There are two major types of selling. The first type is transactional and the second is complex. The difference between them is based solely on how difficult it is for a decision-maker to come to a purchase decision. The client's complexity becomes the salesperson's challenge.
The buyer who has bought something many times has a solid base of knowledge and experience, so they may treat the sale as a transaction. In addition to being simpler and easier, transactional sales have little risk to the client's results. By contrast, a complex sale comes with greater risk because a poor decision may harm the client's business. A buyer in a complex sale often lacks the knowledge and experience they need to make a good decision, which changes the salesperson’s role. Complex sales can also be strategic, and they generally require long-term agreements.
Both transactional and complex sales can present competitive selling scenarios. Both types of buyers want to understand the competitive landscape, researching and comparing different companies to see where each option stands. On top of this, complex sales, by nature, require salespeople to use competitive selling strategies and frameworks that improve sales results. Because our current environment is uncertain and unstable, it is important that your sales team's B2B training is for complex sales.
Addressing New B2B Competencies
The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need is a competency model for B2B sales professionals. As the world of sales has grown more complex, there has been a rise in the number of salespeople struggling to fill their pipelines and win deals. There are three critical competencies sales reps need in the 21st century.
- Business acumen: When a buyer is engaged in a complex purchase, they don't need the salesperson's positioning statement about their company and their products. They need a salesperson with the business acumen to be more of a business advisor than a salesperson. The salesperson they hope to find would know enough to help them to generate the highest business impact.
- Change management: One challenge of B2B sales is helping clients make changes within their organizations. This includes helping them to build consensus and manage the long sales cycle that can be difficult to control. Your salesperson's deal is their prospective client's change initiative. The winning strategy requires salespeople to engage as partners in change.
- Leadership: Few sales organizations train reps on business acumen or change management, let alone, leadership. Training for complex B2B sales must include leadership, as the buyers expect the salesperson to educate them and advise them on how best to make an important decision.
Competitive Selling and Complex Sales Training
The best way to improve sales results is to use several value-creation strategies that differentiate the salesperson from their competition. The reason buyers respond to salespeople as though they are selling a commodity is because most salespeople use the exact same approach. This makes them seem interchangeable. The real contest isn't between different companies and their offerings; it's between salespeople. And the person who wins will be the one who creates the most value in the sales conversation.
In Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away from Your Competition, the first chapter provides a way to differentiate your salespeople in the first minute of the sales call. To do this, the salesperson uses an executive briefing to address the client's strategic outcomes. By providing greater insights and proving they can help the client pursue the better outcomes they need, the salesperson passes their audition.
Your B2B sales training needs to address the value your buyers are looking for in the sales conversation. Few sales organizations have enabled value creation, ceding the advantages to their competitors who have run down the path to a more effective sales model and approach.
Enabling Sales Reps to Facilitate the Buyer's Journey
Imagine a group of buyers and stakeholders pursuing their buyer's journey. They likely feel overwhelmed because complex buying decisions are rare and they have too little experience to know how best to conduct their buying process. Salespeople who help buyers every day know what their contacts need to improve their results and succeed. In a complex sale, the buyer’s journey is largely about changing what they do to get the results they need.
In complex sales, the buyer’s journey is nonlinear and it is becoming increasingly complex. In The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales, you will find a sales framework and the techniques that allow the salesperson to exercise control over this new buyer's journey. The 10 conversations provide a list of jobs to be done, with practical, tactical language for each topic.
Effective sales training shows sales reps how to facilitate the buyer’s journey because it acknowledges that, in many cases, the salesperson knows more than the client when it comes to what the client needs. Legacy training is built on the idea that the client knows more about the decision and that the salesperson should follow their client's lead. This is why sales teams don't hit their targets.
Building Authority and Experts
In a complex sale, the buyer is looking for a salesperson who is an expert and authority in their industry. The buyer's sales meeting agenda is to learn what they need to do to produce the better results they need. They hope to learn what they need from the salesperson, but are often disappointed by how self-oriented the sales approach is.
The major sales mistake is starting with the idea that the salesperson needs to sell something. This approach ensures they will fail. Instead, your sales team needs to know how to counsel their clients and provide advice and insight based on their experience with the decision their contacts are facing.
In Elite Sales Strategies: A Guide to Being One-Up, Creating Value, and Becoming Truly Consultative, you will find the cutting edge of modern sales strategies designed specifically for the competitive, complex sale.
The New Sales Enablement
Complex sales and the competitive B2B environment require a different type of enablement, one that includes modern sales strategies that allow salespeople to improve their effectiveness and win more competitive deals. Most sales training doesn't provide what buyers need from sales organizations and salespeople. Salespeople get a first meeting but no second meeting. It's also the reason sales leaders have deals in their pipeline that haven't moved over the last year.
I asked one senior salesperson what their client needed to know. He told me, "That our company is the best and that we have the best products." This antiquated idea isn’t going to help him win any deals because it doesn’t offer his prospective clients anything valuable. Winning competitive, complex deals requires a new sales enablement, one that better serves your clients by creating more value around their decisions and strategic outcomes.