Have you ever thought about the process of selling a submarine? State-of-the-art technological systems? Of aerospace components? Or, bringing it closer to reality, equipment for assembly of manufacturing plants of any kind? Right away, you realize that these are not the simplest of negotiations. And there is even a category for this type of sale: these are examples of complex sales.

In this article, we’ll show you what defines complex sales and what are its main characteristics.

You’ll find that they have some aspects of their own, notably their longer sales cycles than you’d see in simple sales.
At the same time, complex sales bring the great advantage to the companies that work with them, the fact that they return a higher average ticket, which boosts revenue.

Another very present aspect concerns the environment in which complex sales are more common: in business between companies – also called B2B complex sales.

What are complex sales?

Complex sales are those that require longer processes, which involve more technical issues and, consequently, go through several decision makers until they are concluded.

Because of all this, in general complex sales have a more costly process, but at the same time represent a higher average ticket. Although not a rule, they apply more frequently in negotiations between companies (B2B).

As the name suggests, complex sales vary greatly depending on the type of product or service being sold.

More technical or more specific products or services make sales more complex than others. This is because they demand clear and very restricted understandings at both ends: both from those who sell and those who buy.

As a result, it is quite common for this type of sale to require the engagement of very specific professionals, expanding the negotiation process and the number of decision makers.

The seller, for example, needs to act a lot with theconsultative sales profile, evaluating the client’s pains well and formatting a business that fits perfectly to his.

At the same time, it is essential that those who work with complex sales are specialists in the product they offer. After all, negotiation involves a series of doubts and technical questions that only those who are very knowledgeable about the subject will be able to answer.

And a bad impression left could put the entire sales effort down.

Despite taking longer and requiring a much more expensive process than simple sales, complex sales bring a great return. This is because they involve high-cost products and, as such, offer great revenue opportunities.

Difference between simple sale and complex sale

First of all, let’s make it clear that the expression ‘simple sale’ in our context does not carry any meaning that represents lesser importance. Far from it. It is simply a conceptual issue.

That said, simple sales can either be those of everyday life, or other less commonplace ones, but with shorter processes and fewer decision makers.

A simple sale aimed at the final consumer, for example, could be a traditional trip to the mall. You enter a shoe store, choose the model, ask the salesperson for help and close the purchase.

When it’s abouta B2B environment, we can say that a simple sale is one whose negotiation is possible to be done directly with a single decision maker. Think, for example, of the person responsible for supplier relations.

Complex selling, on the other hand, requires a longer decision process and involves more than one decision maker.

Because of this, it is necessary to build a relationship of trust between the parties – something that we do not necessarily see in simple sales, which are often resolved in a matter of minutes.

In addition, while in a simple sale, in general, the seller’s approach is more incisive, in complex sales, it is necessary to act mainly as a consultant. After all, in complex sales, the idea is not simply to sell or sell soon, but to format the best deal so that, in the end, the entire investment makes sense – for both ends.

Features of complex sales

We have seen so far that a very present aspect in complex sales is the longer period for closing a deal. However, this characteristic is just one of those that conceptualize a complex sale.

Quite simply, it can be said that a complex sale is one in which all the nuances involved in a simple sale are enhanced. After all, as you will see below, the cost to acquire a new customer is greater, the journey to be faced until closing the sale is greater, the average ticket is higher and even there are more decision makers.

High Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

Those who work in sales know that conquering a new client is not a simple task. It takes a lot of research, analysis, conversations and negotiations. And, even if you are an extremely prepared seller, there is no guarantee that the deal will materialize.

In any case, conquering a new client is an activity that requires the integration of efforts.

The marketing team needs to invest in content analysis and production, while those responsible for the pre-sales department need to prospect and qualify potential new customers. Then comes the time for the sales consultants to actually start negotiating, and only then is the deal closed.

As you can see, this whole cycle demands financial investment. And all of this will have an impact on what we call Customer Acquisition Cost, or simply CAC.

The CAC calculation takes into account the total amount invested by the company in all sectors and/or professionals and the total number of customers actually acquired. For example, if the company invested BRL 20,000 in marketing and sales, and during the period it acquired four new clients, the CAC would be BRL 5,000.

