Angie Henson - August 29, 2023

5 Proven Strategies for Winning the Long Sales Cycle

How to move sales forward—even when the process is slow.

Key Takeaways:

  • Long sales cycles are common in many B2B sectors due to lengthy or complicated approval processes and high-value contracts.
  • Although a long sales cycle can feel challenging, it comes with some benefits.
  • Mastering customer communication and building trust can help you create a sense of urgency, even in a longer process, encouraging your prospect to consistently move the process forward.
  • Social proof—from customer testimonials and reviews to engaging influencer marketing—can enforce credibility and make a customer feel more comfortable with the buying process.

Do you sometimes wonder if it’s normal for sales cycles to stretch out for months, if not years? Or if there’s a way to shorten them? If this is standard in your industry, don’t give up. It’s possible to win the long sales cycle, even if it can occasionally be frustrating.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the reasons behind long sales cycles, their advantages and disadvantages, and some proven strategies successful sales professionals use to shorten their sales cycles and increase win rates.

Understanding the nature of long sales cycles

Some sales cycles are short—lasting days or even minutes—while others are long. A long sales cycle ranges from a few months to several years, depending on the industry and product.

Why do some sales take so long to close? There are several reasons. One is that some products or services require a lot of research and investment from the buyer. Others involve complex decision-making processes with multiple stakeholders. Although this can be frustrating to sales professionals, it often makes sense. Few people would be willing to sign contracts worth thousands or millions of dollars without research, comparison, and some checks and balances.

While going through a long sales cycle may seem exhausting, it does have its advantages. It allows for a deeper understanding of the customer’s needs and preferences, building stronger relationships in the process.

Of course, a clear drawback is that the proceedings can be unpredictable, with no guarantees of success. For example, a competitor might swoop in at the last minute, or the overall market situation could change. Ultimately, achieving better results requires understanding the nature of long sales cycles.

Building trust and adapting the prospect’s buying style

Large, complex B2B transactions require more time and effort than slick-looking gadgets, attractive prices, and simple B2C processes. Succeeding in the long sales cycle requires building trust with your prospects.

Trust and credibility are paramount in sales as they form the foundation for a strong customer relationship. Customers are more likely to purchase from and develop long-term relationships with companies and salespeople they trust. One way to build that trust is by adapting to the customer’s buying style. Everyone is unique and has their preferred method of purchasing. By identifying their style and adjusting your approach, you show that you value their needs and preferences.

Credibility, however, reassures customers that the company and its products or services are reliable and of high quality and that they stand behind the products if something goes wrong. Therefore, trust and credibility facilitate the initial sale and foster customer loyalty, repeat business, and positive word-of-mouth, which is crucial for sustainable sales success.

Remember that building trust isn’t a one-time deal—it requires ongoing effort. Establishing a relationship-building process is critical to nurturing leads and maintaining long-term customer connections. By consistently demonstrating your commitment to their satisfaction, you can create a loyal customer base that helps drive your business forward.

Create a sense of urgency—even during long sales cycles

In today’s fast-paced business environment, creating a sense of urgency and responding quickly can make the difference between closing a sale and losing a potential customer.

Even during a prolonged sales cycle, being proactive and efficient keeps your prospects engaged and interested in your product or service. By demonstrating a sense of urgency and providing timely responses, you show customers that you value their time and recognize the importance of their business.

But creating a sense of urgency during a long sales process is a delicate balance. You need to strike the right tone and provide value to the customer without being pushy or aggressive. One effective strategy is to highlight the benefits the customer will gain from your product or service and how those benefits align with their immediate needs or goals.

Another approach is to offer time-sensitive incentives, such as discounts or extra features, which can motivate customers to act quickly. However, ensuring these tactics are customer-centric and used respectfully is critical. Building a genuine relationship and understanding the customer’s needs will make your urgency feel less like pressure and more like helpful guidance.

Additionally, staying responsive and following up regularly throughout the sales cycle can show your commitment to delivering exceptional customer service. Don’t let a lengthy sales cycle slow you down—stay on top of your game and keep your customers engaged with a sense of urgency and timely responses.

Providing value through education and information

With so much information at our fingertips, it can be overwhelming to sift through it all and determine what is truly valuable. That’s where education and information come in. Providing informative and helpful resources can empower potential customers to learn and grow meaningfully while guiding them towards your products and services.

Whether it’s a helpful article on a niche topic or a comprehensive online course, there are endless opportunities to provide value through education and information. Ultimately, the more you invest in these resources, the better equipped you will be to help your customers navigate the complexities of our world and make informed decisions.

Consistent communication keeps you top of mind

Today’s business landscape is constantly evolving, so staying top of mind with prospects and customers is crucial. This means communicating with them regularly and consistently.

Through outbound marketing techniques such as email campaigns, social media advertising, and targeted outreach, businesses can generate more qualified leads and dramatically increase their chances of success. By demonstrating an unwavering commitment to engagement and communication, companies can establish themselves as thought leaders in their respective markets and foster deep, lasting relationships with their audiences.

Leveraging social proof to boost sales success

As a customer, you’ve probably experienced being overwhelmed by the amount of information and choices regarding your purchasing decisions. As a result, leveraging social proof has become a powerful tool for businesses seeking to boost their sales success.

By showcasing feedback and endorsements from happy customers or using influencer endorsements, businesses can build trust and credibility with potential buyers, ultimately persuading them to purchase. In fact, studies have shown that social proof can be more effective than traditional marketing methods in influencing consumer behavior. With the right approach, you can harness the power of social proof to drive greater sales success and grow your customer base.

Proven strategies for winning the long sales cycle

Ultimately, success in the long sales cycle requires time and effort—getting to know your prospects, understanding their needs, and earning their trust. To give prospects what they need throughout the process, practitioners should consistently leverage value-added education, build relationships, create moments of urgency, and employ social proof.

Additionally, leveraging outbound marketing strategies to build leads is essential for long-lasting customer success. Companies that consistently adhere to proven success strategies ensure an increase in success rate and better customer retention despite a long sales cycle.


How long is considered a “long” sales cycle?

A sales cycle that takes more than a year from initial contact to sale is typically considered “long.”

Can these strategies be applied across various industries? 

These strategies are not industry specific, but they may need to be tailored to fit different sectors. Buyers seek to fulfill their needs best with the least effort possible.

Is it possible to shorten a long sales cycle?

Yes, following the strategies outlined in this article can help.

How can the effectiveness of these strategies be measured? 

Metrics tracking the time between the first interaction and sale, or the quarterly sale per representative, can indicate that your strategies are successful.

Are there any risks involved in implementing these strategies?

Overreliance on social proof (or any of these strategies) can be a turnoff for some buyers. Buyers may find social proof disingenuous or fail to make the connection to their business.


Tags: Business Growth Business Leadership

  1. About the Author:

  2. About the Author:

    As a Principal at Valesco, Angie Henson serves in key roles related to new investment origination, portfolio management, and investor relations. She directs the firm’s strategic acquisition planning and program management as acting head of research and business development operations since 2002. Angie holds a Bachelor of Science from Tarleton State University and a certificate in entrepreneurial studies from Southern Methodist University.

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