Do you know the sales cycle for your B2B solution? Does it reflect what happens in real life, the best approach your salespeople should use, and the support marketing delivers? Or does it just fit your CRM system?

This isn’t an academic sales ops question. If B2B marketers and salespeople don’t know the sales cycle in detail how can they design lead generation and nurturing programmes that generate business? How can they create the content that supports moving opportunities through the pipeline?

ISales Discusssionn my experience, most sales cycles are product and market-specific but few CRM systems and marketing processes support this view, so a ‘generic’ sales cycle is adopted. This can be detrimental to sales. For example, your company might know that an early demo can clinch a deal, but they don’t build it into the sales cycle because it’s only applicable to certain solutions.

In addition, there’s lots of ‘evidence’ provided by internet marketing companies, to show that buyers are quite far down the sales cycle before they talk to a sales person. But this is a bit of a myth because:

  1. Lack of objectivity. It’s hardly surprising that research sponsored by Google and other social marketing companies suggests that social and digital marketing is of growing importance in the sales cycle. They are, but “57% of the decision process is complete before the customer’s first engagement with a salesperson” and similar statements are unreliable, to say the least. There are nuances that this ‘research’ doesn’t aim to reveal; most people use the internet for research, but that doesn’t mean they’ve entered the sales/buying cycle.
  2. The Sales Cycle doesn’t start with research. It depends on upon how you define the sales process. Where’s the start/finish? Real sales (as opposed to order-taking) is where the salesperson identifies a solution that the customer hadn’t considered. So although other “research” suggests that the buyer is as much as 85% through the buyer cycle, the sales process starts again once the sales person engages!
  3. B2B is not a market segment. There are huge differences between selling an MRP system, outsourced HR service, and a nuclear power station. The sales cycle and the amount of ‘self-service’ will vary as does the role of sales people within the sales cycle (I’m assuming that Marketing takes ownership for the entire customer journey).
Sales Cycle Example

Sales Cycle Example

So why is it so difficult for Sales and Marketing to identify the real sales cycle, and work together to pursue sales?

Further reading:

Have I missed some important points? Please add a comment.