Increase Sales: Understanding Complex Sales

How do I know if i am in a complex sale? What differentiates a complex sale?

Most sales advice you will find is about simple sales; complex sales are more challenging, yet usually provide more revenue and are worth pursuing. Terry Slattery shares the sales skills needed for complex sales. Learn how to identify when you are in a complex sale and what differentiates a complex sale from a simple sale.

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A complex sale involves multiple decision makers. It involves perhaps a complete cast of characters and multiple decision makers and multiple meetings over time. That’s all a complex sale is. Of course, it’s far more expensive to conduct than a transactional sale, and it takes more complexity to drive to the outcome you seek. That’s why we refer to it as a complex sale. Examples of complex sales would be if there’s a group of people within an organization that’s brought together to solve a problem. Chances are by the time they even have contact with solution providers for that problem, they’re already quite deep into their own process. Even though there are a lot of people involved, there may be time pressure and it’s more difficult for a sales force who’s now in react mode to have that big an impact on the sequence of events in that process.

Complex sales are tougher to manage. They tend to be bigger deals, and therefore, of course, a lot of them are worth pursuing.

What do people generally not think about when they’re going into a complex sale that trips them up?

You want to bear in mind the concept of the meeting after the meeting. You’re going to have a meeting with them. They’re going to have a meeting later that you’d pay a lot of money to get a seat in the room, and what’s going to happen is you’re going to have two opposing points of view. There’s going to be one group that typically is what we refer to as the emotional customer or customers. They want the best possible technical solution. They tend to be thinking longer term. They’ll think about things like cost of ownership and those kinds of things and whether or not this enhances their ability to compete. Across the table will be people with a different point of view. They’re going to look at this thing and say, “It’s a commodity and let’s go with the people who have the best upfront pricing because we may not have this thing for a long time, and therefore, we can do another one later.”

You wind up in this short-term versus long-term, price versus cost kind of issues, and that’s very common in a complex sale. You’re going to want to pull the agenda from the meeting after the meeting into the conversations you’re having with this committee.

Is a lot of the advice about sales that’s generally out in the world for simple sales and not complex sales?

It tends to be more for what we refer to as transactional sales. It’s going to be a quicker, shorter cycle. You may only talk to one person to get it done. It’s a much simpler sale, less expensive to conduct, and an awful lot of the training that goes into conducting sales tends to use a simple sales model when most people sell in bigger ticket than longer things tend to be working in a much more complex world.

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