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Soundview Executive Book SummariesTo compete successfully and win more business in the today's turbulent world of business-to-business sales, sales professionals need a new business paradigm specifically designed for the complex sales arena, one that offers a system and the skills and the mental discipline needed to execute it. They need, says business strategist, consultant and speaker Jeff Thull, a smarter way to sell.
A smarter way to sell transforms the conventional sales pitch that customers must endure into a high quality decision-making process that customers value. It transforms salespeople from predators into valued business partners in the customer's mind. It transforms the sales process from premature presentations to a process of mutual confirmation. And it transforms the conventional solutions-based, seller-first approach to sales into a diagnostic-based, customer-centric approach. In fact, a smarter way to sell, Thull persuasively argues in Mastering the Complex Sale, is to stop selling in the conventional sense and adopt a practical proven approach called Diagnostic Business Development (or the Prime Process).
Complex sales are primarily business-to-business and business-to-government transactions. They involve multiple people with multiple perspectives, sometimes from multiple companies and across multiple cultural and country borders. Complex sales cycles can run from days to years. Thull writes that undertaking this level of sale requires significant investment in time and resources.
There is no single buying decision in the complex sale. The buying process is actually a long chain of interrelated decisions, impacting multiple departments and disciplines in the customer's organization. There is no single decision maker. The complex sale has multiple decision makers, Thull explains, each seeing the issues of the transaction from his or her own perspective and operating in the context of his or her job responsibilities and self-interest. These are not run-of-the-mill transactions; the customer requires help to complete the sale.
Thull writes that his consultancy's experiences with more than 10,000 salespeople each year confirm that, in the complex environment, the outcome of the conventional sales process is increasingly random and unpredictable. Two opposing forces are squeezing these sales professionals: rapid commoditization and increasing complexity.
Thull points out that the common response to the squeeze produced by the converging forces of commoditization and complexity is to sell harder. He writes that the sad reality is that "selling harder" fits the popular definition of insanity: You are doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. This happens because the conventional selling process - prospect, qualify, present and close - that most sales people use has not kept pace and adapted to the new realities of the complex sale.
Top-performing salespeople can't rely on traditional selling techniques, Thull writes, but they still need a dependable, professional body of knowledge. A professional body of knowledge has three primary elements: a system, which defines "what to do;" skills, which show "how to do it;" and discipline, which supports the "will to do it."
The skills of the complex sale are encompassed in the tools that professionals use to execute their system, Thull writes. These tools enable salespeople to assemble the right people and ask those people the right questions in the right sequence to help customers reach a high-quality decision.
The system for complex sales is the organized process and set of procedures that leads to a successful sale. Thull's system is called the Diagnostic Business Development(r) Process or the Prime Process. He explains that the intent of the Prime Process is to provide the customer with a high-quality decision process and the leadership of the sales professional to guide the customer through the decision process.
The four phases of the Diagnostic Business Development Process, also called the Prime Process, represent a reengineering of the conventional sales process. Thull explains that the decision process approach eliminates the inherent flaws in conventional sales processes and directly addresses the challenges that salespeople face while trying to master complex sales in today's marketplaces.
1. Discover the Prime Customer. The Discover phase of the Prime Process is about research and preparation. Everyone who sells starts at the same point - the identification of a customer. In conventional sales, this is called prospecting and qualification, which, unfortunately, is often characterized by minimal preparation. In Discover, however, Thull expands this preparation into a process, which is aimed at the identification of a specific customer who has the highest probability of change.
2. Diagnose the Complex Problem. Thull writes that the Diagnose phase encompasses how salespeople help their prospects and customers fully comprehend the inefficiencies and performance gaps they are experiencing. It is a process of hyperqualification during which you pursue an in-depth determination of the extent and financial impact of the customer's problems.
3. Design the Complex Solution. In the Design phase, Thull writes, salespeople help their customers create and understand the solution. It is a collaborative and highly interactive effort to help customers sort through their expectations and alternatives to arrive at an optimal solution.
4. Deliver on the Prime Promise. In the Deliver phase, the work of the previous phases comes to fruition. Thull explains that it encompasses how the salesperson assures the customer's success in executing the solution. The ultimate goal in the Deliver phase is to maximize the customer's awareness of the value derived from the solution that is being implemented. Copyright © 2003 Soundview Executive Book Summaries