the deal, but these 4 strategies will bring you to that point faster.
1. Empower yourself and your staff with anywhere-access to your contracts.
The Cloud and cloud computing have become much more than just buzzwords. As more and more businesses are taking the leap to the Cloud, the quality of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery model of business applications is getting better and better. Your business needs to leverage more cloud-based tools ranging from simple cloud storage like Dropbox to more advanced contract management software. I have seen a lot of billable manpower hours spent travelling between client sites and company offices that go to waste because contract templates are locked up inside company desktops and people cannot work. While it is true that company security and privacy are important issues, you should empower your traveling sales personnel to have the latest, pre-approved contract templates available at all times.
2. Enforce better accountability and compliance.
While Word and Excel are the de facto business productivity tools around the world, it is important to understand their limitations in contract management for middle and large business organizations. One of my least favorite tasks is to play the “find the most up-to-date company template” game. Have you ever used a Word doc that included last year’s logo? Now picture if instead you used the contract template from two years ago that your legal department revised just two months ago for lacking important legal safeguards. That is a risk you shouldn’t be taking.
This lack of accountability and compliance can be solved through the use of a professional tool that keeps a central repository of all your legal contract templates. With features such as check-in/check-out, you will be able to know at all times who was responsible for specific updates. Additionally, a professional level contract management solution has additional safeguards that prevent staff from deviating from pre-approved clauses, which minimizes your exposure to risk, and that maintains a full audit trail for Sarbanes-Oxley compliance.
3. Take advantage of e-signatures.
The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act is over a decade old (yes, it was enacted in June 2000), yet still several companies are doing business like it’s still 1999! Being able to capture digital signatures prevents you not only from going through the whole print-pack-ship-wait-receive-unpack process, but also from empowering your employees to make more productive use of their time. Digital authentication is more secure than traditional pen-and-paper signatures, and it allows you to close faster on sales, which is our ultimate objective.
4. Automate reminders about renewal dates and work harder at them.
Everybody loves to talk about reaching for the low-hanging fruit. In sales, there is no fruit hanging lower than that of renewal dates. “Winging it” is not a good sales technique, particularly when it comes to renewing a contract. A bad habit from account managers and sales personnel is to only work hard for new, bigger businesses, while often sub-servicing smaller clients with which they have a long business history. When it becomes time to renew ongoing retainers with those clients, account managers often just send an email a couple days before the deadline.
Paying little attention to those smaller accounts during renewal dates is a missed opportunity. During budgeting weeks, your client will set aside future project funds for these accounts. You need to understand your client’s budgeting process and set automatic reminders every year that provide you at least two months to properly scope out and estimate a couple of projects for the rest of the year. This would allow you not only to better service your clients but also get their early buy-in and better represent your company during those budgeting meetings. Not to mention, more and bigger sales.
Closing sales is difficult, but fortunately there are 4 specific steps you can take to make your job easier: provide your staff cloud-based access to your contract templates, enforce better compliance and accountability during your negotiation stage, take advantage of e-signature technology, and dedicate more time to contract renewal dates.
How do you shorten the sales cycle?
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