John O' Gorman

Do you Understand The Complicating Factors?

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There is a word we find ourselves using more and more in respect of managing sales cycles and that seems to keep coming up again in reviewing pipeline opportunities and accounts. That is COMPLICATING FACTORS.

When it comes to the complex sale, things are never straightforward. There are certain to be complicating factors. Understanding what exactly these are is essential to the seller’s role in successfully matching a solution to the complex needs of the buyer. If unaddressed these have the potential to scupper the sale.

The number of complicating factors involved in the typical sales is on the rise in response to the following trends in respect of today’s buying decisions:

Slower Buying Decisions– the longer a decision takes the more complex it is inevitably going to be. Against the backdrop of changing market conditions and business priorities, decisions can quickly be overtaken by events. It also means that the people involved in the decision can change during the process and this can have a major factor in derailing a potential sale. Try though as you may most sales people will struggle to accelerate the sale/buying cycle. A word of caution you run the risk of impeding the buyers buying process ever time you run ahead of them.

More People Are Involved – the more people that are involved the more complex the sale is likely to be, different stakeholders can have different, perhaps competing requirements and motivations. Getting a consensus can be a challenge as more people means more politics and it also means a greater risk of misunderstanding. Gaining access to and engaging in a meaningful way with all those now involved in making, or shaping the decision is a real challenge for the salesperson.

More sophisticated. Today’s important buying decisions are more carefully made than ever before. They are attributed by all the complexity of an important business strategy decision. That means more rigor, more information, more documentation, more oversight and so on. Buyer autonomy has been greatly restricted, with decisions being made at increasingly senior levels.

The issues of impact on the bottom line, cash flow and the balance sheet are key. More robust financial analysis is required, together with a more sophisticated investment appraisal. More feasibility type information is required, more external validation, and a robust business case. Issues of strategic fit, risk and implementation are at the top of the agenda. The discussions on these complex issues often takes place behind closed doors (a point we sales people sometimes forget).

More Risky. Today’s buying decisions are taking place in the context of greater market turbulence. In an environment of greater risk and uncertainty managers are tempted to play it safe and to delay, or postpone difficult decisions. With pressure on budgets projects are being stalled, shelved, or scrapped. Meanwhile organizational priorities have changed, with a focus on cutting costs, regaining competitiveness, managing cash and so on.

Spotting complicating factors in respect of the sale is vital to the success of the sale. Trying to close a sale when there are complicating factors that have not been resolved is not only foolish, but dangerous. It can call into question the sellers very commitment, or expertise.

This however can pose challenges for the salesperson, particularly in the context of the increasingly hands-off approach being adopted by buyers. This is certainly the case in respect of competitive tenders, for example.

The sales person must get close to the sale and more to the point the buyer if he, or she is to really understand and appreciate the full range of factors impacting on the buying decision. The seller must develop a deeper understanding of the buyer’s business in order to understand his, or her impending business decision.

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