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A Guide to Mastering the 7 Stages of the Sales Cycle

Cirrus Insight. Graphic image of the 7 parts of a sales cycle.
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in — we can bet one of your main goals as a business leader is to grow revenue. Regardless of the quality of the product or the nature of your marketing, it’s practically impossible to close a deal without following the basic sales cycle stages.

Today, we’ll be discussing how you can use the concept of the sales process to optimize the way you sell your product, and hopefully, improve your selling rate too.

What we’ll cover at a glance:

  • What the sales cycle is
  • Why understanding the concept of sales cycle management matters
  • The seven sales cycle steps: each stage in the buyer’s journey

What Is a Sales Cycle?

A sales cycle is the process representatives follow to convert prospects and leads into paid customers. Generally, the sales cycle comprises of seven steps, starting with product discovery and ending with the final sale. The sales cycle is also referred to as the sales funnel, sales process, and buyer's journey.

How Mastering the Sales Cycle Stages Will Help You

A good sales cycle should include several distinct stages. Defining the sales funnel stages will help your team pinpoint which parts of the buyer’s journey are working and which parts need improvement.

Understanding the sales funnel stages will also help you discover how your company can guide the client through a smooth transaction. The fewer hiccups along the way, the smaller the chance your client will back out of the sale.

The 7 Sales Funnel Stages Explained

Most sales professionals agree that the buyer’s journey should typically consist of seven stages.

1. Prospect New Leads

The first stage of any sales cycle is to seek out prospects. After all, you’ll never make a sale along the buyer’s journey without someone who wants to buy your product.

Prospecting new leads can involve a wide range of tactics:

  • Meeting people at live industry events
  • Social media-based prospecting
  • Researching potential clients on websites like LinkedIn or Quora
  • Taking referrals from current customers

Lead generation can prove to be a deceptively difficult stage. According to HubSpot, over 40% of salespeople claim it is the hardest of the sales process steps.

Because these sales funnel stage is notoriously difficult, it’s important to spend time developing a diverse prospecting system that works within your industry.

Cirrus Insight. Salesman prospecting leads.
2. Get in Touch With Leads

Once your sales team has gone through the lead generation process, the next stage is for each sales rep to start making first contact with potential new customers.

Contacting leads can be done via:

  • Automation: Automate the contact stage by sending a sales pitch using cold email templates. MarketingSherpa claims that email marketing has twice the return on investment (ROI) than cold calling.
  • Cold calling: Sales reps contact leads through a phone call or email with an enticing sales pitch.
  • Warm Leads: Sales reps contact leads through a personalized phone call or email addressing their request.

Once leads have been contacted, sales reps can begin to determine which leads are “qualified leads.”

A qualified lead is a lead that fits your business’s buyer persona or ideal customer profile. In other words, sales reps should use this first contact as a chance to ask qualifying questions to determine if the potential new customer is a good fit. These questions can include:

  • What problem is your business trying to solve?
  • What is your role in the company?
  • When do you need a solution by?
  • What other solutions is the company considering?

Persistence is key during this stage. According to The Brevet Group, 80% of sales take five follow-up calls.

Cirrus Insight. Woman researches lead prior to presentation.3. Research the Client

Once a client has been contacted, the sales team should conduct extensive research on the prospect. During this sales funnel stage, you will get the chance to tailor your sales pitch to each individual prospect and improve your chances of closing a deal.

During the research stage, make it a priority to understand what each prospect needs from your service. What are their main challenges? How will your service slot into the overall business? What can the business expect from implementing your product?

4. Present the Product

In the next stage, your sales team will formally present the product to the interested client. This formal sales pitch is a key stage that usually comes after you have determined that a lead is a serious prospect and that your product is the right fit for their business.

After the research stage, you should already have an in-depth understanding of this prospect’s challenges, goals, and pain points. Your presentation should hone in on how your product provides a unique answer to these specifics.

5. Overcome Any Objections From the Client

After a formal presentation, your potential client will consider your product carefully. It’s common for prospects to have questions and concerns at this stage. It’s extremely rare that a sales pitch seals the deal without facing any initial objections.

That’s why overcoming objections is often included as one of the necessary steps in the sales process.

So, when the decision-maker at the company raises their concerns following the presentation, your sales team should be prepared to answer them. When you use your research state to prepare for possible common objections, you’ll find these sales funnel stage much simpler and smoother.

Cirrus Insight. Man presenting sales pitch to prospect.

6. Close the Sale

After overcoming any possible objections to your sales pitch, it’s time to close the deal and turn your prospect into a new customer. Depending on your company, this stage can involve delivering a quote, finalizing negotiations, signing a contract, or simply exchanging your product.

7. Generate Referrals

The sales cycle is, unsurprisingly, cyclical in nature. This means that once you close deals and reach the end of the selling process, you return to the beginning and start seeking out new leads once again.

Sales reps should stay in contact with clients after the buyer’s journey and making a sale. With a timely follow-up, sales reps have the opportunity to upsell current customers, or find new potential customers by generating referrals.

According to IDC, 73% of executives prefer working with sales reps who are referred to them by someone they know, so the importance of this sales funnel stage can’t be overstated.

Final Thoughts: Mastering the 7 Stages of the Sales Cycle

By refining your sales workflow using the stages of the sales cycle, you’ll help your sales managers close deals and improve your sales conversion rate. Each stage requires time and expertise in order to make the sales pipeline run smoothly and effectively.

Cirrus Insight specializes in optimizing your Salesforce-based sales cycle management. We make the defined sales cycle easy to follow by helping you buyer signals, schedule meetings, arrange follow-up appointments — all from your inbox. With Cirrus Insight, you can also set up automated emails to send to customers that might be blocked by an objection, or stuck in a part of the sales funnel.

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Maddy Osman
Maddy Osman

5+ years of content writing for companies such as Cirrus Insight, Automattic, HubSpot, Sprout Social, Bluehost, Wix, and more. My background in WordPress web design contributes to a well-rounded understanding of SEO and how to connect brands to relevant search prospects.

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