No one wants to be inside in a classroom during warmer summer months, but the truth is, sometimes that's exactly where you need to be in order to gain the skills and information necessary for success. Just as summer school is a great place to review the basics of algebra and U.S. history, taking another look at your sales process can help prep you for success this fall, when all your prospects get back into work mode.

Summer school - sales cycle

One of the best ways to boost sales and increase profits is by shortening the sales cycle, effectively selling more in less time. Here are some tips and tricks to help customers say "yes" sooner.

Know What Your Sales Cycle Is

Before you can take steps to shorten the sales cycle in your business, you need to know what it is now. Take a look through the last three months of sales and calculate the average amount of time it took from initial contact to signed contract or "payment received." That's the length of your current sales cycle. You want to shrink it.

Identify the Problem

What's triggering your prospect to consider hiring or buying from you? What's the problem they're experiencing? Prospects are much more likely to take action to solve a problem they're facing than to improve on something that's already working pretty well. For example, they will quickly hire a plumber to fix a leak in their kitchen but may drag out the process of hiring a firm to finish the basement — one is a need the other is a want.

Do Your Homework

Whenever you make contact with a prospect, agree on next steps — what happens next and when. Will you check back in at the end of the month? Does the prospect need a formal quote? Having an agreed-on next step can help keep the prospect on a path to becoming a customer.

Get Recommendation Letters

Just as teacher recommendations were critical for getting into college, testimonials from satisfied customers can be equally powerful. Ask people you've done business with to write short statements attesting to the value of your products or services that you can use in your marketing materials. Sure, you can tell prospects that you're the best at what you do, but when a customer confirms that you are really that good, it can make a much stronger impact on your prospects.

Act Like the Teacher

Position yourself as the expert in your field, and prospects may spend less time vetting you. That means sharing your expertise on your website, on social media and through public speaking opportunities, for example.

Invest in a Customer Management System

Sometimes it can take weeks, months or even years to close a sale, depending on your product. It can be easy to lose track of where things stand with all your prospects. To help you stay on top of when you last spoke, any concerns that are getting in the way of a sale, and what the next steps are, consider investing in a software program to track all of your prospects and remind you when it's time to get back in touch. A simple software package like Act! can be a good first step, or a more robust solution like Salesforce can work well. If you're on a shoestring budget, start with an Excel file.

Shortening the sales cycle can have an immediate positive impact on your business and set you up for success in the coming months.

Don't forget to come back next Wednesday and check out our next Summer School post on time management skills. Make sure your pencils are sharp because there may be a quiz. See you then!

Tags: Maximizing Profits Business Strategy Summer School Sales