Most sales people are compelling when they sit down with a potential customer. The difficult and time-consuming part is getting effective and profitable face-to-face selling time with decision makers.
There are several elements that make up the early sales cycle (the point from where you first decide to target an individual or organisation to the point where your sales people meet them).
A key one is qualification.
We’ve been working with companies selling products and services to the construction, built environment and industrial markets for 25 years, and ineffective qualification is one of the most common reasons these companies have protracted and costly sales cycles.
By avoiding these 4 qualification pitfalls, you’ll be able to optimise face-to-face selling time and build up a strong pipeline over the short, medium and long term.
1. Focusing on achieving a certain number of meetings
When salespeople have a KPI of a certain number of meetings per month, the focus is on quick-win gains rather than on what is required to deliver the overriding objective.
This results in two common outcomes on the part of salespeople:
- They farm their existing networks and arrange meetings with people who aren’t actually decision makers.
- They don’t have time to follow up with contacts frequently enough, which means you miss opportunities because you’re not front of mind at the right time.
Thus, focusing on quantity over quality has a high opportunity cost and equates to a higher cost of sale.
2. Depending too heavily on lead services
Lead services have their place, but your competitors have access to exactly the same information. On top of this, the point of contact information often doesn’t give you the best people to target.
By taking the time to invest in the right data and customer research, you’ll find it easier and faster to connect with the stakeholders who make and influence decisions regarding the specification, selection and procurement of your product or service.
3. Focusing on only one part of the supply chain
There’s no such thing as a typical sales cycle if you sell a product or service into the construction, built environment or industrial markets. It varies from sector to sector and the type of opportunity you are trying to create, but sales cycles can range from a few months (for subcontractors) to a few years (for specifiers).
To be successful you need to identify and target stakeholders at the stage in the sales process where your proposition has the most relevance. Depending on your product or service, this could involve building relationships with everyone from architects and specifiers through to main contractors and subcontractors – and keeping in touch with them regularly over months or even years.
Here’s another way to look at it.
On a typical project there might be 3 to 6 main contractors bidding for the work, but often a sales person will only engage with 1 or 2 of them. If one of the other contractors wins the bid then they are significantly behind the curve in terms of being able to secure the work.
4. Not eliminating unsuitable prospects
An important aspect of early sales cycle qualification is weeding out contacts who have no interest in or influence over specification, selection and procurement decisions.
You therefore need to ask questions that might result in a ‘no’, because the right ‘no’ is a good thing. It means that you can focus on developing the right opportunity, rather than squandering sales people’s time and your resources on something that will never bear fruit.
Qualify to create long-term value
If you’re struggling to get the meetings with decision makers, or if your early sales cycle is getting longer, take a look at your qualification process. Key changes will make a big impact on your success rate and the value of your pipeline.
Get more advice on creating the opportunities with the decision makers and influencers involved in the selection, specification and procurement of your product or service.
Download our guide – ‘Steps to building a strong sales pipeline for the short, medium and long term.’