What Is the Difference Between a Short and Long Sales Cycle?

Updated February 3, 2023

Illustration depicting various features in a sales dashboard.

Sales representatives go through various types of sales cycles depending on their industry and the item or service they sell. Those with expensive, high-risk items often experience a long sales cycle since they have a lot of information for consumers to evaluate. Understanding how both the long and short sales cycles work can help you manage each effectively with your team.

In this article, we define a long sales cycle and a short sales cycle, share the advantages and disadvantages of both and compare a long sales cycle to a short sales cycle.

What is a long sales cycle?

A long sales cycle is a business process that takes an extensive amount of time to complete. The amount of time to progress from initial interaction to sale can take over a year. They may be longer than the average sales cycle for other companies in the industry for a variety of reasons, such as the extent of your customer's previous knowledge of your employer's company.

Sales cycles often become longer when there is a change in buying behavior and an increase in decision-makers in companies. Part of the reason these cycles take so much time is that they involve customers researching and trying out your product or service before making a decision.

Related: What Are Industry Life Cycle Stages? (Plus Their Importance)

What are some advantages of a long sales cycle?

Long sales cycles typically have a high payoff since they involve expensive items and big deals with larger companies. Because long sales cycles take a long duration of time, it gives businesses a chance to develop deeper relationships with their customers to build trust and discover the needs that they have.

This can then lead to creating loyal, repeat customers. Long sales cycles also give businesses more time to share educational materials and personalize their marketing materials for each buyer.

RelatedWhat Is Life Cycle Pricing? (Definition, Stages and Strategies)

What are some disadvantages of a long sales cycle?

A long sales cycle can be time-consuming and involve a lot of company resources. It also raises the potential for a competitor to steer the potential consumer away from you or lose interest in your item. Since the process takes so long, there's a lot of uncertainty about whether the individual or business may buy from you.

Another disadvantage of long sales cycles is that it's more challenging to track customer interactions in the sales funnel. If a sales representative holds a regular follow-up with consumers, it may be easier to secure a lead with them.

Related: Operating Cycle vs. Cash Cycle: What's the Difference?

What is a short sales cycle?

A short sales cycle involves making a sale in a smaller amount of time. They require fewer steps and typically take less than a month to complete. Short sales cycles typically involve repeat customers who already have an understanding of your employer's company.

Part of why these cycles tend to be so short is because customers need very little information to help them make a decision. Customers can also use the internet to learn more about the product or service as opposed to approaching a salesperson.

Related: What Are Sales Cycle Stages? Definition, 7 Stages and Tips

What are some advantages of a short sales cycle?

Short sales cycles allow companies to reach more customers and make large volumes of sales, resulting in higher revenues. It also can help motivate sales representatives since they see results right away, as opposed to waiting in a long sales cycle.

Customers tend to favor this type of cycle as long as you help solve their problems and provide a quality product or service. Having a faster sales cycle can also help you have an advantage over your employer's competition since it allows you to find a repeatable sales process that works and make product improvements from market feedback.

Related: 13 Top Sales Operations KPIs to Track Your Team's Effectiveness

What are some disadvantages of a short sales cycle?

Like a long sales cycle, a short sales cycle has difficulty tracking customer interaction. This is because they have so many customers, leading to more data to monitor. Another disadvantage of short sales cycles is that these types of customers make their decisions quickly, so it's important to pay attention to them so that you don't miss out on a sale. There's also the potential to lack quality of service due to the speed of the sales process.

Related: What Is a Sales Pipeline? (Plus How To Build One in 4 Steps)

Long sales cycle vs. short sales cycle

Here are some of the differences between a long sales cycle and a short sales cycle:

Level of risk

Long sales cycles tend to involve items with higher risks, such as a large appliance or car, whereas short sales cycles have less risk. This often relates to the cost of an item. More expensive items take longer to decide to purchase than lesser expensive items since there's the potential to lose a lot of money if the product or item isn't what the company or individual wants or needs.

Related: 6 Types of Salesperson Tools To Succeed In Your Job

Industry involved

The length of a sales cycle is dependent on the industry involved. Software as a service (SaaS) companies commonly experience longer sales cycles since their products are more complex and offer long-term solutions to fulfill a company's needs. Retail businesses often experience short sales cycles since customers go into a store and immediately buy products.

Related: What Is a Sales Cycle? Defining and Managing Its 7 Steps

Approach used

Long sales cycles require an approach that is cautious and personalized for the business or individual a sales representative is trying to engage. Short sales cycles do best with quick closes since the potential consumer makes their decision quickly. Discuss with your team to decide which approach fits your products and team best.

Related: Sales Cycle: What It Is and 10 Steps To Improve It

How can you shorten a long sales cycle?

Shortening a long sales cycle begins by identifying your buyer persona or representation of your ideal customer. Once you have a buyer persona, you can begin reaching those who are actually interested in your products and services.

Another tactic for shortening your sales cycle is to offer free or paid trials to help potential customers experience your product or service before committing to a purchase. You may also want to consider offering an incentive, such as a limited-time offer, to help encourage immediate action.

Explore more articles

  • FAQs: What's the Best Degree for Artificial Intelligence?
  • How To Overcome Meeting Anxiety in 9 Steps
  • How To Write a Late Response Email (With an Example)
  • 14 Teamwork Challenges and How To Overcome Them
  • 10 Performance Review Templates for Managers and Employees
  • How To Compress an Excel File in 5 Steps (With Tips)
  • HR Documentation: A Complete Guide (With Best Practices)
  • Best Regards and Other Ways To End an Email Professionally
  • 5 Top Critical Thinking Skills (And How To Improve Them)
  • How To Create a Checklist in Word in 5 Steps (With Tips)
  • The Importance of Ethics in the Workplace: 6 Significant Benefits
  • A Guide for Writers: 13 Examples of Tone in Writing