I have been selling since the mid 1990’s when I got my first summer job running a painting franchise, and I often get asked how long does it take when it comes to closing a sale? Since then I have done a wide variety of sales efforts in many industries selling to B2B customers. The answer is it really depends. Generally I would say between 9 and 18 months for almost anything of significance where a new process or change is involved. During this period, I would typically say it takes between 8 to 13 touches (calls, emails, meetings – virtual or face to face) to close something, but let’s explore some examples from my past to see how long it takes in closing a sale.
I put some metrics behind that question and to my surprise I was right on the timing, but off on the number of touches. Here are three examples, from three different clients. Admittedly I have not worked out all the averages for these clients, but I think it provides some insight into what it takes to close a B2B sale and what you as a growing company should expect. Obviously there are going to be scenarios where the stars align and things get rolling quickly, but more times than not, B2B sales is like a marathon. When you are selling to a large account with long-term potential, you need to be prepared to put in the work, and for it to take time.
Example 1: Electrical Safety Software Organization
This firm sells mainly to government organizations that are interested in being compliant with electrical safety standards and keeping their employees safe. For a large client that we just won verbal approval, it took 11 months and 24 plus touches to get to this point. The annual value of the contract is $50,000.
Example 2: Provider of a Construction Product
This firm sells a unique covering that can reduce renovation costs by 30 to 40%. They are the exclusive distributor in North America for it and target multi-location retailers and restaurants primarily. For a large national chain, we have booked our first pilot project to test out the product with them. This process has taken just over 22 months and over 30 touches. If successful post pilot, the annual value of this would be in the $250K to $500K range.
Example 3: Evidence Synthesis Software Provider
This firm sells to organizations in the academic, medical/health and biopharma space. For a recent win to a mid-sized organization in the biopharma research space it took 9 months and over 40 touches. The value of this agreement is in the $10,000 to $20,000 per year range.
As you can see, business to business sales takes time, persistence and lots of effort. The biggest failure of most organizations is they do not give themselves enough runway to close the deal. They give up too early. If you believe the organization is a fit, you need to be persistent. This also includes attacking an organization from different angles and people as needed. Don’t let one person stand in your way, especially if the organization is large. Also, in sales, a “no”, is really more like a “not now”. Things change quickly in organizations and so do their needs. Stay on their radar screen and do it politely and persistently.
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