Imagine if, at your next doctor appointment, you said you had concerns about your heart.
Now imagine if your doctor responded by asking you what procedure you had in mind to address the issue.
That’s exactly the type of approach you’re taking when you use old-school tactics to make complex sales.
Jeff Thull, who’s been helping professionals and businesses transform for more than 30 years, is a thought leader on the complex sales process. He uses this patient-doctor analogy to show why it’s important to start complex sales not by asking customers what product or service they want—but by analyzing their business processes.
When you dig into what’s going on at the company and use your knowledge of how that business works to form solutions for the customer, you’re likely to come to conclusions they never considered.
You’re also likely to build your credibility and, ultimately, your chances to make the sale.
If you’re ready to nail complex sales, read on to learn:
- What are complex sales?
- What skills and strategies do complex sales require?
- How can you implement successful complex sales processes?
What Is A Complex Sale?
A complex sale, also called an enterprise sale, is a high-stakes process that typically involves many people’s input, a large price tag, and the potential for a lot of revenue. Because of its complexity, the sales cycle typically is longer than that for less-complicated, transactional sales.
How Is The Complex Sales Process Different?
What really sets complex sales apart from other sales transactions, Jeff says, is that it’s based on decisions. The customer is making a decision that will have a big impact on their business and their personal life. Depending on the customer’s business, it might also be a technical or clinical decision.
So, your focus should be on guiding the decision process, not on the result.
Customers long ago grew tired of tactics that called for a salesperson to simply tell the customer what they need and what they have to pay to get it. And today’s customer also requires more than to just tell you what they already know they need, like the heart patient in Jeff’s story.
Key Ingredients For Managing The Complex Sale
Complex sales in the 21st-century call for some key ingredients that set the sales process apart from the expected. Successful complex sales require the process to be exceptional. Here are some of those ingredients:
Knowledge Of The Customer
The expected approach to sales is to bring product knowledge to the table. Excelling at complex sales calls for deep knowledge not only of what you’re offering but also what the customer’s business processes involve.
Emphasis On Conversation
Your customer is expecting a sales presentation. Go a step further by also engaging your customer in conversations to glean insight about what challenges they face and what type of outcomes they’re hoping to achieve.
Priority For Results
Complex sales success requires you to zero in on your customer’s business performance and decision-making process. These concerns are a higher priority than the features of your product and how you’ll sell them.
Guidance On Decision-Making
Expected sales behavior is for your primary role to be sales and persuasion. Exceptional sales behavior calls for you to serve as an adviser whose purpose is to assist the customer in their decision-making.
Focus On Profit
To succeed at complex sales, your thoughts should go beyond wondering when you’ll get the order. Instead of worrying about the time it will take to close the sale, focus on the time it will take for your customer to achieve a quantifiable outcome: a net profit.
What Skills Do Complex Sales Require?
A sales process requiring different focuses and behaviors requires different skills to succeed. Build your skills in the following areas to win your next complex sale.
Skills Of A Successful Sales Manager
As a sales manager, you need to know not only what it takes to close complex sales, but also how to help your team navigate the complex sales cycle. Sales managers should be adept at:
Jeff uses another analogy when he describes the importance of establishing systems for complex sales: When you put together a jigsaw puzzle, you typically work from a picture on a box that shows the finished product. It’s the same for sales staff working through a complex sale; having an end result in mind keeps them on the path to achieving that positive outcome.
Managing teams through complex sales requires the ability to teach others what they need to succeed. Whether you’re offering training, correcting issues, or developing incentives, encourage them to exhibit the skills they need to guide customers’ decisions.
Develop criteria for sales staff evaluations that focus on what’s most important: building relationships, guiding customers in decision-making, and communicating about the profits their customers can achieve. In the complex sales process, these achievements are more important than making a quick sale.
Skills Of A Successful Salesperson
The longer sales cycles, larger pool of decision-makers, and greater risk associated with complex sales require a special set of skills to tackle. If you’re a salesperson, finetune these skills to win at complex sales:
Addressing the concerns of many people and conducting a thorough business analysis require patience. Your main goal is not to force a rapid sale but rather to carefully guide a well-thought-out decision.
Sales teams who succeed at complex sales follow a uniform system, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it your own. Adapt the process to fit your own style and personality when working with customers.
Business knowledge is a critical component in making a complex sale. Be willing to learn what makes the customer and business tick, using those details to inform the solutions you present.
Seeing a lengthy process through to the end takes discipline. Have the emotional strength to carry out your system of guiding the sales process and enhancing your customer’s business—and to do so at a high level.
How To Implement The Complex Sales Strategy In Your Business
If you need a system to facilitate successful complex sales, then what should it entail?
A 3-step process can provide a strong foundation for your system.
1. Diagnose The Situation
Your customer may not know what problem they have, and they may not even recognize that they have the problem. Your job as a salesperson is to help them see where they can make improvements, whether it’s through a more efficient environment or high-quality machinery or technology.
2. Design The Solution
Even if your customer recognizes the problem, they likely don’t have a solution in mind. They may not know their options, how those options could fit into their company’s operations, and what benefits they could realize. That’s where you come in: Guide this part of the process by developing solutions that could address the identified problems.
3. Deliver The Results
Here’s where you really shine. Many customers don’t have the capability to fully implement the solution and deliver the results. When you provide this success management, you help ensure that your customer gets the full benefit of the solution that’s such a significant investment for them.
Is Your Company Equipped For Complex Sales Success?
You’ve explored the definition of complex sales, what skills complex sales require, and how to implement a complex sales process. Now I encourage you to take a deeper dive into the expertise of Jeff Thull.
- Jeff’s course “Mastering The Complex Sale” delves into the complex sales process and its challenges, and it shows you how to tackle the issues you’ll face during the complex sales cycle.
- Jeff’s “Mastering The Complex Sale Implementation Guide” provides the framework to help you develop your own complex sales system.
- Jeff’s book Mastering The Complex Sale provides the blueprint for gaining respect and credibility in complex sales scenarios. It shows you how to develop the knowledge and relationships that guide quality business decisions.