The Sales Cycle: Path From Prospect To Customer

The Path From Prospect To Customer

The Path From Prospect To Customer

Whether you’ve ever actually outlined it or written it down before there is a definite path from prospect to customer. In fact, the whole reason behind having a sales process is to simply draw the line your prospect will take in order to become a customer. When you begin to think of it as a process—it will become much clearer.

Start by asking how you first meet a prospect? What do you want to happen next and so on. Before long, you will have your entire Sales Process mapped.

While there is no set process applicable to every business, there are some keys each should include like prospecting, qualifying, asking for the sale and so on. (No, that is not a complete list and it’s not in order)

Once you’ve completed the basic formula, take some time to review it. Think it through. Is it logical? Is it chronological? Is it realistic?

Now you should be able to back up and see your entire sale—from start to finish in a timeline and anticipate all the roadblocks you might encounter—or better yet, areas where you need to improve.

The key is to start at the beginning and take it literally step-by-step—leave nothing out—in your process.

While your Sales Process is the chronological order of creating a customer from a prospect, your Sales Cycle is the time in which it should take to do it.

Create a timeline or an expected amount of time it takes to move a prospect from one step to the other in a perfect world, knowing it is never going to be perfect. The idea is to set the bar at a point to where if everything went exactly right at each step or crossroads along the way, it would take this long to close the sale.

Remember, it is far better to err on the side of caution here because at almost every step along the way you are going to be dealing with the prospects timeline, not yours. You cannot force them to respond to your needs in a certain amount of time because you’re trying to keep your Sales Cycle on target.

The way to do that is to simply take each step and assign a time period to it. For example: from initially meeting the prospect to building rapport and establishing a relationship to where you both feel comfortable moving forward is two to four weeks.

Once the relationship is established and you begin to qualify your prospect, go over your initial oral agreement it will take between two and three weeks to sit down to do a needs analysis.

Do this for every step in your process to get a good feel for what your anticipated Sales Cycle should look like.

If your normal buyer usually takes time to make a decision you can add whatever is standard to this, let’s say another two to three weeks before you have a decision.

If you find it takes two to three months to bring a new customer on, you need to understand the biggest recipe for failure is to only have one or two prospects working at a time. You cannot go three months only to get a ‘no’ and then start over. That’s why prospecting is so important! You must continue to put people into the “system” at all times.

Remember, your prospect is in complete control of the timeline at several instances throughout any Sales Cycle. Don’t rush them. Be persistent, but professional. This is why the superstar salespeople keep as many prospects “in the hopper” as they can possibly manage.

Once you establish your perfect scenario timeline, add about 20% to it. In this case, I would estimate the typical Sales Cycle is going to take about 120-days from start to finish. Again, this illustrates the critical need to be working multiple prospects at once.

This will allow you to see the entire process and set realistic expectations when doing your quarterly or annual planning and goal setting.

Butch Bellah works with salespeople and businesses to help them gain more appointments, win more business, retain more customers. Pre-order his latest book, Sales Management For Dummies (John Wiley & Sons) due out TODAY!

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