According to Joe Mosbrook, managing partner at Acclaim Communications, new research reveals that the average sales cycle in nearly all industries has shortened dramatically. Just a decade ago, closing a sale required an average of 5.6 personal interactions. Today, the decision to buy develops in a blistering 1.7 meetings. What’s more, many prospects reach their decision before the salesperson slams the car door shut in the parking lot.
The shrinking sales cycle spells good news for a business’s bottom line. It provides the ability to reduce sales force and control ballooning expenses. The downside is that buyers now make many decisions based not on what they learn during a pitch, but what they discover online. So when a company’s web messaging falls flat, prospects grow skeptical and the sale heads toward an uphill battle.
Most prospects know a product’s benefits and features before the first sales call, and they’re equally aware of their alternatives. They know where the salesperson went to college, who their friends are and where their kids go to school. Car dealers are challenged daily by an increasing number of walk-in customers armed with more powerful negotiating knowledge than their salespeople.
Like most of us, corporate decision makers shop their information online before meeting a representative in person. This has driven businesses to place greater importance on the role of their website and retool the messaging in ways that more actively sells. This is especially true for industries that have long relied on a relationship- and referral-based sales models, such as manufacturing and professional services.
Every touch point of information that represents an organization — whether it’s digital, printed or even spoken — must be driven by a unique value proposition, something that defines the brand and sets it apart. A website can state that a company makes widgets for the steel industry; or it can explain that those widgets reduce downtime, increase productivity and last longer than other widgets.
When prospects aren’t hit over the head with differentiators, they assume there are none and move on. The tendency for a website to merely explain what a company does is being replaced by the need for more aggressive sales language. Whether that pitch is based on price, value, service, quality or even lifestyle, it must speak effectively to its targeted audience.
But the evolution of sales hasn’t rendered the salesperson obsolete. To the contrary, the role has become more complex. After prospects form their opinions online, they need reassurance that a company’s proposed value is, in fact, real and not just marketing hype. They need to gain a higher level of confidence in the brand and in a human being who represents that brand.
This leaves the sales team with the tall task of concisely articulating their differentiators, while activating the unique value in ways that are meaningful to each prospect. This demands a deeper level of due diligence on the part of the salesperson to research each prospect before the call and tailor every pitch.
The shortening sales cycle has prompted more efficient and targeted pitching.
Salespeople are now faced with overcoming a deeper set of objections from an increasingly knowledgeable market of prospects. Before any salesperson places a call, a company’s web messaging must tell an unmistakable story. When a company’s materials don’t send the right message, it’s perceived as a commodity and the sales process intuitively defaults to a relationship and referral model.
Every company has a great story to tell. It’s what started the business in the first place and compels customers to buy. Capture your business story and tell it in ways that better engage employees, shorten the sales cycle and widen your reach to a much larger market.
Joe Mosbrook is managing partner at Acclaim Communications. Acclaim is a Cleveland-based public relations and marketing firm focused on helping small and mid-sized organizations maximize their return on marketing investment.