A marketing plan is a description of the customers your marketing efforts are trying to reach.
Your sales cycle definition is the description of the way you will execute sales to those customers.
This means that your sales plan will be a part of your overall marketing plan.
The selling process is different for different products.
It may be a long process, as is the case with multimillion-dollar enterprise-level software packages.
Deals like that can take months or even more than a year to complete.
Conversely, a sale can happen in minutes on the sales floor of a retail store.
Your venture’s sales cycle is the blueprint for the way your sales force actually makes sales.
No matter what your sales cycle looks like in practice—we’ll get to that in a moment—all successful sales cycles share a set of key traits:
- Focused on the customer
- Clearly defined and measurable
- Predictable and repeatable
In addition to these characteristics, successful sales cycles are responsive to change.
This adaptive aspect is crucial to surviving competitive environments and navigating emerging technologies.
Sales Cycle Definition
The traditional sales cycle consists of seven steps.
These seven steps may be crunched together into a compressed sales process—as is the case with sales made in retail environments—or may be extended as part of a prolonged sales cycle, such as with a sale of enterprise-level software.
It is the goal of effective salespeople to reduce the duration of the sales cycle to its shortest possible length without compromising effectiveness.
A shorter sales cycle means that more sales cycles can be initiated (and hopefully completed) within a given time frame.
What constitutes a short sales cycle or a long sales cycle is relative to the standard in a given industry.
For a B2B organization that sells enterprise-level software packages, a standard sales cycle could be several months or even a year while the salesperson identifies the customer’s needs and helps them explore the software.
On the other hand, a website such as Amazon may have a sales cycle of a few minutes, composed of a customer searching and reviewing, placing the item in their cart, and checking out.
Building Your Sales Cycle
An established sales cycle within an industry is a good starting point for your product, but someone else’s sales process isn’t going to sell your product to your customers.
Your sales cycle will require a different process for each distribution channel you have selected.
Direct sales to end-users, for example, will require different process steps than selling your product to customers who are not the end-user (such as retailers or wholesalers).
Your sales cycle must be buyer-centric.
Walkthrough the steps of your buyer process and identify each area that can and should be translated into a process step of your sales cycle.
- A venture’s sales cycle is the blueprint for the way that venture’s sales force makes sales.
- Depending on the customer, the sales cycle may be quite long—in the case of B2B software solutions, for example, a single sale could take well over a year—or quite short, such as a purchase on an e-commerce site.