As a consultant, you are providing a very complex service. And if you’re following traditional sales methods, the process of selling those services probably feels quite complex as well. But does it have to be?
Too often, we make the mistake of thinking that in order to draw prospective clients, we have to communicate everything we know and everything we do right from the start. That’s what makes the process feel so complicated. In this video, we’ll discuss a simpler approach—one that allows you to vet potential clients and establish criteria before you get into the complex conversations.
A Simple Approach to a Complex Sales Process
I had someone reach out to me about this, and we had a dialogue around how to structure a more efficient sales process when you're closing really complex and large deals. Specifically, how to simplify the complex sale when the deal size could represent seven figures. So really, really, big projects.
For him, sales is done in the traditional way. It’s making phone calls. It's having networking sessions. It's doing social outings. It's a lot of hand to hand combat. When you're closing deals of this size, some of that is just par for the course. It's what you have to do, because there's a lot of complexity to be navigated. Understood.
At the same time, he wants a more modernized approach. He's looking to have leads come in to him, to have the person begin the relationship and the conversation, instead of him having to always reach out.
Snapshot of a sales process
What might that process look like? Here's a snapshot of what it would look like and some things you can do to make it simpler.
- Content: We're going to begin with some version of a traffic source. Whether you're buying traffic, whether it happens organically, whether you're doing social posting, or whatever, there's going to be some version of getting eyeballs to see something. Traffic is going to go to some sort of content piece.
This may be a landing page. This may be a white book. It could be a white paper. It could be an ebook. Doesn't matter. Traffic goes to some form of content piece.
- Conversation: From that content piece, hopefully they book a conversation. They're going to book a call with you; they're going to ask to speak with you.
- Sale: And then, from this conversation, you're going to eventually close a sale. That's what you want. That's what we all want.
So we want traffic that goes to a content piece. They book a call. They become a sale.
The “Big Black Box” Mistake
Here is mistake number one that we make when trying to close really complex sales: we're thinking about the sale upfront. Our thought process is already, "How do I communicate this big black box of things that need to be communicated in order for them to buy? All these things that we know, all these things that we do, all these moving parts—how in the world am I going to communicate all of this knowledge early in the process? How do I get someone to buy into all that?”
Well, here's the trick. You don't. The number one thing you have to do to make this more efficient is simplify all of this wizardry, all of this genius, all of this stuff.
Selling Complex Services Begins With Asking Simple Questions
Let's see it a better way. We're taking this out. In fact, we're going to remove the word sale. When they book a call, we want to be less concerned about the sale and more concerned about the start. We're going to start a relationship here. What does that look like now?
Step 1: Your Content & Traffic
Traffic is going to come from, in most cases, your initial network, people you already know. That's where you’re going to start, especially when you're closing such large deals. You start with this existing base of prospects. You do want to send them somewhere. You want to give them a sense of what it is that is about to happen or the opportunity that is present for them.
Two questions to ask when creating your content:
- Who is this person? Traditionally, in your background, with your expertise, given what you know in your experience, who is typically the internal accelerant in your client's world or your prospect's world? Who typically owns the project? Who's responsible for seeing it all the way through?
This could be the CEO. It could be the leader of the business. It could be someone else in the C-suite—CMO, CFO, COO, that's all possible. Or it may be someone underneath them. At the end of the day, it's a director or a VP who is responsible for owning this and playing project manager internally. In most cases, who is that person?
But then, here's what's also important when you think about the content piece:
- What information do they need to know to qualify or disqualify themselves for the next step? That person who is typically the internal project manager, what information do they need to determine if they and their organization are in the right place? I'm talking about things like: How big a company do they need to be in terms of revenue? How about head count—how large do they need to be? 10 people, 100 people, 10,000 people, 100,000 people? What size?
There are also some thoughts around culture: How should they currently be operating as a company? Are they aware of certain trends in the marketplace? Are they interested in new opportunities that are existing? These are things that you need to know, because we're using this to frame our starting point. To even be given this conversation, to even begin to move down this complexity, where should they be at the beginning?
So who is the person that is typically the internal stakeholder, and what scenario do they need to have so they can vet themselves? This is so the person looking at your content can qualify or disqualify themselves. If they qualify, if they meet this basic criteria, well, then a conversation is appropriate. They can decide for themselves that they should be booking a call to speak with you.
Step 2: The Conversation
And when they book that call to speak with you, what are you talking about? What is the core thrust of that conversation? You're talking about whether you should start the process or not. That's what's happening here.
To be more specific, what we're saying is, all that black box stuff that you know about, that happens out here. If it's appropriate to start, then we move into the big complex black box. But in the beginning, we're just trying to get clarity. We're just trying to get understanding. We just want to make sure that this is the right thing for us to be talking about.
This could be a 15-minute conversation or a 30-minute conversation. This does not need to be a 90-minute sales pitch with PowerPoint decks and your whole team present and all that kind of good stuff. Not necessary here.
But give people the opportunity to determine: "Hey listen, there's a big deal that's available to you. There's a big, complex, sophisticated, next level work that we can do together, if you are the right person and you have the right kind of situation. If you meet this basic criteria, go ahead and book that call with us.”
And now we can begin to have this conversation. We can confirm that they are the right kind of person and that they do have the right kind of situation. If that's true, then we can move into the big black box of complexity, the complex sale.
Step 3: The Sale
Now, depending on your particular situation, it is possible that you can monetize this conversation. Again, we're talking about seven figures—a million dollars worth of revenue, worth of opportunity, worth of project is possible here.
Are we going to move from this conversation right into seven figures? No, we are not. So then, what appropriate diagnostic audit, what initial project discovery process should take place here so we can make sure that stepping into the black box is worth the time for all of us? Then, depending on how you operate, this initial work can be monetized.
Review: the Fundamentals of Enterprise Sales
Let’s step back here and make sure that we're all speaking English:
- Simplify the process. You sell a very complex consulting service. One of the major mistakes that we make is assuming that we have to explain all of that complexity early in the sales funnel. It's hard for you to explain it. It's hard for someone else to hear it. We want to simplify the communication as much as we can, as early as we can.
- Establish criteria. One way of simplifying that conversation is by being clear on who you need to speak to up front and what information, what core criteria, they need to meet so that a conversation is appropriate.
- Assess and clarify. When you're having this conversation, you're not trying to sell the entire seven-figure deal all up front. That's too much information. Instead, what you're trying to do is assess and clarify that you are talking to the right person and they do in fact have the right situation.
Sometimes, getting that clarity requires some man hours. It requires an initial project. If appropriate, you can monetize or charge for that initial set of work right up front. Depending on what you conclude here, then the larger deal may make sense at that point in time.
Simplifying the consulting sales, simplifying the complex sale, falls to you. You need to hold back your desire to explain all of that complexity and begin with some core fundamentals: who to speak to, the core scenario, and the initial work to execute in the short term. From there you can have the conversation and hopefully, if it is appropriate, make your pitch and close the sale.