Shortening the deal cycle is one of the most effective ways to increase revenue. When deal cycles shrink, account executives can meet with more prospects, generate more leads for account managers, and ultimately, close more sales.
But it’s not easy to shorten cycle times without compromising on the sales experience or overlooking your prospects’ needs. Ryan Hart, a principal product manager at ZoomInfo, offers these eight actionable techniques for reducing sales cycles while delivering a superior experience.
1. Use Social Proof
“It’s better to let other people talk about you and use their social proof than to make bold claims yourself,” Hart says.
Genuine recommendations from satisfied customers are always more compelling than the word of even the most persuasive rep. Relying on social proof and letting your biggest fans sell for you whenever possible is an effective way to translate positive customer experiences into glowing reviews.
Hart recommends inviting customers with positive experiences, such as those with high net promoter scores (NPS) and customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, to join review programs on sites such as G2. These reviews will form the basis of testimonials that you can use to promote your products. They may even land your product listings in roundups such as G2’s Highest Satisfaction Products.
2. Leverage Transparent Pricing to Pre-Screen Unqualified Leads
Few things waste more of a rep’s time than going through each phase of the sales cycle, only for pricing to become a major roadblock at the end. Transparent pricing on your website allows unqualified leads to pre-screen themselves out of the process if their budget is going to be a deal-breaker.
He notes that many SDRs who handle inbound prospects are assigned to run each through the “BANT” checklist, assessing the prospect’s budget, authority, need and timeline. Laying out price up front lets prospects handle the budget part of that checklist themselves.
“When people come to your site, before they even book a demo, they’re already identifying if they are qualified or not,” Hart says. “Including transparent pricing increases the likelihood that they have the budget, so it doesn’t clog up your account executive’s pipeline.”
3. Get to a Demo as Quickly as Possible
Good product demos can focus sales conversations on the tools and features that will provide the most value to prospective customers, showcase how your product can solve prospects’ problems in a real-world scenario, and help prospects picture themselves using those features.
“Whoever does the demo first, you have a huge advantage over the competition,” Hart says. “Maybe they don’t even search beyond you because they found a demo and they already have a contract or a proposal: ‘I’m so excited, I just need to go talk to my boss about this right now,’ rather than, ‘OK. I’ve got to wait for that SDR call tomorrow, so let me keep searching.’”
4. Uncover Objections Early During Discovery
Although it may be tempting to gloss over a product’s weaknesses in favor of its strengths, doing so during a sales conversation can actually do more harm than good. Disqualifying prospects on the basis of your product weaknesses might feel counterintuitive, but Hart says it’s actually much better for everybody in the long term.
“A lot of companies hide their weak points or issues — essentially, why the deals won’t work,” Hart says. “You should disclose those early because, one way or another, it’s going to kill the deal. So many salespeople think, ‘We’ve got to win the deal. We’ve got to win every deal.’ It’s better to uncover objections early, because this is one way to cut these people free.”
5. Keep Deals Moving with Actionable, Documented Next Steps
It may sound like organizational overkill, but every stage of every sales conversation should have clearly documented next steps, complete with timelines and due dates. Doing so makes it easier for SDRs to keep track of multiple deals and reduces potential disruption when a colleague might have to step in to help close the deal.
“The tactic here is to keep deals moving, have next steps on the opportunity,” Hart says. “We know where the deal’s at, but when is the next step? What is the next action? Typically you have a date field, or a task scheduled. Everybody should know what the plan is and what the next steps are.”
6. Close Deals Incrementally, Then Upsell
It can be tempting to try and maximize deal value by upselling early, but Hart recommends using incremental closes to secure business first. It’s simply easier to sell additional features once customers have experienced your product.
Hart experienced this firsthand in his previous job, when his former company became a ZoomInfo customer.
“My account executive did not try to sell me FormComplete,” Hart says. “They did not try to sell me Engage. They did not push for longer than a one-year deal. This made me realize, ‘I can fit that in my budget. I can become a ZoomInfo customer. I can become a fan. I can adopt their services.’ And then, when I start learning about FormComplete, or my account manager keeps talking about Engage, I can go, ‘Well, tell me more.’ You’re already in the ecosystem. It’s easier to spend more money and upgrade. If you try to lead with all of this up front, the deal gets so big, it’s at risk of not getting done.”
7. Offer Customer-Friendly Contract Lengths
Some reps attempt to coerce prospects into agreeing to lengthy contracts that strongly favor their company. While these techniques can work in the short term, offering more customer-friendly terms is a much more sustainable approach to building long-term relationships.
“What you really want to do to increase your close rate is to have super friendly terms, because it also lets you be honest with your own churn and address it quicker,” Hart says. “A much better approach for a business is just to have super friendly, month-to-month agreements. It makes you be honest with your own product, and you’re going to have a higher close rate.”
8. Simplify Your Contracts
It’s important to give prospects the opportunity to carefully review contractual terms, but the moment at which a prospect is ready to sign the contract is not the time to introduce them.
Rather than risk delaying signing, or intimidating a would-be customer with dense legal jargon, keep contract signature pages as clean and simple as possible. And make it very clear that the terms and conditions of your contracts are available to review elsewhere, such as a dedicated page on your website.
“You do not want to embed your 12-page contract in DocuSign,” Hart says. “You just embed a link in the contract. Somebody can read it if they want, but we’re just focusing on what you’re buying and a signature page, super simple. It’s not intimidating, and it feels very straightforward.”
A Better Way to Sell
Although some of the techniques above may require top-down, organizational changes to the conventional sales process, approaching sales conversations from the perspective of building genuine, meaningful relationships is better for sales reps and their prospects.
“Close the right deals the right way, and have an open hand with your customers,” Hart says. “Don’t try to fight with them.
There’s a timeless bit of inspiration for this approach: Aesop’s fable “The North Wind and the Sun,” in which the elements argue over who can get a weary traveler to remove his coat.
“The wind blew really hard, while the sun just shone. Be the sun. Be straightforward, be friendly in every way,” Hart says. “Be honest about your product, and in the end, you’re going to have the right customers.”