It Just Takes Longer. Your Sales Cycle in 2013?

A significant 43% of B2B companies indicate that sales cycles have lengthened over the past three years, this according to a recent survey of 243 solution providers by B2B Magazine.

Confirming lengthening B2B sales cycles, SiriusDecisions indicates that durations have increased an average of 22% over a similar period. As a result, sales cycles that were once 10 months have now extended out past a year, making it more difficult to hit revenue and growth targets.

Longer sales cycles are occurring despite some significant trends that should be generating much shorter decision timeframes:
  • Today, buyers are more empowered with a wealth of online and social resources to better research you and your competition
  • Many solutions are now sold as a service, making them easier and less risk to purchase and deploy
  • Try before you buy is more common, making it easier to evaluate and compare competitive offerings.

 So with a more empowered buyer and simpler solutions, why are your sales cycles still lengthening? In this “Do more with less” economy, Frugalnomics is in full effect:
  • Your customers have less staff to research issues, evaluate solutions and collaborate on purchase decisions
  •  Less budget to invest, means that there are more proposals than funding, as a result proposals are re-prioritized often, slowing down purchase decisions
  • Decision makers worry more about each investment – as a wrong decision can literally cost a buyer their job.

 Your customers are struggling with fewer resources, less budget and minimal risk tolerance. But its not just “less” that you are facing, its “more” too, as in more stakeholders involved in each purchase decision. According to IDC, stakeholder counts have dramatically increased by 40% over the past 3 years. 

A typical B2B purchase that used to involve five decision makers just a short time ago, now takes convincing seven instead.  And the team members that are involved have changed too, with finance demanding bottom-line impact on every investment, and business / user groups taking a more prominent role. Gaining consensus takes more time than ever, further delaying your sales cycles.

In the face of these challenges, what can you do to accelerate your sales cycle?
  • Quantify the value of “Do Nothing” to “Yes” – In the face of Frugalnomics it’s easy for your customers to stay with business-as-usual versus taking a risk on a new investment. As a result, a whopping 58% of deals are now stalled in the typical pipeline (Sales Benchmark Index). In order to get these stalled buyers going again, you have to provocatively facilitate the buyer’s journey with engagements, content and tools to provide the compelling insights and consultative advice to answer three key buyer questions:
    • Why Change? – Quantify the pain, helping to uncover new issues, prioritize opportunities and quantify the “cost of do nothing”
    • Why Now? – Justify the gain, proving that your proposed solution can deliver a good return on investment (ROI)
    • Why You? – Prove you are not the same, differentiating your solution from the competition, but quantifying total cost (TCO) and value advantages
  • Reduce the Risk – Your customers are wary of wasting precious resources and making any mistakes. It is vital that you prove that your solution can deliver, requires minimal upfront investment, has a quick payback, and can truly deliver bottom-line impact (perhaps even implementing an ROI SLA)
  • Value is in the Eye of the Beholder – Each stakeholder has different goals, priorities and perception of your value, however, too often sales and marketing applies a one-size-fits-all approach to value messaging and engagement. Your engagements, content and tools must uniquely communicate your value messaging and quantification to address each stakeholder’s unique value perspective.

The Bottom-Line

Sales cycles are continuing to lengthen for a significant number of B2B companies, making it more difficult to achieve quota and revenue growth goals.

To help overcome this challenge, marketing and sales can work to improve engagements, content and tools in order to facilitate a quicker buying decision. Quantifying the value of “Do Nothing” to “Yes” to ever more frugal buyers, reducing the inherent risks in the investment decision, and being sure to message and quantify each stakeholder’s unique value perspective are all address today’s sales cycle challenge.

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