Complex Selling: What It Is and Why It’s Important?

I have heard a lot of clichéd advice in my 18 years as a sales executive working with reps and businesses, including: do your research on the customer, establish your value up front, and equip your champions with the knowledge they need to succeed. As I worked hundreds of deals, I realized that the conventional wisdom was accurate in all respects, but that the salespeople who were consistently closing complex deals did so by applying it in original ways.

I have some specific, useful advice for any business rep looking to up their game because I’ve learned from others and developed my own method of working deals. My recommendations for putting these principles into practice will assist representatives in any organization in reaching consensus more skillfully while generating more value for the client and your business.

What Is A Complex Sale? And How Do You Win One? With Brian Burns / Salesman Podcast

Why are complex sales important?

Because larger corporations occasionally need to make large purchases that call for additional protection, complex sales are crucial. Buyers and sellers can both benefit from the processes typically used in complex sales, such as stakeholder approvals, in-depth client-supplier meetings, and extensive bidding procedures. Additionally, it assists them in lowering sales-related risk and guarantees that clients receive products and services that live up to their expectations.

What is complex selling?

Complex selling, also known as enterprise selling, typically refers to large sales that involve numerous important stakeholders and lengthy client-seller discussions. Due to the protections that buyers put in place to help them reduce risk, complex selling frequently takes longer than traditional selling. These safeguards frequently prolong the sales process by months and call for multiple approval levels.

Any industry, service, or product that engages in complex selling may sell anything, from $50,000 contracts to those worth millions of dollars. Although there are no strict requirements for a “complex sale,” they are typically more involved, extensive, and involve a high level of risk. Complex sales frequently involve specialized orders made to meet the particular business requirements of the customers.

Phases of the complex sales cycle

The complex sales cycle’s individual phases may be of greater significance because of the increased risk associated with the transaction. Here are the four typical sales stages:

1. Identify goals

During the initial phase of the sales cycle, sellers and buyers collaborate to identify the project’s specific needs and objectives. They might discuss their proposals and consider how to modify their current goods or services to meet the needs of the customer. Understanding client objectives and expectations enables sellers to focus their time and effort on developing solutions that are suited to each buyer’s specific requirements.

2. Find a viable solution

Choosing a production strategy that satisfies every requirement listed by the client is the following phase of the cycle. Depending on the good or service, this might entail designing something especially for the customer or changing an existing offering to suit their requirements. Typically, the buyer and the seller collaborate to find a workable solution, and they arrange recurring meetings to assess the outcome and the delivery process’s progress.

3. Develop the solution

The seller can work on the accepted solution while keeping the objectives in mind. There are frequently check-ins and milestones with the customer in complex sales. This facilitates the development team’s ability to make changes and keeps the project on track. In complex sales, the buyer-seller relationship frequently behaves more like a strategic partnership than a one-off transaction. Typically, the buyer and seller collaborate closely to ensure successful deliveries.

4. Deliver the product

Project delivery is the final stage of the complicated sales cycle. By the time both parties are prepared to deliver the product, expectations, objectives, and requirements are frequently well understood by both parties. All the changes discussed in check-in development meetings should be reflected in the final product. For updates or to create maintenance agreements, businesses may need to schedule additional meetings. Additionally, sellers can use the client comments received after delivery to enhance their sales procedures and boost future operational effectiveness.

Characteristics of complex sales

Here are some common characteristics of complex sales:

Multiple stakeholders

Many complex sales efforts involve numerous important stakeholders in order to reduce risk and guarantee the delivery of quality goods and services. Members of the executive leadership team, department heads, and local experts could be included in this. Multiple stakeholders can make the process more time-consuming, but they ultimately ensure successful deliveries. For instance, the company’s chief technology officer, IT leaders, and even board members might be involved in the purchase of a new company-wide software package. The business executives can make sure it makes sense from a business standpoint, and the IT professionals can ensure the product can meet the needs of the company.

Longer sales cycle

The sales typically take longer to complete because they are more complicated. Contrary to transactional sales, which typically only involve a buyer and a seller, the presence of numerous stakeholders and risk management techniques can make the process more time-consuming. Complex sales can take several months to over a year to complete, though they can also take less time or more time depending on the kind of sale.

