A Deep Dive into Navigating Sales Cycles

Learn the secrets to navigate the sales cycles - from qualifying leads to closing deals, with tips to progress opportunities faster.


Have you ever felt like you're fumbling around in the dark when navigating your sales cycle? There are so many moving pieces in the process, from qualifying leads to delivering the perfect pitch, negotiating deals, and closing sales!

Trying to wing your way to closing a deal won’t be effective. You need a detailed structure to help your reps boost conversions and deliver consistent experiences.

This post will dive into the typical sales process and break down each stage. We’ll outline examples of sales processes for both enterprise and transactional sales. You'll discover the step-by-step process of how sales happen and tips to progress and close deals faster.

What’s a Sales Cycle?

A Deep Dive into Navigating Sales Cycles, What’s a Sales Cycle?

A sales cycle refers to the process from that initial contact with a prospect to closing the deal. The process varies significantly across businesses based on product/service complexity, deal size, and other factors.

For example, enterprise SaaS sales cycles could span 4-12 months from prospecting to closure. On the other hand, e-commerce sales cycles may only take a few hours or days.

The sales cycle contains a sequence of predictable stages that sales reps can model their workflow around.

Changes in the Sales Cycle

The sales process today looks quite different compared to even a decade ago. Technological advances and changes in buyer behavior have reshaped the typical stages and length of the sales cycle.

Sales Cycles Then

Before, sales reps held much more power in guiding buyers through the sales process. Reps served as gatekeepers of information about the product/service, and buyers relied heavily on them to educate and convince.

The sales process was very sales-led, with reps directing prospect interactions throughout the cycle. Buyers had limited ability to self-educate before engaging with a sales rep, so they relied heavily on the rep to educate them on the product or service. 

This led to lengthy sales cycles, as the rep needed to build trust and consensus across all buyers involved in the purchasing decision.

Sales Cycles Now

The modern sales cycle is much more buyer-driven. Thanks to the internet, buyers can conduct substantial research before contacting a sales rep. 

The power dynamic has shifted towards buyers holding reps accountable and being well-informed about the offering. Sales cycles are often shorter since buyers have done their own research beforehand. 

The sales rep's role has evolved from controlling product information to guiding educated prospects through the buyer's journey as more of a consultant.

Enterprise Sales Process

Enterprise sales processes are designed for complex, high-value deals with long sales cycles. They involve extensive research and consensus building among multiple decision-makers on the buyer side. 

Here’s what an enterprise sales process could look like based on length, quota, and sales volume:

Sales Cycle Length

A typical enterprise sales cycle is 4-12 months, depending on the price point. The higher the deal value, the longer the sales cycle.

Sales Quota

Quotas are measured monthly or quarterly based on the average cycle length. For example, reps may have a quarterly quota if their average sales cycle is six months.

The extended enterprise sales cycle means reps must plan selling activities, pipeline goals, and quota attainment quarterly or annually. More time is required for nurturing deals and complex negotiation processes.

Sales Volume

Regarding sales volume, reps will close between one and three deals monthly when selling to enterprises. The volume is lower than transactional sales because deal sizes are much larger, often in the six figures.

CRM Stages of an Enterprise Sales Process

 A Deep Dive into Navigating Sales Cycles, CRM Stages of an Enterprise Sales Process

Within an enterprise sales cycle, deals typically progress through stages tracked in the CRM system. Each stage is assigned a percentage weight representing the probability of that deal closing. 

Knowing the weights helps sales reps better forecast expected revenue based on what stage their deals are in.

Below are common enterprise sales stages, along with typical weighting and tips for moving deals forward:

1. Meeting Set

The meeting set stage represents the very beginning when a qualified lead is scheduled on the Account Executive's calendar for an initial discovery call. 

This stage only has a 10% weight since the prospect is still largely unqualified. The meeting sets the foundation to gauge mutual fit and gain insights to advance the deal.

2.  Initial Pitch/Demo

The initial pitch holds more weight at 20% as this is the first opportunity to uncover the prospect's needs, pain points, key decision makers, budget, and other purchase considerations. 

The rep gains crucial insights on tailoring the sales process during the pitch and demo. During the meeting, ask probing questions to uncover pain points and gain vital insights on tailoring the sales process.

3. Reaching Decision Makers

With an enterprise sale, there are typically multiple decision-makers that must buy into the purchase. 

The rep must identify all key players and navigate through the complex buying committee, requiring multiple calls and presentations to build consensus. This lengthy but critical consensus-building stage carries a 40% weight.

4. Proposal Presented

At the 60% weighted proposal stage, the rep formally presents pricing options for any potential pilot program and post-pilot pricing. The proposal seeks agreement on deal terms to support conversion after a successful pilot.

During this stage, the rep should emphasize the value your solution will provide over the price. Align the proposal with the prospect's priorities and pain points. Also, be ready with answers to any of the prospect’s concerns.

5. Assessment Piloting

The 80% weighted pilot stage represents a significant investment, including full product onboarding, training, and support over an extended duration. The hands-on experience generated here is invaluable for prospect validation and deal confirmation.

Create a detailed scope and success criteria for the pilot. Ensure the prospect is fully supported to generate the hands-on validation to confirm the deal.

