Understanding the difference between a Sales Cycle vs. Buying Cycle may be the most critical shift an organization needs to make to see significant and sustained revenue growth, especially for complex or highly competitive sales.

In a nutshell, the Sales Cycle is how your company looks at moving deals through their own sales pipe and sales process to close deals. Typically the flow looks something like a lead, marketing qualified lead,  sales qualified leads, needs analysis,  proposal, negotiation, verbal, and closed. This is a company centered view.

A buying cycle is looking at your sales cycle from what the customer needs. Probably the best example we have seen of a buying cycle is from Robert Jolles book Customer Centered Selling. Below is our brief explanation of how we look at this cycle, addressing some of the implications it has for us as an outsourced sales and marketing company with how we divide the sales and marketing functions.


Phase 1 – Intention to Buy

  1. The buyer starts satisfied with their current solution
  2. The buyer acknowledges to themselves that they are not satisfied
  3. The buyer makes the decision to do something about it
  4. The buyer starts to think about “what are the criteria” to consider moving forward

As a lead generation and a demand generation company, we understand that intention is meaningless without action. The world is full of people with great intentions that never actually take any action. Your job as a sales person and marketer is to understand that your first task in generating demand for your solution is to help educate a buyer on the “criteria” they need to consider. You need to appreciate that given a choice, most buyers will sit on the fence for as long as possible. They want to move forward,  they know it’s good for them to move forward, so you need to help educate the buyer enough so they do in fact move forward. Your first job as a sales and marketing professional is to inspire and catalyze the desire that gets your buyer to move from the passive buying process to the active buying process.   More and more, this is becoming the function of your content marketing and inside team.

Phase 2 – Active Buying

  1. The buyer needs to figure out how to measure the solution to: justify the purchase, understand the impact of doing nothing vs. changing, see the impact on topline, recognize the implications for bottom line, feel subjective relief of pain or risk
  2. The buyer investigates deeply, typically with short list of solutions and a deep dive into one or more solutions
  3. Selection is made; a front-runner is chosen
  4. The buyer reconsiders their decision

During the “Active” buying process, your sales team is typically on point.   It’s at this point that marketing should take a back seat – with one exception: marketing needs to continue to support the sales team with the content they need to help deal with the reconsideration phase of the sale. Your marketers need to be prepared to help the buyer remember why they were no longer satisfied and embarked on their buying cycle in the first place.