Marketing for Long Sales Cycles: Understanding the Relationship

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Whether you're selling technology that will revamp an entire business's IT infrastructure, or a business helping consumers buy a home, a long sales cycle requires different approaches to marketing strategy. At the end of the day, the decision-maker needs to weigh the pros and cons, budget considerations, competitive offerings and duration of the implementation process before making a decision. 

While it may feel the best way to get in front of a prospective buyer is to oversaturate them with information, this can hurt brand perception. There can be a balance where you avoid overwhelming the buyer while still offering the right information through the perfect touchpoints and channels.

Below are some insights and tactics on how to move leads through a long sales cycle:

Become a trusted resource

The primary goal throughout a long sales cycle is to remain at the top of your customer's mind. This engagement needs to go beyond a monthly payment reminder or email that will be archived in the spam folder. Your company should be the first one a prospective buyer thinks of when they have a question, concern, or need. 

Achieving this requires filling gaps in their knowledge or offering support in a strategic manner. The customer needs to see that you have value to offer, and are not trying to inundate them with advertisements and pressure. Instead, you are there for guidance and reference.

The best method for accomplishing this is to provide meaningful content that can assist the customer with various tasks throughout the sales cycle. Some examples of helpful content might include: how to collect and prepare the assets they need to complete the deal, tips on how to make the best decision, important considerations, and the various steps involved in finalizing the transaction. 

Get there early

Being a top-of-mind resource that customers trust requires making your value known early on. Customers need to know from the very beginning exactly how you can help them throughout the entire process and that you will be available when they need you.

Long sales cycles can create inertia. Create a steady cadence of assistance and support that reminds the customer you are there to help, not to pressure. 

This does not mean that you are not asking for business. Rather, you are demonstrating your understanding that the process requires more than one single decision point. The art lies in finding a balance between utilizing sales methods and fostering the long-term relationship as a trusted adviser. 

Omnichannel is key

Today's customer consumes information through multiple pathways, so it is imperative that your company leverages every opportunity with an omnichannel communication approach. As soon as the customer is introduced to your company and product, the journey has started -- and tools need to be in place to keep them engaged along the way if you don't want to lose them.

Mobile optimization is integral to this approach. People want a customizable experience that matches their situation and they want on-demand access 24/7 with as little friction as possible. Mobile allows customers to speak with the company instantaneously and access information regardless of location.  

Customize the journey

Another important element for successfully navigating a long sales cycle is correctly identifying the content, cadence and channel that will work for each specific use case. Customers vary in their backgrounds and needs, so it would be ineffective to use a blanket approach when dealing with individuals. 

For example, expectations between generations and audiences can be profound. Forty percent of Millennials would prefer purely online customer service while only half as many Baby Boomers would say the same thing. Baby Boomers want to get on the phone and speak with someone directly to learn how a product can help them and what they need to do to get there. Millennials, on the other hand, would frequently prefer to watch a YouTube video that depicts outcomes and gather information for themselves to decide what is best. The tools needed to successfully convert each respective lead is different and requires understanding both your strategy and your customer. 

Long sales cycles are a unique and challenging form of sales that test a company's ability to demonstrate their worth to a client while not overwhelming them and forcing a decision. To be successful, companies should commit to being present for the duration of the process in the form of information and resources. They should also utilize the full breadth of the tools available in the modern marketplace to ensure they're connected and understand each individual customer. 

Bill Walker is Unison's Chief Revenue Officer. He is responsible for cultivating and developing existing direct response channels, sales operations and business development in addition to developing new growth marketing channels. Bill comes to Unison with over 20 years of marketing and operations experience in the financial sector. He has held executive level positions at Barclaycard, MBNA (acquired by Bank of America) and most recently was the vice president of Customer Experience at Prosper Marketplace.

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