Making complicated B2B sales simple – Alice Heiman
Alice Heiman is an authority, speaker, and mentor in sales. She is a sales strategist and enthusiast. Alice has won many awards for her thought-provoking blogs and books authored.
Today everyone is on the phone, video, Zoom calls, and other channels, thus making sales complex. Despite these new emerging channels, you need to do to make selling easier.
Sometimes I think we just make sales too hard. We get discouraged, we get much negative feedback, and sometimes it’s hard to keep ourselves going and be positive. Especially now, with all of the turbulence and uncertainty, we have to make sure that we can stay positive and be your very best for your customers.
And I think that is what is going to make a difference for you in whether or not you. Hit your sales goals or not.
Making complex sales simpler
How do you make the complex B2B sale easier? And there are five things that I want to talk with you about, like being informed, having insights. I understand that people buy with their emotions. How to map it and make it all easier? How to lead as a salesperson?
I believe that the sales profession is a helping profession. We all do our best when we lead instead of trying to push the type of selling that isn’t very comfortable for any of us.
So let’s talk about what is going on with the B2B sales today. In B2B sales, more people now than ever are participating in the buying decisions. So if you have a complicated deal, there are, I don’t know, eight or ten people that have to talk to you and talk to each other to make this decision together. But there are also lots of other people talking to those people and giving them ideas. So it has become even more complicated.
The buying process has become more formalized, especially with crunched budgets and people being a little bit more nervous about spending money, and buyers want to reduce their risk.
What is a complex sales process?
First of all, complex sales have longer sales cycles. So you may have some things that you sell. It takes a week, two weeks, maybe a month, but then you’ve got other items that you sell that take three months, six months, 18 months. And then complex sales usually have higher dollars attached to them.
Therefore, you may have an average deal size, which is smaller, less complicated. But when you’re doing a complex deal that dollar stakes are high, and that’s why you want to win these deals. There are multiple buying influences, as I said before, it could be eight to 10 and maybe even more people that you’ve got to talk to relate with, develop these relationships with, get them the solutions.
Sales and Influencers: how complicated is the relationship?
There are many people involved, and there’s a lot of perceived risk. There always has been, but now more than ever, we can’t afford to make mistakes with our money in these current economic times. We also have some products with technical or integration complexities that make it more difficult, so that makes it challenging and then something that we rarely ever think of that makes our sales complex.
If we have multiple influencers on our side of the deal, so as the sellers, sellers have many people, like subject matter experts, installers, and CXOs. You have the people who are going to deliver, depending on what you sell. There are people in your company eyeing your product, sales process, and how you are going to distribute it.
There might be legal departments that have to look at things and, and other financial issues. So your own company has people in it that are making your sales complex. And then you may have some other things that I don’t even know about right now that are unique. Individually, to your company, and what are you selling?
We can’t take things these things away. They are there to stay, and it’s not going to be easy. What I’m telling you is not, is not to say to you, Oh, the complex sale is so easy. It’s not easy. But what we want to do is simplify it. That’s truly the key. And so what Gardner, um, a big analyst firm that I work with, um.
Talks about are this spaghetti bowl of a decision-making process. And in that, we have so many different things that the buyers have to do. So let’s say there are five, six, seven, eight, ten bidders. And they all need to identify the problem, explore the different solutions. Then build the requirements to make sure they fit.
Finally, look at all the different suppliers and then pick one, but there maybe three, four, five, eight, ten people doing this. They all have to do it in their way, in their own time. And then they all have to come together to a consensus for that deal actually to happen.
3 things to simplify the sales process
So if you’re sitting there wondering, why is this so, so crazy? We’ll look at it. It’s right in front of you, that makes it so crazy and challenging. So we have to simplify this mess. That’s genuinely our job as leaders, as helpers, as problem solvers. Sales professionals, that’s what we do. We simplify things, and so this is how you make it simple.
- You have to be informed. There’s nothing more important because everything else falls out of this. I see too many sellers today going into these complex deals without enough information. And if they don’t have all of that, they will get stuck at some point or caught off guard. Now, of course, you can’t know everything.
That would be ridiculous, but there is so much on the internet today. You can genuinely get a lot of the information you need before you talk to a large group, and you can speak to one or two of the buying influences. One-to-one and get some of that information before you go into an alarm group. So be informed on these kinds of things.
Be informed on a company you’re working with. Be informed on the people who are involved in the decision. Be informed on the company’s values and what the president and CEO of that company believe. Be informed on the industry in which that company has to operate and what’s happening in that industry.
What are the impacts? And be informed on the customer of your customer. That’s probably one of the most critical phase, essential things that it’s forgotten. You’re selling to someone who has to sell to someone else, and your job is to make their world better. So you’ve got to know something about their customers to do that.
So be well informed. Because for you to lead, to be someone who is trusted and whom people want to work with, you have to add insights. Those insights can only come when you are informed. Those insights are shared one-on-one and further shared with the entire group that will work with you.
And those insights need to be pertinent and relevant. And you can’t add insight if you haven’t collected the information.
- Then you have to understand that buying is emotional. Yes, it’s business. I shouldn’t be sensitive because it is business. I should just make a business decision, but that’s not the way it works.
