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Sales is an art best practiced with discipline and attention to detail. Even the most seasoned salespeople would agree that you cannot wing it when it comes to sales if you wish to build a sustainable pipeline.

Whether you are a newbie to sales or have been in the field for quite some time, there is a lot to gain from learning about the B2B sales cycle stages. We are here to take you through them, so you sell can like a pro.

What is a sales cycle?

A sales cycle is a blueprint that organizations and their salespersons can rely on to boost the efficiency of their sales processes. Stages that follow a chronology to yield smooth conversions and long-term clients make up a sales cycle.

Breaking down your full sales cycle into stages is the best way to establish a sustainable and scalable sales process that leads to real-life conversions. The sales cycle stages enable you to train your sales reps, make sales estimates, and evaluate performance.

What are the benefits of having a sales cycle?

An established sales cycle brings several benefits to all aspects of a business. These are some qualitative and quantitive benefits you can expect to achieve:

  • Adds structure to the sales process and makes tracking the prospect’s journey easier by clearly defining stages
  • Simplifies sales rep training by creating a scalable model
  • Fosters an effective team structure by letting you quantitatively assess the sales rep's performance
  • Makes measuring the efficacy of the current sales process and forecasting revenue simpler
  • Aids in turning customers into long-term synergistic partners

Who needs a sales cycle?

Whether you are a one-person army or lead a team of salespeople, a sales cycle allows you to track and evaluate performance objectively. This transparency aids constant evaluation and growth to improve your sales process. Knowing the stages of a sales cycle can leave you with wisdom, whether you are an entrepreneur, salesperson or marketing professional.

The seven stages of a B2B sales cycle

You may find a few variations of the B2B sales cycle stages. They are all built on the same foundational concepts. For this article, we will break the sales cycle into seven stages.

1. Prospect

Prospecting is like planting the right seeds to yield the results you desire. It is the first and most valuable stage of the sales process.

When prospecting, control lies with the salesperson. This stage needs to consist of strategies to discover your target customers and generate sales-qualified leads (SQLs).

Your strategies need to have a 360-degree approach, so you do not leave out any business on the table. Take into account the people you know, people your salespeople know, and brand new prospects you can discover through tools and campaigns.

Upon prospecting, your lead enters the sales pipeline and waits to enter the next stage of your sales cycle.

2. Connect

As the name suggests, connect is the stage where you make first contact with the leads you have prospected in the last step.

Today, there are multiple methods of making first contact- at an in-person event, getting an introduction through someone, connecting on a professional social media platform like LinkedIn, or even writing an email (preferred by eight out of ten prospects).

Choose your first-contact method wisely. It can play a significant role in how the rest of your sales process with the client goes. The purpose of connecting is not to make the sale right away but rather to introduce yourself, present your solution, identify the decision-makers, and gauge interest so you can transition them to the next stage.

‍3. Discovery

The Discovery step of the stages of a sales cycle is the part where you determine how precise your prospecting was. Once you establish first contact with your prospect and they agree to learn more about the solution you have to offer, the natural progression is to arrange a discovery call.

A discovery call is your chance to understand the prospect's pain points and empathize. It is also when you know if your solution can solve their problem and if they have the capacity and intention to adopt what you are offering.

Research shows about 50% of prospects are not a good fit for what you sell. At the end of the discovery call, you will be able to ascertain if you are a good fit for your prospect’s needs. You can also base your next stage basis the information you have received at the discovery stage.

‍4. Present

The Present stage is your time to be the showstopping salesperson and sweep your client off their feet.

If you assess your prospect as a good fit after the discovery call, you can invite them for a presentation meeting. You can use a sales pitch for this stage. Having a visual presentation makes your overall presentation more effective too. If you are a SAAS company, you can use this stage of your software sales cycle stages to give the prospect a demo of your platform.

Always allow room within your sales presentation to customize for your prospect and address the pain points they mentioned on the discovery call. Customization makes the prospect feel heard and cared for.

5. Objections

Objections, concerns, and questions can come in from your prospect while you are in the presentation stage or after it. 

Every sale comes with objections to be managed, but the scale of these in each may vary. 35% of salespeople mention overcoming price objections as their biggest challenge.

Consider how you handle the objections as a part of your presentation. However, instead of reassuring the benefits of your product/service, assure the client of your competency as a team and that they would enjoy working with you in the long run. Resolve your prospect’s concerns with confidence, objectivity, and empathy.

6. Deal won

This is an exciting stage of the sales cycle! Closing the deal or as the salespeople say, “asking for the close.”

Once you have resolved your prospect’s objections, it is time to ask them if they are ready to make the purchase. This question can have two possible outcomes. If they say yes, you can proceed with the legalities. In case they say no, you can probe further to find objections.

Prospects who aren’t ready to make the deal yet can be moved back to the previous stage of the sales cycle. You can transition them to the closing stage again once you have cleared any complaints. Do not lose hope; 60% of clients tend to say no four times before they say yes.

7. Follow-up

As the excitement of the sale slowly fades, it is time to pull your socks back up and get to the Follow-up stage.

Following up is a step most salespeople and organizations miss out on, but it holds massive potential. Research shows that about 48% of salespersons do not follow up. Consistent follow-ups help you retain customers and get feedback.

You can also maximize the value you receive from your sale during this stage by getting the client to leave reviews on your listings, website, or social media. If your client is satisfied with your solution, you can also request referrals or up-sell other offerings.

Often ignored, the follow-up stage is one of the stages of the sales cycle that can bring you gains you have not considered and foster relationships that go beyond one sale.

Making the most of your sales cycle

An efficient sales cycle comes about when you constantly track, evaluate, and re-adjust. No cookie-cutter model works for all organizations. Start with a tried and tested foundation like the seven sales cycle stages and build from there.

Encourage discipline and attention to detail among your team while allowing space for conducting the sale comfortably. Having the groundwork right enables you and your salespeople to perform to their maximum potential and get impressive results.

Leverage technology to monitor your prospects as they journey through the stages of the sales cycle. Opt for a sales engagement platform like Outplay that lets you conduct multichannel outreach, create smart sales sequences, and get sales insights, among many other unique features. Sign up today.

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