Quotas are a necessary evil of the sales world. They hold us accountable for keeping our sales up to par, but they aren’t always gentle about it. Sometimes it can seem like quotas are dark, angry clouds hanging over your head, and when one cloud goes, another drifts into its place. How long can we live in the shade quotas are throwing at us? It may surprise you that a career in sales doesn’t mean living in fear of the mighty quota. You can quash giant quotas with the smooth stones of efficiency and consistency.

Okay, that sounds nice and poetic and all, but what does that mean? Efficiency and consistency are multi-faceted concepts built from a variety of habits. There’s no magic guidebook to speeding up your sales cycle, but there are plenty of methods to choose from when it comes to keeping a sales pipeline well-oiled and effective.

Score, Nurture, and Repeat

Jason Jordan of Vantage Point recommends, like many of his fellow sales-metric experts, “qualifying customers before adding them to the pipeline.” This is most commonly done through the process of lead scoring. Essentially, you have to discern which leads are the most promising and decide to prioritize those.

Even though having a multitude of leads seems like it would be more productive, it actually has the potential to clog up your sales pipeline. The truth of the matter is, not all of the leads you acquire will be fully interested in your product, or not ready to invest in your product. Following these leads turns into a wild goose chase because in their current state, they won’t move forward to a sale.

It may seem counterintuitive to take the time to score your leads; However, in the long run, lead scoring and qualifying primes your pipeline for an efficient sales process. Consequently, you should continue to nurture the leads that aren’t high-scoring, so that there’s always potential coming into the pipeline--just not so much that it clogs the pipes.

Set Clear Goals

This one seems obvious, but it’s yet another step many gloss over for the sake of supposedly saving time. The ironic part is, that without a goal, we end up wasting more time. Not setting a clear goal is kind of like traveling without a destination. It might be a good time, you may still have a good experience, but you never actually arrive anywhere, and after a while, you get tired and don’t even remember how you got to where you are.

Setting clear goals helps to create progress milestones throughout the entire sales cycle. Your singular goal isn’t just to make a sale. Your sales cycle is comprised of smaller goals that really aren’t that small at all, like speed-boosts on the racetrack of your sales process, rather than losing your way and driving backwards the entire time.

Choose Channels Wisely

In our advanced era of technology, there are a plethora of sales channels to choose from. It may seem like the most productive choice is to go for all the channels, all the time, to reach the widest audience.

Yet again, we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that the more we jam into the pipeline, the quicker everything will make its way through. But that’s just silly. Ever tried to unclog a drain by sticking something else in it, like a coat hanger or a spoon? And then those just get stuck too?

Choose the most effective channels for your product and your market, and set aside the ones that only get a trickle of response. You’re better off putting time and energy into the channels that work for you, just like you’re better off going for the Drain-O than unclogging your sink with a spoon. It just makes more sense and wastes less time.

That said, it’s still smart to check all your channels regularly because what’s effective in one season may not be in another. So keep an eye on your channels and hone in on the ones that are showing the most promise and benefit.

Selective Automation

It’s not possible to automate everything--and you probably shouldn’t. But you can choose to automate some activities in order to put your energy into your prioritized leads. Automating certain parts of your sales process, such as marketing or quote generating, can move the client along by allowing them to make decisions in a shorter time frame than if they had to wait for you to send information yourself.

Salesforce reports that automating lead nurturing activities like e-mail campaigns and follow-ups can lead to an almost 15% increase in productivity, no doubt because automating them in just the right places gives you more time to actually make a sale.

Self-Evaluate

You have to constantly evaluate your sales cycle in order to keep it concise and consistent. The sales industry changes rapidly, and your process has to change with it in order to keep everything flowing smoothly.

So, even though it may feel like stopping to do some reflection is slowing you down, it will actually help move everyone along for the long haul by preventing future roadblocks to your otherwise pristine, flowing, speedy process.

Let It Flow!

Don’t hold your sales cycle back anymore! Score and nurture those leads while paving the way with clear goals and prioritized channels. Automate where you can. And always re-evaluate your process to begin all over again. Soon enough, you’ll see the quota never bothered you anyway!