Jeff Thull wrote Mastering the Complex Sale about a decade ago, but its message is relevant today. As companies get larger, projects/products requested are increasingly complex and larger in scope (e.g., Boeing Dreamliner), products/services become increasingly commoditized, and the procurement departments power to demand discounts increases, all sales people need to know when increases,
Sales people today have to do more than simply identify immediate needs and meet them. A sales person needs to think like a strategic business leader – identifying existing and likely future needs, by all relevant buying agents, as more than one department may have to approve the purchase. It requires a true team approach by the sales group to accurately determine which decision-criteria are essential to success, and which aren’t. With that information, the sales team can develop a proposal that addresses the essential decision-criteria. For instance, one department may be enamored with a particular service/product feature that a competitor offers, but may not truly need. Also, different departments may have conflicting needs. Thus, helping the separate buying department negotiate their needs is a leadership skill the complex sales person needs to have. Only when tradeoffs are understood and a clear picture of what is needed emerges, can the sales team develop a presentation. It describes the meticulous decision-making process that the sales team used to arrive at the optimal project/product that the customer wants to buy. After the presentation, the sales person must address the different perspectives of the buyers so they all will support your proposed solution, and do so in a way that creates a longer-term relationship rather than a simple transaction.
How have your experiences with complex sales differed from simpler ones? What advice would you give to sales people challenges with complex sales? What are the key leadership attributes sales people need to master the complex sales.