When prospects don't keep moving through the buying process, the result is longer sales cycles, stalled deals, and the dreaded "no decision." Research from several sources shows that keeping prospects moving has become a difficult job. For example:
- In the 2013 Sales Performance Optimization survey by CSO Insights, 40% of respondents said that their sales cycles for new customers were seven months or longer. In the 2012 survey, only 33% of respondents reported sales cycles of that length. Research by SiriusDecisions, IDC, and others has also found that sales cycles are getting longer for B2B companies.
- The CSO Insights survey also revealed that the number of no decisions is increasing. In the 2013 survey, respondents reported that 26.1% of forecast deals resulted in no decisions. That's up from only 17% of forecast deals in 2002.
Today's business buyers are incredibly busy, and like the rest of us, they spend most of their working time dealing with issues or problems that they perceive to be important and urgent. If they don't see a problem as both important and urgent, they won't give it much attention. That's why the status quo is usually your toughest competitor. In most cases, doing nothing is the easiest choice your prospect can make.
The key to breaking the grip of the status quo is convincing your prospect that the problem your product or service will solve is worth his or her time and attention. In essence, you must help your prospect answer two questions: Why is it important for me to address this problem or issue, and why should I deal with the problem or issue now?
One of the most effective ways to demonstrate the importance and urgency of a problem is to make the cost of delay visible to your prospect. That's why I include a cost of delay calculation in every ROI calculator I develop. Most ROI calculators focus on the traditional ROI metrics - the basic ROI percentage, the payback period, net present value, and possibly internal rate of return. These metrics should be included in any ROI estimate, but they won't necessarily communicate a sense of urgency to your prospect. That's what a cost of delay calculation does really well.
The basic cost of delay formula is:
Average Solution Benefits - Average Solution Costs
When calculating the cost of delay, you can use daily, weekly, or monthly average values. I typically choose the unit of measure based on the size of the benefits and cost values. The larger the values, the shorter the unit of measure.
To illustrate how the cost of delay calculation works, let's assume that your company offers marketing asset management/web-to-print solutions to corporate customers. For a particular prospect, you've determined that your solution will produce the following financial benefits during the first twelve months after the solution is fully implemented.
- Reduction of request processing costs - $46,791
- Increase in gross profits - $25,000
- Reduction of obsolescence waste - $18,000
- Reduction of materials customization costs - $16,000
- Reduction of inventory management costs - $7,404
Based on these facts, the monthly cost of delay would be calculated as follows:
Monthly CoD = Average Monthly Solution Benefits - Average Monthly Solution Costs
Monthly CoD = ($113,195 / 13) - ($75,000 / 12)
Monthly CoD = $8,707.31 - $6,250.00
Monthly CoD = $2,457.31
To make the cost of delay even more compelling, I will typically include a cumulative cost of delay chart somewhere in my ROI calculator. For this example, that chart would appear as follows:
Making the cost of delay visible to your prospects won't cure all of your sales cycle problems, but it can create the sense of urgency that will keep your prospects moving through the buying process.