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The Sales Cycle Demystified: 7 Stages to Close More Deals

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Imagine yourself cruising through deals, surpassing your monthly sales quota with ease. The road ahead seems smooth and obstacle-free, until the harsh reality hits you‌ — ‌you have no clue what the next quarter or even the next month has in store for you. In the fast-paced world of sales, consistency is the holy grail, but without a tried and tested roadmap - or sales cycle-you're essentially driving blindfolded.

While most sales and marketing teams are familiar with the concept of the sales cycle, truly mastering it is an entirely different challenge.

With research revealing over 65% of businesses have witnessed an increase in the length of their sales cycle in the past year, the path from gathering leads to securing the final sale can often feel like a never-ending journey.

Consequently, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are increasingly seeking ways to streamline their sales cycle, close more deals, and enhance their return on investment (ROI).

In this article, well briefly define the sales cycle, breaking down the differences for B2B and B2C enterprises.

We’ll dive into the practical strategies that sales teams can employ to improve and shorten each stage of the cycle.

Leveraging the power behind your customer relationship management (CRM) systems, such as smart automation and data insights will be key elements in driving this transformation.

So strap yourself in; it's time to take control of the wheel and get you (and your team) on the road to sales success.

What is a sales cycle?

You, the savvy business professional, know that a sales cycle is the lifeblood of any company's sales efforts. It's the systematic process your sales reps follow to sell products or services to customers, guiding them from prospects to loyal clients.

A graphic of sales process

By optimizing your sales cycle, you won’t only reduce costs but also enhance your company's overall performance.

A well-defined sales cycle is crucial for achieving sales success and fostering long-term relationships with customers. It empowers your sales team to expertly navigate prospects through the buying journey, ensuring that every interaction is tailored to drive results.

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Why is a sales cycle important?

In today's competitive business landscape, understanding the sales cycle is crucial for scaling your company and staying ahead of the curve. By mastering this vital process, you'll be able to close deals faster, spot-specific actions that contribute to your triumphs or pitfalls, and optimize your strategy for long-term success.

The length of a sales cycle varies depending on factors like your company, product or service, and industry. However, no matter the context, analyzing stage-by-stage conversion rates is essential for pinpointing where leads fall through the cracks.

Graphic of Two-Hands Shaking

Armed with this understanding, you can make informed improvements to your sales process and drive tangible results.

Studies have proven that adopting a formal sales process can lead to a substantial 18% boost in revenue, a 65% increase in individual reps meeting their targets, and an 88% uptick in companies achieving their objectives.

Take a cue from Salesforce, a top-tier CRM provider which harnesses the power of a well-defined sales cycle to manage leads, monitor progress, and seal more deals.

By prioritizing the sales cycle and using it as a strategic tool, you'll be well-equipped to overcome challenges, capitalize on opportunities, and elevate your business performance to new heights.

What's the difference between a B2B and B2C sales cycle?

You might think that all sales cycles are created equal, but you'd be wrong. The B2B and B2C sales cycles are, in fact, worlds apart. If you're a small business owner, understanding the differences between the two is crucial to planning your sales strategy and budget effectively.

First and foremost, the B2B sales cycle tends to be significantly longer than its B2C counterpart, although that's not always the case. For instance, if you're selling to a mom-and-pop shop with only two owner-employees, the sales cycle may not differ significantly from a B2C scenario.

B2B and B2C Sales Differences

The primary difference between B2B and B2C sales cycles lies in the complexity of the offering and the friction with decision-makers. However, for the sake of simplicity, you can break it down like this:

B2C sales involve selling directly to individual consumers and typically have a shorter sales cycle. Thanks to the vast number of individual consumers, there are also more potential leads available for B2C businesses.

The focus, in this case, is on creating an attractive value proposition backed by a compelling marketing campaign to entice consumers to make a purchase quickly.

In contrast, B2B sales (in general) require persuading multiple individuals within a business, such as CFOs, CEOs, and marketing teams. In many instances, this can take several months of meetings, presentations, and email correspondence to build trust and demonstrate the value of the product or service.

Now, let's examine Apple and IBM to gain a deeper understanding of the contrasts between B2C and B2B sales processes.

As you may know, Apple operates in the business-to-consumer (B2C) space, selling products directly to customers through physical stores and online platforms. Their primary objective is to create a seamless, user-friendly experience that caters to a diverse range of clients.

On the other hand, IBM embraces a B2B sales approach, providing technology solutions and services to other businesses. Navigating the complexities of collaborating with multiple decision-makers, customizing offerings, and maintaining lasting relationships is crucial for them.

For you, as a company leader aiming to effectively allocate and manage resources, grasping the nuances between B2B and B2C sales cycles is indispensable.

By pinpointing the specific demands of each sales process, you can fine-tune your strategy and sidestep potential financial setbacks that may result from inadequate foresight.

What are the 7 stages of a sales cycle?

In this section, you'll uncover the seven crucial stages of a sales cycle that every high-performing sales pro needs to master. We'll walk you through each step, from savvy prospecting to closing deals like a champ.