In complex sales, the CAC is often much higher than that seen in simple sales. This is because, in general, negotiations involve few potential clients and a lot of investment in research and prospecting.

Consider, for example, a company that sells automated solutions for product logistics in large warehouses. This market, although promising, is still quite restricted.

Reaching out to potential customers requires extensive market analysis – and not just in terms of leads, but competitors as well. And, in the end, business may come down to one or two new customers a month.

Adding up all that was invested, and the total number of new clients won, the CAC will certainly prove to be high.

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Longer sales cycle

As you may already know,sales cycle it is the entire period involving the relationship between company and customer. The period considers from the moment of prospecting to after-sales.

Thus, it is to be expected that it will be divided into different stages, each with a specific duration – not necessarily of time, but of maturation.

In general, we can divide a sales cycle into seven stages:

  1. prospecting (search for potential customers);
  2. initial contact;
  3. lead qualification;
  4. presentation of the product or service;
  5. evaluation (when the parties analyze the proposal);
  6. closure;
  7. after sales.

The duration of each of these steps varies, and although companies often try to streamline the process, this is not always possible in complex sales.

This is because, as we have already reiterated, a characteristic that is very present in this type of sale is the need to impersonate different decision makers, each with their own time and need for analysis.

Of course, this does not mean that in complex sales, the cycle time is only for the potential customer. After all, if in the end the business does not work out, the costs involved in the whole process will be higher.

Suppressing some steps may be possible. Trying to qualify the potential client even before prospecting him is a good example – and a good analysis and research team will help in this regard.

Even so, it is necessary to keep in mind that the whole cycle will take much longer than that seen in simple sales. The point is that this will not necessarily be a problem, since in the end the average ticket tends to be (much) higher.

Highest average ticket

There are numerous performance indicators that we can – and should – consider when it comes to sales. One of the most important of them is the average ticket.

The calculation of the average ticket is quite simple, just divide the billing by the total sales in a given period.

In simple sales, the average ticket tends to be low, but this is always considering a context. After all, the sale of a car at a dealership is included in the list of simple sales, but the average ticket is certainly much higher than that seen in the sale of a stationery store – which is in the same classification.

In complex sales, in turn, the average ticket always tends to be high. After all, the whole process takes longer, involves a larger group of people and greater involvement between the parties. Therefore, to make business sense, the final sale needs to be highly profitable.

In general, complex sales offer a high turnover to the company with a very low number of sales.

A very illustrative example is in the manufacture of submarines. It is a highly complex product, with a very restricted market – in Brazil, notably the Armed Forces -, which demands months and months of negotiation.

In the end, however, the amounts involved, in the hundreds of millions, make perfect sense for both those who buy and those who sell.

Multiple decision makers

This characteristic is very present in complex sales processes, even more so when the product or service being sold is quite technical.

Think, for example, of a technology company. It develops equipment and applications capable of fully integrating the systems of a large company. Absolutely all the information circulating there, and even its own operation, depend on it.
Certainly, the issue is quite sensitive for the company thinking of acquiring it. And, as such, not a single person will be able to know whether everything offered meets the demands.

The acquisition of a product of this magnitude requires the approval of those responsible for various sectors. Only they will know if what is proposed is viable.

But even in cases where the complexity is not as evident, a sale can still require the presence of several decision makers.

As we said, complex sales in general involve high costs, the approval of which depends on the signaling of different managers.

The technical manager may insist that that product or service is essential for the company, but the costs involved may run into the disapproval of the financial manager.

Precisely for this reason, those who work with complex sales need to be highly qualified and have the support of a good team. It is this set that will convince the various decision makers of the acquisition.

Good practices to follow in complex sales

Now that you know what characterizes a complex sale, let’s show you good ways to work with them in search of good results.

Many of the aspects that we will discuss below are inherent to all types of salespeople, but note how important teamwork is in this type of negotiation.

Perhaps the great differential in complex sales is precisely the need for it to develop with several hands and thinking heads.

Even so, each of the practices that we will present below must be pursued individually. It is from the union of these individualities that a successful sales job will come out.

Be an expert

It’s no use wanting to work with complex sales if you don’t understand, and a lot, the product you’re selling, the company you work for and the company you negotiate with.

