A long sales cycle is like a three-hour artsy movie that you’ve heard your friends rave about. At moments, it’s hard to watch, boring, and sucking up your time and energy, but you still want to get to the end of it. Dragging out the process means working harder and longer than necessary, all the while hindering your ability to close more deals and generate revenue. In particular, B2B SaaS companies find it all the more challenging due to a highly competitive landscape, as well as lack of knowledge and experience in the early days with limited resources in play. In such an environment, data is the king presiding over the SaaS sales cycle and as a true king, it has the power to either make you or break you.
What makes a sales cycle?
First, let’s settle on what a sales cycle is and how companies go about it. It’s a multi-step, repeating process (hence, the cycle part) that encompasses everything associated with closing a sale. Various companies have different steps and stages in their sales cycle, depending on their definition of it. The startup sales cycle, being a long and systematic process, follows certain common steps that include:
- Initial contact - the very first contact with a lead.
- Lead qualification - sorting out between different leads to make sure they are willing and able to buy your service, in order to avoid wasting time.
- Presentation - a form of a full sales pitch, either a demo, written proposal, or else.
- Evaluation - the phase where you are addressing your prospect's concerns.
- Closing - the point when you reach a mutual agreement and close the deal.
- Referrals - when you ask your new customer for referrals
Once you define your basic sales process, it’s time to put it in action. Even though you can’t circumvent critical steps, there are ways to shorten the sales cycle and start putting that sweet revenue money in your pockets sooner. In the SaaS world, where the buyer’s journey follows anything but a linear approach, your sales cycle management requires a more reliable, data-driven process that goes in line with your actions at every stage. Allow us to pitch in with our two cents.
How data helps your sales cycle
In the harsh B2B environment, competition is like a gladiator fight - brutal. However, there is one key difference here, apart from being thrown to the lions (obviously). It’s not about surviving, it’s about thriving. Just like inbound marketing is a cornerstone of all marketing activities, so is data, as it represents a pillar for any sound customer-centric strategy. Now, every company usually has a qualified “customer focus” statement, but the reality is, not exactly. The Voight-Kampff test of genuine B2B companies often spots the ones falling short on recognizing data as an eternal source of competitive advantage.
Modern B2B buyers are highly critical and lack trust, which amounts to one of the core challenges of B2B. They steer away from sales reps who utilize the “one-size-fits-all” approach and immediately try to make a sale by pushing their sales agenda. Instead of boring them with their sales pitch, sales reps should build trust by focusing on helping their prospects solve a problem and offer helpful insights. Prospects can easily find information, but they still need sales reps to offer guidance through the long sales cycle, as well as help them apply the solution to their own situation and make an informed decision based on actual, tangible facts.
Simply put, the power of analytics software is just too large to pass up and not take advantage of. More notably, the cost is at an all-time low, typically the first hurdle for startups. This opens the door for every company to pick from a number of systems to manage their pipeline, be it an entry level system or one that offers a full range of actionable insights regarding market research, lead generation, and customer retention. It sounds like a sweet deal, but you may wonder where exactly does this computer wizardry excel? There are a few areas.
For one, the research stage is one of the most beneficial, as the technology provides a clear picture of the entire online industry. You can identify key prospects and businesses that fit your target market and dissect them through multiple segments (industry, size, performance, etc.). Then, you can go deep down into data as much as you like to get even more targeted results (category, the country which most of its traffic is coming from, the technologies used, and so on) to better gauge intent.
For instance, think about your contact list. As people go from one job or a position to the next , contact data becomes a thing of the past. . It happens as sometimes there isn’t time to maintain and update your contact information on a frequent basis. With a SaaS technology and analytics tools, you can discover any person’s contact info and practically reach anyone.
Source: MarTech Today
With that information, outreach becomes much easier. Now you can distinguish between C-level executives from managerial positions and really go for the decision-makers in the organization. That way, you can effectively prioritize which businesses are the most willing to purchase your service or have the strongest intent to buy.
One stage where a great deal of companies go off the beaten path is lead qualification. As wrong as it may sound, not every lead is worth your time. This is especially true for establishing a lead equilibrium, where every lead gets treated the same. In an ideal world, you sell to everyone unequivocally. Quantity doesn’t equal quality in this case, instead it equals wasting time and resources. Qualifying early makes for a more effective sales cycle. Some of it comes from face-to-face meetings, but the vast majority comes from the data you capture, whether it’s just a basic overview or a detailed assessment. In any case, business intelligence can qualify your leads and provide a spot-on assessment of your prospect’s potential, as well as find new business opportunities.
Value and invest in data
A well-developed and maintained startup sales cycle is like a costume at a Halloween party: a must have. It’s a baseline for any successful sales campaign, using today’s tech and automation for higher efficiency. By gathering as much data as you can on your prospects and gaining insights into their purchasing habits and activities, you get a precise portrayal of means and methods that work best throughout your sales cycle. As a result, you have a better understanding of needs and demands of your prospective customer pool, as well as provide your sales representatives with criteria upon which they can qualify a lead. They can articulate your value better and shorten the cycle considerably by “striking” at the core. By following this ethos and employing analytics software, you will know where, when, and what to improve and ultimately, see your effort pay off.