The Complex Sale: How to Outsmart Yourself – With Your Own Brilliance
March 10, 2013
The B2B Complex Sale. Mysterious. Ethereal. Shivers the timbers of man and beast alike (including Marketing and PR people). It has ended the career of many a person. Sent many a company down in flames. Healthcare reform? Bah… that’s simple. Not even close to a B2B complex sale. But what really is a …
… COMPLEX SALE?
In a nutshell, it’s this. The complex sale typically refers to a high-value purchase $150,000 and higher, involving a buyer’s committee consisting of anywhere from 10 to 25 people … or more. The sales cycle is frustratingly long – anywhere from 12-36 month. Worse still it involves multiple decision-makers, all with different viewpoints, agendas and radically different and annoying personalities.
IT’S A SCIENCE–IT’S AN ART
To win at the complex sale, one must be a storyteller, master tactician, strategist, cajoler, evaluator, philosopher, psychologist, bean counter and techno-geek.
I spent a week of intense education on the topic of “complex sale.” It was tough-taught by a serious taskmaster with an honest determination for me to learn. What I took away is this … it’s complex. But not really. It’s all about people – people trying to solve a problem and you enabling them to pay you to help solve that problem. It’s also all about connections. Connecting the wants/needs/desires of the technical and business users with the Big Kahuna’s (C-leader$hip) vision and interests.
COMPLEX IS PRETTY SIMPLE
Now I have it all figured out. It’s simple. Watch closely as I skillfully take apart the most difficult of adversaries and personalities in a B2B tech complex sale.
IT DIRECTORS & CIO’S (AKA UNDERCOVER PHYSICISTS)
Physicists are incredibly brilliant and deviously clever people. They can convince you that the word “impossible” is basically “relative,” and you believe them. They can convince you that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, then they invent the word “tachyon,” which stands for a hypothetical, supraluminal quantum particle that never travels SLOWER than the speed of light. When it loses energy, it travels FASTER, and it makes complete sense when they explain it. You believe them. Yes, physicists are brilliant. Clever. Deviously so; much like IT Directors and CIO’s.
They’re the people paid to make sure everything you do (relating to technology, which is just about everything right?) in your business works smoothly, quickly and cheaper. Cheaper, that is, than it did in 1980. And they do it. They’re a very important player in any complex technology sale. You need to know they’re ultimately in the money – they report to the CFO or CEO. So if you need something that is crucial to your operations - like a brand new Mac Pro to run your in-house video-production center for your corporate PR, Sales and Marketing function – you’re going to have to convince (tangle with) them. I’m using this apocalyptic need for a Mac Pro simply as an illustration, because the total value it could DELIVER would be – in the complex sales territory – upwards of a couple hundred thousand dollars. .. conservatively speaking of course.
ONE THING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Not only are typical IT directors brilliant, clever and devious, they insist on you jumping through IMPOSSIBLE hoops, which are not really relative; things like filling out a cost-justification form and answering questions like, “What the ROI be?” and “How long will it take?” They’re not like normal people. I mean “cool, quick, awesome, we can do sweet videos on it for everyone” just doesn’t cut it with these blockheads. Even when I told them it took three days and 22 hours to edit a 30-second corporate product video, they STILL asked those inane questions about ROI and cost.
So you have to tell a whale of a story rivaling the biblical creation to convince these strange personalities that lead IT departments. It has to be Simple, Memorable, Accurate, Repeatable and Totally off the hook. (There’s an acronym there I think.) And it needs to add immense value, statistically be unassailable and substantially bumfuzzling to convince them that “impossible” is a relative term … as it applies to the new Mac Pro they will be soon be gladly approving. (There’s an acronym there too I think, but I’m bold enough not to point it out.)
SOCRATIC GOLDILOCKS-ESIAN STORYTELLING
That’s where Goldilocks comes in. Makes perfect sense to me. So tag along for an intellectual ride nonpareil.
If I told you that right now you were traveling at 1,000 mph, you’d think I’m nuts, or drank too much last night … or both. You’d be right. You’re not really traveling at 1,000 mph, You’re …
at about 1,000 mph. That’s the rotation speed of the earth. If you’re on earth right now (and hopefully you are if you’re reading this), you’re actually spinning at about 1,000 mph. That rotational speed happens to be not too fast, not too slow but just right for life to exist on earth. Much faster and severely violent weather and apocalyptic storms would reign – and life wouldn’t. Too much slower and one side of the earth would be Hades hot, the other Antarctica cold. It’s just about right.
What if I said to you right now, wherever you’re located, you’re …
at 23.5 degrees? You’d think I’m nuts, disoriented, drank too much … or all three. Well in fact, you are; 23.5 degrees is the “Obliquity of the Ecliptic.” That’s a high falutin’, scientific gobbledygook word (much like “seamlessly integrated” and “leading provider” in business lingo) that means “tilt” of the earth axis. Tilted much more or less would leave the Earth unstable – make it wobble – and the earth could tumble, making life impossible and most certainly making for a WILD RIDE in the process. Sounds like a movie to me. It’s just right.
