Companies that have complex solutions have additional challenges in meeting their revenue targets due to obstacles or delays. This is a major problem that many of our clients struggle with. SOMAmetrics specializes in helping clients address a number of issues related to complex sales. This article discusses some important points executives should think through when it comes to generating sales pipeline for complex solutions.
For discussion purposes, we will define complex sales as those that typically target large organizations (Fortune 2000 companies and government entities); poses significant perceived risk and cost for the customer; involves, at the very least, a handful of key stakeholders besides the final economic decision maker (i.e. CEO, CFO, CIO, a CXO); entails a complex sales process and decision making process; and usually comes about as a result of a company or division-wide initiative.
Assessing the Prospecting Process
To complicate things further, different titles may be in charge of the same initiative or drive in a given sales environment. This makes it difficult to determine where to begin the prospecting process. Hence, a complex sale involves research over time to uncover the moving parts and weave together a coherent sales strategy or assessment. The following are a few examples of information that this assessment may address:
- What is the driving issue/initiative behind the need?
- Who are the key stakeholders involved?
- What are the key pain points and concerns of each?
- Who has the most urgent pain, and therefore wants to see this taken care of sooner rather than later?
- From where is the funding going to come for this? Is it all in one place (department or division), or will it be shared, and how?
- Are there multiple decision makers? Who is the final decision maker?
These are only some of the early questions to begin assessing whether there is a viable sales opportunity for your complex solution.
Using Sales Reps to Prospect is NOT a Good Idea
Often, we find that companies rely on their field sales reps to find viable opportunities within large, complex organizations.
We don’t think this is a good idea. This task differs greatly from what sales reps are expert at: calling on prospects who have agreed to see the sales rep. Prospecting, however, requires making 10-15 dials just to reach John Doe, who might not even be the right person to start with. Then, John may only have time for a quick conversation and suggest the rep call Jane Smith. Twenty dials later, the rep finally reaches Jane, who adds more to the story and suggests calling Mike.
And this is only the first round of calls; there will be follow-up calls to multiple stakeholders to find out more about one or more issues.
It is not unreasonable to expect that 500+ dials might be made into a single account to determine whether there is value in moving forward.
The question here is: who is better at quickly and cost-effectively uncovering viable sales opportunities? A field rep that will make 10-20 dials a day, or a seasoned SDR who makes 70-80 dials daily?
The SDR Solution to Complex Sales
Our experience repeatedly shows that field salespeople engage in early prospecting ONLY when their pipeline dries up. This, in turn, makes it very difficult for companies to reliably forecast what their revenues will look like over 3-4 months out. Since the sales cycle for most complex sales products tends to be six months or more, this means that a company cannot reliably predict revenues outside of the current quarter.
Our recommendation is to use SDRs to build the sales pipeline for the sales team (Read “5 Reasons Why Your Sales Development Team Is Failing“). This avoids the yo-yo effect and makes revenue targets more reliable. In this scenario, a senior SDR will do all of the initial research to gather the coherent sales opportunity story and pass it on as a Sales Qualified Lead. This opportunity story is a synopsis of the key initiatives; which departments or divisions are directly involved; who the key stakeholders are; which CXO is driving the initiative; what the individual pains, concerns, and desires of the various stakeholders are; and what a reasonable timeframe looks like for making a final decision on the acquisition of the solution.
Choosing the Right Person for a Complex Sales Role
The right type of Sales Development Rep (use our free Top SDR Interview Questions Resource) to successfully perform this would have the following qualities:
- Has experience as a quota-bearing field or inside sales professional who understands sales, particularly complex sales into enterprise account
- Is very comfortable and successful at accessing and selling to CXOs
- Has the right temperament to work alone as well as to enjoy interacting with others
- Is an avid learner, always trying to learn more about his/her industry and what the pain-points and new concerns for the targeted CXO’s are
- Understands that this is painstaking work that will require hundreds of dials and many dozens of conversations that may or may not lead anywhere, and still enjoys the hunt
- Is results-driven and has a strong sense of urgency
This is a specialty area, and the right person must align to the job. Start with Sr. SDRs while you grow your SD Organization. Once you have nailed the messaging, processes, and metrics, you can scale with SDR’s who are less experienced in this role.
Read the book The Radical Pipeline Strategy: How to Grow Pipeline and Revenue by Optimizing Sales Development. This book outlines tested best practices and implementation strategies that I developed while rebooting and building 65 SDR and Inside Sales organizations.
Find out more about SOMAmetrics’ Intelligent Prospecting Platform and get free resources on our website at www.somametrics.com.