The Enterprise Sales Process: 5 Steps for Closing a Complex B2B Sale

November 27, 2018 | by Lara S. Triozzi

ML Complex Sales Process

Savvy sales and marketing pros know that buyer behavior has shifted dramatically in the past few years. The customer is now the center of the selling equation and businesses are embracing personalization to capture buyers’ attention in a crowded marketplace. But in the enterprise sales process, tailored outreach always has been, and remains, a must.

Our team has been selling into niche B2B markets for years, and we’ve learned a thing or two about the hyper-focused, targeted outreach necessary to close a complex sale. For smaller transactional sales, churning out demos, quick phone outreach, and email blasts may be enough. Complex sales are a whole different ball game, requiring precise knowledge of your target industries and accounts and your prospects’ unique needs. Let’s survey the playing field.

Inside the Complex Sales Cycle

The complex sales cycle usually lasts six or more months. Deal sizes, on average, reach into the six figures or higher range. Moving prospects to close is not a simple process and hinges on multiple conversations and gatherings of key stakeholders. Typically, it takes 10-12 touchpoints to first reach a contact and another 6-8 to book a productive meeting.

Sales teams run into two unique challenges during the enterprise sales process: reaching the right high-level decision makers within an organization and educating buyers on how a product or service will address their specific needs.

Enterprise-level offerings come with a large price tag. Many stakeholders may be interested in your product, but if they don’t have the right budget, they will never close. Sales teams need to spend their time talking to people who are in a position to make a significant buying decision — or to create the budget for a purchase. Not only do the c-suite or high-level executives hold the purse strings, they also have a broad understanding of how the business operates. Their perspective gives them the ability to see how a particular offering will address a problem or pain point in a different way, which brings us to our second challenge.

A complex sales process is also necessary when introducing brand new solutions to the market to solve existing business problems —  often these problems are ones that companies don’t have formal initiatives in place to address. Selling to early adopters is completely different from a transactional sale where prospects have a line item in their budget for a solution they buy every year. With a complex sale, sales teams are tasked with educating prospects about the benefits an innovative solution can bring, and how it can address solve a business problem.

5 Steps for a Successful Enterprise Sales Process

The time to close and the effort needed to reach high level prospects makes complex sales a high-stakes endeavor. You have a solid product or service. The trick is letting the people who count know about it.

1. Develop your strategy

The enterprise sales process is targeted, so you need to clearly identify who you’re going after. Build your strategy on these questions to guide your efforts:

  • What does your ideal client profile look like?
  • What type of companies (defined by size and/or industry) are most likely to have a need?
  • Where will your existing success stories have the most relevance?
  • How big is the scope of your total addressable market?
  • Does it make sense to create sub-segments with different messaging that speaks to their unique pain points?

2. Target the right decision makers

Ideal prospects for a complex sale are executive level decision makers who sit across different functions of a business. As we mentioned above, these execs have budget and insight  they’re the right people positioned to make a buying decision. The best way to identify decision makers is through market research and audience development. Both allow you to find your total addressable market and guarantee you are talking to a qualified audience of potential buyers.

3. Create relevant educational content

With a complex sale, your ideal prospects may not be actively looking for a solution, so it’s very important to educate buyers by pushing out relevant content through outbound marketing. Your content should tell the story of how your solution solves particular problems and issues.

High level decisions makers are hard to reach. A cookie-cutter approach won’t cut through the noise cluttering their inboxes and social media feeds. Test out different messaging to find out what resonates and be ready to adapt on the fly. Content that won’t get ignored is fine-tuned to the life cycle stage, product, market, region, and timing.

There are several different types of outreach that are effective for reaching executives.

Case studies: Case studies are a proof of concept, showing prospects a problem and how you can resolve it. Success stories are relatable and give prospects a vision of the future.

White papers: White papers present an opportunity to take an in-depth look at industry challenges, and how organizations can overcome them with your offering to achieve a competitive advantage.

Webinars: Webinars establish thought leadership and industry expertise. Live webinars provide an opportunity to engage with prospects and walk-through topics of interest to them.

Events: Real-time demos are often a huge selling point for potential buyers. As a salesperson you get to connect in person, answer questions, and showcase all you have to offer.

4. Use consultative sales at the beginning of the funnel

The scope of the market for a complex sale is small and very refined. Top of funnel, early-stage development is critical. You need experienced sales staff working each stage of the sales process to ensure you are adding value through a consultative approach.

Junior-level sales people don’t yet have the business knowledge to effectively engage executive-level decision makers and pre-qualify sales opportunities. Sales people with years of expertise and deep industry knowledge are able to build a pipeline of the right people and effectively nurture them down funnel.

5. Fill the gaps in your sales process

Companies don’t realize that with a complex sale it’s not realistic for sales people to concentrate on both prospecting and closing deals at the same time. Complex sales require a significant amount of time from your sales people. When they’re focused on closing a big deal, they have less energy to devote to building the pipeline, nurturing falls off, and the lead pipeline dry up.

Take the time to identify gaps in your sales process and decide what additional bandwidth you need to execute enough touch points to keep your business development pipeline full.

To close a complex sale, companies need top sales talent on the job who can have knowledgeable, in-depth conversations with executive-level buyers throughout the enterprise sales process. When you build a base of knowledge about a company’s needs and concerns, you can present your product or service in a way that captures a decision-maker’s attention.

Want to learn more about building a better lead pipeline in situations that require a complex sale? Get in touch with our team. We love to talk strategy.

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