These three aspects are fundamental because, as we have already mentioned, complex sales require a performance similar to that of consultative sales. To succeed in negotiation, you need to find the best business format to solve that customer’s pain.

By surrounding yourself with as much information as possible about the product or service you are offering, you will always have the argument on your side. Present a portfolio of customers who have already made use of your solution,show successful cases. After all, showing the practical result of what is being offered can be the differential when closing a sale.

Getting to know the company you represent is also very important. This is because it is a safe way to find ways to adapt the business if some problems arise.objections at the time of sale.

Finally, it is essential to be very well informed about the potential client.

Knowing your history, your competitors and your growth potential is information that will certainly help to put together the best deal during a complex sale.

This is because understanding what the main challenges of that company are allows you to offer the best solutions. Once again, acting as a consultant will make all the difference.

Empower the sales team

A good sales team needs to be cohesive, with each professional aware of their roles and goals.

But more than that, the sales team needs to be closely aligned to be successful in complex sales.

As we mentioned earlier, this type of negotiation involves a higher customer acquisition cost and, above all, a longer sales cycle.

Precisely because it is longer, it needs to face each of these steps very assertively, so as not to tire the customer and not make him give up in the middle of the negotiation.

In addition, a well-trained sales team will support the sales consultant when the first objections arise or when the negotiation needs to adjust its path.

Thus, constantly training the entire team is essential to maintain performance at a high level.

Another point to observe is to make sure that communication between the entire team is easy to understand. After all, any kind of obstacle

– be it a delay in getting back to you, or a mistake in solving problems – can further delay a complex sale.

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Choose the right customers

By now, you’ve already understood that complex sales require a good deal of perseverance and a very well-executed joint effort. More than that, we emphasize the importance of getting to know potential clients well, in order to work on surgical solutions that solve their pain.

That said, it doesn’t make any sense to invest time, effort and money trying to sell to leads who are unlikely to want to buy – or, more than that, who are unlikely to “need” to buy.

Complex B2B sales exist for a simple reason: one of the companies has some need, and the other has the solution for it. The focus needs to be on that.

It is worth remembering that business of this type usually involves high sums. Why, then, would you invest time in a customer whose product or service you offer does not address any of their pressing pains? Why would he spend on it?

One of the great advantages of consultative sales, and which is also present in complex sales, is that they make it possible to create a lasting relationship.

It is worth remembering that businesses that return the new customer tend to be repeated in the future – or, at least, the partnership tends to continue for possible new business.

Another very important point is that complex sales that give good returns reinforce your brand’s reputation and put your company in the spotlight. In other words, you become recognized as an authority by the market.

Identify the right people

Complex sales have, among their characteristics, the fact that they involve several decision makers, and not just one, as is quite common in simple sales. But that doesn’t mean that all decision makers have the same strength when it comes to giving the final word.

Even though it is essential that a large-scale acquisition be evaluated by managers from different sectors, it will most likely be up to one of them to carry out or withdraw from the purchase. This is where you need to pay special attention.

This does not mean, however, that you should leave others in the background. Far from it. Identifying influencers is very important, because they will be the ones who will provide technical support to the business.

At the same time, when the final person responsible for the business is identified, the chances of the conversation evolving into a closure are greater.

It is also important to point out that you cannot give up an eye-to-eye conversation, a face-to-face meeting. When identifying the person responsible for the final word, make an appointment with him, present your product or service. Pay attention to details and show how your partnership can make all the difference.

Be prepared for the closing of the deal

A complex sale is a meticulous job, full of nuances to observe, objections to break down and details to clarify.

You’ve seen so far that, for it to be closed, it depends on strong engagement among all those involved during a long period of negotiations. And, depending on what the sale involves, this period can sometimes exceed many months.

Therefore, one cannot run the risk of losing a deal that demanded so much effort due to obstacles at the time of closing.

So, have a contract template ready. When that potential client gives the green light to close the deal, be ready to move on to the bureaucratic procedures as quickly as possible. Don’t give a chance that a longer term could result in a setback in the agreement.

In addition, the advances in technology seen in recent years – and especially with the boom in remote solutions that have been seen since the pandemic – allow contracts that previously required sending all types of correspondence to now be resolved with a few clicks. .

