Define the Sales Cycle
Step one is to fully understand what buyers are actually procuring when they buy a product. Is it truly just the product itself or is it the trust and safety you offer as a reliable supplier. Cat food is just cat food unless it's tainted by melamine.
Usually the sales cycle is not about the things your sales reps say and provide. Especially in a B2B environment, there are countless ways the prospect will need support and information that will involve many internal organizations. The reps should coordinate all the activities associated with this process, but they aren't likely to do it all.
Tighten the Process
To tighten a process that you've adequately defined, eliminate inefficiencies that create consternation for your reps or your customers. If, for example, providing a price quote is an agonizing exercise for your reps, find the bottlenecks and install processes to streamline quotes. If customers aren't getting pristine engineering test samples, work out a program that will allow reps to easily ship units that are well tested. If customers can't get answers to questions during a qualification period, apply resources to remedy the problem.
The point is to make the buying process easier and less painful for the customer than do your competitors. If your products are at least as good as competitive offerings and if your price is in the ballpark, the positive relations you create by being easy to buy from will make their decision easy.
How to Find Issues
Some customers will tell your executives where problems lie. More often, however, executive-to-ecutive exchanges will be too superficial. But your sales people will get harangued by their buyers about any festering issues. It is critical that your executives seek unvarnished feedback from your reps on any inadequate performance. If the management style at your company isn't open and insistent on this kind of honest feedback, you'll never know where the problems are. Hidden problems can't be fixed.
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