Is Your Sales Approach Lengthening the Sales Cycle?

29 Jun 23

Recent SBI research has found that there’s a direct relationship between the approach a salesperson takes with a customer and the resulting sales. In our latest webinar, Connecting Commercial Talent to Actionable Results, we examined why that matters now more than ever. Here’s a quick breakdown of that discussion.

Uncertainty still prevails in today’s business environment. For salespeople, it has led to significant challenges in sales productivity.

The results from our recent research illustrate the problem clearly.

67% say deal sizes are flat or shrinking. 70% say deal velocity is flat or slowing. And 69% report that CEOs characterize salesperson productivity as having no change… or being worse than the last quarter.

As one research participant, a Chief Revenue Officer, said: “The issue isn’t pipeline. It’s pipeline movement. Pockets of our business are productive, but net-net, we’re struggling with mid-stage conversion.”

It’s this kind of observation that became the focus of my webinar discussion with Tony Erickson, Senior Partner at SBI, as we explored what the best salespeople are doing to close deals faster.

“There is a sentiment that decision-making is just slowing down and getting pushed up into the organization,” Tony said. Whereas in the past, salespeople could sell directly into a director- or a manager-level, now they’re having to sell into a VP, EVP, or even C-Suite and Board levels. “I think it’s due to the macroeconomic uncertainty that surrounds us right now.”

Through our research methodology, we identified four sales approaches that commercial teams are using today:

  1. NARROWING to drive urgency. The focus is on the buying process and making the deal.
  2. PROVOKING to drive reconsideration. Here, the salesperson shares insights on social platforms and with buyers.
  3. TRANSLATING to drive acceptance. The sale is tailored to the context of the buyer and knowing the buyer more deeply.
  4. ANTICIPATING to drive motion. The focus is on making the process easy for the buyer, engaging with them individually, and internal planning and collaboration.

What we found is that the Narrowing approach is used by the majority of salespeople, but it actually extends the sales cycle by 20%. Similarly, with the Provoking approach, the cycle takes 22% longer.

On the converse, the Translating approach shortens the sales cycle by 1% and Anticipating shortens it by 12%.

Ultimately, it’s about how the salesperson makes a buyer feel. “On the Narrowing and Provoking side, buyers feel they’re being sold to,” Tony said. But with Translating and Anticipating, “you’re taking the buyer’s side, you’re thinking about where they are on the journey, and you’re helping them through the process. As a result, the sales cycles are shorter and the salesperson tends to be more trusted.”

Narrowing and Provoking, then, can be most accurately described as push strategies, whereas Translating and Anticipating are pull strategies. And it appears that pulling wins over pushing.

“When we’re proactively trying to provoke an outcome, clients feel that,” Tony said. “But when we’re understanding their needs, when we’re translating into their language and doing our homework and anticipating the next step in their process to help them solve a problem, that's when you’re an advisor, not a seller.”

You can watch the full webinar discussion, Connecting Commercial Talent to Actionable Results, which also includes a recent case study on sales talent baselining, for a limited time.


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