Digital signature options exist on different platforms, which streamline processes and leave any type of bureaucracy in the background.

Thus, invest in technological solutions.

Remember: complex sales in general are defined by demanding decision makers who value efficiency. And this efficiency needs to be evident at all stages, not just those dedicated to convincing people about the business.
offer flexibility

A common misconception that affects many sellers is to consider that the product they offer is the only way to solve their potential customer’s pain. The bad news is that, unless it’s something very innovative, there are probably other competitors knocking on the same door you found yourself.

Likewise, another point to consider when working with complex sales is that, most of the time, they involve very high values. This means that they carry with them very important risks for those who acquire the product or service.

All that said, it is easy to see that it is not uncommon for objections to arise or even the possibility of giving up the business, even in the final stretch of the sales cycle.

Thus, it is very important that you are open to changes in direction during a complex sales negotiation.

Be flexible!

Get ready to review values, quantities, deadlines or guarantees. even though it mightdecrease your profits, it is always better to reduce the gain after a lot of negotiation, than having to start from scratch another one – and without having any guarantee that it will evolve with it.

Consider, also, that a concession here may represent new business in the future.

Profile of a complex sales professional

Complex sales professionals have varied profiles, after all, there are hundreds or thousands of different businesses, and each one with its very specific characteristics. But, in general terms, sellers who work with this type of business converge on certain points.

Therefore, if you want to work with complex sales, look for the following characteristics:


Organization is a welcome virtue for all types of professionals, but in complex sales it is more than that: it is a basic requirement.

After all, consider everything we’ve covered so far: deep market analysis to find the right customers, working closely with the entire sales team, identifying decision makers and influencers, months of negotiation. And add an extra item: deadlines to be met.

It is simply unfeasible for a complex sale, which involves this set of characteristics, to materialize if the seller is not methodical and organized.

Sellers who do not have efficient control of their deadlines and schedules, who do not have contact with the decision makers at hand, who get lost in the processes, tend to have little success in a complex sales negotiation.

Be a good listener…

This characteristic is very present in a consultative sales professional, and likewise is something to be pursued by those who work with complex sales.

Keep in mind that complex sales are much more likely to succeed when they adapt to the customer’s needs, never to the seller’s.

A professional who works with complex sales, if he does his homework, he already knows in advance what that potential client needs.

After all, he researched, prospected and found in that leadthe ideal customer profile.

But it will be in personal dealings, in the first business meetings, that the salesperson will be able to find in the context or between the lines a business model that is as close as possible to the ideal.

Therefore, knowing how to listen is essential.

…but also know how to position yourself

Everyone knows the old adage that “the customer is always right”. This is an indirect way of saying that you should not contradict the customer.

That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t have your point of view.

Remember that, in complex sales, whoever comes up with a solution to a pain is because he knows what he is talking about. In other words, whoever sells a product knows the potential of that product and how it can be useful.

A good salesperson to work in complex sales is one who, in the face of objections that appear, knows how to circumvent them with convincing arguments. Again, being surrounded by information will help with the task.

Be persevering

This is another of those characteristics inherent to all types of salespeople, but which is enhanced by those who work with complex sales.

Long sales cycle, successive business meetings and adjustment of intentions, negotiation setbacks, objections… A lot tends to appear during a complex sales process. After all, the long term goes hand in hand with patience.

Persevering and knowing that some kind of setback or unforeseen event will arise along the way is what guarantees good results, especially in complex B2B sales.

Know how to customize

As much as the product or service you have to offer is the same, the way it can be useful to a customer will hardly be the same as another.

Thus, there is no point in wanting to fit the same solution to different companies.

A good salesperson working in complex sales needs to be agile to customize solutions and design unique sales proposals.

More than that, he needs to have the courage – and knowledge – to draw a line.unique sales proposition, but which is capable of generating a good return both for those who purchase and for those who sell.

Final considerations

As we’ve seen, complex sales are those in which the close goes through a longer sales cycle than that seen in simple sales. However, all this time invested also results in a higher return, in terms of revenue and average ticket.

It is not easy to work with complex sales, since they generally involve products and services for a more restricted market. The point is that they are part of everyday B2B. Therefore, understanding its characteristics and pursuing best practices can be the key to success.

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