Cut The Sales Cycle With Inbound Leads

Sales are often a long and winding road, even when you are dealing with inbound leads. Even potential customers who came to you, rather than you reaching out to them, aren’t always ready to go-ahead straight away. 

Naturally, more expensive—bigger ticket—sales take longer. When selling into large companies or organizations, this can be a prolonged process. 

It can at times be just as challenging trying to win a smaller sale from a small and medium business or startup. In either case, the time it takes from first contact (whether outbound or inbound) to winning a client is known as the sales cycle. 


Transactional and Relationship Based Sales Cycles

What Causes Delays in The Sales Cycles?

Why some buyers are difficult to reach

How to generate more inbound leads

How can sales cycles be made shorter?

How Screen Sharing Can Shorten The Sales Cycle

Transactional and Relationship Based Sales Cycles

Sales cycles usually fall into two main categories: Transactional or relationship-based. 

Transactional sales are simpler. A customer buys a product or service online, or in a brick-and-mortar retail environment, such as a shop, branch, or warehouse. In B2B sales, these purchases are either one-off or fairly consistent, depending on the nature of the sector and what a customer needs. Transactional sales are usually very dependent on price. 

When purchases are fairly regular, or in bulk, that’s when relationships start to play a role in these transactions. Suppliers—such as wholesalers—often leverage price to retain the business of customers. Discounts and other price-based mechanisms play a role in transactional sales cycles. 

Price isn’t the only factor. Customers need to know they’re getting the best service possible, which is how relationships start to factor into transactional sales. 

Relationship-based sales need a salesperson within the process. From the moment an inbound sales lead gets in contact, the sales cycle begins. A sales cycle starts with the initial contact, and ends either in a sale being confirmed, or a potential customer going elsewhere. 

As a general rule, sales cycles are longer when the price of products or services are larger. Say an airline is considering placing an order with a manufacturer. A deal worth hundreds of millions. In this scenario, a sales cycle can take years, involving dozens of stakeholders, decision-makers, and budget holders. 

On the other hand, when a startup wants to buy software to solve a pain point, the sales cycle could be as short as a few days or weeks. Sometimes months, depending on a range of internal factors, of course. 

And therein lies the problem. For salespeople, speed is everything. Once you’ve got a lead in the pipeline, most salespeople are eager to close a deal. Winning customers contributes to hitting sales targets and earning commissions. So the shorter the sales cycle, the quicker new revenue flows in and companies can continue to drive growth forward. 

What Causes Delays in The Sales Cycles?

Assuming you’ve got an active inbound sales pipeline up and running, there should be new leads landing every month. With marketing generating a steady flow of leads, inbound sales teams should be equipped to convert as many of them as possible into customers. 

In theory, that’s how inbound sales should work. Sales cycles should be fairly short, especially if the ticket price of the product or service isn’t high, relatively speaking. 

That isn’t always the case. Sales cycles are often longer than sales teams want, making it harder to hit targets in the timescales sales leaders need. In turn, this can place pressure on senior leadership, especially when quarterly targets are missed. 

All of these problems are fixable. It starts with understanding the various factors that prolong sales cycles. 

Customer Factors

  • A potential customer isn’t ready to buy. This is the most common one. In fact, 50% of leads aren’t ready and only 20% will make a purchase after a year of nurturing, according to HubSpot
  • A lead is interested, but they’re considering several other suppliers and one of those wins them as a client instead. 
  • A lead already has a supplier in-place offering a similar product or service, and shopping around is a way of changing that existing relationship rather than replacing it. 
  • 60% of inbound leads want to engage with potential suppliers during the consideration stage, according to HubSpot.
  • Only 20% get in contact of their own accord at the decision stage, which usually means they’ve almost made up their mind. 

Once sales leads are in the pipeline, then any number of internal factors can also slow the sales cycle down. From projects competing for time, to budgetary concerns, and even staff going on holiday or maternity leave. 

