Marketing Guide: The Anatomy of a Sales Cycle
A sales cycle can be defined as the documented stages of a sale that nurtures a prospect into customer. Each company should have one, and not all sales cycles are the same. Where many companies fall short is the marketing involved for each stage of the sale.
As you define the stages of your cycle, it is important to remember that there should be no grey area from one stage to the next. A documented action that propels the prospect to a lead, the lead to an opportunity, and the opportunity to a closed win/loss should be well defined and followed by all.
Prospect > Lead > Opportunity > Closed Won/Lost
Let’s look at a sample sales cycle and how the stages can be defined. A salesperson can prospect all day long and collect hundreds of cards, but maybe those prospects remain in that stage until they are qualified as a lead. The sales team can be required to ask a list of predetermined questions to either qualify or disqualify the prospect. Assuming everything checks out, it is only then the prospect can be marked as qualified in your CRM to be considered a lead.
Leads should be recorded under a lead status (i.e.- New [prospect], Cold, Warm, Hot, and Disqualified). Reporting and views in your CRM should be built so “New”, “Warm”, and “Hot” leads never fall off of the radar. In order for that lead to be considered an opportunity, an objective or event should be completed. For example, many companies use the action of a demonstration or quote delivery as a black and white event that allows sales to convert the lead into an opportunity.
For the benefit of sales forecasting, opportunities should include a projected close date, an opportunity stage, and must be updated consistently. Depending on your industry, common stages for an opportunity include “Demoed”, “NDA Signed”, “Quote Delivered”, “Negotiation”, “Closing Docs Delivered”, and “Closed Won/Lost”. This information allows a company to understand their pipeline and project future sales.
Closing an opportunity as Won should include a set of processes within your CRM that identifies that account as a client. Making sure the close date is correct on the opportunity, you are now able to identify the length of your sales cycle. Do certain reps run a longer sales cycle but have a better closing Won/Loss rate? Do some reps have fewer opportunities open but better closing rates? Are there any reps with a considerable amount of lost opportunities? If so, are you recording the reasons for the loss and does this offer a better training opportunity for that rep? This data is a huge tool for most salts organizations as they are able to build their sales cycle and training around this information.
Marketing Throughout the Sales Cycle
The most powerful marketing plan a company can have outside of their content calendar is an organized drip marketing campaign that speaks directly to your CRM and is updated as your contacts are updated. Drip marketing is a series of emails scheduled over time and can change based on the receiver’s activity (opens, clicks, etc). The most power drip marketing speaks to contacts in every stage of your sales cycle.
Think of prospects as contacts who may not know your company exists. The amount of emails your prospects should receive is based on your industry, but the content should be informative and useful to the reader. It is best to never try to sell your prospect over email. Provide good content and build your name recognition.
As prospects transition to leads, a new drip marketing plan should be triggered. These emails might be a little more consistent than the prospect emails and should contain similar information WITH a few selling points on your company and services.
At the opportunity stage a relationship has been built so the emails can be a little more personable. It is a good idea to include valuable information about your services and updates for your company (new products, industry updates, new features, etc).
Once a customer, drip marketing should shift towards a welcome email, what to expect next, training content, links to the knowledge base, etc. These emails are meant to assist the new customer through the upcoming process.
Depending on the closed loss reason, there may still be an opportunity for a close in the future. Many email systems that integrate with CRMs can trigger a campaign based on the reason for the opportunity loss allowing an infrequent email campaign to be sent 4-5 times a year.
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