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How To Adapt Business Strategies For Prolonged Sales Cycles

April 2, 2024

by Faraz Hamedani

While prolonged sales cycles pose many challenges for services companies, continued investment in growing your business can set up your business for future success. Make sure to adapt your sales cycles with these expert tips. 

In early 2023, economic uncertainty forced many companies to reduce their budgets. As a result, buyers were slower to make decisions, leading to prolonged sales cycles for many services firms.  

While this continues to pose several challenges for service providers, there are still opportunities for companies to grow and develop. To remain competitive and set themselves up for long-term success, companies must be dynamic and continue to invest in their business.

By looking to the future, re-evaluating how to market their services, and investing in innovation, services firms can not just survive but thrive, even when the economic climate is less than ideal.

5 tips to grow your business with prolonged sales cycles

5 Tips To Grow Your Business With Prolonged Sales Cycles

  1. Prepare For When The Market Ticks Back Up
  2. Be Aggressive in How You Market Your Business 
  3. Identify Ways To Make Your Sales Process More Efficient
  4. Focus on Your Core Strengths
  5. Look Towards the Future

Prepare For When The Market Ticks Back Up

The truth is that the market is cyclical and though businesses had constrained budgets for much of 2023, many expect the market to rebound by the end of this year.

It takes extensive time and resources for companies to build and expand their business. While some companies downsize their teams during times of economic uncertainty, doing so after investing in finding and training high-quality talent can have a detrimental effect on your business going forward.

If you’ve spent the last 10 years growing from a single person shop to 10–50 person operation, you would lose years of investments if you begin to reduce headcount. When you let team members go, you risk losing client relationships and the ability to serve more clients when the pipelines are back to critical mass. At the same time, this provides an opportunity for your competition to fill the gaps you leave open.

Ensuring that you have the team in place to take on new projects when demand inevitably returns can set up your business for success in the long run. Doing so, though, may require you to temporarily cut into your own margins to ensure that you have adequate pipelines to maintain your business. 

Be Aggressive in How You Market Your Business 

Even though budgets have decreased and sales cycles are longer, there is still demand.

While some services firms choose to cut back on their budgets and reduce spending, this strategy can only slow down growth. In order to expand your business or even maintain it during economic downturns, you need to continue to invest in sales and marketing.

To get a piece of the pie, you need to remain aggressive in how you appeal to potential buyers. With restricted budgets, it may take longer to convert customers because multiple stakeholders are involved, the process to approve projects takes longer, and project scopes may change throughout the process.

If you know that you need to convert a set number of clients to keep your team productive and business successful, but conversion rates are lower, you need to generate even more leads to fill that gap caused by lower conversion.

Even if demand has shrunk and the size of the pie is smaller than usual, it becomes even more valuable to get a slice. To do so requires you to market more aggressively and invest in lead generation.

While your cost per acquisition may increase at this time, it will pay off in the long run. By continuing to invest in marketing, you can ensure that you have an adequate pipeline to keep your team busy and your business running smoothly. 

Identify Ways To Make Your Sales Process More Efficient

In addition to generating leads, companies need to focus on converting potential buyers as well. The best way to do that is to examine your sales process to identify where your team can be more efficient — consider where in the sales funnel you are losing potential customers and how you address your client’s pain points at that stage.

For instance, if you lose the interest of potential customers after demos or pricing, consider what could be causing this drop off and how you can address it. You may need to change how you highlight your offerings, and instead of just explaining your pricing structure, explain what they can expect to gain.

This process can help you understand your clients needs so you can optimize your sales strategy and increase your conversion rates — each deal mitigates the challenges of longer sales cycles, but winning a deal may require you to change up your pitching strategy.

Focus on Your Core Strengths 

In periods of diminished demand, concentrating on your company’s greatest strengths can help you maximize returns from your marketing and operational efforts. Intentionally focusing on the channels you’ve had the most success in is a great way to focus on where you know you have proven ROI.

While you do need to navigate some uncharted territory and find new growth levers, focusing on what you know and what works should be the first part of an execution plan.

Rather than dispersing efforts too thinly across multiple fronts, this strategy allows you to allocate resources efficiently, enhancing the quality and value of your core offerings. By doubling down on what you do best, you can differentiate your business from competitors, foster brand loyalty among existing customers and attract new ones.

This approach not only helps in navigating through challenging economic times but also lays a solid foundation for future growth when market conditions improve.

Look Towards the Future 

Even when conversion rates are low and it’s taking longer to convert potential clients, it’s absolutely critical that you understand where there are gaps in your business and where the market is heading so you can prepare your business for the future.

Think about where your client’s needs are today and what they will be five years from now — how will your business adapt to meet those needs? And what do you need to accomplish to position your business as industry leaders when the market rebounds?

Consider how artificial intelligence is changing the services landscape, for instance. Although AI has been around for years, it gained traction in 2023 as companies began marketing it for consumers. While AI can be a tool to help you lower your costs temporarily, that may not be the most effective use of AI when you’re looking to grow your business.

Over the next few years, we anticipate that clients will expect firms to use AI for lower level tasks, such as low-coding, enabling the rest of their team to work on higher level tasks, providing more value.

For services firms, this means that they need to start building up the experience and portfolio needed to attract potential customers when the market evolves. To take their business to the next level, service firms may need to take on specific types of projects or hire talent with new, valuable skill sets to stay competitive over the next few years.

Of course, this requires businesses to dedicate more resources to innovation  — upper level management needs to carve out time, establish behaviors, and set the groundwork needed to foster innovation. Even more importantly, business leaders need to collect data to form insights into where the market is heading.  

While innovation requires a significant investment that may not pay off in the short-term, it does set your business up to attract clients in an ever-evolving market.

Investing in Innovation & Growth Sets Your Business Up For Future Success 

Rather than viewing economic downturns as a test of endurance, companies that consider these periods a unique opportunity for innovation and growth are able to position themselves for future success.

The path to growing your business amidst extended sales cycles demands that you reexamine your existing processes and look for ways to set your business apart. Investing more in generating leads and converting potential clients will allow your business to continue to grow even when demand is low. Even more importantly, this allows you to retain top-talent, innovate, and take on new and exciting challenges.

By adopting these strategies, your firm can emerge stronger, more agile, and better positioned to lead in your industry when the market conditions improve. 

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