Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Real Impact of Extended Buying Cycles

Ann Holland pumps out more good marketing facts and ideas in her Marketing Sherpa newsletter than the next 20 of us combined. A few titles she has provided to readers include:

>> Press Releases vs Blogs: 5 Ways to Catch Reporters' Attention in the Internet Age

>> How to Market to the Government: Top 5 Challenges & Solutions

>> Help Wanteds: 27 New Jobs + Post Your Own Opening


So without embellishing her words from a recent article in her newsletter -- "How to Create & Use an Audio Testimonial Library to Shorten Your Sales Cycle" -->

Last year, 67% of surveyed b-to-b marketers said their average cycle was six months or less. Now the tide has turned, and 55% of surveyed b-to-b marketers say their average cycle is *more* than six months.
All of us must understand the impact of sales cycles that are getting longer and longer. This adds a tremendous burden to the cost of sales and marketing. But it also demands that we develop better marketing and sales processes designed to guide a buying committee over nearly a year before they make a final vendor decision.

Profess Process! Write it on your whiteboard a thousand times. Take out a Sharpie permanent ink pen and write it in the palm of your hand. Tatoo it on the back of your eyelids.

Change how you go to market:

Look at it first from the customer's point of view. What is the value that the customer is looking for. Then back up one step at a time and build a process that will deliver this value. It's called value stream mapping and Microsoft Visio or some other flowcharting software should become your best friend. Get internal buyin from senior management, from the marketing team and from the sales team.

Change the culture:

Marketing is not the lead and sales is not the lead ... instead the two of us must get our collective house in order. Know each step in the value stream map for each particular prospect walking toward a 9-month decision. Know what marketing and sales should each be doing at each of these steps. Stop the infighting over "control" ... there's no longer time for the debate over whether a sales rep or a direct marketing specialist or a contact center rep owns the prospect. Everyone owns the prospect, but in a time-shifting flow. Communicate with one another. Capture knowledge together. Make decisions together. Close the sale together. Win together.

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