The Success Cycle
How long is your sell cycle? In most cases, this is a function of how many calls it takes for a salesperson to complete a deal and how effective your sales process is at moving the business forward with each call. If your salespeople “wing it” on client calls, flying by the seat of their pants, then the average number of calls is probably pretty high.
As for the accuracy of projections about when and if the business in the pipeline will materialize, that’s probably pretty low.
A lot of good things happen when a company adopts the Action Selling process, but one especially happy development is that sales cycles get shorter. Another is that sales forecasts get more accurate.
How does that happen? It boils down to two ideas: A solid definition of the Milestones that lead to a deal, and a Selling Process that greases the skids to move deals forward faster.
Defined Milestones + Sales Process = Speed and Accuracy
When a sales force turns pro by adopting Action Selling, their sales cycle is studied and documented. The key events that must occur from initial contact to final sale—the Milestones in the cycle—are identified. Commitment Objectives are then tied to those milestones.
So every salesperson goes into every customer call with a clear idea of what the next Milestone is, and a clear goal for the call, in the form of a Commitment Objective: gain the customer’s agreement to take the steps necessary to reach the next milestone.
The 9 Acts of Action Selling provide the road map for moving the customer along the path to each successive milestone. What’s more, when the Milestones and sales process are consistent among all salespeople, management discovers that pipelines and forecasts become far more reliable.
In a nutshell: It’s quicker and easier to get someplace if you know the route and what to look for along the journey.
Action Selling in ACTION!
Thomas Petroleum, a fuels and chemicals supplier based in Texas, got a couple of pleasant surprises after it trained its sales team in Action Selling.
One was that the training improved the performance of salespeople regardless of their experience levels. “A sales veteran with 50 years of experience used what he learned to close the biggest deal in the company’s history,” says Brad Christiansen, Thomas’ vice president of business development.
But a bigger surprise, Christiansen says, was the effect on the sales cycle and on forecasting accuracy. “Since Action Selling, our sales cycle has gone from 9.8 calls to 5.1 calls—a 48 percent improvement,” he says. “In addition, our sales pipeline has become a reliable projection source rather than a water-cooler list of ‘what the boss wants to see so I can keep my job.'”