The difference between long and short sales cycle

A sales process is a vital aspect of every business. There are many ways and strategies to engage prospects and turn them into leads and customers.  And, of course, there are a lot of creative software solutions, such as the ConvertMore callback widget that can help you optimize your sales process. However, it’s still a complex journey with many steps in between. Depending on your industry, type of business, and similar factors, your sales funnel can be shorter or longer. But what’s the difference? And which one is better? It depends on what you sell, who you sell to, and on what scale. The more expensive and high-risk your product is, the longer your sales cycle tends to be. However, both options come with their advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, knowing the difference between long and short sales cycles and when to use them is vital.

A brief definition of the cycle in sales

This term refers to a repeatable and tactical process that sales reps use to convert prospects into customers. The main advantage of having this process in place is that you always know where your lead is in the sales funnel and what to do next. If done well, it’s efficient and effective. It helps you boost your website sales and phone sales. In addition, it enables you to identify good practices and repeat your success or improve what doesn’t work well. However, this cycle will be different for different industries and individual businesses. Its length may vary depending on many factors.

What is a long sales cycle?

The name says it all – a lot of time passes from the prospect’s first interaction with your business to finally making a purchase. But how long is long? It will depend on your industry type – it might be weeks, months, and sometimes more than a year.

Why does it take so long to complete the cycle? The main reason is that prospects do a lot of research and compare different products. They have many questions to ask, usually because they’re looking for a long-term, expensive solution to their problem. They’re investing a lot and want to ensure the product is worth it. For the same reason, the long sales process usually involves demos, trial periods, or negotiations. In other words, the more expensive and specialized your product is, the more time it will take to sell. Of course, there are both advantages and disadvantages to this approach.

a sales rep introducing himself
A longer sales cycle enables you to get to know your clients better and vice versa

The pros of a long cycle

One of the main advantages is that the long process enables you to build an excellent rapport with your customers. Having many quality interactions boosts engagement and creates strong bonds of trust. Businesses that want to improve their online conversion rates always look for ideas on how to increase user engagement on website. The reason is that meaningful interactions and providing value show your prospect you care about their needs and appreciate their wishes and discounts. In the long run, it helps you form a loyal, returning customer base.

Also, we’ve mentioned that these long sales take a lot of time due to the product’s high value. But it also means that closing the deal means higher profit for your business. The high payoff makes this process worth your time.

The cons of a long cycle

Naturally, there are some disadvantages and challenges, too. Besides being time-consuming, it may drain your resources for a questionable payoff. You can’t always be sure the prospect will buy from you, so there’s a lot of uncertainty and doubt. In addition, a longer window of time means your competitors can interfere and steer your prospect away.

Also, tracking your leads through the sales funnel becomes more challenging. You always have to know what stage they’re at and what’s the next step. The long cycle requires a lot of follow-ups and tracking. Unfortunately, a valuable customer can easily slip through the cracks occasionally.

a sales team discussing data
In both short and long sales cycles, tracking data can be a challenge

What is a short sales cycle?

On the other hand, the short cycle means it needs fewer steps and usually requires less than a month to complete. It’s more common in retail and similar industries than in high-tech or business solutions and software. The process is shorter because customers can research independently rather than having multiple interactions with a salesperson. Prospects often decide to buy based on their emotions, taste, and preferences rather than research and comparison.

The pros of a short cycle

There are quite a few advantages to this process:

  • you’ll reach a more significant number of customers
  • increase in the sales volume leads to higher revenues
  • the results are quickly visible
  • it boosts your sales reps’ motivation
  • let’s also not forget that many customers prefer a shorter sales cycle.

The cons of a short cycle

Of course, there are always disadvantages, too. Tracking customer interaction is still challenging, although in a different way. There are so many prospects that it’s next to inevitable to miss some opportunities. Because they make decisions quickly, a momentary lapse can lead to turning to your competitors or losing interest. For the same reason, customers are likelier to be unhappy with their purchase or buy the wrong product. Unfortunately, this is likely to negatively impact your customer service.

a smiling prospect
In a shorter sales cycle, prospects often base their decisions on emotions

The main differences between long and short sales cycles

So, the main difference lies in the type of product you sell and how high-risk it seems to your prospects. While in short sales, you still build rapport with your leads, it’s of lesser depth and duration. The long sales process means you must personalize and tailor your approach to suit your potential client, leading to a more meaningful relationship. Also, a longer cycle brings higher revenue, but you’ll lose more if the prospect decides not to purchase from you.

Should you shorten your sales cycle?

A shorter cycle means you have more sales opportunities, and you can reap the benefits faster. It drives your sales and helps your business grow. So, it’s a good idea to shorten your sales cycle whenever possible. For example, you can schedule sales phone calls to better organize your long-term projects and keep track of where your prospects are in the sales funnel. However, finding the right balance is the key. If shortening your sales process doesn’t leave time for building trust and ensuring the sale, it’s not worth it.

The bottom line

Now you know the difference between short and long sales cycles; it’s up to you to use the one that suits your business best. Combining both can also be a good idea depending on the products you have to offer. Considering their advantages and disadvantages will help you make the right choice and boost your business.


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