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While on my recent trip, I had the opportunity to pick up Kevin Davis’ excellent book, Slow Down, Sell Faster! This book is focused on how to make complex sales – sales where there is more than one decision maker, and your initial contact may not be the person with the authority to finalize the sale.

This type of sale is especially relevant in B2B marketing, since a sale to another business is very likely to involve multiple people, multiple departments, and a long buying process. In addition, B2B sales often involve a much larger budget – a long-term contract, or sales reaching into the thousands of dollars.

The book has incredible insights that I will touch on in future blog posts. However, there is one key question to closing complex sales that this book highlights. Let’s explore it.

You make a contact. Things seem to be going well. You go out and stage a demonstration for your contact and a few key decision makers. You ask who the users will be, what features they need, and answer all their questions. They take some time to consider it. You’re patient, waiting and keeping in touch. Suddenly your contact tells you there’s trouble – another department needed to be involved because they’re the ones who actually pay the money for the product. You scramble to send them information, but it’s too late – they’re upset at being left out and have no interest in supporting your venture.

What went wrong? You forgot to ask the one key question to closing any complex sale: Whose budget is at stake? Unfortunately, company politics sometimes cause one department or individual to make an ‘end-run’ around someone else, getting approval for a product while leaving out a key decision maker. Your goal as a marketer is to not get caught up in these games. You must iron out who holds the purse, and make sure they are involved at every step.

Obviously complex selling is, well, complex. There are many other great insights from the book that will be shared on this blog over time. However, the thing that struck me most was how easy it is to forget whose money is at stake. In the excitement of having a contact and moving in on a sale, don’t make this mistake. Make sure you have all decision makers involved, especially the one who holds the cash.

What’s one question you are sure to ask when closing a complex sale? Let me know in the comments!


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