And what if I said to you that you’re not only spinning at 1,000 mph and tilted at 23.5 degrees, you’re also traveling through space at …
… 66,000 MPH
That’s 18 miles per second. And at that 66,000 mph, we have a dancing partner – the moon. And that moon is not too big, not too small, but just the right size to stabilize the earth’s rotation and keep it from wobbling too much – and so life exists. In this earth-moon, boot scooting solar, two-step boogie, the “dark side of the moon, which we never see, also helps shield the earth from comets and meteors.
And what if I said to you, that as you’re spinning at 1,000 mph, tilted at 23.5 degrees and dancing a 66,000 mph boot-scooting solar boogie with the moon, we have a big brother watching …
Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. Its diameter is 10 times larger than Earth and is over 300 times the mass. Jupiter’s gravitational pull is so great it’s like a mega dark side of the moon. It attracts comets and meteors away from Earth and hurls them out of the solar system. If Jupiter was much bigger, Earth would be hurled out along with them. Much smaller, and Goldilocks would be blasted with comets and meteor boulders from space – and that would just not be right.
I’m about done. (Am I working hard for the Mac Pro or not?) Two more things. If I said that you’re spinning at 1,000 mph, tilted at 23.5 degrees, while doing the 66,000 mph boot-scooting solar boogie with the moon as big brother Jupiter watches over you, that none of that matters. No, none of that would matter at all if it wasn’t for the …
Does it get any better than the sun? Free energy. Free light. Life-giving heat to ensure oxygen and water. Would hanging out at the beach even be the same? The sun is at exactly the right size and distance so we can listen to our iPod’s and whine about not having a Mac Pro while we sun ourselves at the beach. Any bigger or closer and we’d fry. Any smaller or further away and we’d be lifeless remnants memorialized in icicles.
EARTH MOON SUN BOOT-SCOOTING BOOGIE
So, spinning at 1,000 mph, tilted at 23.5 degrees, doing the 66,000 mph boot-scooting boogie with the moon as big brother Jupiter watches over and protects while the free energy, light and warmth-giving Sun nourishes life.
But none of that would really matter if we were off by ….
… ONE PART
If the expansion rate of the universe was changed by one part in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion, faster or slower, life on earth would not exist. Not too fast. Not too slow. Really, really, really just right.
Amazing. Bumfuzzling. And … cool. But none of that matters either if we were off …
… ONE INCH
If a measuring tape were stretched across the universe and segmented in one-inch increments (billions upon gazillions of inches) representing the force strengths of nature (gravity, electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces) and the tape was moved one inch in either direction, life on earth would not exist. One inch? Not too big. Not too small. But exceptionally just right.
THE END … SORTA
Before I wrap up with my call for action, here’s a slight comment on the story facts above. It could never sell in Hollywood. Or TV. Why?
“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.” - Pudd’n Head Wilson (an intellectually astute and under-appreciated philosopher)
SO ABOUT ALL THOSE FACTS AND THE MAC PRO – MY CALL TO ACTION
Dear Omnisicent, Omnipotent, IT Director:
If you take that very same measuring tape, stretched across the universe and segmented in one-inch increments (billions upon gazillions of inches) representing the allocated, amortized total cost of a Mac Pro, BUT immediately take advantage of the video value it can provide to the company … life would not only exist on earth (and my cube) better and faster, but also at prices that are at least 13.7 billion years old. Imagine, we could deliver some pretty cool and sweet looking 21st video products. So let’s do it.
THE REAL END
I wanted the pitch to be simple, memorable, accurate, repeatable and totally off the hook. And it needed to add immense value, statistically be unassailable and substantially bumfuzzling to convince him that “impossible” is a relative term … as it applies to him authorizing my new Mac Pro.
I think it was. I’m sure he understood. He approved the requisition. But he did it in terms that were simple, memorable, accurate, repeatable and totally off the hook. And it added value, was statistically unassailable and substantially bumfuzzling to me.
He put the Mac Pro on layaway for me and scheduled payment terms in one-inch increments stretched across the unfathomable expanse of the universe. Then he sent me a personalized and heartless email to tell me when to expect it.
It’s on my calendar to be picked it up in about 13.7 billion years (more or less).
If you want more info on the “Goldilocks Universe” check out:
The Goldilocks Enigma: Why is the Universe Just Right for Life, by Paul Davies.
Size Matters: The Known Universe - National Geographic.
Earth Rotation and Revolution - Physical Geography, University of British Columbia.
Age of the Universe - UCLA Division of Astronomy and Astrophysics
WILD RIDE - if you want to know what happens when Goldilocks goes wrong.