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The Anatomy of the Modern Sales Cycle and How To Master It

It’s no secret that the shift to digital has forever changed the sales cycle as we know it. But two fundamental truths remain the same: Sellers want to be more productive, and B2B buyers want personalized purchasing experiences that help them solve their challenges. 

In the past, sellers prospected through cold calls and emails before building relationships with buyers in person. Sales reps fostered trust at dinners, coffee dates and in-person meetings. But when the pandemic made these interactions impossible, sales reps had to pivot. Now in-person events supplement digital selling activities, not the other way around. 

The digital sales cycle has evolved to become more targeted and insights-driven. Opportunities to engage and build relationships with prospects are dwindling now that buyers have access to so much information online, and through peer groups and networks. 

Let’s dive into the anatomy of the modern sales cycle and how the different phases involved have changed over time so you can master the digital-first sales environment. 

 

Prospecting 

Prospects are qualified potential customers who fit your buyer persona. The goal of prospecting is to start a conversation with a potential buyer, understand their business’ pain points, and determine if your product or service is the right fit for them. 

In today’s digital-first environment, three of the best ways to prospect are: 

  1. LinkedIn and other social selling tools: Sales reps heavily rely on LinkedIn these days to scope out potential buyers. Tools like LinkedIn Sales Navigator help sellers identify the right prospects and build relationships at scale. Sellers who are active on LinkedIn and participate in platform communities can boost their visibility and credibility while establishing themselves as thought leaders in their immediate network and beyond.
  1. Sales engagement software: Digital engagement platforms like Salesloft and Outreach can better support prospecting in the digital environment and integrate with enablement and CRM platforms. This technology provides a data-driven and automated multichannel approach to prospecting that helps sellers understand what works and what doesn’t; seamlessly sync activity information to their Customer Relationship Management tool of choice; and connect with buyers faster and more often—all without sacrificing the personalized experiences buyers crave. 
  1. Additional research: Once sellers have identified a potential buyer, they should dedicate time to get to know their prospect. Sellers should dig into the company’s existing resources such as its website, public financial statements and social media to understand what they do. But it doesn’t stop there; it’s essential to know what their technology stack strategy is and what systems they are using and by whom. I am frequently asked how our technology integrates and what the employee experience will be like. It’s critical you know these details and have enough knowledge to come across as credible and well-versed. By researching the organization and industry to glean priorities and potential challenges, sales reps can identify which sales and marketing content prospects have already interacted with and use it to shape future conversations and inform their win strategy. 
 

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Outreach and buyer engagement 

In a hybrid, digital-first sales environment, sellers have the option to engage digitally and in person. The best approach is a blend of the two.

Online meetings allow sellers to get valuable face time with customers and prospects without added travel time and cost. Calls via Zoom or Microsoft Teams have become integral to the digital sales cycle: Yes, they’re convenient, but more importantly, they let prospects see your face, meaning they’ll be more likely to empathize with and listen to you. 

Video calls also give you the opportunity to gauge a prospect’s reactions and interests during your conversation. If in-person conversations aren’t possible, online meetings are a great way to foster meaningful and authentic relationships outside of your standard phone call or email exchange. Using modern conversational intelligence tools also help companies and their management understand intent signals as well as hone the skills of the sales team making the calls.  

If you’re able to meet up with a prospect in person, I can’t recommend it enough. In-person relationship building simply can’t be beat—grabbing coffee with a friend is more personal and meaningful than chatting with them over FaceTime. The same is true for buyer interactions.  

You almost always need more of a human touch to build trust and close a deal, so it’s critical to have a healthy balance of in-person events and virtual interactions. Make it a priority to have a hybrid experience and not just default to digital interactions. 

 

When buyers consider your solution 

Once a prospect is engaged, its buying team will evaluate and consider different vendors. This is a pivotal step in the sales cycle, as there are more stakeholders involved. You can streamline the process with buyer engagement tools and micro-engagement sites like Seismic’s digital sales rooms

After you’ve connected with the appropriate stakeholders, you need to determine if your platform or service is truly the right fit for the prospect to become a happy customer. Buyer engagement tools help sellers speed up this process and deliver precisely timed content and interaction-specific insights for each stakeholder of the many you’ll encounter. 

With fewer meetings taking place in person, sellers are increasingly dependent on frequent engagement in digital sales rooms, which are microsites where sellers can connect with buyers and partners to share hyper-relevant content and chat in real-time. 

With so much content spread out across different channels, it can be easy for buyers to lose track of a pitch deck or eBook they found helpful. With digital sales rooms, stakeholders have a user-friendly experience they can return to for a single source of truth throughout the entire sales cycle, whether it’s days or months long. It’s also a great way for teammates to access the context and history of your buyer-seller relationship in one place.  

Furthermore, to get the most out of client-facing content, you need data-driven insights into how that content performs. Ask yourself: 

  • How long are customers looking at your content? 
  • What types of content do they prefer? 
  • Are they sharing and/or coming back to it? 

Simply sending a file isn’t enough. Insight into what clients are most interested in is critical for optimizing your selling motions. 

 

Decision-making 

Deciding to close a deal is an ongoing process that moves your buyer’s interest into action, which means decision-making is the intersection between the customer’s buying process and your internal sales process. Buyers take specific steps to evaluate and choose a partner, so as you work through your deals, make sure you have a full grasp of these two components of the decision-making process: 

  • Validation: The buyer’s way of verifying your solution will solve their established requirements and will work as promised. 
  • Approval: The sequence of events required to get contract signatures once validation is completed. While the bones of the sales cycle have gone largely unchanged in the shift to virtual selling, the specific processes involved have adapted to better support digital workflows and the needs of the hybrid buyer. For example, rarely do we physically sign a deal and fax it between offices; instead, we use modern tools to sign contracts electronically. 

Within the modern sales cycle, sellers have the opportunity to deliver captivating, engaging digital experiences through relevant and personalized content all the way through final approval. 

With a thorough understanding of the modern sales cycle and digital sales tools at your disposal, you have everything you need to exceed expectations as a digital seller.


This article is part of the Crunchbase Community Contributor Series. The author is an expert in their field and we are honored to feature and promote their contribution on the Crunchbase blog.

Please note that the author is not employed by Crunchbase and the opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect official views or opinions of Crunchbase, Inc.


  • Originally published August 18, 2022