From the time of first contact to the point where a sale is made or a contract is signed, how many days, weeks, months or years have passed?
Ask this question and you'll hear all sorts of figures tossed around: four weeks, six weeks from start to close, three months, three days.
It's their business, they should know, right? Not necessarily. In reality, many of us have no clue what our real sales cycle is.
We all know salespeople who insist their typical sales cycle is six weeks (or eight weeks), from first contact to time of sale. That might be right, but I suspect it isn't. Here's why.
In every industry and every business, we tend to underestimate the real sales lead time, sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot. The more complex and high-dollar the product or service, the longer the average sales cycle.
Bob Chapman, Sandler sales coach, tells a wonderful story about this. Over a period of years, he consistently mailed marketing materials ranging from invitations to free executive workshops to newsletters and sales tip sheets. One day, Bob called on one of these contacts.
To his amazement, the CEO opened a drawer, pulled out a file, and spread several years' worth of Sandler marketing materials across his desk. Why had he kept these materials when he'd never attended an event or set up a meeting?
Basically, the CEO said sales were great, my team was solid, I didn't really need you. I kept the literature so when I did need help, I'd know whom to call. Things have changed and you're here, so let's talk business.
In this instance, was the sales cycle three years? Or one day?
What's your real sales cycle? How much lead time and how many contacts does it take to move from first contact to an order or contract?
This is powerful information to know, but in the press of day-to-day business, few of us take time to examine the big picture and track the right data to answer this question in a meaningful way.