5 Stages of the New Sales Cycle

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Generating and converting leads is mostly what marketing is about. Creating happy customers is mostly what generates long-term profit.

koocbor via Flickr

In this pursuit, marketers have long realized there is a definite cycle that must occur in most businesses in order to get a prospect’s interest and then turn that interest into dollars.

Many businesses have differing cycles depending upon the complexity or cost of the purchase being considered. Some have cycles that are triggered by events, such as the birth of a child or start of a business.

The sales cycle, like most every other aspect of marketing, has been impacted dramatically by the Internet, the content and information glut and a prospect’s ability to block uninvited messages.

Today’s sales cycle contains distinct segments and smart marketers understand they must build new touchpoints, content and processes to address the logical progression of prospect to raving fan in order to compete in today’s world.

Below are the 5 stages in the new sales cycle.

Listen – The very first stage of the sales cycle today involves intent listening. Prospects today serve up a buffet of information via social media and we can gain incredible access to their challenges, requests, chain of command and recent changes – basically a selling road map – if we only listen.

Sparkle – Nobody talks about boring businesses. To create awareness these days you must communicate a clear difference, create content people readily choose to share and actively participate in dozens of outposts frequented by your ideal prospects. Getting noticed these days is less about shouting and more about sparkling.

Educate – One awareness is created we must build trust for our products, services, solutions and expertise. Again, content – both in the form of written word and spoken teaching is what sells.

Convert – Lead conversion, or what most small businesses still refer to as selling, is a profoundly changed activity in this model. If the sales cycle has been followed to this point, there is very little selling that remains. The job here is to make sure the prospect can see how they can get the desired results with your solution. This is still an education and content play, but now it’s all about showing proof and forecasting results in your system or process.

Listen – The final stage of the sales process is a return to listening – but now we are listening to a customer. We are listening for what works, what doesn’t, how to get better results, how to measure results, how to engage them further and how to turn a thrilled customer into a highly active referral source.

A happy customer is the most powerful lead generation tool in the new marketer’s tool chest and creates the kind of business building momentum that makes this a pretty simple game.


Sales cycle

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  1. All of these points are so very necessary in today’s sales world. I especially like #2 – Sparkle. A lot of reluctant sales people have a hard time with this one, but it’s often the most important. You have to answer the “why should I care” question or you’ll never gain any traction.

    1. Good point Megan.

      In my opinion, the primary problem with starting sales discussions or closing contracts is the inability to articulate the value proposition. 

      We must address this point quickly because all prospects are busy and will not take the time to translate a company’s offerings to understand how they solve their specific problems. 

      Answer these questions without being asked. 

      Why should I spend my time talking to you? What problem do I have that you have solved for others and how did you do it? And finally, why should I accept you as my company’s change agent? How will you reduce my personal risk and make the transition as painless and risk free as possible?

      The trick is to start out the initial conversation with the knowledge of the problems the prospect is facing. Do the research. Take the time to know everything you can about the company before contacting the decision maker.

  2. Exactly!  One of these inaccuracies is not listening to the needs of the audience, which allows you to generate relevant content.

  3. Creating the Best Buying Experience for your customers is the most sustainable competitive advantage you can hope for. I recommend you consider mapping your selling activities, regardless of methodology, to the way your customers buy. Buyer’s needs and priorities change as they navigate through buying cycles. Instead of focusing on “our” internal definition of a  “sales cycle” , we should align our tactical marketing and sales activities around the “buying cycle”. This change in perspective shifts the focus to buyers.

    1. Thanks John, I guess that’s what this process does – although I would caution, if you shift too far to the buyer’s focus you can fall off the mark as well – in many cases the buyer thinks they need what they need because someone else told them that – part of our job is to teach them what and how they really might need something from our experience.

  4. Consumers no longer want the hassles of long lines, pushy salespeople, telemarketers or wasteful junk mail in their mailboxes. Gone are the days of door-to-door sales, expensive direct mail campaigns and newspaper ads. Welcome to the age of YouTube and Presidential Campaign candidates embracing Social Media Networking.

  5. Hi John,

    Excellent article here.

    We should note the process starts and ends with listening. Before you do anything else, listen. Put your ear to the street. Find out what people need help with, determine their challenges, hopes, dreams. With these ideas in mind you can effectively build a targeted marketing campaign, for you have already found the bulls-eye.

    As for finishing off with listening, this is another critical point many marketers miss out on. I call it lead frenzy. In a frenzy to generate more business, you forget the most powerful lead generator under the sun: a happy customer. Listen, learn, innovate.

    Luv the note of “sparkling”, BTW, super creative and visual.

    Thanks for sharing your insight John.


    1. Thanks Ryan – yes it does all begin and end with listening – it’s not just a nice thing to do either, it’s extremely practical.

  6. I like that you’re part of the wave of people saying “listen first”, it’s astounding how often I see people pitching on what they like & want over what their customer like & wants and it comes back to that basic understanding on listening to what your customer is saying.

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