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How to Understand and Shorten Long Sales Cycles in 2024

Struggling with lengthy sales cycles? Discover actionable strategies to shorten them and close deals faster.

For some time, sales cycles have grown longer. If you have never been a buyer of a complex solution, you might be surprised at how difficult it can be to choose the right partner and make the decision to change. In large, enterprise-level deals, you will find all kinds of challenges in pursuing the clients’ desired outcomes, which are important enough for decision-makers and buyers to spend time on a change initiative.

Impact of the ACDC Environment on Sales Cycles

The acronym ACDC is our shorthand for our accelerating, constant, disruptive change. We just lived through a once-in-a-century pandemic and are now facing runaway inflation, hot wars in Europe and the Middle East, and the rise of artificial intelligence and the risks it may bring in the future. Add a divisive political environment and the enormous amount of propaganda creating a post-truth world, one that causes people to wonder what is true and what they can rely on being true.

When you don’t know when the next shoe will drop, it often seems safer to wait it out, postponing a significant change to your business. When you are plagued by uncertainty, you conserve your cash and wait it out. The problem with waiting to make a change is that the events above will be followed by others, adding to the list, replacing events that subside.

Challenges of Building Consensus in Sales

Assuming a group of contacts is able to put a task force together to make an important change, there is little chance they will come to a consensus without a lot of conversations and horse-trading. Inside every company, you will find a clash between people who want something different. Even if most people agree on the change, some will still need something to be able to execute the change in their part of the company. One of the reasons sales cycles have grown longer is the process of consensus.

During the past couple of years, it is likely you had a number of sales meetings on Zoom. There is no doubt that you experienced a group of stakeholders showing up on your laptop screen. In the first meeting, you had seven people. The second meeting found your seven reduced to four stakeholders or decision-makers. The larger the company, the more people are part of the conversation. The people you might need may have other priorities that prevent them from participating in the process.

But as difficult as it is to get the right people in the room together, there is something that can extend your sales cycle by weeks, months, or quarters. There are always politics inside companies. Some have more political capital than others, giving them leverage over any decision the task force is considering. Others still have problems with the change, as it means they have to change what they do. Occasionally, you might find that someone is able to block the task force to make way for their initiative.

This process takes time. It seems to have stretched the sales cycle unless the stakeholders are aligned on the change initiative.

Strategies to Shorten Sales Cycles

Slow Down to Go Fast

The first thing you can do to shorten your sales cycles is to avoid the idea of velocity. This was a good idea in a world of certainty, like the 1950s. In the third decade of the 21st century, we have only experienced uncertainty. When you try to speed up the sales conversation or your sales process, you add uncertainty to the uncertainty your contacts already have. If you want to shorten the sales cycle, slow down, and spend time with your contacts. You are responsible for creating certainty.

The Era of Decision-Making

We have now left the Era of Solutions and entered the Era of Decision-Making. To shorten your sales cycle, you will need to spend more time helping your contacts understand the decisions they must make to move forward. You work for a good company with a good solution, and your competitors also work for good companies with good solutions. To shorten the sales cycle and beat your competitors, you must be the person who provides the experience and performance they need when it comes to the rare, strategic decision they must get right on their first attempt.

Discuss the Prospective Client’s Buying Process

The earlier you discuss what your contacts will need to be able to make a decision and take ownership of your solution, the better your ability to take time out of the sales cycle. You are almost certainly going to invite the stakeholders who will weigh in on any decision to take. The longer you wait to get these contacts into the conversation, the more you risk a longer sales cycle.

Prioritize Winning Over Speed

In June, I sat down with a very large client. I was with six senior leaders for 2.5 hours. At the end of that meeting, I was invited to another 2.5 hours with the same six senior leaders two weeks later. After two half-hour Teams meetings, we secured a very large contract.

It is more important to win your client’s relationship and their business than it is to save time on the deal. This is especially true when you will keep the client for many years.

Leaving this article, assess your approach and identify how you may be lengthening your sales cycle. If you are a sales leader, spend time with your team helping them to avoid longer sales cycles. Do good work, and I’ll see you tomorrow with more.


Sales 2024
Post by Anthony Iannarino on May 23, 2024

Written and edited by human brains and human hands.

Anthony Iannarino

Anthony Iannarino is an American writer. He has published daily at thesalesblog.com for more than 14 years, amassing over 5,300 articles and making this platform a destination for salespeople and sales leaders. Anthony is also the author of four best-selling books documenting modern sales methodologies and a fifth book for sales leaders seeking revenue growth. His latest book for an even wider audience is titled, The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success.

Anthony speaks to sales organizations worldwide, delivering cutting-edge sales strategies and tactics that work in this ever-evolving B2B landscape. He also provides workshops and seminars. You can reach Anthony at thesalesblog.com or email Beth@b2bsalescoach.com.

Connect with Anthony on LinkedIn, X or Youtube. You can email Anthony at iannarino@gmail.com

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