A woman small business owner sits on a red chair. She is talking on the phone with a customer and has a clipboard and notes on her lap to take notes during the call.
If your business uses a customer relationship management system (CRM), you have a valuable resource at your fingertips to identify and maximize ways to grow your business. — Getty Images/10'000 Hours

Your company’s success depends on sales. Inefficient or extended sales processes don’t make the best use of your resources. Optimizing your sales cycle reduces costs while increasing revenue. It helps you earn higher profits and create repeatable workflows.

Although there are many ways to optimize your sales process, we will focus on using your existing tools — mainly your customer relationship management (CRM) system. This program and an effective sales strategy provide the foundation to maximize growth.

What is a sales cycle?

The sales cycle refers to the steps you take to close a deal. These steps may include approaching a lead, providing a solution, and closing the sale. However, the sales cycle revolves around a process that may be short or long, depending on your product or service, industry, and client base.

Small business owners need a repeatable sales process for consistent sales and predictable revenue. By documenting your approach and results, you can evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. This effort allows you to continually adjust and optimize your sales cycle to ensure a return on investment (ROI).

[Read more: How to Streamline Your Sales by Automating the Sales Process]

Why small businesses should improve their sales process

Sales optimization strategies increase efficiency, improve customer relationships, and boost sales. Using top-notch systems and best practices helps your business succeed today and sets it up for future growth. As your company expands and you bring in salespersons and marketing staff, you can establish shared goals and interconnected processes, avoiding the siloed approach that hinders many organizations.

A more productive sales cycle also leads to higher profits. In addition, sales process optimization methods can improve data quality. Once you know what information you need to improve your lead generation activities, you can customize your CRM reports and marketing activities to gather the right information.

Your CRM plays a key role when improving your sales process. An optimized CRM can help you understand your sales pipeline, uncover problems with your sales funnels, and find untapped opportunities.

The role of a CRM in sales cycle optimization

CRMs are rich sources of data. Aside from detailed contact information, you can view reports and metrics, communicate with marketing and sales staff, and automate various tasks.

Your CRM plays a key role when improving your sales process. An optimized CRM can help you understand your sales pipeline, uncover problems with your sales funnels, and find untapped opportunities.

Here are a few ways you can use a CRM to optimize your sales cycle:

  • Look at key performance indicators like conversion rates and volume by lead source and industry type.
  • See which lead sources produce larger closed deals or where most leads tend to drop out of your sales funnel.
  • Review any customer segments or industries that take longer in the sales cycle and see if they share similar traits.
  • Identify any bottlenecks in your sales funnel and look for ways to speed things along.
  • Generate lists of leads from current CRM contacts that meet the basic requirements of having the budget, urgency, or need for your products or services.
  • Use CRM software to determine the customer who will most likely purchase again.
  • Assess current client characteristics and sales histories to learn what events or conditions created a sense of urgency.

[Read more: 10 Free or Low-Cost CRM Tools for Small Businesses]

Tips for optimizing your small business sales cycle

Improving your sales process often begins with understanding where it falls short. After all, fixing or optimizing a process is hard if you’re unsure what’s wrong.

Fortunately, you can use CRM sales data to get an idea of where to start. Most CRMs offer sales pipeline reports. These records show how your leads move through the decision process.

Lay out your reports alongside information on your marketing and sales efforts. Does anything stand out right off the bat?

Consider adjusting your content or approach if several leads drop off right after a particular type of interaction. If you don’t discuss pricing until later in the sales cycle and that’s when you see a steep decline, consider mentioning costs earlier.

Other ways to optimize your sales cycle include the following:

  • Establish sales goals for your business and each sales-related activity.
  • Identify your highest-performing sales channels and focus on those first.
  • Look for free or low-cost ways to automate repetitive tasks.
  • Consider using sales bots on your website to engage leads around the clock.
  • Use sales tools with real-time dashboards to visualize lead progress.
  • Have CRM sales reports sent to your inbox automatically.
  • Eliminate friction with convenient, mobile-friendly contract and payment platforms.
  • Refine your endgame by anticipating objections and being a skilled negotiator.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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