Like a long and arduous hike that seems to go on and on, a prolonged sales cycle can leave your team feeling drained, exhausted, wondering if they’ll ever reach the summit … and if they do, whether they’ll have the energy to climb the next mountain!
We’ve all had at least one instance where we’ve felt overstressed, overworked, and under quota due to a long, drawn-out sales cycle. Though there’s never a one-size-fits-all solution to anything in sales, I’ve found that proper use of sales data and analytics tools can drastically reduce the time to close.
Take a look at the tips below to learn what data is most valuable to sales leadership and how you can use the power of data to shorten your sales cycle.
Lay a Firm Foundation of Market Data, Then Move On
It is critical to understand your total addressable market (TAM), as well as current trends, risks, and opportunities. All of these insights can be gleaned through market data, whether current or historical. Like the foundation of a house, market data is crucial to building actionable insights and learnings—but it cannot stand alone. You need to ask yourself which segments are experiencing true growth, what companies are primed for expansion, or what companies have the funding necessary to commit to investments. Your TAM can and should be segmented, just make those segments realistic and manageable. A word of warning: Be careful when leveraging market data. This is an oversaturated realm of the datasphere, and sales managers can quickly get lost and overwhelmed by information overload. Focus!
Use Insights from Activity Data to Inform Sales Training
If market data is the foundation, activity data is the framing. The book, Cracking the Sales Management Code, introduces a methodology based on “activities, objectives, and results.” Sales activities, such as numbers dialed and demos presented to prospects, help you achieve predetermined objectives, which ultimately should give you the results you desire. In short, the “activity” part is what sets this equation in motion.
But too many sales teams dedicate too much time to activities, the volume of which might not necessarily yield more or better results. Data can help leaders not only determine the amount of time each rep should spend on a respective activity, but also the best way to execute the task. Technology like Gong can help reps determine what type of language is best to use for certain audiences, as well as what types of words reps should avoid in sales discussions. As activity data is used to constantly coach and correct members of the sales team, your team will be able to conduct more meaningful tasks and spend less time on meaningless ones.
If you’re spinning your wheels churning out a high volume of sales activities and wondering why you aren’t seeing results, analyze your data to uncover what’s going on (or not going on) and determine how your reps can amp up the quality of their output.
Rely on Past Sales Data to Reveal Trends
While activity data gives us a view of specific tasks, past data allows us to have a zoomed-out, big picture view of the sales team. Analyzing past sales data allows leadership to answer questions like: What types of activities (e.g., face-to-face visits, online demos) allow us to close at a higher rate? What is my average deal size? What size deal do I have the highest propensity to close in the shortest amount of time? On average, how many days do opportunities sit in any given stage of my sales cycle? Where are the best deals coming from? Which marketing activities lead to more opportunities rather than just leads? How do I shorten the sales cycle?
A notable client in the music discovery platform business had an average sales cycle of 14 days—from lead created to converted. The client wanted to reduce the time it took for prospects to convert. Using a statistical model to predict success, we looked at features and patterns of leads that converted the earliest, then focused efforts on key drivers with the highest predictive value. We found that the greatest predictor of success for leads that closed fast was the same as those for leads that were contacted first. In response, a data visualization dashboard was created, along with best practice sharing throughout the team to equip sales reps with relevant data points. After 90 days, the average sales cycle was measured again. The result? The sales cycle had been reduced by three days. In addition, the analysis also found that leads touched within the first 24 hours converted twice as often as those that were touched after 24 hours (10 percent versus 5 percent).
Develop an Ideal Customer Profile, and Stop Wasting Time on Accounts that Won’t Convert
Market data, activity data, past sales data—all reveal important information and help leadership train reps to sell better and more efficiently, but there’s always one more entity involved in a sales deal: the customer. Although we can’t control a customer’s decision, we can do a few things to increase the likelihood of a closed deal.
Develop an ideal customer profile. You already own massive stores of data that can determine what your perfect customer looks like, not only at a corporate or enterprise level, but at the buyer level as well. Analyze recently closed deals and review the types of contacts within each organization. Who were involved in the decision, and what role did each person play? Once you drill into this type of data, you can draw strong correlations, such as that when dealing with online retailers, directors of digital marketing are the contact likeliest to close in the shortest amount of time.
Shorten Your Sales Cycle; Create Predictable Revenue
Not only does sales data allow you to shorten your sales cycle, but it also arms organizational leaders with the invaluable ability to look ahead and clearly understand what types of deals are going to close and what type of revenue will be generated in upcoming quarters.
When it comes to predicting revenue streams, there’s nothing more important or reliable than a solid sales forecast. Deploying and gaining insights from the right pieces of data will not only help your sales team reach the summit (i.e., deals) quicker and with more ease, but it will also allow you to have greater visibility of the deals that lie ahead.
Quick Guide: Do’s and Don’ts of Using Data to Shorten the Sales Cycle
- DO optimize your CRM platform like Salesforce.com to record the right sales data. To use data, you must first have a method of collecting it.
- DO have a user-friendly dashboard that allows you to query data for different elements of analysis.
- DO embed data as part of your DNA and refer to it often in review meetings, sales meetings, one-on-ones with reps, and so on.
- DO use data insights to constantly coach your reps. Learnings will do nothing to shorten your sales cycle if they aren’t used to train team members.
- DO exclusively target accounts in your ideal customer profile (developed based on customer profile data).
- DON’T overcomplicate data. It should be simple and consumable.
- DON’T become distracted by the plethora of data available, especially when it comes to market data. Focus!
- DON’T use data just to determine the quantity of sales activities. Use it to also reveal quality of sales activities.
Also published on Medium.