 Graphic of Sales Cycle Stages

Further to this, we'll define how automation via a CRM with sales enablement can assist sales professionals at each stage, shortening the sales cycle, increasing sales, and saving your team and money.

1. Identifying potential leads

Identifying potential leads, or prospecting, focuses on adding new leads to the sales cycle, making sure that the sales pipeline doesn’t run dry.

It's undoubtedly one of the most arduous legs of the sales race, and for good reason. Sales reps need to put in the leg work here in order to turn contacts into leads. The math is simple — the more leads in the funnel, the more chances there are to close a deal.

However, even a thousand leads in the pipeline mean nothing if they are the wrong type of lead.

This is where the ideal customer profile (ICP) comes into play. Where the ‘target customer’ describes any prospect that may by your product or service, the ICP defines prospects who are the most likely to buy and have the potential highest customer lifetime value (CLV).

Develop an organization-wide ICP

Developing an ICP is essential in targetting the right leads, at the right place at the right time.

And the good news there are several ways you can leverage your CRM to define the psychographics of accounts that are likely to become your company’s most valuable customers.

Firstly, draw on the qualitative and quantitative data stored in your CRM to find your ‘best’ customers- clients that have the longest lifetime value, are quick to convert and are the most profitable.

Next, using available analytics, evaluate what these customers have in common. This may include their geographic location, industry or business size.

Finally, establish why these customers have chosen you over your competitors. How does your product solve their problem?

By employing a CRM with sales enablement built in such as TigerLRM, teams can ensure this data is readily available. Through automating record creation from incoming emails and web forms, sales professionals have access to clean, accurate data sets that help define your ICP.

Your ICP is an organization-wide, foundational concept that will have wide-reaching effects on the way you conduct business — all the way from the C-suite to the sales floor. When leveraged effectively, a focus on your ICP will align all members of your team, focusing on attracting and retaining customers that will have the highest long term value.

Teams can then use their CRM to automate scalable, targeted sales tactics to establish contact with these target accounts.

2. Establishing contact

When reaching out to B2B leads, your approach should be more professional and personalized. Focus on demonstrating your understanding of the prospect's industry and needs, and avoid using overly sales-driven language.

You may need to establish contact with multiple decision-makers within the organization, emphasizing the value your product or service can bring to their business. When you do, it's super important to ensure your communications are personalized.

With TigerLRM, you can effortlessly establish contact with multiple decision-makers within the organization, highlighting the value your product or service brings to their business.

And, TigerLRM's outreach campaigns are more than just email campaigns‌ — ‌they blend email and SMS messages for extended, personalized drip campaigns, ensuring your approach is tailored to your prospect's industry and needs.

As we’ve already touched upon, B2C outreach tends to be more casual and mass-oriented. If that's your audience, you'll want to use attention-grabbing messaging to pique consumer interest and drive engagement.

TigerLRM helps you ‌do just that by integrating platforms like email, social media, and mobile apps to reach a broad audience and drive engagement. Plus, with TigerLRM’s built in sales enablement, your salespeople can get up to speed with the best ways to make contact and drive sales.

If everything mentioned above isn't enough, get ready for a game-changing TigerAI Assistant based on ChatGPT. Soon to be available in the application, this innovative feature will revolutionize your sales process, making establishing contact smoother and more effective than ever before.

3. Assessing potential

Assessing potential leads, or lead qualification, is essential in streamlining your sales cycle and gaining the most value from the hard work you’ve put in up until this point. Qualifying leads and determining whether they'll convert makes sure your sales processes aren't choked by bottlenecks.

Sales teams can employ the following CRM strategies to qualify leads and assess their potential.

Leverage lead scoring

Lead scoring is a methodology used by sales teams to determine how likely a prospect is to purchase the product or service on offer. A lead is assigned a score out of 100 based on the probability of them becoming a paid customer. Lead scores are determined by various behaviors and explicit and implicit attributes displayed by the prospect. While most teams are probably using some form of lead scoring to inform their sale cycle, they may not be making the most of this valuable data.

By using a CRM in your lead qualification process, you can define your prospects via the lead source, their digital behavior, firmographic data and their geo-location. This can be used in your lead scoring matrix to determine where your reps should focus their energies.

Additionally, you can use your CRM to ensure sales reps are assigned to clients in their field of expertise, and/or physical location to further shorten this stage of the sales cycle.

Qualification checklist

In addition to determining a prospects lead score, the following prospect qualification checklist will help to determine whether a lead is worth chasing or whether a reps energy can be better spent elsewhere:

  • Is the prospect interested in your product or service?

  • Does the prospect recognize how your product or service will solve their problem?

  • Can the prospect afford your product or service?

  • Is the prospect the key decision maker?

A smart CRM will allow you to track all your team’s interactions with leads up to this point, providing quick access to the above information without the need to chase people up or do ​​Sherlock Holmes style detective work.

Sales staff who are used to storing ‌customer information in old school notes, spreadsheets, and the original cloud storage-their memory- may initially find this move to a SaaS-based system daunting and impersonal. At TigerLRM, we have a team of experts to onboard your staff, along with long term technical support to ensure your teams ongoing success.

