According to the Harvard Business Review statistics, companies that mastered an efficient sales cycle have 28% higher revenue growth than those that don’t.
It indicates that a straightforward and specified sales stage definition powers sales processes. Essentially, it acts as a roadmap for sales reps to easily track opportunities from the start of the cycle to the finish.
Probably, you take great pride in your sales team’s capabilities to devise new ideas and strategies. But defining the sales cycle steps can do the trick for your B2B business.
Whether you are new to sales or have extended exposure dealing with leads, learning more about the sales cycle stages can transform how often you close sales. Here is a rundown of the fundamental stages of B2B sales cycle so you master the process and sell like a pro.
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Stages of the B2B Sales Cycle – Everything You Should Know
Having a defined sales cycle adds structure to the sales process. It helps to track the prospect’s journey and makes it easier to follow. You can find what’s working for you and what isn’t.
As a result, it helps the team to move in the right direction by defining what each step demands from the sales team, where exactly they are in the process, and what measures they should take next to facilitate business growth.
You may find variations of the B2B sales cycle steps, as the cycle’s length depends on multiple factors. However, each stage is a result of similar foundational concepts.
1. Prospecting and Lead Generation
Any sales process starts with prospecting, making it the most crucial and demanding stage of the sales cycle. According to Salesmate, about 40% of sales representatives consider prospecting as the toughest sales process step.
The prospecting stage is about employing strategies to generate leads by identifying potential customers. These are prospects at the evaluation stage of their buyer’s journey and likely show interest in your commercial offer. You can start by creating an ideal customer profile (ICP) and gauge prospects based on this.
Here are a few ways to generate leads and determine if they fit your ICP.
- Cold outreach
- Social media communication
You can attend professional events and interact with the founders and entrepreneurs face-to-face to find leads. Additionally, you can prospect by requesting existing customers or associates to refer people interested in your B2B product or service.
2. Connect with the Customer and Qualify Leads
Now that you have identified the dream prospect, it’s time to contact and build a connection. The contact step of the sales process includes sales reps starting to connect with the early-stage leads to collect more information. Email is an excellent way to initiate communication with your lead directly.
The next part of this step is qualifying new leads. It includes deciding whether or not they fit your business requirements and whether they’ll stick around and move forward in the buyer’s journey.
Sales teams can identify qualified leads over a call or email communications by asking questions like:
- What is your role within your company?
- What are your day-to-day responsibilities?
- What problems are you trying to resolve?
- What other solutions are you evaluating?
Statistics show that at least 50% of the prospects aren’t a good fit for the business. So, you can stop wasting more time on leads who do not qualify.
3. Nurture and Build Lasting Relationships
Nurturing leads and building lasting relationships improves your business growth prospects drastically. According to the 2022 B2B Sales Benchmarks Report, 4-6 B2B relationships led to a 19% boost in win rates compared to those with only 1-3 relations. On nurturing 7-9 connections, the win rates improved further by 14% more than those with just 4-6 connections.
All these numbers indicate how important it is to nurture leads and get them on board to secure deals. Employing lead nurturing strategies involves helping them understand the product, service, or industry overall. It also includes tactics to personalize your communication and recognize the typical challenges.
While nurturing, you aim to establish a working reputation for being accommodating, responsive, and a trustworthy resource with a good command over your expertise area.
At this stage, you might learn whether your prospect wants a product. If they show interest in your offer but don’t want to sign-up right now, maintain regular contact and offer your valuable help again.
However, if they sign up, move on to stage four.
4. Crafting a Sales Pitch
Till now, you have identified potential new leads, initiated contact, qualified leads, and nurtured the interested leads. All these have built a solid foundation to help you pitch the offer to the customer. It’s the time when your star salesperson sweeps the client off the ground with an unavoidable sales pitch.
If you determine prospect is a good fit, you can invite them for a presentation meeting. If you are a SaaS company, use this stage to demonstrate the platform to your client.
Here are some helpful tips to create an effective B2B sales pitch:
- Avoid exaggerating or over-describing your product or service. Lead prospects into asking questions about the product.
- Using visual tools in a presentation makes your overall pitch more engaging and effective.
- Focus on building up curiosity with your sales pitch.
- Listing all the features of your product or service falls flat most times. Instead, focus on explaining how it will solve the potential customer’s problem and the results they can achieve with the help of your product.
5. Handling Customer Objections
It is common for prospects to object to your salesperson’s presentation and proposal. The average sales success rate is 3 percent, regardless of industry or sales pitch. It means 97 percent of your prospects will likely object to your sales offer.
If you take objections personally and don’t handle them well, it’s difficult to survive in the sales industry. That is why the handling turned down sales step is crucial in the sales process. It helps your sales team prepare for the worst.
The most common objections sales reps encounter include budget, risk, the content of the offer, contract terms, and more. It’s best to handle these objections early in the nurturing phase while educating the prospect. But most times, it’s impossible to tackle and address them ahead of time.
When you answer objections, be patient, listen carefully, and empathize with their issues. Recovering a lead is hard if they feel rushed or pressured to respond positively. For instance, if the prospect has concerns about the product price, ensure enlightening about what’s included in your offer and how it will solve their problems.
Once you’ve explained, ask them to confirm that you’ve handled their objection. Familiarizing yourself with the common refusals will help you quickly propose a solution. But keep in mind to avoid jumping to conclusions and countering their objection. Instead, find as much as possible about their concerns and hesitation to frame your solution relevant to the situation
6. Close the Deal
Closing the deal is a late-stage activity that is not as easy as it may appear. The closing stage is difficult as deals that reach this stage do not necessarily convert into closing.
Research by Salesforce shows that only 28% of salespersons understand customers’ concerns and are likely to close a deal. Therefore, this stage has significance in the sales cycle.
Once you resolve your prospect’s objections, ask them if they will purchase your product or service. As one might expect, the question has two possible outcomes. If they say yes, you can proceed with the formalities and help the client with the purchase process. The idea is not to make the prospect feel tricked into buying.
Once you’re ready to close the deal and get their commitment, stick around to answer any remaining questions and provide them with clear next steps. If it was an in-person meeting, suggest sending a summary email to their purchase team, who review the conversation and agreement terms.
Otherwise, you can probe further to find objections if their answer is still no.
7. Follow-up and Referrals Generation
Do you know that 48% of sales professionals don’t make a single follow-up attempt, resulting in lost sales opportunities? Although closing deals is the ultimate goal of a sales rep, it shouldn’t be the last stage of working with customers. Following up after closing deals matters and leaves a good impression on the customer.
It involves continuing to communicate their business and deliver more value to customers. Such initiatives open opportunities to upsell and cross-sell. It also increases the possibility of securing referrals from satisfied customers.
Stages of B2B Sales Cycle – Wrap Up
Every sales process is different, and it holds for the sales cycle. The stages of B2B sales cycle may last a few days or linger over several months. However, these seven stages often remain common.
Refining your sales cycle helps shorten the process and improve revenues. Watch out for the bottlenecks and other pain points sales reps and customers encounter.
Creating and mapping different stages of B2B sales cycle will help your sales team seal more deals and convert leads. It ensures your team provides every prospect with a consistent experience that adds value to your brand and promotes brand dominance.
Consider these sales process steps tailored to your B2B business, to empower the sales team for boosting conversions and building profitable relationships.