15 July, 2020

Complex Sales Versus Transactional Sales: The Two Types of B2B Selling

Enterprise Sales

Rebecca White and Clint Walker

There is no anonymity in the shoe department. Within a minute of walking in at least three people will offer you help. A good shoe sales rep doesn’t know whether you intend to buy, and they don’t care.

That’s not to say they don’t want the business. It’s just that they don’t read your signals because they don’t have to. The goal is volume and rapid cycling. If you have a heartbeat, you’re a shoe prospect.

Real estate is the opposite. Realtors move fast too but they use their powers of interpretation to decide, within seconds, how to approach you. You don’t have to say a word and a good realtor will know if you’re a qualified buyer simply by reading your signals.

Signal detection is critical in real estate, where any time spent with a non-buyer (even an open house) decreases productivity, speed-to-close and yearly earnings.

Non buyers aren’t just not prospects, they’re liabilities. If you have the intent to buy and bank pre-approval, you’re a house prospect—and not before.

The difference is the type of sale, and most B2B selling models include both.

Let’s start with transactional selling.

Transactional Sales

Transactional selling is volume-based selling to many. It can be identified by these elements: low risk, fast-cycling, one buyer and one use case.

For a transactional rep it’s not important to to sell to, so throwing a wide net is an effective strategy. The rep works multiple, concurrent deals at different stages because each requires relatively little investment.

It’s significantly less important to the transactional sale to read the customer’s early buying signals, because the only goal is winning the current deal.

Complex Sales or Enterprise Sales

Complex selling, also called Enterprise Selling, is strategic selling to a targeted few.

Risk is high and deals take months or even years but the average deal size is exponentially greater than the transactional sale.

The period of discovery in itself takes intense effort so reps must be disciplined about with whom and how they spend their time.

One customer often has multiple use cases, and buy-in is often required across contingent stakeholders in different organizations.

Winning the complex sale requires reading the customer’s signals. Without this insight, it’s impossible to understand the depth and breadth of the true business problem, the company’s strategic goals, context and contingencies.

In complex sales, the ultimate goal is not the current deal; that’s just the first goal.

The ultimate goal is relationship development to maximize customer lifetime value.

Happy Selling!