The cat has been out of the bag for quite some time now – sales cycles are getting longer, irrespective of the industry you are in. The top clients that used to close deals in a matter of weeks are now taking a whole quarter of painstaking negotiations just to convert into a qualified sales lead. Although, the cause for this phenomena could be narrowed down to the 2008 world financial crisis, a closer look tells us that the reasons for this carry forward to the current and the foreseeable years are an amalgamation of complex factors, including ever increasing client awareness, and the focus on self empowerment and knowledge gathering across industry.
In spite of the advent of new and innovative marketing communication tools such as online social media and grass-root level marketing techniques, there is a constant stream of reports which indicates that creating qualified leads continues to be the biggest challenge that manufacturers, suppliers and service providers face on an ongoing basis. Sales cycles, especially in the technology sector, are getting longer by the day. Some contributing factors include – the requisition of highly specific information, multiple decision making authorities, long-drawn procedures mandated by the company or the industry, and the dependency on the efficiency of internal communication between concerned departments.
The main reasons for lengthening sales cycle can however, be categorized into four principle factors – tighter budgets, avoidance of risky decisions, an increasing number of options for buyers, and dropping standards in the quality of personnel and procedures in marketing and sales operations. Despite this, one should remember that marketing and sales is still the pivotal functional area of any profit-based organization. Sales personnel will always be the first to be hired and the last to be fired, however dire the financial health and the bottom-line issues, and howsoever stringent the updated cost-cutting policies of the company.
For B2B marketers, this has immense significance, particularly in the short and medium term. Whether a business has an in-house sales team, or a team of independent sales reps, or a combination of both, the senior management is always looking for quick and easy methods to get their sales cycle down. This is easier said than done though, especially if you are relying on the exploits of hired sales reps.
The recommended approach for principals is that of considered patience, knowledge building, and logistical and moral support. Periodic training for manufacturers’ reps in better and innovative communication techniques and procedures that assimilate novel sales ideas are the order of the day. For the customer, the only thing that matters is the brand that is being represented by the independent sales rep. He is no longer bothered with the sales rep’s personal credentials. To reverse this mindset is the only way out for businesses, and to achieve that, the empowerment of sales reps is of paramount importance.
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