4. Delivering presentations

So you’ve identified your lead, made initial contact, and qualified and identified the highest value prospects. Now comes‌ the most crucial stage in the cycle, presenting what you have to offer.

Tailoring your presentation to a potential client is essential to effectively communicate the value of your offering.

For B2B presentations, you'll want to focus on addressing the unique needs of each prospect. Showcase how your product or service can alleviate ‌specific pain points and deliver measurable benefits.

Emphasize ROI, cost savings, and the strategic advantages your offering brings to their organization. By speaking directly to their concerns, you'll be better positioned to close the deal.

On the other hand, B2C sales presentations often require a more product-centric and emotionally-driven approach. Concentrate on highlighting the features and benefits of your offering, illustrating how it can enhance consumers' lifestyles, or solve a particular problem they face.

It’s at this stage that a cohesion between your sales and marketing team is vital. The sales team needs to know exactly how and where the lead has been marketed to. This is where a CRM is invaluable. Having access to a single database that details all previous interactions democratizes stakeholder knowledge, and increases the likelihood of closing a deal exponentially.

With the help of TigerLRM, your sales and marketing team can:

  • See exactly where a prospect is in the pipeline

  • Ensure client data isn't lost when a team member moves on

  • Communicate interdepartmentally in an instant

  • Share goals, meeting notes and data to create shared, actionable reports

  • Access training materials, templates, and sales examples in the Media Center

  • Automate the movement of leads along the sales cycle

5. Addressing concerns

Addressing the concerns of your customers must be a priority whether you're going after B2B or B2C sales.

For B2B, this often involves handling complex questions and objections about product specifications, pricing, and implementation. Be prepared to offer in-depth, fact-based answers and provide case studies or testimonials to support your claims. The smartest teams know how and when to delegate these interactions — for technical concerns — staff should pass the conversation to people in the tech department who can offer real insight, rather than generic marketing platitudes.

Remember that demonstrating expertise and credibility is crucial in building trust with B2B prospects.

For B2C sales, addressing concerns usually revolves around addressing consumer hesitations about product quality, pricing, and support. In this context, it's essential to provide clear, concise information and address any misconceptions or doubts.

Leverage customer reviews and testimonials to showcase the value and reliability of your product or service. Remember, a gigantic pillar of sales success lies in your ability to reassure and instill confidence in your customers — so listen carefully and tackle their concerns head-on.

6. Finalizing the sale

Closing a B2B deal often involves more extensive negotiations, including hashing out contract details, pricing structures, and payment terms. The decision-making process can be lengthy, as multiple decision-makers within the organization may need to sign off on the purchase.

Patience, patience, more patience, persistence, and flexibility are key in navigating these negotiations.

In contrast, B2C sales cycles generally have a quicker and more straightforward closing process. Consumers typically make faster purchasing decisions, and negotiations are often limited to discounts or special offers.

Focus on creating a seamless and convenient buying experience.

Track your time

Using your CRM for sales forecasting can be an invaluable tool at this stage of the cycle. Forecasting allows your team to predict and assign estimated closing dates, along with the likelihood of closing the deals. You can manage where your leads are in the pipeline, identify bottlenecks, and recognize when and where energy needs to be channeled. When deals fall through, your CRM allows you to record why, identifying patterns that are impeding sales across the board.

7. Fostering relationships

Building long-lasting relationships is crucial in B2B sales, as satisfied clients can lead to repeat business, referrals, and valuable partnerships.

Some of the best ways to foster relationships and make sure they last a long time is to stay in regular contact with your customers. You should be providing ongoing support and identifying opportunities for upselling or cross-selling.

Establishing a reputation as a trusted partner can result in significant long-term benefits for your business.

While fostering relationships is also important in B2C sales, the approach is typically more transactional. In that case, focus on providing excellent customer service, addressing any post-purchase concerns, and encouraging customer loyalty through promotions or loyalty programs.

Remember, positive experiences can lead to repeat business, positive reviews, and word-of-mouth referrals.

Elevate your sales cycle with TigerLRM

The sales cycle framework has been around since its pre-internet development in 1981. And while the concept still has doubtless merit, understanding the cycle’s ongoing evolution in the context of a digitally saturated marketplace is essential for teams looking to shorten each stage and close the maximum amount of deals.

Companies who resist the move to a digital first engagement model will quickly find themselves falling behind the competition.

By leveraging TigerLRMs CMS and sales enablement platform, you can turn to detailed analytics to predict potential clients with increased accuracy, understand and mitigate their pain points and engage them as quickly and proactively as possible.

Ready to take your sales up a notch? Introducing TigerLRM: A robust CRM solution with embedded sales enablement tailored for small to medium-sized enterprises. Unleash the power of custom playbooks, streamlined content management, and an all-inclusive learning management system — sign up and secure your spot today!

How to assign a user to become a sales enablement professional in your TigerLRM Dashboard.

To assign a sales enablement user, simply go to Administrator > User Management > Edit User.

Once you are on the user's information, you can select if you want them to be "Non-Admin," "Admin," or part of the "Enablement Team." Save this information, and your desired user will have the right access.

You can access your Dashboard here.