6. Negotiation

A Deep Dive into Navigating Sales Cycles, Negotiation

With a 90% weight nearing the finish line, the post-pilot negotiation stage is when the rep and buyer finalize the complete deal package based on the pilot experience — from pricing to contractual terms.

Here, you can decide where to be flexible within limits on deal terms to close the negotiation successfully. Always keep the big-picture value in mind.

7. Contract Sent

The 95% weighted contract stage signifies the deal is nearing completion, with the contract provided to the buyer for any final legal revisions before signing.

To speed up the process, provide a marked-up version of the contract highlighting any edits or changes. Doing so makes it easy for the buyer to review changes. Promptly answer any questions and resolve outstanding issues.

8. Closed Won/Lost

At the 100% probability weight, the deal is finalized as closed, won, or lost. 

For won deals, the contract is signed, invoice paid, and customer onboarding completed to the handoff to Customer Success. 

Start the customer relationship strong by ensuring prompt setup for success.

Transactional Sales Process

Transactional sales involve selling products or services that customers purchase frequently and repetitively, with little need for an extended sales cycle. It usually involves relatively low-priced items that customers buy regularly.

Here’s an example of the characteristics of a typical transactional sales:

Sales Cycle Length

Transactional sales typically have much shorter sales cycles than enterprise sales. They’re usually 1-3 months from initial contact to a closed sale. 

This is because transactional sales involve smaller, recurring purchases that customers make frequently rather than large capital investments. 

Sales Quota

Because transactional sales cycles are shorter, reps focus on closing a high volume of smaller deals each month.

The quick sales cycle means less time spent nurturing deals and negotiating than enterprise sales. Transactional reps can progress from prospecting to closure faster.

Sales Volume

With the transactional sales process focused on recurring sales of lower-priced items, sales reps may close 8-12 deals monthly. Transactional deal sizes are smaller, but the high volume drives recurring revenue through repeat sales.

CRM Stages of a Transactional Sales Process

Since transactional sales cycles are shorter than enterprise deals, the CRM process also has fewer stages to move prospects from lead to customer efficiently. Below are common stages in a transactional CRM process and tips to progress prospects at each point:

1. Meeting Set

The first step is getting the initial sales meeting on the calendar after identifying a qualified lead. The AE marks the lead as qualified or unqualified at this stage before the first pitch. The low 5% weight reflects the early stage. 

2. First Pitch/Demo

A Deep Dive into Navigating Sales Cycles, First Pitch/Demo

The first pitch and product demo are crucial to showcasing your solution's value, understanding the prospect's needs, and differentiating your offering. 

With a 20% weight, the rep is looking to validate pain points and determine if there is a good fit. Make the pitch demo-driven, focus on their pains, and be prepared to answer questions.

3. Proposal Presented

At this stage, pricing is either public or based on selecting a pre-defined package rather than providing a custom proposal. With a 40% weight, the rep presents pricing options to match the prospect's needs and flexibility to upgrade features. 

Ensure you know your target customers to align their needs to packages, demonstrate upgrade value, and create a sense of urgency.

4. Assessment Piloting

The prospect gets hands-on experience with one training call and any automated emails/tips. With a 70% weight, the goal is to make the pilot experience positive. Proactively answer questions and reinforce value.

5. Negotiation

While pricing is fixed packages, the rep can upsell features if available. With an 80% weight, the rep listens for expansion opportunities. 

For a successful upsell, you should uncover other pain points they need to solve and highlight the incremental value of upgrades/add-ons.

6. Contract Sent

Rather than a contract, the prospect reviews terms and conditions. At a 90% weight, legal review should be expedited. Make this stage seamless by addressing any T&C concerns promptly and facilitating quick approvals.

7. Closed Won/Lost

When the deal reaches 100% probability and closes as won, the focus shifts to ensuring a smooth customer onboarding. This includes getting automated billing set up promptly so the customer can start realizing value from the product as soon as possible.

Walk through upcoming onboarding milestones and establish rapport with the post-sale team. The closed won stage is about starting strong customer relationships by facilitating their transition to successful users.

Fine-Tune Your Sales Cycle for Optimal Results

An optimized sales cycle that reflects the customer's journey is critical for businesses seeking to improve sales outcomes. By thoroughly understanding the distinct stages and dynamics involved in a typical sales cycle, sales teams can shorten lead times and increase close rates. 

While specific processes differ across companies, mapping workflows to the buyer's path allows representatives to remain focused on advancing opportunities at each milestone. Equipping reps with stage-specific weightings and tactics keeps deals progressing smoothly to close.

When representatives understand and adapt to customer buying signals, they can nurture leads effectively through each cycle phase. The result is deals that progress rapidly towards close rather than stagnating and leading to stalled growth. 

Fine-tuning the sales cycle to match buyer behaviors can become a competitive advantage that makes hitting targets and forecasts a pattern rather than an anomaly.

Keep Learning How to Optimize Your Sales Cycle

A clearly defined sales workflow aligned to your buyer's journey is crucial to scaling revenue. Want to dive deeper into optimizing your sales process? Check out these related blogs:

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