Mastering the Complex Sale
Posted on January 7, 2020 by Ronald Swensson

The landscape of buying and selling has changed more in recent years than it has in preceding decades. Customers are more sophisticated and, thanks to the Internet, are awash in information and research. At the same time, companies are searching for new ways to innovate, compete, and improve their success. Training is necessary to create salespeople who are successful in this changing sales landscape. I’ve been educating sales managers and salespeople for more than 20 years. I think 10 years ago the game plan for selling in a complex environment started to change. The big difference was that the customer himself could get facts about suppliers and their offerings, which meant that the salesperson no longer had an information advantage. In our Sales Skills Monitor - an ongoing research project that measures the competence level of Dutch B2B-sales reps - we studied the results of almost 700 B2B-sales reps to find out what winners do differently from those who come in second place. The top six things sales winners do most differently in the sales cycle from second-place finishers is that successful salespeople discuss quick wins and share new ideas with their customers, coach customers to achieve business results, communicate a strong value proposition, work together with people in the customers’ organization, ask for commitment each time and cultivate the relationship. 

In 2013 we developed Insight Selling™ and modernized Solution Selling® - first we named it Advanced Solution Selling® but what's in a name… For the first time our sales methods could support a complex sales process. Usually, the success or failure of a sale was almost dependent on the salesperson’s talent. And that changed. I think we had focused on sales techniques so long and somehow forgotten about the customer, especially customers, where many stakeholders would agree on a common solution or where the complexity of customer demand was high. Our Sales Skills Monitor showed us that the most common reason for business failure was that the salesperson, after a short need-analysis, told the customer what they needed. The customer asked for a quotation. The salesperson interpreted this as a buying signal and passed quickly over a quotation. When the client got the quotation…. nothing happened. Even if the quotation was discussed in a management team meeting. Other management team members did not see the value of the investment or ROI (return on investment) and blocked the decision. The salesperson had missed the definition of the word solution and we didn’t give him the tools! 

As said, we developed Insight Selling™ and modernized Solution Selling®. And results came instantly. Salespeople we’d educated in Insight Selling™ and (Advanced) Solution Selling® told us about deals where the customer had become actively involved and driven the sale to a conclusion, without that the salesperson had to hunt over. The salespersons were perceived as an advisor to the customer. In our new research paper I want to give you some ideas for how you can draw on your map of complex solution sales, thereby increasing the efficiency of your sales. Download the research paper.