Managing Long Sales Cycles And Multiple Decision Makers

Paul Reilly discusses what leads to a long sales cycle, and the steps salespeople can take to shorten it.

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Whoever said patience is a virtue never had a sales quota to reach.

One of the biggest challenges facing salespeople is a long sales cycle. Long sales cycles are frustrating. Prospects seem hot and then quickly cool. Salespeople are left in sales limbo. Salespeople stuck in limbo either apply too much pressure or not enough. Too much unwarranted pressure annoys the customer. However, too little pressure and the prospect forgets about you. The end result is a frustrated salesperson and no sale.

The number of decision makers influences the length of the sales cycle. The more decision makers, the longer the sales cycle. According to Corporate Executive Board, the average business-to-business decision making group is 5.4 buyers. It takes longer to sell five people on an idea than one.

Most salespeople don’t gain buy-in from all the decision makers. The goal is to apply the right amount of pressure throughout the entire organization. Light pressure applied constantly helps you stay top-of-mind.

Understanding your customer’s buying process is more than identifying a decision maker. Rather than only identifying who is involved, try to understand the buyer’s process. The goal is to dive deep into their process so you understand how the decision is made. Here are some sample questions to consider:

  • What departments, division, or locations are impacted by this decision?
  • What role will they play in the decision-making process?
  • What internal resources will you use to evaluate or test this solution?
  • Tell me about your budgeting process.
  • How will you make this decision?

The goal is to understand how the decision is made, not just who makes it. By understanding how the decision is made you reveal who is involved. Once you identify the how and who, the next step is understanding individual motivation.

Different decision makers have different motivations. If you want to shorten the cycle, identify what personally motivates each decision maker. What pressure is the decision maker experiencing to purchase your solution? What represents a personal win for each decision maker? Answering these questions reveals the decision makers motivation.

More decision makers are getting involved in the buying process. This creates longer sales cycles. To speed up the cycle, research how your customers buy and who is involved. The next step is understanding the decision maker’s motivation. Identify what motivates each person. Remember, customers buy for their own reasons, not yours.

Paul Reilly, President of Reilly Sales TrainingPaul Reilly, President of Reilly Sales Training

Paul Reilly is president of Reilly Sales Training. Reilly Sales Training is a St. Louis-based, privately owned company that specializes in training sales professionals, sales managers, and service professionals. Reilly Sales Training offers public seminars, in-house sales training programs, and hiring and training assessments. For additional information on our training programs call or e-mail Paul at 636-778-0175 or [email protected]. You can also visit and signup for his free newsletter.

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