Increased risk

The elevated risk factor is one constant in complex sales. This frequently occurs as a result of the substantial dollar amounts involved in the transactions. Suppliers want to make sure they are delivering an offering that meets the clients’ objectives, and companies want to protect themselves from investing significant sums of money in a product or service that doesn’t meet their needs.

Customized products

When a sale is complicated, a supplier frequently develops a good or service in response to the demands of the customer. To specifically address the needs of a business, technology companies may develop new software or modify existing software. In order to achieve this, businesses frequently have meetings with suppliers during the production process to make sure the project is on track and meeting expectations.

RFIs and RFPs

Companies frequently issue requests for information (RFIs) for complicated sales, in which they ask vendors to provide details about their products. Companies can create a request for processing (RFP) after gathering company information with an RFI. The RFP details the project, states the company’s intention to buy goods or services, and invites suppliers to submit bids in an effort to win the contract. The business then chooses a vendor who satisfies its standards and financial constraints.

RFPs and RFIs are common in large-scale sales, and they can assist businesses making significant purchases in weighing their options and selecting the most suitable supplier to meet their needs.

B2B sales

The fact that complex sales frequently involve business-to-business (B2B) transactions is another characteristic that they share. This indicates that a company is requesting goods or services from another company rather than conducting a transactional sale with a single seller and a single buyer. Because complex sales are so significant, they frequently originate from larger companies that can handle the volume of the requests.

Complex sales example

Here’s an example to help you better understand what a complex sale looks like:

A global moving company that assists growing businesses wants to gather client information and feedback using specialized analytics software. They need a program that can deliver real-time reporting due to the peculiarities of their industry so they can enhance management procedures, employee output, and the level of client satisfaction for their large-scale business clients. They request quotes from a variety of software contractors before choosing one that will provide the required software solution.

To discuss their objectives and expectations for the program, the head of the moving company’s IT department meets with their vice president of global operations, head of marketing, and lead developers from the software company. The following six months are spent developing, testing, and putting the software into use. They ultimately get a product that meets their needs, and by including important stakeholders and having lots of up-front conversations to set expectations, they successfully reduced risk.

Complex sales tips

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind if you intend to engage in complex sales:

Prioritize communication

The more effectively both parties communicate their expectations, needs, and offers, the more likely it is that they will reach an agreeable solution within a reasonable amount of time. Make communication a top priority at the beginning of the sales cycle and think about setting up regular meetings to share updates, raise issues, or assess progress. By doing this, development and delivery can be more successful and seamless.

Create an inclusive team

Make sure you carefully select your project teams so you can get input from everyone who will be impacted by the sale. You might need to solicit advice from department heads or the senior leadership group of the company. Before signing a legally binding agreement, make sure you have heard from all experts and stakeholders, even if they are not all required to remain on the project team.

Find the right partner

Complex sales frequently result in close working relationships between buyers and sellers. Make sure your company’s goals and values align with those of the other party and that you like their approach to doing business when looking for a seller for your project or a buyer for your goods or services. Finding compatible businesses with friendly teams can facilitate the sales process and make it easier to achieve success because you’re likely to work together for a long time.


What is complex sales process?

Understanding the Complex Sales Process According to one definition, a complex sales opportunity is “a method of trading occasionally used by organizations when obtaining contracts for a good or service.” Longer sales cycles and multiple decision makers are characteristics of complex sales, also known as enterprise sales.

How do you sell complex?

8 Tips On How To Sell Complex Products
  1. Showcase Your Value.
  2. Use Data and Testimonials.
  3. Understand Decision Layers.
  4. Know Your Target Market’s Needs.
  5. Offer Product Education Resources.
  6. Position Yourself Above the Competition.
  7. Use Research to Your Advantage.
  8. Always Focus On Having the Best Solution.

What are complex deals?

Large-scale transactions involving corporate businesses are known as complex sales, also known as enterprise sales. They usually come with a higher price tag, which can result in a big buyer risk.

What are the three levels of selling?

Three Stages to Sales Process
  • 1 – Qualification.
  • 2 – Collaboration.
  • 3 – Negotiation.

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