How to Close

Complex Sales

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There are many sales managers (and trainers) who live by the mantra that...

If you can sell something, you can sell anything – sales is sales.

It’s what enables salespeople to move from one job to another without necessarily having industry experience. To some extent, it’s true for a good salesperson – they sell the benefits rather than the technical features of a product or service, and once they understand the benefits they can bring to an organisation, they can sell anything.

But complex sales are different...

This mantra rings true to a point, but there are two clear types of B2B sales: simple sales, and complex sales. As salespeople progress, many drop off the sales career ladder. People who could sell a simple solution find themselves needing to close complex sales, and are out of their depth. They decide they’re not good enough salespeople to sell the “big stuff” and they move onto something else.

But what’s often the case isn’t that they’re not good enough, but that they’ve never changed their approach from closing simple deals, to closing complex ones.

If we think of what makes a sale complex, we realise that there’s no single characteristic. And in fact, that’s some of the complexity in itself. A complex sale is anything where the usual sales techniques don’t work. It could be:

  • There’s a particularly long sales cycle
  • There are a large number of stakeholders
  • The solution being sold is complicated to explain
  • The solution is completely bespoke
...or anything else that makes a sale harder to close by relying on good questioning techniques, and selling benefits.

A more strategic approach

Complex sales need a different approach, just to keep track of all the variables. And this is where strategic selling comes in. Complex sales, multiple stakeholders, long sales cycles – there’s too much fluidity, and the salesperson needs a clear method to understand 3 things:

  1. Where they are in the sale
  2. What the end goal is, relating to a number of factors
  3. What the next step needs to be to progress the sale.
There are many methodologies in the sales world which can help to varying degrees with these 3 points. MEDDIC (or MEDDPICC) is a well-established tool which does exactly that: it higlights 6 (or 8) critical areas to success in any opportunity, and encourages the salesperson to understand where they are, where they need to be, and how to get there. SPACECHAMPS™ is Navanter’s own methodology. It lists 11 critical areas to understand. If any of these is missing, then the sale is effectively out of the salesperson’s control.

The 11 critical areas of SPACECHAMPS which need to be understood to control a sale through to closure, are:


Who can sell with me from the client's side?


Who’s able to make the decision? And more importantly, how will it get made.

Aware of needs

Do I actually know what the customer’s needs are in the context of their business?

Competition 1

Who am I competing against for this work? How will I differentiate myself?


What pain is the customer experiencing which they desperately want to solve?

Competition 2

How is the customer competing against in their market? How can my solution give the customer an edge?


What hoops do I need to jump through to get the contract signed?

Agreed criteria

What do the prospect and I feel is important to success?


Has the client got budget signed off? How much is there available for this work?


Is this a one-off purchase, or could there be more?


When can we start work? And when do we need to finish the work by?

To apply SPACECHAMPS to a complex sale, we need to know where we are, where we need to be, and what to do next for every one of these critical areas.

Let’s look at one of these as an illustration: Power.

Power is all about knowing who has a role in making the decision. And in a complex sale, it’s rarely one individual, but a web of interconnected stakeholders, all of whom have different priorities, desires and drivers in a purchasing decision. If I take the simple view, I could say “I’m in touch with the CEO so I just need to convince this single person that this is the right solution.”

But in a complex sale to a large organisation, the CEO often isn’t close enough to the problem, and doesn't understand it enough to make an informed decision. The CEO doesn’t make a decision alone – s/he will take advice from people they respect lower down the organisation, which will inform the purchasing decision. And although a salesperson might feel the CEO is bought in, if other stakeholders haven’t been considered, they could be sending negative messages up to the CEO as they might personally prefer an alternative option.

By knowing which stakeholders we’re in touch with, which stakeholders are decision makers and influencers, and what their individual drivers and business perspectives are, then we can ensure we’re selling the dream to influencers across the organisation. Then, when the CEO asks for opinions from others, we can do our best to ensure they’re positive.

Regardless of whether you use SPACECHAMPS, MEDDIC, SCOTSMAN, or any other of the many strategic sales methodologies which exist, it’s these 3 points that enable salespeople to retain absolute control over a complex sale:

  1. Where you are in the sale
  2. What the end goal is, relating to a number of factors
  3. What the next step needs to be to progress the sale.

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