What is a Sales Cycle: definition, stages, and steps

Businesses that have a formal sales process can have 18% more revenue growth than companies without one. It means that you might need clearly defined sales cycle stages and goals for your salespeople team to succeed.

What is a sales cycle?

The term “sales cycle” describes all the steps of a sales process, starting from the first customer contact to closing the deal and follow-ups. Simply put, it’s a potential client’s journey from recognizing they need a product to making a purchase. And since the sales process is a journey for a prospect, it’s a roadmap for a salesperson.

Sales cycle organization chart

The sales cycle can be seen as an organizational chart, where the entire sales process is divided into specific, purchase-relevant phases. Depending on these phases, the associated activities and organizational processes are determined.

How the particular sales cycle and its phases look like is defined by specific products and services. But typically, there are 5-7 sales cycle stages. 

Sales cycle
(Source)

Prospecting for leads 

In this sales cycle stage, define your target groups and evaluate whether potential customers can afford your offer and how they can be reached. This step also involves researching the market and creating a list of potential leads. If you plan to contact your prospects via email, you can use Snov.io tools to verify the accuracy of your email list.

Initiating contact

There are a few ways you can make the first contact with your clients: via email, phone call, or face-to-face meeting. Be as relevant as possible. Your prospects should see the value that you can provide.

Qualifying leads 

During your initial email conversation or phone call, ask qualifying questions to discover, clarify, and understand your clients’ pain points and needs. After that, you can establish if prospects and your business have a mutual fit and move on to the next sales cycle step.

Presenting an offer

In this crucial phase, customers should be convinced that the product offered is a solution to their problems or satisfies their needs. During the presentation, previous experience within the sales cycle can be used to increase the chances of conversion.

Handling objections

Before making a purchase, your customers might have plenty of questions to clarify. Many salespeople drop out after one rejection (around 44%). Still, it’s better to be more persistent, as 80% of sales require follow-ups. 

Closing the deal and follow-ups

After the concerns are cleared out, create a proposal, negotiate the details, and move on to signing the deal. But this is not the end. Active post-processing helps find out whether customers are satisfied with their purchase decision. If yes, further offers can be proposed.

email verifier

Why is the sales cycle important?

To ensure their selling process is efficient, businesses should keep track of the length of their sales cycle. Most marketing teams are aware that they go through similar sales cycle steps. But not many of them outline and systematize the cycle, leaving it up to particular sales reps to determine what actions to take and when. 

Keeping a record of the sales cycle gives a company insight into the effectiveness of their sales processes. The length of this process can be traced, examined, and compared to the regular length across the business niche. If your cycle is shorter than the average of your niche, it could mean that your company’s sales team is more productive than that of your competitors’.

Besides, by analyzing your sales cycle, you can see which steps you move through slower and improve on them. Looking at the process of closing deals step by step makes it easier to identify actions that lead to successes or problems.

How to optimize your sales cycle?

Regardless of whether your team already achieves sales goals or not, you should continuously optimize your sales techniques and improve the sales cycle. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Reduce work with little added value

An average salesperson spends only 36% of their time selling, while the rest is wasted on administrative tasks. To improve your sales cycle, your employees can easily outsource their service tasks and focus on sales. 

2. Carry out follow-ups carefully

Unfortunately, lead generation can be quite tedious. And, as we’ve mentioned before, most sales require follow-ups before a deal is closed. That is why your salespeople need to develop a habit of going through their activities with persistence. 

3. Ask for small commitments

To establish a stronger connection with your prospects, you can use a foot-in-the-door technique. With this tactic, you ask them for one small favor after another before getting them to agree to close the deal.

Start small, for example, by asking for the clients’ phone number when you contact them via email. And after going through a product demonstration, ask to introduce the product to their purchasing team.

email drip campaigns

4. Use social proof

Case studies are ideal as social proof. Your employees should actively share them with their leads to get a little closer to the purchase. You can also use case studies to counter your leads’ objections. 

For example, they may be concerned that your product may need an intensive familiarization process. Use case studies from other customers to show them how quickly the tool can be put into operation.

5. Train your team

Make sure you create all the sales documents to guide your team through the sales process. Keep an eye on the metrics of each team member. You may find that certain employees have problems at certain sales cycle stages. If so, offer them additional resources and support from high-performing salespeople.

6. Supplement a sales cycle with a service cycle

More and more companies are beginning to add a service cycle to their sales cycle to meet the growing importance of service and customer care. In this case, the cycles must be coordinated or synchronized.

Wrapping up

A sales cycle is extremely helpful, as it structures your processes so that you always have an overview. It ensures planning security and also highlights weaknesses in your planning. A sales cycle is an indicator of the extent to which you have achieved your sales goals. And thanks to it, you always know how many leads are at which level in your sales funnel.

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