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How Long Is A Sales Cycle?

Some time ago, on the second day of an Interim Management role I was undertaking for a client, the Sales Administrator entered my office and came up to my desk. She then enquired: “How long is a sales cycle?” I asked her why she was so interested to know how long was a sales cycle and she replied thus: “Here is a chart showing along the top, the months January to December and down the side, all the customers to whom we wish to sell. When I know how long a sales cycle is, I can work backwards from when we want their order and so determine when we have to start selling to them!”.

“If only life was so simple!”. But, it did get me thinking about sales cycles and the remark made often to me by managers that: “Our sales cycles are way too long: sometimes as much as two years”! Very often it is more a case of slippage, of decision delayed or no decision at all. And so, how long is a sales cycle? The answer to that must surely rest with defining when are the start and end points of the buying cycle.

If this is so, then it is more appropriate to think in terms of understanding buying cycles and then viewing sales cycles as the sum of the actions sellers can take to stimulate, facilitate and support buying.

Research and observation suggests and supports the idea that people buy for one of three reasons, these being to:

  • Achieve a Goal

  • Satisfy a Need

  • Solve a Problem

Given this, it then follows that the length of a buying cycle must be a function of: the size of the goal, need or problem as factored by the cost of delay and the power of the buyer to effect the appropriate purchase.

Thus, from a seller’s perspective, a sales cycle can only be said to have started when the buyer admits to the seller the: goal, need or problem that they need to address. And, if the: goal, need or problem is sufficiently acute and is the responsibility of a person with sufficient power, why would it take more than 6 months, 12 at the most, to result in a purchase and so a sale?

Thus, the answer to the question: “How long is a sales cycle?” is that it takes however long it takes from the time that a buyer admits: a goal, need or problem to the time a purchase is made. It would seem that, perhaps, there is a finite length to a sales cycle after all!

You might then ask how you get a: goal, need or problem admitted by a person with enough power to effect a purchase?


If you are curious about this, register your interest by contacting me, John Busby, to discuss at:; + 44 7968 066 165

Copyright©2015 John Busby

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