Winning complex sales – defining fundamentals

Winning Complex Sales

A complex sale is not just a big little sale.  It is qualitatively different.  The buying process is more complex, the sales cycle is longer, and the consequences of winning and losing are more significant.  

Correspondingly, the performance requirement is broader and deeper. Today, successfully navigating the buying process in a complex sale requires account executives to know more and know it at a higher level of proficiency than ever before.  

What does it take to get it right?  When answering that question it is always a good idea to start with the fundamentals – those things that absolutely positively must be mastered.  

Let’s take a look at the fundamentals account executives have to be good at when selling in a complex sales environment.  First, they have to master three core performance skills – asking questions, active listening, and positioning capabilities.   

Translating these three core performance skills into action can most effectively be achieved by remembering this simple construct: ask, listen, and then talkUnfortunately, in too many calls sales people: talk too much – listen too little – and don’t ask enough questions.   

Why does “ask, listen, then talk” work?  Because:  

  • You end up learning what the customer needs before you start talking about a solution.
  • You learn about what the customer might already have in mind so you know something about the degree of fit with your capabilities.
  • You know what not to talk about so objections and awkward situations are less likely to occur.
  • You end up talking about what is of interest to the customer so you clearly establish you’re there to support what they want to do.
  • You leave having created a small piece of value for the customer so a solid foundation is established for future interactions. 

In addition to the three core performance skills, five competencies are included on the list of fundamentals:  

  • Identifying Leads – Lead identification is all about the best practices required to uncover customer needs and to recognize how those needs impact the overall strategic, financial, and operational condition and direction of the customer’s organization.
  • Qualifying Leads – Qualification is about determining the priority of the opportunity for receiving funding; the likelihood a customer is serious about securing partner support, and the degree of fit with your capabilities.
  • Preparing for Interactions – In the complex sale environment, there are a wide variety of customer contacts – from high level technical staff to senior executives.  Each contact has a different set of needs and a different view of value.  The question is how to develop these needs and prepare for getting the right message, to the right person, at the right time?
  • Handling Objections – In a complex sale you face some objections that are real and some which are avoidance tactics. The identification and resolution of these objections requires substantial clarification and problem solving.
  • Obtaining CommitmentObtaining commitment is not a one-time “closing-the-business” challenge but instead a step in every sales call.  The objective is to develop in every interaction a shared vision for moving forward.

It is not easy to be good at selling in a complex sales market.  But, it is a worthwhile journey and a great place to start is developing mastery of the sales fundamentals.  

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©2011 Sales Horizons™, LLC

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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3 Responses to Winning complex sales – defining fundamentals

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