Many technology service providers I’ve been working with tell me they’re experiencing “long sales cycles,” and they’re right. A recent Gartner study of 506 technology buyers indicated that buying teams spend 16.3 months on average to complete a new IT purchase. That means while some are shorter, some are even longer! You might find this fact surprising. Interestingly, buyers find this surprising as well. Seventy-eight percent of respondents said their last technology purchase, from initial idea to contract signing, took longer than they expected it would.
Why? What are buyers doing with all this time?
- Driving consensus across a diverse team of IT and business participants – buying teams typically comprise of 14 individuals on average, within any function at any level of authority across multiple locations. They bring competing priorities, new perspectives and different criteria for purchasing to a buying decision.
- Performing extensive research across colleagues, partners, analysts, external peers and online information from vendors and independent parties. Just think about when you last bought a car… it was probably not too much different!
- Revising the project’s business case. Business cases are most likely revised repeatedly because of unacceptable cost and risk, the two most frequent objections internally to purchase decisions. These are also the two most time consuming objections to resolve, taking two to three months on average to do so.
- Juggling multiple buying projects. Our research show that on average, buyers are involved in 3-4 buying projects at the same time.
So, what can you do to increase your sales effectiveness given today’s buying behaviour?
- Focus sales and marketing efforts at the stakeholders that can drive consensus within a large buying team. The Challenger Sales Model provides specific guidance on how to identify the individuals that will truly help move your deal forward and those that won’t.
- Avoid using outdated sales expectations and customer communicated intentions to estimate when a deal will close. Instead, evaluate the length of a sales cycle using historical internal data, as well as data from independent research.
- Clearly articulate what impact your solution will have on the business, beyond a list of features or benefits. Establish a strong business case early to reduce effort in revisions, defend against objections, and smooth the many approvals required.
- Help buyers be more efficient with “prescriptive” content and clear recommendations for all stages in the buying cycle. After all, you have a lot more experience with successful purchases of your solution than your prospects do!
Gartner clients can read my full research note on this topic here.