Sales Team Factors

  • A failure to qualify effectively. One of the big ones for sales teams is a process failure whereby inbound leads aren’t qualified as stringently as outbound. Or there simply isn’t a strong enough process in place to qualify them, causing too many to slip through the net that either aren’t interested or ready. 
  • Speed is everything. When sales teams or a salesperson respond straight away, then there’s a 35-50% chance of that vendor securing the client, according to HubSpot. As hybrid and remote working is the new normal for sales teams, it’s important for salespeople to act quickly with new sales leads, wherever they are working. 
  • Salespeople can get busy with too many leads, which means some get forgotten and they fall through the cracks. Again, this is a process failure and something that prolongs the sales cycle, and also gives a potential customer a bad impression of a vendor. 
  • Nothing in place to give inbound leads the option to have an instant demo of a product/service. Anything which proves a point of friction can slow sales cycles down. 
  • After a call/demo, one of the worst things a salesperson can do is fail to follow-up.

Why some buyers are difficult to reach

Small businesses are still significantly behind the curve compared with medium-sized and larger companies when it comes to getting online. Even now, around 40% of small businesses don’t have a website, according to a survey of the top design firms around the world. 

Many will have a limited form of social presence. Unlike potential clients with an active web presence and multiple channels salespeople can reach them on, these potential clients are harder to reach and engage with. 

All of this limits social selling, follow-up, and lead nurturing opportunities. Part of the problem in this scenario is that building awareness of your brand is going to take more time and work. If buyers aren’t on as many channels, it will take more time to establish and maintain awareness.

One solution to the challenges of buyers not being ready, other internal factors, and some being hard to reach even after they’ve got in contact, is to generate more inbound leads. 

How to generate more inbound leads

Not having enough inbound sales leads in the pipeline is a constant challenge for many companies. A lack of leads causes serious problems for sales teams. 

There are numerous ways to solve this problem and generate more inbound leads, including: 

  • Publish more content. Companies that publish more, generate an increase in organic SEO and social media-driven traffic, which in turn should contribute to a larger influx of leads. 
  • Ramping up social media activity and increasing social selling opportunities, equally making it easier to connect with prospects and nurture leads. 
  • Adverts, whether through search engines and associated networks (PPC), or social platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn are equally valuable sources of inbound traffic, especially when you use lead magnets and other lead-generation techniques. 

How can sales cycles be made shorter?

Providing a buyer is interested, one of the more frustrating challenges salespeople and managers experience is the way a deal can fall flat between the first and second call. 

Say you’ve had one call, and it went well, then you book the next to go over everything in more detail. Even do a quick online demo. Hopefully, then get the sale you need and the deal closed.

Except that doesn’t happen. The buyer keeps canceling. Or they go radio silent and vanish. At times this means all of the effort that went into getting them to that point was wasted.

CrankWheel is being used around the world to shorten sales cycles for companies. Giving sales leads a way to speak to a salesperson and see the right material while on the phone call is the most effective way to accelerate the sales cycle and close more deals faster. 

How Screen Sharing Can Shorten The Sales Cycle

Instant online demos are one of the most effective ways to shorten the sales cycle. Especially when inbound leads want information quickly. It means they don’t need to wait. 

Instead of booking a second call to demo a product/service, do that straight away by sharing your screen. Don’t wait. Hesitation—even a few hours gap between initial contact and speaking with a sales rep—can kill a deal before it enters the sales cycle. Naturally, you should always make sure a prospect has got the time, but also if they can do a demo straight away, then a selling point is that it saves them time in the future.

If they aren’t interested, they’ve got all of the information and can walk away. It also gives you crucial qualification time. Making sure you qualify leads sooner rather than later saves you time, because you can filter bad leads out of the sales cycle straight away. 

If a prospect is interested and you’ve qualified them on the spot, then some leads are going to say yes straight away. Or a salesperson can call them back to confirm the go-ahead date and hopefully take a payment, or issue a deposit invoice, depending on the payment terms offered.

With a screen sharing solution, sales cycles are cut from two or more calls to one. Buyers can make instant decisions. Salespeople can accelerate the sales cycle, knowing that they can get more leads into the pipeline, and deal more effectively and efficiently with those that are interested in going ahead.

Sales cycles can take a long time for several reasons. More expensive products and services always take longer. But even low-ticket items can take weeks or months because either the buyer isn’t ready or internal factors are preventing them from going ahead. Salespeople can also inadvertently slow sales cycles down, which can often cause deals to fail. 

Qualifying leads is essential. You need to ensure there are as many viable leads in the pipeline as possible. Using a range of inbound marketing techniques should generate more leads, which increases success rates.

By starting a screen sharing session on the first call, you are more likely to close the sale sooner.