Sales cycle length is the time it takes to convert prospective customers into won customers. And it's an important metric for us at UserGems as it indicates the financial health of the organization.
Knowing our average sales cycle length also helps the Sales Managers create accurate sales projections. And most importantly, gives them insights into which areas of our sales cycle need improvement or optimization.
The length of a sales cycle depends on various factors. But the overarching goal is to shorten it as much as possible. As a shorter sales cycle means the sales team closes more deals with the same or less effort.
In this article, we’ll do a deep dive into the factors affecting sales cycle length and outline best practices (internal and from other practicing sales professionals) that will help you shorten yours.
How long is the average B2B sales cycle?
According to Zippia’s research, the average B2B sales cycle ranges between 1-6 months. While newer customers typically go through longer sales cycles (4-6 months), existing customers have shorter ones (1-3 months). Another reason to track your buyer job changes.
However, you’ve to keep in mind that these numbers only apply to mid-market organizations and not large enterprises. If you’re targeting the enterprise, the sales cycle length is usually anywhere between 6-9 months, according to San Bhaskaran, CEO of UPilot.
What factors affect sales cycle length?
The sales cycle consists of many moving parts, and its length varies from deal to deal according to the following factors:
- Deal size: Your prospects are going to spend more time shopping and researching a $100,000 expense than a $1,000 one to determine if its benefits outweigh its price. This means that larger deal sizes translate to lengthier sales cycles.
- Product complexity: The more complex your product, the longer your sales cycle will be. For example, it may take multiple demos and presentations to make your customer understand the value of your product.
- Company size: The size of your customers’ companies can prolong the sales process as your reps may need to spend more time outlining your product’s value to multiple stakeholders from different teams.
- New market: If you’re selling to an audience in a newer market, your sales cycle is naturally going to be longer because you have to educate your prospects about your product and how it improves their organization’s bottom line.
In sum, sales cycles become longer as deal size, company size, and product complexity grow.
However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Lengthier sales cycles aren’t a problem as long as they justify the revenue. But if that’s not the case, and your sales cycle is unnecessarily long, it’s probably a good idea for you to explore ways to shorten it so that you can accelerate your sales pipeline.
3 ways to shorten the sales cycle
Consider this scenario:
Your sales reps can’t meet quota because leads are stuck in the pipeline between qualification and close. This is causing cash flow volatility, making it difficult to reach your revenue goals.
Does it sound familiar?
If yes, you’re probably dealing with an unnecessarily long sales cycle caused by roadblocks at various stages.
Thankfully, all hope is not lost. There’s still time for you to adjust and optimize your sales cycle to make it more effective and efficient for your sales team. Here’s how:
1. Disqualify your leads
This might sound counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to shorten your sales cycle is to disqualify leads. Patrick Dang, the founder of Parallax, explains:
“Most salespeople make the mistake of trying to sell something to somebody that doesn't actually need what you have to offer.
“And when this happens, sometimes you can put a lot of energy trying to sell someone and kind of push them in the right direction, but in the end, they never buy because they were never qualified to buy in the first place.”
To stop chasing leads that won't convert, your sales reps need to understand where the deal’s headed and park any that aren’t making progress.
Patrick describes a framework called BANT — Budget, Authority, Need, Timing — that can be used to qualify leads and ensure that whoever you're reaching out to can buy your product or service.
The basis of the framework is simple — when you’re on a sales call, figure out if the person you’re talking to needs your product and has the budget and decision-making authority to sign off on the deal within a stipulated time.
And yes, your prospect has to check all four boxes to qualify as the right fit for your organization.
Let’s say you need to close $X worth of deals this quarter to meet your revenue goal. But your prospect (who has the budget, authority, and need) says that they don’t need your solution until the next quarter — meaning they don’t have timing.
In that case, you’d be better off chasing after a lead who is looking to buy your product within the current quarter to give you a better chance of meeting your goals. But how do you get all of this information upfront?
Take a look at the chart below to learn how Patrick frames effective questions to qualify leads during a discovery call.
2. Multithread your deals
According to a Gartner report, “The typical buying group for a complex B2B solution involves six to 10 decision-makers, each armed with four or five pieces of information they’ve gathered independently.”
Additionally, the number of solutions these buying groups consider expands with the emergence of new technologies, suppliers, and products.
To cut through the noise and help buying teams reach a consensus, your reps should adopt sales multithreading instead of relying on single contacts. Here’s how to go about it:
- Create a value-based nurture campaign: Once you’ve connected with the influencers in your organization, share content like case studies, blogs, and reports with them to add value and build credibility instead of pitching to them right away. “The dream result: Your decision-maker asks one of these influencers, ‘Hey, have you ever heard of X?’ and they respond, ‘yes, I attended a valuable webinar they hosted.’ -OR- ‘yes, I just read a really helpful white-paper they shared.’ - OR, maybe even - ‘yes, X & Y also use them’,” says Leslie Venetz, founder of Sales Team Builder.
- Send emails before and after a demo: This is the approach we take at UserGems to multi-thread deals, as it opens up a private channel to stakeholders and puts your product on their radar even if you might not get a response. Blaise Bevilacqua, our Enterprise Account Executive, shares what our pre-demo and post-demo emails look like:
- Connect your champion’s problems to a company initiative: Since business problems always impact multiple people in an organization, Matt Flemman, Senior Sales Development Manager, LinkedIn Sales Solutions, suggests finding out what issues the buyer’s department is facing and researching the business impact of not solving it. After that, get in touch with a champion and shoot them an email to get a warm introduction with other stakeholders. Here’s the template Matt uses:
3. Create a sales process
Uncertainty is one of the most common causes of a lengthy sales cycle. It happens for a number of different reasons, like your sales rep now knowing what the next steps are or your Sales VP misunderstanding the buying cycle.
One of the best ways to eliminate uncertainty and successfully move your prospects through the pipeline is to create a sales process that mirrors the buying cycle.
“Buyers choose ‘when’ they buy. We, as the sellers, are responsible for ‘how’ they buy. The experience will yield the result. A well-established sales process creates a better buyer's journey and encourages a successful customer journey from the very beginning,” says Gabrielle Reyson, Sr. ADR at UserGems.
To create an effective sales process, you need to focus on these key areas, according to Taylor Vo, AE at UserGems:
- Criteria for what a demo means: “This might be a given, but imagine an [ideal customer profile] demo comes through, and instead of a decision maker, it’s with a potential end user. It’s still very helpful to get information from them, but ask yourself if it will be valuable to the AE’s time as they may have to spend a lot more on the opportunity starting at that point.”
- The SDR to AE handoff: “It’s possible that many things slip through the cracks during this phase. Aligning on (a) how you’ll introduce the AE, (b) the questions you ask in your confirmation email, (c) the info you plug into the CRM & (d) the point at which the AE takes over is huge. All of these impact your show rates, the AE's preparation for the demo, and communication if there's a no-show.”
Another key area to focus on, according to Iger Vergel, Account Manager at Quelink, is sales tools.
“As you begin to build your sales process, it’s important to consider what each tool accomplishes and how they work together. The key to choosing the right tools for each of your sales steps is finding the ones that address your specific needs,” he says.
Optimize your B2B sales cycle to drive ROI
Shortening your sales cycle helps you reach more customers and hit your revenue goals quickly. One of the best ways to achieve this is to track customer job changes with UserGems so you can get champions to advocate for your product right off the bat.
For instance, Cobalt, a Pentest as a Service (PtaaS) pioneer, amped up their ROI by 12x as the former customers they tracked were more open to their services than cold leads.