Imagine the arc of a complex sales process and the time span it occupies. Now think about compressing time. Make that time span smaller, shorter, and more dense. From the identification (or even better, the creation) of buyer interest to the point where a purchasing decision is finally made, there are any number of events (or client touches) along that arc where something happens.
Initial call. Meeting. Follow up. Proposal. Negotiation. Agreement. There are mandatory events, like an initial client encounter or a purchasing decision (which might be to choose a competitor or not purchase at all.) There might be unanticipated events, such as a meeting cancellation or an objection. And there might be other client touches intended to help position you or gather additional information.
Whatever those sales events happen to be, the sum of them delineate the many moments and events along that particular sales cycle. Some sales cycles have more events, others fewer. But the set of events for a given deal accomplished over time define that sales cycle.
Now imagine what would happen if you decreased the time it takes to get from start to finish for every sales opportunity over the course of a year by, say, 20%. How would that impact client satisfaction, your close rate, and ultimately your income?
Shorten the Distance
A good sales executive does exactly that. He or she compresses time. It’s not about eliminating steps or trying to take shortcuts. (In fact, a good salesperson will deftly add touches and events throughout the arc of the deal.) But it is about ways to make things happen more quickly, with less elapsed time. Simply put, your job is to compress that arc and shorten the time span between “Hello” and “Let’s get started.” Or otherwise, get more quickly to “No thank you.”
Despite the likely obviousness of this statement, it’s rarely followed with the zeal and attention it warrants. Contrary to what you may have been told, good things don’t come to those who wait. Time is your enemy. Time kills deals. Delay seldom works to a salesperson’s advantage.
A fundamental tenet of your sales philosophy should be to continually find ways to compress the time span between each step along the sales process. Think about how to respond slightly faster than expected. Cut an hour, a day or even a week out of the time between stimulus and response, between when something is promised and when it’s delivered. Every time you can shorten the time span between touches works to advance your deal to the next step and move things forward.
Compressing time as a fundamental sales practice accomplishes other objectives:
- It identifies you as responsive and effective,
- It gives your customer a sense of confidence in you as a business partner,
- And it can help to set the pace of the process, and thus forces your competitors to keep up. By keeping things moving, you’re effectively positioning your competition as less responsive and less customer service-oriented.
This momentum works because an immediate B+ response is almost always better than an A- effort that doesn’t happen until weeks later. And it stands to reason that you can craft a better response immediately, when it’s still compelling and the details are fresh in your mind. (Besides, a thorough follow up reply, email or otherwise, can double as your sales notes.)
If necessary, send an early version of whatever deliverable you’re working on stamped with DRAFT all over it, or with highlighted questions soliciting client feedback, drawing from your sales toolkit of prepared resources.
By adopting a commitment to compressing time, you gain the added advantage of staying sharp and in control. You’ve established an active, customer-centric momentum that helps propel the process forward. You’re driving the sale rather than watching from the backseat.
Note that consistent efforts to compress time will often result in another client behavior. Customers certainly appreciate a timely response, but they can also start to expect it. So be prepared to sustain this practice. Getting things ahead of schedule, without having to ask or send reminders, allows your client to respond more quickly internally, look good with their peers, and generally appear to have their project(s) under control.
It Isn’t Rocket Surgery
Admittedly, this tactic is simple (and obvious.) Respond quickly to emails, questions, or requests for additional information. Sales call follow up should be crisp and timely. Get the next step discussed and the next meeting scheduled as a normal course of the current conversation.
It’s the mindset that requires effort. It demands that you make an attitudinal shift, adopting a sense of customer urgency that enables you to think about how you can compress time. Once your attitude is where it needs to be, you’ll need to combine that with tools and processes to make time compression possible.
Now, squeeze. Compress time.