Navigating the byzantine world of the complex sale

Complex Sales

Complex Sales

When comparing small transactional sales to large complex sales, the differences in the buying process are difficult to overstate. In a complex sale the buying cycle is longer with more twists and turns; more buyers are involved both as individuals and as committees; and the competition is keener.

Everyone knows it – some because of a leap of faith and others because of experience. A centerpiece for success in complex sales is getting the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Easy to say, but not so easy to do when the buying process is difficult even to identify let alone manage.

However, several characteristics of the buying process tend to be true more often than not:

  • Each player involved has a differing view of what constitutes value and
  • A lot of the decision-making is going on when you are not there.

With that said, what are some of the best practices for achieving success when selling in a complex sales market?  Here’s a short list:

  • Network – Know who is playing which role, the relationship between the players, and what they think about you and your competition.
  • Leverage institutional resources – The lone wolf sales strategy simply does not work – you need the power of the team.
  • Develop and rehearse internal champions – You need someone to tell your story when you are not there.
  • Document good news – Bad news documents itself unfortunately good news does not.
  • Deal with passive competition – When the buying process stalls, craft strategies to overcome the no-decision momentum.
  • Broaden the definition of competition – Competitors include everyone competing for the same budget dollars – not just direct competitors.
  • Differentiate by adding value – The product or service being sold may not vary much from one company to the next, so profile the added-value services and assistance extended to the customer.
  • Sell to the c-suite – The probability of capturing the business is significantly reduced if you cannot successfully sell at the senior level.
  • Make the business case – It’s unlikely a sale will be closed without making a strong business case to prove the business need to invest in the solution is worth the cost and risk.

Relying on relationship selling alone for success will not carry the day when you are engaged in a complex sale.  You must be business-savvy, possess superior sales skills, know the customer’s business and have the institutional awareness and political acumen to leverage and orchestrate internal company resources.  You must be a trusted advisor who can provide insights that make a difference versus a product facilitator who simply has a solution to sell.

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About Richard Ruff

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. During his career Dick has authored numerous articles related to sales effectiveness and co-authored "Managing Major Sales", a book about sales management, "Parlez-Vous Business" which helps sales people integrate the language of business into the sales process, and "Getting Partnering Right" – a research based work on the best practices for forming strategic selling alliances. Dr. Ruff received his Ph.D. in Organizational Psychology from the University of Tennessee and a B.S. from Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute.
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