Use the sales cycle as a guideline not a deadline

Why is the sales cycle called, well, a cycle? Yet, it’s anything, but? A cycle implies a circle. Incredibly smooth and perfectly round. But, in practice, there’s nothing smooth nor round about the sales cycle is there? The movement from point A to Z and back to A is so erratic it surely cannot be cyclic.  In fact, it’s only a cycle when drawn on paper; that is, in theory. In practice, however, it’s as jagged as a hunting knife. As such, use the sales cycle as a guideline, not a deadline.

The 7 stages of the sales cycle

To the uninitiated, the sales cycle represents the steps along which the selling process follows. These 7 steps you will go through are Prospect-Interview-Demonstrate-Validate-Negotiate-Close-Referral and back again to Prospect-Interview…. This sales cycle is more suitable to the B2C sale; a sales funnel on the other hand would suit more the B2C sale. Whether you are dealing with a cycle or funnel though, both must start, and can only happen with prospecting. If there is no prospect (someone to sell to) none of the other steps can happen. Continual prospecting is key to successful selling.

Why the sales cycle is a guideline, not a deadline.

When the cycle is demonstrated in class, the novice salesperson feels his twin cab turbo engines revving, gunning at the chance to execute this simple cyclic procedure. He even wonders why there is so much hullabaloo about selling. “It’s so simple, I can’t understand why people complain. Wacha I show them.” Then he is released into the field and the drama begins. No one told him the sun was this hot; no one mentioned the gate keepers would be so unhelpful; and why didn’t the tutor mention that confirmed meetings would abort, promises would be broken and painful rejection would permeate the air?

The revving of his turbo engines begins to subside, and soon enough they can barely be heard beyond a whimper.  The unblemished sight he had of the perfectly smooth circle quickly fades away to be replaced by a labyrinth of pain; what he thought was going to be a simple linear motion turns out to be anything but.

Can the cycle be perfect in practice?

Sometimes, rarely though, the movement is linear. The salesperson prospects, presents and closes; he hits each of the 7 steps in perfect sequence like they were deadlines. And all at the drop of a hat. But not only are such moments rare they also defeat human logic. Which is why, only the greenhorn salesperson will be excited that he closed at the blink of an eye. The more progressive salesperson will tell you that they will raise an eyebrow at such a flawless transaction; it doesn’t feel right-the cycle is not meant to be this smooth; they smell a rat and doubt the viability of the sale. If the prospect has signed the dotted line, they doubt whether the cheque will come through; and if they have the cheque in hand they wonder whether it will go through.

sales cycle as a guideline

Does this mean that all linear faultless sales will come a cropper? Absolutely not! And this only adds to the erratic nature of the cycle; seldom as it may be, a sale can follow the cycle smoothly and still be genuine. A client can call up the real estate agent and say, “I was referred to you by your client Juma; I want to buy the flat on Ngong Road next to his. I have downloaded the forms from your website, completed them and transferred 50% deposit into your account. Let me transfer the balance within 21 days. Is it okay if I came by your office and dropped the forms, banker’s cheque for stamp duty and bank confirmation of transfer?”

When does a sales cycle end?

In theory, there was no prospecting, interview, demonstration, validation nor negotiation here. Just the beginning of a close.  In practice though, it is the continued investment of the realtor in the sales cycle that has now given him returns. That investment is never-ending, which is a large part why it’s called a sales cycle.  A sales cycle never ends.  Or at least it shouldn’t. When yours stops spinning you (professionally) die.

The sales cycle is meant to be a guideline, not a deadline. As such, don’t look at the steps in it as silos; they are fluid in nature and it is possible to back track while on it for clarity’s sake, but to always ensure general forward movement. For instance, when validating (handling objections) you may realize that at the demonstration (presentation) stage you missed out on something, and so go back to clarify it. And then come back to continue with the validation while moving towards a close.  The sales cycle, more often than not, takes a zig zag movement; this awareness is instrumental to guiding the salesperson to selling successfully.

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