In Pavilion's 2023 Future of Revenue report, 54% of sellers reported that their sales cycles have been longer in the last two years than they were previously.
This is no surprise given the state of the economy in SaaS. Budgets have been slashed, teams have been trimmed, and making a case for getting senior leadership to invest in new software is harder than ever. This greater scrutiny and reluctance to make new investments has inevitably led to ever-lengthening sales cycles.
However, there are ways to shorten your sales cycles — even when budgets are tight.
We recently spoke with several sales and solutions professionals to find out what tactics they've been using to speed up their sales cycles. Here are their top tips for how to shorten your sales cycle in 2024.
1. Disqualify sooner rather than later
Doing deep discovery early on lets you find out quickly which prospects are and aren't a good fit for your product.
Arlen Plaister, B2B software operator and advisor, says this is a key way to shorten your sales cycles: "Disqualifying deals that are not a fit gives sellers the time, focus, and urgency to close deals that are a great fit. Sellers are people, not AI agents. This stuff matters."
2. Engage all decision-makers as soon as possible
Deepti Khemka, Director of Pre-Sales at Pando, recommends top-down selling: "It's absolutely critical for fast decisions is to ensure the decision-maker is aligned with the idea of the project in the beginning. Even if they direct you to work with the functional team (or their team), keep them looped in."
Mark Winey, Principal/Director of Customer Success at LogicGate, agrees: "Sell from the top down — especially the CFO in a challenging economy."
"Sure, you'll get pushed down to the business owner for the demo and POC stages," Winey says, "but when it comes to the close, it will go far faster and smoother if you've already educated the C-suite on the financial and strategic benefits."
Khemka also recommends getting the entire buying committee involved early: "Typical enterprise customers have a group of people who contribute to the decision. The earlier 'gatekeepers' are brought onboard, the lesser the chance of delays (e.g., the IT team)."
3. Get granular during discovery
Chris Joco, Principal Solutions Architect at DSD Business Systems, says you can shorten your sales cycle by getting discovery right: "Discovery is where I find the best opportunity to shorten the cycle. Finding out the specific pain points of a client helps direct the SE where to go with their demo."
Deepti Khemka, Director of Pre-Sales at Pando, agrees: "Presales should focus on identifying the pain and, more importantly, the impact of the pain on the organization. Ideally, you want to try and set up a cadence call to finish the process of discovery to value prop building (even if 2/10 clients agree it makes a difference)."
4. Focus entirely on solving the prospect's biggest problem
Chris Kosrow, Director of Sales at Showpad, recommends "solving for the prospect's problems, absolutely. What I mean by that is: as quickly as you possibly can, demonstrate that you understand their problems and the impact they are looking to achieve by solving them, and show them you can offer the exact solution they're looking for."
According to Kosrow, that means:
- "Not throwing the kitchen sink at them during the demo."
- "Not asking about a completely separate problem that your solution also solves for. It's fine to ask if downstream problems are caused by the core problem they have — or to highlight that the impact of the problem is even bigger than they first realized — but it does not help your cycle length to help them identify totally new problems."
- "Not spending a ton of time table-setting before validating the solution."
"Get to the point as quickly as possible, validate that they are aligned with the fit, and then work to understand what else needs to happen in order to implement the solution (which can, of course, be a lot!)" Kosrow says.
5. Let buyers directly experience your product's value
Luis Roberto Acosta, Global Sales Engineering Director at Yalo, says that giving a great demo makes the biggest difference in your sales cycle length: "To shorten sales cycles, the focus should be on demonstrating the product's value through an immersive, hands-on experience."
"While using various media like videos and demos is common and easy, the real differentiator is guiding prospects through the product in a way that allows them to directly experience its benefits. This approach helps them understand the product's value from the outset, even if they start with little-to-no knowledge."
"By facilitating a deeper, more interactive engagement, you not only expedite the conviction process but also transform decision-makers into advocates for your product. It's about providing more than just information; it's about delivering a personalized and engaging experience that leads to faster and more informed decision-making."
"Identifying key decision-makers early and tailoring the experience to their needs is crucial in making a lasting impact and choosing the best vendor," Acosta says.
6. Encourage your prospects to evaluate your competitors
While it may seem counter-intuitive, Deepti Khemka, Director of Pre-Sales at Pando, also recommends encouraging your prospects to talk to your competitors:
"Procurement will typically ask teams if they evaluated multiple vendors. Once you’ve gained mindshare with the client, ask them/guide them to go talk to competitors. Otherwise, deals could get delayed because of procurement compliance."
Closing deals more quickly in 2024
One final note: while finding ways to shorten your sales cycle has many benefits, focusing too much on getting prospects to sign as quickly as possible can occasionally have negative consequences, too.
Just as important as guiding prospects quickly through the buying journey is taking the time to make sure that your product is right for the prospect's needs. While everyone loves a one-call close, a lightning-fast discovery process and short sales cycle can sometimes leads to closed deals that weren't quite right for your business.
This can lead to sweeping negative downstream impacts: an inability to get the customer onboarded, frustration between the customer and your success and support teams, and sometimes, the need to refund the customer any money they've paid.
So as you work to implement these tips in 2024, make sure you're also balancing them with deep discovery and taking the time to fully understand what your prospects are trying to accomplish so you can ensure that a faster sales cycle also leads to successful implementation, high adoption, and long-term retention.