We alluded to the fact in the last issue that, to speak of complex sales, certain conditions must arise that do not happen every day, neither for the purchasers nor to for the sellers.
The sums at stake are high, purchases occur infrequently and therefore purchasers are never experts on what they intend buying.
The consequences of a wrong decision are serious, hence purchasers are very cautious in making purchasing decisions (which are frequently taken in anonymous committees of experts).
Referring the area of the private customer or client, we can imagine the purchase of a sizeable flat; and in the case of a company we could be dealing with the purchase of a large manufacturing facility or with a major project involving the purchase of a new business unit.
A new point of view
In dealing with complex sales the assumptions on which all salespersons training theories they have been based for decades need to be jettisoned.
Hundreds of companies have sent their account manager, destined perhaps to take part in highly important sales of large systems of innovative machine tools, on courses which taught them to "listen to the needs of the client", "pinpoint the psychological needs of the same that require fulfilment", “manage objections proactively”, and to even “best manage closing techniques”, as if you might be able to close a contract for millions of euros with the right formula in just one visit.
In the eighties Niels Rackam, the greatest among the great experts of the North American school of management consulting, identified and showed the right way, by setting a theory of complex sales that, as a first step, shifted the focus entirely from the seller to the customer.
It underlined the crucial importance of the purchasing cycle (of which we give a typical pattern) as opposed to the sales process, which indeed in the case of complex sales, is practically irrelevant.
It has been shown that the purchasing cycle is a very complex process from an organizational standpoint, it has to be treated with caution by the seller company. It has also been shown that the "tactics of the visit," the handling of the "face to face" phase on which thousands and thousands of salesperson training experts have held forth, are of mere secondary importance.
Conversely, what counts is the strategy towards the client, which is brought to bear to manage a complex, longstanding, drawn-out relationship.
Hence the different phases of the purchasing cycle, which correspond to different stages of the contact strategy, need to be managed by different account managers, with different levels of experience and coordinated by a head who is able to maintain a unified vision of the sales operation.
It follows that, in the case of complex sales, the whole process should be redesigned from the grassroots by the seller companies: from the training of account managers, no less than that of the sales managers, the yardsticks used to measure successes and failures and, very importantly, how the sales teams are remunerated.
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