How to orchestra stakeholders and make value at all levels
Complexity in B2B sales
Not all B2B businesses have a high level of complexity. For example, this is when the product you are selling is self-explanatory and does not need expert support. But the selling process becomes more complex whenever there is a demand for customization, whether it be a product, service, or sales/purchase agreement.
The complexity arises from the fact that you need to gather more information from the customer and various stakeholders to tailor a solution uniquely suited to them. And even though the product or service may be non-customized, there might be customized elements of how the customer wants them delivered or other aspects of the agreement.
Team-to-team sales are also often complex sales. The complexity level is undoubtedly higher when you must take input from multiple stakeholders on the customer side during the sales process. You often have the entire buying center on the customer side involved, including influencers, users, decision-makers, buyers, and gatekeepers. And very often, you also need to include experts and colleagues from your own company. Suddenly, there is a reasonably big team buying and a big team selling, yet gathering the correct information and maintaining momentum in the sales process is crucial.
All the previous is also true when the customer is making a substantial purchase, where there will need to be budget allocations or specific budgeting for the purchase. When what you have to offer means that the customer and their organization need to make changes in their systems to integrate their purchase, the complexity increases. Substantial investment with a significant impact is a recipe for complexity in B2B. For example, when the customer is considering a new vendor, the shift from the existing one means they will need to make changes in their systems and documentation. Software purchases are similar because customers may need to alter their IT systems significantly.
Sometimes, customers resist any selling approaches because they already have a vendor relationship in place that is impregnable. Another reason for resistance could be a prior bad experience with your company. Whatever the reason, an attempt to sell might strengthen the resistance. Suddenly, the situation can become more complex than a typical sales situation.
Complex B2B sales situations occur when one or more is true: selling service, support, knowledge, ideas, or user rights; customization of offers or sales processes; multiple stakeholders; or a substantial purchase with a significant impact on the customer. These criteria are typically true for many high-end service-based industries, such as strategic consulting, where the consulting projects can be multi-million-dollar investments for the customer. The banking and finance sector, the software industry, and other sectors related to digital platforms and technologies often also have high complexity in sales. And any high-tech solution and manufacturing, including equipment, chemicals, or bioengineered compounds, ultimately requires support and service to adopt the solution.
How to organize a complex sales approach
There are multiple approaches to the process of organizing a complex sales approach, however the vast majority of these are based on the assumptions of linearity, and standard cause and effect paradigms. We propose an alternative solution based on a nonlinear paradigm built on a premise of discontinuity, complex cybernetic communication, and iterative change in systems.
The first assumption we make in the way we approach the consideration of training an organization to become more successful in their sales efforts rests in the principle of constant change, and the dynamic aspects of systems modeling.
Essentially this means that in complex systems, all aspects of the processes related to sales must operate in an integrated way across both the sales organization and the buyer organization. The more deeply integrated the sales process is within the sales organization, e.g.: from R & D through production and operations onto the selling process and customer follow up service after delivery, the more effective the sales process of converting prospects into clients, maintaining significant client accounts, and developing deeper alignment and integration into the client organization becomes.
Furthermore, the greater the sales organization is integrated with the client organization the more effective and profitable the sales efforts become as well. To accomplish the greatest integration within the sales organization the team must learn to operate well internally and externally as a team, and not simply as individuals combining their efforts.
To change a group of individual contributors into a high-performance selling organization operating as a unified team a new set of integrated skills must be introduced and absorbed into the sales organization.
The heart of this new set of skills requires a shift from problem seeking and resolution to opportunity discovery and solution creation. This means more than considering the shift as a philosophical premise, or semantic change in the way we speak about it, instead we must move the sales organization from considering what’s not working in client organizations that we can resolve, to a new starting point of discovering what’s working and how we can build upon that to create even greater success and opportunity in partnership with them.
This new paradigm for complex systems selling moves the sales organization from operating tactically, i.e.: solving problems, to operating strategically, i.e.: creating solutions. Here, our sales model, The Satisfaction Cycle comes into play.
So, what does success look like in complex B2B sales based on the Satisfaction Cycle?
Here are a few metrics:
1. Greater customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Probably the most remarkable outcome of using The Satisfaction Cycle is increased customer satisfaction and loyalty. We have seen it over and over again. Once you have a customer it is highly likely that they will come back again. And again. And again. The Satisfaction Cycle approach creates a natural loop of satisfaction that just gets stronger over time.
2. Increased revenue and profitability.
All businesses aim to improve their profitability, and the Satisfaction Cycle has been shown to improve profitability by focusing on providing greater value for the customer. Creating value is not a new idea, so what is the difference here? We have seen how this strategy has helped salespeople get the customer’s purchase decision before negotiating pricing and other commercial terms. Focusing on the customer value until they have made the decision increases the chance that the customer is also willing to pay for the value. We have also seen that the revenue grows after adopting the strategy of the Satisfaction Cycle.
3. Greater Return on Sales.
A salesperson has limited hours in a day, and the Satisfaction Cycle has been shown to help salespeople use their time more effectively. It has helped salespeople know much sooner whether or not a customer is a good match for the seller’s products, services, and organization. This clarity ensures that the salesperson avoids wasting their time on wrong projects, which means they focus on customers and cases with the strongest possibility of success.
4. Less friction in aligning the customer, internal team, and resources.
With the strategy we are presenting in this book, we have seen that it has become more comfortable for salespeople to work with customers. One significant benefit is that they have been able to easily align the entire buying center on the customer side to move in the same direction by avoiding conflicting agendas. Additionally, in team-to-team selling, the Satisfaction Cycle has also been shown to give salespeople a better sense of when to include others and bring in additional resources and experts. Opportunity-based thinking and clarity on how the customer wants their solution allow easier alignment to understand the needed resources to provide the customer with what they want. All of this ensures a smoother selling process altogether.