Although my company explicitly serves the “complex B2B sales” market, I’ve never really liked the word “complex.” In its correct definition, “complex B2B sales” is an accurate description of a particular type of selling. But I also see people use it as an excuse:
“I haven’t reached my targets because these deals are so complex”
“I don’t have a lot of activity in my calendar because it’s complex sales”
“My pipeline is slow because I'm working on complex deals”
I was speaking with a recruiter recently who echoed these concerns. He said that he sees a lot of salespeople with good-looking CVs, but when you start talking to them you find out they’re not having many customer conversations, and they’re not engaging proactively with prospects. He said they often use “it’s complex sales” to excuse their lack of action and activity, but what it comes down to is that they aren’t really professional salespeople: They’re order takers.
Saying “it’s complex sales” is not an acceptable excuse for lack of action and activity.
A complex sale doesn’t mean fewer activities. In fact, sometimes it should mean more activities with more individuals per sale.
The word “complex” is a convenient excuse for salespeople who sit by their phones and wait for them to ring. But why are these “salespeople” not taking action, and why are they reluctant to provide transparency into their activity levels?
The word “complex” leads a lot of people to think of phrases like:
In complex sales, this shows up as an attitude from some sales leaders that because their sales environment is “complex” you can’t really understand it. Then they develop “strategies” based in this misunderstanding that amount to:
With this attitude, sales leaders create a sales culture that relies on superstar salespeople, fails to hold them accountable, and ultimately is impossible to scale or improve.
It is true that complex sales often have longer sales cycles and a lower number of actual sales. This is due to the size of the deals, the perceived risk of the investment, and the number of stakeholders involved in any given sale.
However, this does not translate into fewer activities. Here are some reasons why a complex sale may actually mean more activities:
Furthermore, a complex sale needs more structure, not less. Creating effective structure (i.e., strategy, process, training, coaching, playbooks, and enablement) helps salespeople become more active with their prospects, and more effective in their activities.
Thus, activity level alone is not an accurate measure of effectiveness, but it is still a necessary metric to determine that a salesperson is doing their job. At Membrain, we measure “conversations in market”–not just conversations, and not just activities, but conversations with people who are qualified potential customers or existing customers. It is one of several measures we use to help our salespeople track how they are performing on a daily basis, and help them stay accountable to a target so that they can ultimately meet their goals.
One of the goals of the Membrain platform is to help you help your sales teams to be more active, and more productive, by creating a structured approach to how you sell… which becomes why you win. Replacing “busy” with “productive” and reactive inactivity with proactive and effective activity. We’d love to show you how.
George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.
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