If You Haven’t Mastered the Complex Sale Yet, Check This Out ….


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A couple weeks ago, I went to lunch with Jeff Thull, author of three top-notch sales books. I was delighted when he handed me the newly updated version of Mastering the Complex Sale. Of course, then I had to interview him to find out what’s new. Enjoy!

Jill: Jeff, your book Mastering the Complex Sale first came out seven years ago. In your new edition, what’s changed? And why?

Jeff: For starters, in the world in which we all sell, the severity of commoditization, the intensity of competition and the pace of our customers, three of the items that we addressed in the first edition, has reached new levels.

When the first edition came out, much of what we were suggesting was seen as radical. Things like “stop presenting,” “always be leaving,” and “go for the no” were concepts too far away from the traditional approach. People were looking for how to do what they were doing and do it better, not how to do it differently.

Today, sales professionals are recognizing that customers have changed how they buy so dramatically, that as sellers they need to dramatically shift how they sell.

As far as what has changed in the book, we have significantly beefed up the content around our Discover stage, what you do to prepare, prior to engaging the customer.

We’ve added much more detail to the Diagnose stage, what you do to get more clarity around the problems you should be solving and how it is going to impact your customer’s business.

Jill: You’re hitting on a point that I think is the hardest for salespeople to do and that is planning and strategizing. How are you addressing that?

Jeff: I think it’s important to recognize that planning and strategizing an approach is not hard to do, but it is not taught by most companies. Most sales training programs will show you what a good prospect looks like, and people are told what to say or describe during the sales process.

They typically do a good job of product training as they talk about
what the product was built to do, but they also teach why it will be
good for the customer based on the value proposition. That prepares the
salesperson to approach the prospect in what we refer to as a “value

The approach is very seller and solution focused, and
therefore presentation oriented, and will be heavily resisted by the
prospective customer. It literally sets up confrontation.


What we’re showing people in the book is the Diagnostic approach and this is focused on the customer, not the solution, and identifying physical evidence which would prove that your solution will be of value.

In a sense, it forces the salesperson to take their mind off of themselves and look into the customer’s world.

Jill: What are the most common mistakes made when attempting to win a complex sale?

Jeff: Most mistakes have to do with the activities early in the process. If the process is done well, it’s collaborative and the customer has ownership of the outcomes of the process.

As a result, the  decision to buy is just the next step in a well executed communication process. I’ll suggest the most common mistake, then, is not bringing clarity to the customer during the sales process and presenting solutions too early.

This may appear as an oversimplification, but it cuts to the chase. People do not buy for two fundamental reasons:

1. They don’t believe they have a problem.
And that includes that they believe they have other problems that are greater than the one you’re suggesting they address.

2. They don’t believe the solution will work.
If there is insufficient clarity about either one of these, there likely won’t be a sale.

Our research shows that the problem is seldom the second reason. This of course points out that the number one problem most salespeople have is that they are focused on their solution and not on the customer’s business and the risks or even consequences the customer is experiencing without their solution.

Part II of this interview will be published on Friday.


Jeff Thull is President and CEO of Prime Resource Group. He’s also the author of The Prime Solution: Close the Value Gap, Increase Margins, and Win the Complex Sale, and Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales.

For more information on Jeff Thull’s books, articles and audio materials, visit www.primeresource.com.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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