Shortening Your Sales Cycle: First Steps

Most sales reps have heard their sales managers make requests like, “Just shorten your sales cycle. Thanks!” Since there is no specific action item attached, reps are left to figure out what shortening the sales cycle means and where to start. This is irresponsible sales management at its core – as a sales manager, it is your responsibility to give your reps the tools for success by coaching them.

To coach your reps on shortening their sales cycles, you need to dig deeper into the specific constraints that cause it to be long. Understand your company’s sales cycle vs. loss cycle, evaluate the time opportunities spend in each stage, and meet with your rep to go over specific actions they can take in a certain stage.

Your reps have more power over sales cycle length than they think they do. They can win deals faster and waste less time. But it all starts with the sales manager digging in to the sales cycle and stage lengths so they can coach their reps using the data.

(For even more information about cutting down your sales cycle, check out our FREE guide: How to Shorten Your Sales Cycle.)


Step 1: Understand sales cycle vs. loss cycle

You might have an easier time shortening your loss cycle than shortening your sales cycle. Many companies don’t differentiate between the two – loss cycle is how long an opportunity lasts in the pipeline before ultimately losing, whereas sales cycle is how long it takes for an opportunity to be won. A shorter loss cycle means less time wasted on opportunities that end up losing, which is a great place to start in making your sales team more efficient and productive!

Step 2: Evaluate time spent in each stage

Take a look at how much time opportunities spend in each stage. Do your reps spend a lot of time on early-stage opportunities? If so, then you might focus on strategies to shorten the length of those specific stages. Most SaaS companies see that opportunities spend the most time in qualifying and presenting stages than in later stages, but dig in to make sure the beginning stage lengths are not inappropriately long.

Step 3: Meet with reps individually and discuss specific stage cycles

Spend time one-on-one with your sales reps talking about specific stages in their sales processes. Engage them in a dialogue about what happens in each individual stage, focusing on the stages you’d like to see them shorten.

The graph below shows how long closed-won opportunities spent in each stage during the buying cycle for Company XYZ. Lauren Bacall has the longest sales cycle overall, which is clearly attributed to the fact that closed-won opportunities spend an average of 43.0 days in stage 2 with her.

Why does Lauren spend so much time in the Present Solution Stage? Talk to her about why she gets stuck there for so long. See if you can brainstorm together and come up with specific ways for her to shorten the time spent in that stage.

What other initial steps can you take to shorten your sales cycle?