The beloved sales cycle — the time it takes someone to move from the Awareness stage to the Customer stage of your sales funnel — is shrinking. About ten years ago it took, on average, about 5.6 interactions between your brand and your customer to make a sale. Today, that number stands closer to about 1.7 interactions. In most cases, the prospect has made a decision about their purchase before a sales representative even enters the picture.

That’s both good and bad news. The good news is you can get more sales faster, while saving money on content and strategies designed to move prospects along. The bad news is, buyers are making up their minds based on what they see and read on the world “wild” web, and not based on what your sales and marketing teams are feeding them. Basically, if your online content game is bad, it’s not likely your sales team will score a conversion.

Why the Sales Cycle is Getting Shorter

The shrinking sales cycle is a direct result of more savvy online buyers who do most – if not all –  of the research it takes to make a buying decision online before a salesperson is involved. Information that used to be asked and answered in a sales call or during a face-to-face meeting is now passed along via online websites, company videos, blog posts, social media accounts, and even those sources outside your control, like online customer review sites.  It is now essential to build a strong online presence because that’s likely the only consideration your brand is going to get.

The trend applies equally to B2B, B2C, and channel marketing, including those in industries that are typically heavy on the in-person sales calls, like manufacturing, healthcare, legal, and consulting services.

How a Shorter Buying Cycle Changes Your Channel Marketing

A shorter buying cycle is both good and bad news for the channel marketer. It saves money and reduces the time it takes to generate revenue, but if your online content game is weak, you’ll lose them before you even meet them. This makes each piece of online content many times more critical than before. All of your content has to include strong calls to action (CTAs) that fully express your value proposition, clearly define your brand identity and establish your brand’s uniqueness within the industry.

Does this make your sales staff less essential? No, not at all. Though the buyers come into the sales conversation armed with more information than ever before, it is still necessary to have a knowledgeable and caring sales human being to oversee the conversion process. What has changed is the need for sales reps who are even more effective at instilling confidence in the prospect that they’ve made the right decision after all. Ending the sales cycle with a sales rep that fails to impress makes the prospect question whether or not they made the right decision to go with your brand.

How to Manage Shorter Sales Cycles in Channel Marketing

To start, focus on building a complete and engaging online brand identity. Reinforce your advertising content with excellent video tutorials, buying guides and checklists, product comparison charts, and other content that explains how your brand delivers value. Then crown your buying journey with the finishing touch — a salesperson who knows their stuff.

Channel marketers are playing in an entirely different field than they did even a decade ago, and it will be interesting to see how sales cycles and buyers’ journeys continue to evolve over the next ten years and beyond.  Has your sales and marketing staff caught up? What changes do you anticipate in the future?  Share with us in the comments below.