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Winning Strategies to Succeed in Complex Sales

A new book shows you how to beef up your sales strategies and skills to sell smarter.
— New York, NY

So, you're playing in the big leagues now. You and your company are involved in high-stakes, high-return, multi-faceted sales, but has something changed? Are you finding that the skills that won sales for you in the past just aren't working as effectively today? Are you finding that your customers are not connecting to the value of your products and services?

If you sell business-to-business or business-to-government, chances are your transactions involve long sales cycles and require multiple decisions from multiple people at multiple levels of power and influence. You are now required to juggle conflicting perspectives from a variety of people in several different companies, including yours, that may even cross country and cultural borders. And, you are likely finding that there is a significant disconnect between the value of your solution and your customers' ability to understand, quantify and invest in it. If you've made it to the high-stakes world of the complex sale, you will need to ratchet up your systems, skills and disciplines to keep up with the pace and succeed in this very challenging market.

Jeff Thull, a leading-edge strategist and business advisor for major companies worldwide, will give you the tools you need to sell smarter in this challenging and complicated world. The second edition and highly-revised best-selling book, Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes Are High! (John Wiley & Sons; 2010; ISBN 978-0-470-53311-6; $24.95) shows even the most seasoned sales professionals and their executive teams how to shift their approach to win – and win profitably – in high-stakes sales.

"When salespeople use a conventional sales process in a complex situation, they are like major league pitchers hurling 90 mile per hour fastballs at batters who may be at the plate for the very first time," Thull explains. "What are the chances that such batters will connect?" He continues, "In a complex sales situation, customers don't get up to bat that often. Yet, salespeople continue to pitch reams of solution data at customers, leaving them alone to try to comprehend, sort and connect all of that information to their business and make that connection on their own. Sales professionals want their customers to connect, but if they keep hurling those fastballs the customer is going to just keep striking out. A strikeout for a customer is a strikeout for the sales team."

In this meaty second edition of his best seller Mastering the Complex Sale, Thull gives readers a compelling and systematic approach to turning complex sales solutions into winning value-driven proposals. He advocates a Diagnostic Business Development® methodology – or the "Prime Process" – that is based on over 25 years of research observing top-notch sales professionals bringing in high-stakes sales and working with their executive teams to execute a strong market strategy.

"Diagnostic Business Development® is a meta-process that can be overlaid on any complex sale," Thull says. "It provides a navigable path from the first step of identifying potential customers, through the sale itself, and on to expanding and retaining profitable customer relationships." He adds, "It is a re-engineering of the conventional sales process and it directly addresses the challenges that salespeople face while trying to master complex sales in today's marketplace."

The Diagnostic Business Development process encompasses four phases:
Discover, Diagnose, Design and Deliver.

Discover. Every sale starts at the same place – identifying the customer. In conventional sales, this prospecting and qualification often entails minimal preparation. If you are going after the complex sale, the Discover phase is your opportunity to set the stage for a compelling engagement and a continuing relationship based on relevancy, trust and respect. Discover means pushing beyond the traditional boundaries of prospecting to creating a solid foundation on which to build a long-term, profitable relationship. The edge in this approach is the level of research that is required pre-engagement and the resulting credibility that sets the stage for a productive relationship. It entails a process that includes pre-contact research of potential customers and their industry, the preparation of an engagement strategy, and the initial conversation with the prospective customer. It is at this stage that the customer and the salesperson mutually decide whether the engagement should continue.

Diagnose. Unlike conventional selling, where the sale is made at the "close" and the needs analysis is more of a smokescreen for positioning your solution, the Diagnose phase is where the customer will make the decision to change/buy, and from whom. In the complex sale, the decision is more about should we change (the problem or lack of opportunity), than what should we change (the solution). Understanding how and why people and businesses change is the key to getting an accurate handle on the complex decision. In the Diagnostic Business Development® paradigm, Diagnose is actually a process of hyper-qualification during which an in-depth determination of the existence, extent and financial impact of the customer's problem is pursued. It involves a collaborative effort to put the customer in a position to make an informed, value-based decision. Diagnosis is meant to maximize the customer's objective awareness of their dissatisfaction, whether or not that dissatisfaction supports the salesperson's offerings. The salesperson assists the customer in understanding their situation and, as a result, reinforces his credibility by refusing to alter the customer's reality to fit his needs.

Design. Design is where sales professionals help the customer create and understand the solution. Where in a conventional sales approach the customer is not involved in the creation of the solution, here Design is approached as a collaborative and highly interactive effort to help customers sort through their expectations and alternatives to arrive at the optimal solution. In the Diagnostic Business Development® process, the Design phase does not focus on a specific solution. Rather, its goal is to get salespeople and customers working together to identify the optimal solution to the problems that were uncovered and quantified in the Diagnose phase. Solutions are addressed by introducing and exploring alternatives, including alternative solutions offered by competitors. The goal is to create a solution framework that best solves the customers’ problems and manages their expectations. At the conclusion of the Design phase, a "Discussion Document" is created, which provides a pencil sketch of the solution. This is the dress rehearsal before the final proposal and presentation is created.

Deliver. A conventional sales process involves an inordinate amount of time and energy teaching salespeople to overcome objections in order to close the sale. The Diagnostic approach encourages customers to evolve their own decision throughout the process. By now, the customer has a clear understanding of their problem and they know what the best solution will look like. They become co-authors of that solution and there are no "objections." This phase begins with the preparation and presentation of a formal proposal and the customer's subsequent formal acceptance of the solution. Implementation and support of the solution follow with measurement of the financial impact and evaluation of the results. Finally, the Deliver phase includes the maintenance and expansion of the team's relationship with the customer.

In Mastering the Complex Sale, Jeff Thull provides concrete advice on how to avoid common sales pitfalls such as becoming an unpaid consultant or engaging in never-ending dry runs, both instances where time is wasted and sales are never made. He shows his readers how to make the transition from thinking like a salesperson to thinking like a valued business advisor.

According to Thull, conventional selling simply doesn't work in the complex sales environment. "The often ignored reality is that customers need outside expertise to help them understand the problems they face and what it is costing them not to change. They also need help in designing and implementing the optimal solutions to those problems." He adds, "It is up to you to provide the expertise and guidance your customers require. See yourself as a project manager that guides your customer through a quality decision process. That is one of the secrets to succeeding in complex sales. That is how to hit a home run for you and your customers."

About The Book:

Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes Are High!
(John Wiley & Sons; 2010; ISBN 978-0-470-53311).

About The Author:

Jeff Thull, President and CEO of Prime Resource Group, is a leading-edge strategist and valued advisor for executive teams of major companies worldwide. He has gained the reputation for being a thought leader in the strategy, process and execution of complex sales.

Jeff's corporate clients include Shell, 3M, Microsoft, IBM, HP, Yokogawa, Boeing, DB Schenker, Hendrick Motorsports, Citicorp, Siemens, Boston Scientific, Dow Corning, GE and Georgia-Pacific.

Jeff is a compelling, entertaining and thought-provoking keynote speaker with a track record of over 3,500 keynotes and seminars delivered to corporations and professional associations. He is the author of four best-selling books focusing on the strategy, process and execution of complex sales, and his articles are published in hundreds of business and trade publications.

Jeff Thull's Best-Seller!
Mastering the Complex Sale
How to Compete and Win When the Stakes are High
Download Chapter 1
Order today!

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