The length of your sales cycle has a lot to do with your marketing. A good marketer always has an eye to how to manage the workload when the marketing efforts pay off and it is a rare situation to have things pay off in a nice, orderly fashion. Generally everything comes in at once. So understanding if you will have several large deals a year vs. a bunch of small ones means understanding how long a sales cycle you run.
Obviously most business owners can describe their sales cycle – it is a measure they pay attention to on a regular basis. But how should that influence your marketing? In a short sales cycle, you can get a lot of quick hits. A person makes a decision right away and there are no barriers or issues to hold them back. That means your marketing needs to be targeted, to the point, and SHORT. Don’t bog me down in a bunch of details if I need to make a quick decision. Let me ask for more info if I need it (or find it on your website). Make the reasons to decide yes compelling – use testimonials, case studies, or examples of your work to show me how this will be a benefit. Don’t expect me to fill in the blanks myself – I didn’t care until you said something so I’m not going to spend time on it. Make it as easy as possible.
But if your sales cycle is long, then there are lots of opportunities for me to change my mind, look at other people, or generally stretch it out even more. In these cases, it is critical to identify key points in the process and sell to those. Prospecting? Sell to getting an appointment to discuss your products – not the final sale. If you are constantly pushing to get to the final sale, you may lose the person in the process. Instead, set up a series of smaller wins so that the end result is more assured. Reviewing previous sales, if you have the data check and see what buying percentage there is as each prospect got through those milestones. If 80% of prospects buy once they get through the on-site demo, then sell to that demo and get more people through that process. If only 20% of people buy after the demo, then you know you need to retool your demo, change the mechanism or interview existing customers to see why that was valuable to them so you know where in the process to put it.
In a long sales cycle, messages need to be more informative and detail-driven. Rarely is a product or service with a long sales cycle considered by itself – it is generally being reviewed next to its competitors. With that in mind, the easier it is for the client to get information about the product or service the more likely they will favor it. If I am heading a purchasing committee to obtain a service and one company gives me all the information while the other makes me ask, I will naturally feel company A is more open, honest and willing to share information. I will see them as strong communicators and be more inclined to give them the business.
The sales cycle dictates a lot about the marketing message including content, intent and type of information. But no matter what, your goal is always to make it easy for the client to decide to go with YOU. So be sure your messages, marketing materials and website always make it EASY.