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How to Navigate Complex Sales Opportunities

 

Business needs are more complex than ever. Therefore, the process of purchasing a solution is equally complex. Numerous stakeholders are involved, each with a different understanding of the business challenge. Each stakeholder has a unique set of needs and concerns. 

These factors have resulted in a complicated buying journey. Consider research from McKinsey that shows that this process involves, on average, six different interaction channels. Engaging these channels is a high-stakes challenge for sales professionals. There are many potential failure points. Articulating a solution’s features, benefits, and outcomes is not enough. Today, selling is a high-stakes scenario.  

Here, we explain the three skills sales professionals must develop to win the complex sale. 

Assert a Point of View to Shape the Customer’s Thinking

Sales professionals must first remember that the customer’s perspective is the result of years of experience. These experiences, like a trickle of water over decades, create deep contours. Sales professionals need ways to navigate and ultimately reshape this landscape. Let’s look at three ways to do so.

 

Use Specific, Clear Language

Complex solutions demand simplified language. Using technical language or industry jargon confuses the listener and strains their attention. Sales professionals should use short, clear sentences. This approach makes the value of the solution more accessible. Consider research showing that “technical language use negatively affected authors’ integrity and credibility.” Complex language appears inauthentic. With clear language, the customer can more easily connect the solution’s benefits to their specific business needs.

 

Normalize Discussions of Risk

Risk is inherent in any purchase. Therefore, sales professionals should not attempt to evade the notion of risk. Instead, they should normalize it. Sales professionals should help customers acclimate to uncertainty. Doing so means discussing risk in an open manner. This approach invites the customer to reveal their concerns. As a result, sales professionals can address each one. This approach is essentially the priming effect in action. The priming effect is the practice of using a stimulus now to prompt an idea later. By citing risk early, customers will not be blindsided by it later in the buying journey.

 

Use Reflection Questions

Reflection questions bring customers closer to the business solution. They spark the customer’s thinking and urge them to reveal their thoughts on the product or service. For example, “What are your thoughts on this approach?” is a reflection question. Other reflection questions include “How does this solution fit into your business model?” and “What hesitations do you have about this solution?” Questions like these are an effective way to check that the solution capabilities resonate with customer needs.  

Build Alignment Among Stakeholders

Solutions impact multiple aspects of the business. Therefore, sales professionals must convert more stakeholders. This consensus-building is challenging because each stakeholder has different needs and different leanings. Financial and reputational factors push and pull each person in different directions. Sales professionals can adopt three steps to build alignment among stakeholders.

 

Identify the Source of Misalignment

Misalignment has two sources: fear and communication breakdown. Fear arises when stakeholders believe implementing a new solution will diminish their control. Communication breakdown occurs when stakeholders either overstate or understate their position. Sales professionals must be on alert and able to identify the source of misalignment as soon as it occurs. Delays, conflicting messages, and silence are all signs that stakeholders do not share the same opinion. Sales professionals should ask questions to uncover where support is strong and where it is weak.

 

Join Perspectives into One Story for Change

Building alignment means creating one story for change from many different stakeholder perspectives. This approach starts early in the dialogue. Sales professionals must begin by understanding and organizing the disparate goals and concerns of those making the buying decision. With this information, sales professionals can incrementally build a narrative that supports a decision to buy with whatever opinions are shared among the leaders. This approach must focus on both those with the authority to purchase and those accountable for making the solution work.

 

Underscore the Risk of Inertia  

Sales professionals must remind stakeholders that every decision carries risk. Even the status quo represents risk. Choosing not to buy surfaces the risk of falling behind competitors and thereby losing market share. It is the sales professional’s job to help stakeholders recognize the urgency surrounding the business challenge. They must underscore the time-sensitive nature of business challenges and emphasize that the effectiveness of the solution depends, in part, on how early they implement it.

Access Senior-Level Stakeholders

A complex sale will involve senior-level stakeholders. However, many things stand between the sales professional and the senior-level stakeholder. Procurement professionals, unaccommodating schedules, and even other stakeholders are all examples of these factors. Breaking through to the C-suite requires specific steps. Here, we look at those three steps.

 

Create a Structured Request  

There is no need to bypass the current contact when attempting to reach the senior stakeholder. In fact, sales professionals should engage them. Doing so means recognizing the initial contact’s support to date. Next, sales professionals should explain why gaining access to the senior stakeholder will benefit the current contact. One simple way to do so is with a three-part value statement:

 

Issue: What is the goal or challenge the solution will address?

Action: What are the specific ways in which the solution will satisfy the customer’s needs?

Value: What are the positive outcomes the customer can expect?

 

Deliver Relevant Insights

To deliver relevant insights, sales professionals must conduct research in advance. They must understand the customer’s business. With this information, they can isolate the insights that will resonate and the ones that will not. This prework is critical to engaging the customer’s salience bias — the tendency to favor that which is striking and perceptible. Put simply, the customer will seize on information that stands out. This step is an easy way to outpace the competition. The salience bias is the customer saying to themselves, “They really understand me.”

 

Foster Trust by Fostering Transparency

Customers know that they are being sold to. As a result, they possess a healthy skepticism of everything the sales professional says. Overcoming this skepticism means becoming transparent. Sales professionals must show the customer their intent and the value it has for both parties. Sharing information tells the customer that the sales professional is an open book. For many customers, the fact that the sales professional is willing to share information is more important than the content of the information. Sharing information is a direct and fast way to build trust early in the relationship when it matters most.

The Plan in Brief

Buying is often as difficult as selling. Business needs are increasingly complex. Stakeholder groups are expanding. The margin for error is narrow. As a result, sales is becoming a high-stakes endeavor. Success means implementing a three-part plan:

 

Assert a Point of View to Shape the Customer’s Thinking

  • Use Specific, Clear Language

  • Normalize Discussions of Risk

  • Use Reflection Questions

 

Build Alignment Among Stakeholders

  • Identify the Source of Misalignment

  • Join Perspectives into One Story for Change

  • Underscore the Risk of Inertia  

 

Access Senior-Level Stakeholders

  • Create a Structured Request  

  • Deliver Relevant Insights

  • Foster Trust by Fostering Transparency

Complex solutions demand simplified language. Using technical language or industry jargon confuses the listener and strains their attention.”

Andrea Groznitzky | Chief Marketing Officer, Richardson

Andrea Grodnitzky

Chief Marketing Officer, Richardson

As Richardson’s Chief Marketing Officer, Andrea is responsible for demand generation and value creation through strategic marketing, brand awareness, digital optimization, product launch initiatives, and market-facing thought leadership to drive sustained, organic growth. With a passion for sales and customer-centric activity, Andrea and her team work to inspire customers across the engagement lifecycle and support them in their journey to market leadership by delivering fresh perspectives to their sales challenges.

Connect with Andrea on LinkedIn.

To learn more about closing complex deals, try these 6 tips from sales pros.
 
 
 

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