It’s emotional because something’s going to happen as a result of this sale. It could be useful. It could be just okay, or it could be awful. If a bad thing happens, I could lose my job. That’s emotional. Every person involved in making the decision has emotions around that decision, and you’ve got to be aware of that and sensitive to it.
- Next, if you want to make it simpler, you have to map it. Think about this. How many times in their lives have these buyers purchased? The thing that you’re selling is this something they buy every day, and they know how to buy it because they do it so often? Or is this something they may have never purchased or may be purchased once ten years ago?
So we think they know how to buy from us, but if they have never or rarely purchased what we’re selling, they don’t know how to buy from us. And it’s our job to lead your customers. So we need to make a clear map of what has to happen for them to buy.
AMA with Alice Heiman
The following is excerpts from the AMA session with Alice.
Are influencers relevant in sales, and do they contribute to the buying decision or create confusion?
So the more people, the more confusion, there’s just no doubt about it. But there’s no way for you to be in control of how many people they want to be involved in their buying decision. What you can do though, is ask and continue to ask who’s involved, what kind of information do they need, and what is the best way for me to get them that information?
And also, that will simplify it out. But yeah, if there are more people involved, there will be more questions, more emotions, ad more directions. More people have a stake in the ground for the thing that they want. So it’s more complicated.
Does a simpler sales process make cold calls easy?
One of the things that I teach salespeople all the time is to please stop cold calling. If you don’t have to cold call, don’t do it. You might have to cold call. You’re going to have to send some cold emails. Yes, of course. But don’t do it unless you have to see if there’s someone who can introduce you. Now, if you have a client that you’ve done a fabulous job for and they love you.
They are going to be an excellent reference for you. Referrals are going to make an introduction that will help you get the sale. Whenever possible, get a referral, get someone to make an introduction for you, and also to brag a little bit about you and what you did for them so that that person, that prospect is very interested.
How does a deal structure help to simplify B2B sales?
So, the deal structure is different at every company. And some deals require many contracts, and some of them require very detailed proposals. So any time you have a complicated agreement or a very elaborate plan, that’s probably going to lengthen your sales cycle.
Anytime something’s going to have to go through legal, it’s going to take a couple of extra weeks. So we have to map it when you are talking to your customers, and we say to them, what is the delivery timeline on this? And they tell us the delivery timeline, and then we have to back everything up from there.
All these steps should happen in the right order at the right time to hit that delivery. Now, if we know our contract’s going to be stuck in legal for two weeks, we have to build that in and be very clear with our customer that, you know, maybe the timeline. It’s going to have to be flexible.
So, you know, it’s essential to understand the structure of your deal. It is going to have an impact on all the complexities.
I have a sales team of 200 people. I’m planning to set up a sales operations team. Can I know and know what factors we should take into account before setting up the field sales?
I think this is very important, especially when you’re starting from scratch to set up a new team. What you want to do is think about the customer first? How will you best serve your customer? And you would then develop your sales operations around that.
Take that into account as you’re hiring. So if your sales to your customer require you to talk to a lot of higher-level people in an organization, then hiring young people fresh out of school that doesn’t have much experience will not be an excellent way to set up your sales operations.
You will need more senior people. You’ll probably need teams of senior people and subject matter experts and customer success experts. So we want to build our sales organizations in groups that can best serve our customers. From our customer’s point of view, now how we can help the customers with their perspective in mind.
How aligning sales and marketing contribute to an uncomplicated sales process?
We need to align sales and marketing desperately. We need to align again with the customer and what the customer needs. So sales and marketing can provide the language, the content, the continuity, the frequency that the customer wants. And so will it make the deal simpler? Yes. In some ways, it will. Because if we know that these are the steps that we’ll have to go through to close a deal, and marketing can align with sales and provide the right content at each step of the way, it will help the customer make their decision.
How does price quote help to reduce the complexity of sales?
So if someone’s asking you for a price quote, so here. Here’s the danger of price quotes. If I don’t have enough information about what the buyers are trying to accomplish at their company may make a price quote that is not a good fit. We always assume that companies want the lowest price, but that’s not necessarily true.
So I always want, when we’re talking about price. I do want to know, do they have a budget for this? If they don’t, where do they expect to get the budget from and when and when I talk to them about what is most important, what first of all, you want to know what their biggest challenges are and out of that, then I want to know what is most important.
How too much information can ruin your sale?
It can prolong your sales cycle. It can turn people off completely. So how do you reduce that? Well, first of all, you have to know what to say about your product or service. How can you help until you thoroughly understand your solution? And so when we’re talking about a complex sale specifically, there are all these complexities we need to know before we start offering solutions, right?
So we shouldn’t be talking yet. We should be. The only thing that comes out of our mouth is questions. And then we’re listening to the answers and writing them down and thinking about them. And sometimes we have to say. I’m going to have to come back to you with some more information. So I’m. Less talking is better than more listening.
We want them to talk and tell us, and I want to know what are their main challenges right now and what results do they want from, you know, from a product or service they’re going to purchase and how will that change things? And when I hear all of the answers around that, then I can talk, and I’m going to use those insights.
I’ve already gathered many insights so I can now configure some solutions and ideas that I can share out that are going to make a difference. So I want to let them talk first.