Our processes are built on reality, not theory, and it would be unrealistic to suggest that everyone involved in selling could profit equally from them. That’s why we need to start by defining the complex sale, so that you can determine whether or not, given the type of selling you do, you can benefit from the methodology we have developed. In our corporate programmes we use the following definition:
A complex sale is one in which a number of people must give their approval or input decision can be made.
That sounds simple enough, and it is simple, but the concept nonetheless has enormous implications. To flesh out this definition somewhat we can say that in the typical complex sale, one or more of the following elements are in place:
*The buying organization has multiple options.
*The selling organization has multiple options.
*In both organizations, numerous levels of responsibility are involved.
*The buying organization’s decision making process is complex, meaning that it is seldom self-evident to an outsider.
The presence of these complicating factors makes selling in any complex sale arena complicated too. The variety of people involves in the complex sale, and the variety of often conflicting decisions that these people commonly have to make, mean that in complex sales representative has to develop a selling method that’s distinct from, and more analytical than, that of the traditional press the flesh salesperson. Our processes are in demand precisely because we demonstrate this difference to our clients.
If you’ve ever sold something to a couple as opposed to a husband or wife alone, you know how multiple approvals can complicate a sale. If your selling takes place in a corporate or government environment, you know that the complications are even greater when approval has to come not just from individuals but from committees and boards of review. The bottom line here is that whenever two or more ‘yes’ votes are needed for a sale to go through, you need a very special strategy to handle the situation.
This is true no matter how simple or complex the product being sold is, and no matter how much or how little it costs. The decisive factor in the complex sale is not product or price but structure.
Take cricket balls – certainly not a high priced product – as an example. The salesperson who sells a dozen footballs to Old Mr Nadkarni at the local sports shop is making a simple sale; he doesn’t need our help. But if you’re trying to place a hundred gross of that same product with the headquarters of a large sports retailer, you definitely do need it, because making this sale will require so many approvals. People who sell in this kind of arena, at the business-to-business level, are confronted every day with structural complexity – and therefore with what we call the complex sale.
With this definition of the complex sale in mind, you should be able to determine how relevant this article will be to you. If you sell principally over a counter or door-to-door you probably won’t find it indispensable to your work, since you rarely need more than one yes to close your transactions. But if you’re involved in any aspect of corporate strategic selling process can help you hone the skills you already have, develop new ones you may not have thought you needed, and fit them all together into a visible and repeatable strategy for sales success.
The people who have already learned this process, and who are now using its principles in their own sales operations, form a virtual Who’s Who of business: Many of these firms deal in obviously high cost items, such as aeroplanes (Lockheed) and computer systems (Hewlett Packard, IBM). Others sell low cost products, such as Kleenex (Kimberly Clark) and soft drinks (The Coco-Cola Company). All of them operate in the arena of the complex sale.
In that arena the people who profit most directly and immediately from our processes are corporate field salespeople and their managers. In addition, we’ve brought significant success to inside salespeople, customer service people, product managers, and many senior executives whose work in one way or another involves sales performance. But you don’t have to work for a fortune listed giant to profit from The New Strategic Selling. Whatever the size of your company, and whatever the product or service you deal in, if you’re involved in the complex sale as we’ve defined in here, this article is for you.
To get the maximum benefit from reading it, however, you should understand its particular relevance to your current sales environment. That environment as you already know is characterized by virtually constant change. Because this change is often troubling to the sales representative before we start laying out the Strategic Selling we want to describe the impact of this constant change on the complex sale.